Woodleigh in Mandarin sounds like Woodlands

From ‘Cut loud, unnecessary train messages’, 3 July 2011, Your Letters, Sunday Times

(Manmohan Singh): …Ever since the North East Line came into operation, there has been a constant increase in the number of announcements…with only a few seconds of peace. There is also no standard volume and sometimes, the volume is really loud.

Some announcements are also unnecessary. For example, is it necessary to announce that the elderly should take the lift – when it is natural for them to do so? As for the announcement asking the public to look out for ‘suspicious-looking’ people, the ordinary commuter is not trained to do such detection. For me, any person who carries a bag is ‘suspicious’.

Finally, why does SBS Transit announce the names of train stations in two languages? This is confusing, as the announcement for Woodleigh in Mandarin sounds like ‘Woodlands’, Farrer Park is pronounced as ‘Falla Fu Yuen’ – a name that stumps even taxi drivers.

Farrer Park is actually 花拉公园, ‘Hua La Gong Yuan’, which means either Mr Singh got it wrong, or his ears have already been damaged by shrill as hell MRT announcements. Perhaps you can’t blame the writer for misinterpretation,  but surely the forum editor should have done his homework before allowing this to print. As for ‘unnecessary’ lift announcements, these may actually be useful not just to our forgetful elderly population, but senior travellers from overseas as well. The authorities can’t expect passengers to sniff out suicide bombers, but you also can’t expect the ‘trained’ police to be everywhere all the time targeting people carrying bags ‘suspiciously’. Civilian vigilance is a standard preventive tool in counterterrorism, even though we  tend to rely on movie stereotypes most of the time. Just because the writer has poor intuition when it comes to sensing danger doesn’t mean that other commuters should just kick back and ignore the crazy person chanting nervously with a backpack under his seat.

His concern with confusing Chinese names seems to be a valid one, though the reason why ‘sound-a-like’ names are preferred at the expense of nonsense creations like Somerset (索美塞, literally Rope Beauty Stuffing) is to minimise such confusion in the first place. Woodleigh reads as 兀里 (Wu Li), while Woodlands is 兀兰 (Wu Lan), a slight difference but still discernible, yet there remains inconsistency in Chinese naming, with stations like City Hall (政府大厦, Zheng Fu Da Sha) and Admiralty (海军部, Hai Jun Bu) sounding totally different in Mandarin. Perhaps SMRT should really turn the volume down, before more hearing damage occurs and people start mistaking Orchard (乌节, Wu Jie) for Woodleigh too, or Bras Basah (百胜, Bai Sheng) for  Bishan.

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One Response

  1. Singaporean likes complains veri sarsu

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