If you had looked carefully at a public warning sign hanging at the corner of an alley off Sanhe Rd in New Taipei City’s Sanchong District that says “illegal dumping prohibited” in Chinese earlier this year, you would have also noticed that it had also been translated into a foreign language — a rare “Chinese-Vietnamese version.” Some Vietnamese spouses in the area thought that the sign singled them out and was racially discriminatory. The local borough chief, however, says that the sign was entirely appropriate and could only have had the positive effect of spreading the message since there is a large Vietnamese community in the area. However, the Sanchong District Office removed the sign on Jan. 7 to avoid any potential conflict.
The district’s cleaning team says that the illegal dumping of garbage had been a serious problem two or three years back, making the area very unsanitary and messy. On one occasion, a garbage collector discovered a Vietnamese woman throwing garbage bags away against one of the walls running along Guang Rong Elementary School. He says that after taking into consideration that the majority of foreign spouses belong to disadvantaged families, he could not bear to fine her the first time and hoped to give her a chance to redeem herself, so he had her help him translate the warning sign into Vietnamese. The collector claims the sign was only meant to communicate a simple message about keeping the environment clean and that he had no ill intentions.
A Vietnamese woman surnamed Chen says that when she first saw the sign translated into Vietnamese and not English, Indonesian, Thai or some other language, she felt a bit disturbed by it and thought to herself, “Is it possible that only Vietnamese are unsanitary?” Chen also says that she learned some simple Chinese prior to coming to Taiwan, so it was not necessary to translate the sign in the first place. “It makes me feel as though I’m being discriminated against,” she says.
Wanshou Borough Chief Wang Yuan-tsan says that there is a relatively high percentage of Vietnamese immigrants living in the area, so having signs translated into Vietnamese is meant to help them better understand things and be informative. The sign obviously served its intended purpose since the amount of illegal dumping significantly decreased in the area, he says. Wang hopes that local residents do not misinterpret the original good intentions of the district office.
The number of new immigrant families in New Taipei City is actually on the rise, and to meet the demands of the growing immigrant population, some government agencies have adjusted how they operate in order to offer multilingual services. The Sanchong District Household Registration Office, for example, provides application forms in Vietnamese, Thai and Indonesian for people wanting to get married or divorced, and after the person applying fills out the appropriate form, employees go a step further and offer a clear explanation of the application process. They also provide pamphlets in Vietnamese, Indonesian and Thai for new mothers to reduce the difficulty foreigners may have communicating with public organizations.
(Liberty Times, Translated by Kyle Jeffcoat)