Wrong Chinese Character Used For Speak Mandarin Campaign

The launch of the Speak Mandarin Campaign this year got off to a bad start when a wrong Chinese character on the official campaign banner was used.

Oh, the irony — making a language mistake during the launch event of a campaign for said language.

And for Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Du, (oops sorry, we mean Grace Fu), who was guest-of-honour for the launch ceremony on Monday (July 10), her face is now unfortunately indelibly linked with a photo of the famous error (she’s 2nd from right):


The Fu Statement

Since her face had already been linked to the error, Ms Fu inevitably released a statement on the fiasco — perhaps to save face?

This is what she was quoted by Channel NewsAsia as saying:

It is a serious mistake to make, much less by an advocate for the proper use of Mandarin.

To her credit, she didn’t try to whitewash the irony of the Speak Mandarin Campaign making such an error.

However, she unsurprisingly left out the fact that she was at the event, but also didn’t notice the “serious mistake”.

She also pointed to the intricacy of the Chinese language, and that “these distinctions, which may seem subtle at first glance, represent the rich heritage behind the language”.

We DU agree with her — so what will she DU in future?


According to Channel NewsAsia, the Speak Mandarin Campaign team will strengthen processes so such a farce won’t happen again.

Ms Fu also urged people to continue to support the Speak Mandarin Campaign — but what is this campaign all about, exactly?

The Campaign

The Speak Mandarin Campaign is an initiative by the government encouraging citizens to speak standard Chinese over Chinese dialects by promoting the use of Mandarin.

Currently in its 38th year, the campaign was launched in 1979 by late former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew aiming to build the foundation of language among youths.


The slogan featured on the official banner for this year’s campaign translates to “Listen. Speak. Read. Write”.


No, that’s not the correct one.

See? You didn’t spot the mistake either, did you? So let’s cut the organisers some slack.

What Went Wrong?


Those whose Mandarin is power may have realised that the Chinese character “读” (dú) was written as “渎” (dú) instead.


Yes, Mandarin is confusing.

Different Strokes


The character on the left is the one that should have been used. The character on the right was the one that unfortunately was used.

The difference is in the 部首 (bùshǒu), or radical, which turns the character for “read” to the character for “disrespect”.

So basically, the caption was written as: “Listen. Speak. Disrespect. Write”.

Du-n’t  Laugh

Netizens were quick to suan the campaign for their mistake:




Local host, actress and film director Michelle Chong also provided us with a comprehensive analysis of the situation.


Everyone du lan indeed.


The Speak Mandarin Campaign would eventually apologise for the mistake on its Facebook page.


Apology Accepted


Maybe not. Unfortunately for Ms Fu, this incident may live long in infamy.

Featured images from Facebook and Facebook