TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — An American, long-term resident of Taiwan discovered late last year that a children's "Hello Kitty" English-to-Chinese dictionary has over 70 "egregious errors."
Despite efforts to alert the company of the mistakes, the book is still on sale.
The 46-year-old writer and podcaster Eryk Smith, who lives in Kaohsiung, told Taiwan News he was working last fall with an elderly student who wanted to refresh his English. The student showed him a copy of an English-to-Chinese dictionary that he wanted help with.
The dictionary, titled "Children's Illustrated Dictionary" (Hello Kitty 兒童英漢辭典) is printed by ACME Cultural Enterprise Co. (世一文化事業股份有限公司) and is the most recent edition, printed in June 2020.
Smith noticed mistakes in the dictionary, including typos, parts of speech, and example sentences. For instance, the entry for "rice" was spelled "rest."
The word "imagine" was listed as a verb but has the letter "n" for noun in English. The example sentence for "birthday" read "Happy birghday."
Under the "Revision Editor" notes in the front of the book, the word "Language" is misspelled as "Languagc." Smith observed that there are dated usages not appropriate for children, such as references to smoking.
Smith said that after reading through the dictionary twice, he found over 60 "egregious errors." In October last year, he contacted the publisher and notified them of the typos.
He said he was initially offered a refund for the NT$320 (US$10.50) cost of the dictionary that his student's secretary bought from Kinokuniya. Smith was not satisfied with this response.
Instead, he advised the company to recall the dictionaries because it's "not just embarrassing for you, but for Taiwan in general, and also for Taiwan's education system." He added that it "flies in the face of the government's Bilingual 2030 campaign."
Company representatives said they would get back to him in a week or so, but failed to do so. In January, he shared his findings with Johanne Murray, who is a lecturer in the Department of English at Wenzao Ursuline University of Languages and PhD candidate of business management at National Sun Yat-sen University.
Murray told Taiwan News that she was shocked at what she described as a "poor product that doesn't deserve to represent the Made-in-Taiwan brand." She compiled a 47-page PDF annotating many of the more blatant errors, discovering another 10 mistakes in the process, bringing the total number of typos in the dictionary to at least 70.
In January, Murray sent the PDF to two local educators and an official at the Ministry of Education (MOE). However, over two months later, she has yet to receive a response from any of these individuals.
Murray said of the error-ridden book: "It shows a lack of concern for consumers, their brand name, and their partner Sanrio."
She added that as a parent she would be really upset if she discovered her child was exposed to such content, and as a teacher, she would not want to give it out to her students.
Smith informed a government official who contacted the company about the matter. A company representative sent a response via the social media app LINE acknowledging that there had been errors in the dictionary.
Furthermore, it said the editor had been notified, and after discussions were held with their foreign consultant, the corrections would be included in the next edition.
The company claimed the typesetting had been outsourced to an outside company. It acknowledged that there were many mistakes after proofreading and if readers find errors they are welcome to report them to the publisher via email. It also pledged to reply and deal with the issues.
On Saturday (March 25), Taiwan News purchased a copy of the 2020 edition at the Hess Bookstore in Taipei City's Zhongshan District and all the reported errors were present. ACME Cultural Enterprise Co. has yet to respond to multiple requests for comment on why it has yet to recall the defective dictionaries.
"Birthday" misspelled. (Eryk Smith photo)
"Rice" misspelled. (Eryk Smith photo)
"Imagine" listed as both a noun and verb. (Eryk Smith photo)
"Language" misspelled. (Eryk Smith photo)
"Lap" misspelled. (Smith photo)
"Hand" misspelled. (Eryk Smith photo)
Cover of book purchased at Hess Bookstore. (Taiwan News photo)
Last printed page of book. (Eryk Smith photo)