SINGAPORE writer and translator Chan Maw Woh started learning Malay when she was 20 - during turbulent times.

University students were fighting for Singapore's independence from British rule in the 1950s. She was in the thick of the action, translating Malay books to Chinese. 'Many Chinese students with leftist views felt the need to unite with the Malays in their fight to gain independence,' said Madam Chan, 73.

Five decades on, and after translating 10 Malay books and several magazines, the self- taught translator is the first Chinese to get one of Singapore's highest Malay literary awards.

On Friday, Madam Chan received the Commitment to Promoting Literature Award from the Singapore Writers' Movement '50 (Angkatan Sasterawan '50), of which she is a lifetime member. Better known as Asas '50, it was the first literary association in post-war Malaya.

On Friday, it celebrated its 60th anniversary. Founded in August 1950, its mission was to use literature to encourage the independence of Malaya, achieved in 1957. Asas '50 still promotes literature supporting social progress.

Its president, Mr Mohamed Pitchay Gani, said that Madam Chan has promoted Malay literature beyond the Malay fraternity. 'She is a fine example of a writer who promotes harmony through literature and a true propagator of unity in diversity,' he said.

Honoured for bridging cultures