Quick Money at the Expense of Professional Reputation

Reading the recent Chinese newspaper, there was a short report on a Chinese interpreter who helped driving theory test examinees pass the test by not just interpreting the questions, but also giving the right answers. In exchange for the “favour”, she was given money from those examines. The exam committee got suspicious because no one who used her interpreting service had failed the exam. In the end, after having another independent interpreter checking the recordings, her misdeed was found out and she was given a year prison sentence.   I was completely shocked by this piece of news. Personally I can never understand how people are willing to risk their professional reputation for some quick money–although in this case, whether the interpreter is truly professional or qualified is another matter. This just reminded me of once waiting in a crown court on a media press assignment, an Asian looking lady approached me asking if I was a court interpreter too. She was wearing jeans (yeah, you read it right, jeans!) and carrying a very colourful flowery cotton sack (not even a handbag). She then volunteered to tell me how this new court interpreting work paid so much better than her old housekeeping part-time job, and she emphasised “it’s good money”. Apparently another unqualified interpreter but given work from then ALS. The whole interpreting profession is getting harder to get into and make a living from, and unqualified interpreters like this just made it even harder.  ...

Chinese Gift-giving Taboo

In the Chartered Institute of Linguists magazine “The Linguist” (Feb-Mar 2013), James Farmer wrote an interesting little article about his experience with gift-giving taboos. He was working in the UK Service back in the 90s, promoting trade to Japan. A small giftware business owner, on a trade-promotion trip to Japan, presented to his Japanese business partner a paper knife of good quality English silver. The business partner’s face froze in horror on receiving the gift. In Japan, if someone is presented a knife, he is expected to use it on himself! Whilst it was amusing reading this little article, I thought I better blog about the Chinese gift-giving taboo so that the best intention won’t create the most awkward moment in a business/political situation. Things that you must avoid: 1. Clock. In Mandarin, to give a clock “song zhong” has the same sound as holding/attending a funeral. Don’t think anyone would appreciate this kind of “best wishes”. 2. Umbrella. Some people say it’s because umbrella “san” sounds like funeral “sang”, others say it is because “san” when pronounced slightly differently could mean separation. Surely you don’t want people think that you are cutting off from them. 3. Pear. Whereas Chinese do have this tradition of taking a basket of fruit to a friend’s or relative’s house during holidays, pears are to be avoided. Pear “li” also has the same pronunciation as separation, so should never be given to couples. 4. Shoes. Shoes has the same pronunciation as evil, so remember not to bring evil to others’. 5. Sharp objects, e.g. knife, sword. On one hand, it suggests wound, hurt,...

When a Nation is Defined by a Book

Together with the fairy tale I mentioned in my last blog (see http://evaxu.com/archives/translating/are-children-more-tolerant-to-translationese/), I also read again “Vater und Sohn” (“Father and Son”) by E.O.Plauen. It was another favourite of mine when I was a child, and I think it is this book that shaped the image of Germans for me. Whenever I think of Germans now, the first image that comes up to my mind is the father in this cartoon. I wonder if it is the same for how people view the Chinese. Just hoping it’s not Mulan as in the Disney depiction, or in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. What is the book that shaped your imagination about Chinese? And here are a few cartoons from the...

Are Children More Tolerant to Translationese?

Ever since I discovered that kindle paper white is compatible with Chinese characters, I have been reading Chinese books like mad at the speed of a book a day. Being a bit nostalgic, a friend of mine sent me a book of Andersen’s fairy tales, one that almost every Chinese kid grew up reading. However, after a few pages, I was very disappointed to realize that the book that I used to love so much is now putting me off with its strong translationese. I am not sure if it is because I am fussier with languages now as a result of studying languages for years, or because children are simply more tolerant to translationese. As a child, I read the stories of the brave tin soldier, the new clothes of the emperor, the flying trunk so many times that I could almost recite every single line in the book. Now I can’t even bear skimming for a few minutes. If you are interested, please pick up the book, read a few pages and tell me if the younger us were kinder to...