Monday, 20 April 2009

One Step Beyond!

Today was, well, not really an eye-opener, but a very interesting and revealing experience. It showed quite graphically the difference between someone who can speak a foreign language really quite well and a professional linguist.

This morning I received a call on my mobile/cell from a desperate member of one of the Schools at Leeds Uni who needed a Mandarin speaking person to interpret a presentation into Chinese for 4 of the audience. Someone mentioned me so off I went after being as frank and honest with the lady as I knew how - ie telling her I knew nothing, including none of the terminology in Mandarin, of that industry and that I was probably far from good enough for the job. I looked through the Powerpoint with the speaker, making note of words I needed to check etc, then went off to prepare. During this time, the other interpreter they'd tracked down, a native Chinese PhD student, arrived and went through the slides as well.

We 'arranged' to do it together, but you really can't have one person butting in to the other's speech - highly unprofessional, so I just left the real thing to her and was glad I did! Had he been really using just the slides, then I could have managed as that was what I'd had chance to prepare, but he did a lot of extemporaneous speaking, using all manner of jargon I couldn't possibly have managed and breaking his speech into enormous segments. Certainly no good for someone working out of their mother tongue. (Translation and interpreting is normally worked into the linguist's mother tongue regardless of how well they speak the other language.) I would have had to stop him and asked him to pause much more often. So, in the end, I did little more than nod when the Chinese lady looked at me in a 'Was that rght?' sort of manner, (as I could understand both languages and comment on level of correspondence etc). She's not a pro either, but she is a native speaker whose lived here long enough to understand English extremely well.

I got a day's pay and a free lunch for the experience and the sure knowledge that what I'd been saying for a while was right - I was teaching beginners as I simply wasn't good enough to work in industry. Well, now I have a chance to make that good with the period of intensive Mandarin training in Taiwan next year. One thing I did get kind of 'confirmation' of this afternoon was that funding does seem to attract funding and that when someone's been considered worth one funding body's money, they tend to stand a better chance with another as well - quite a few people in the know seemed to concur with this impression. So, that bodes well. I would like to do that Interpreter training MA, but can't find £5000 for it.

Now, however, I need to sleep.


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