If you’ve ever considered adding a new language as you move along, or you’re simply interested in knowing more about the Chinese language and Chinese booth, here’s a quick read to get you started.
- The Chinese Language
In contrast to phonograms commonly seen in Roman languages, Chinese is a symbol-based language, or logograms, which are also known as Chinese characters, the smallest unit of meaning. A full Chinese word may consist of two, three or even four characters. To be able to read newspaper, one is expected to master approximately 3,000 characters.
For interpreters, Chinese characters serve as a huge repository of symbols that we can use during a consecutive interpreting assignment. We always jot down one or two of these holograms which come in handy.
Tones are heavily used to distinguish words, such as Ma1- mother; Ma3 -horse, Ma4 -to scold.
Chinese possesses no tenses, no voices, no numbers (singular and plural forms) and only a few articles. Syntax rules in Chinese are rather lose, which means interpreters enjoy a higher level of flexibility in forming sentences in Chinese once you’d learned the basics.
- Interpreting Chinese
Densely formulated set phrases/idioms are commonly used to convey deeper and implicit meanings. These phrases abound in speeches by government officials, high-profile businessmen and of course, they are no strangers to interpreters. It requires some flexibility and quick explanation to get the message across.
Finding cultural equivalents can be a big obstacle as well for interpreters bridging the communication gap. Oriental culture may be very distant and unfamiliar to our audiences in other parts of the world. Cultural acumen is must-have.
- Market Prospect
Chinese is spoken by about 1.6 billion people, or 16% of the world’s population. Mandarin 普通话- literally means the “common language”, is the modern standard form of Chinese commonly used in education, business, science research etcetera.
Chinese is one of the 6 UN languages. While it is not an official language in the EU, Chinese can be found in various working meetings under the big EU umbrella or bilateral meeting between EU and Chinese leaders.
Chinese booths usually work bi-directionally, hence an active Chinese is required to sit you in.
- The Future, and advice to aspirant interpreters
As RSI becoming the new norm and hybrid forms of meeting gaining traction, adding Chinese will give you new job opportunities or even open new markets. Build a strong capacity of working both from and into Chinese so you can fly high!
Leo Hailong Liu, Conference Interpreter, Member of AIIC
Grace Hanyang Song, Conference Interpreter, Member of AIIC