- 有求必應 (yǒu qiú bì yìng)-to get whatever is asked. 有: to have. 求: to ask, to wish, to request. 必: must. 應: respond.
Example: As the only child, she always gets what she wants.
- 悼念(dào niàn)-to grieve, to mourn. 悼: to grieve, to lament. 念: to think of, to remember.
Example: People use their own religions to mourn friends and family who have passed away.
- 熱身 (rè shēn)-warm-up. 熱: hot, warm. 身: body.
Example: To avoid the possibility of sports injuries , warm-up exercises before the actual sport is very important.
- 惆悵 (chóu chàng)- melancholy, depression
Example: He felt depressed because he didn’t do well on the test.
- 恍神 (huǎng shén)- to zone out, to space out
Example: Work can distract me when I’m busy, but whenver there’s a spare moment and I’m reminded of my worries , I tend to become spacey.
- 遲疑 (chí yí)-hesitation, reservation. 遲: delay. 疑: doubt.
Example: Some decisions need to be made on the spot, as hesitation might lead to a missed opportunity.
- 騰出時間 (téng chū shí jiān )-to make time. 騰出: to make, to part. 時間: time.
Example: Children should try their best to make time for their parents.
- 號淘大哭-to cry loudly. 號淘: loud cry. 哭: cry.
Example: On the first day of daycare, children often cry out when they see their parents leave for work.
- 似懂非懂 (sì dǒng fēi dǒng)-to appear as if understanding, but not really. 似: seemingly, as if. 懂: understand.
Example: Although she only understood part of the conversation between the adults, she was certain that it was about something serious.
- 內疚(nèi jiù)-to feel guilty, to have qualms about. 內: within, inside. 疚: sorrow.
Example: She feels bad for stealing from her mother, but she’s also unwilling to put the money back.
How to Prepare for a Phone Interpreting Session
What is Phone Interpretation
Phone interpreting is the oral translation of conversations through the phone. Some people find it easier because it doesn’t involve direct human contact; others find it more difficult because there isn’t face-to-face contact.
The benefit of phone interpreting is you can focus on the words while taking notes in a place you’re comfortable in–your quiet office, your bedroom, wherever. You can even have your laptop in front of you and quickly look up unfamiliar terminology while on the job. The downside is that you are not physically present and that you are reliant on technology that can sometimes be unpredictable.
Preparing for A Conference Call
The basics are the same as any interpreting session. You need the language capacity and to keep in mind the code of ethics, but you’ll also have to make sure that you put yourself in the best setting when making calls.
Environment. It’s important that you are in a quiet place when placing calls so that you can hear the other line(s) and so you’re clear of distractions during the call. While you can’t control the connection or sound quality on the other end of the phone, you should do what you can to ensure that you are in a quiet environment.
Phone Reception. I prefer landlines over cell phones as I find that the connection is better. Not everyone has a landline nowadays so making sure our phone reception is good is the best we can do to ensure clear transmission of messages. If you’re using Skype or an internet phone service, make sure that the internet connection is stable.
First Person. Same with in-person interpretation jobs, interpretations should be in first person, and if you need the speaker to repeat or rephrase something, ask in third person, “The interpreter would like you to repeat….”
Consecutive Interpretation. Phone interpretations are often consecutive. At in-person interpretation sessions, I ask the parties involved to use short sentences so I can make sure that I interpret everything that is said. I also raise my hand in a “stop” motion if I need them to pause, so I can interpret. On the phone, it’s a little different because no one can see each other. The way I interrupt is simply to start interpreting after a sentence or two. Don’t be shy to interrupt. Your goal and job is to transmit all information, and you’ve gotta do what you’ve gotta do.
Sensitivity to Tones and Cultures. This one is obvious. To be a good interpreter, one must know the language. Especially in cases where you can’t read the speaker’s facial expressions, hand gestures, and body language, it’s even more important to know the cultural nuances and be able to read/copy the intonations of the speaker.
Familiarity with the Topic. Interpreters are sometimes given the subject to be discussed before the conference call. This would allow you to prepare ahead of time–catch up on the vocabulary, and read up on the topic. This is not always the case, however, so it’s important for interpreters to constantly educate themselves on new subject areas and vocabulary.
Chinese-English Vocabulary Builder: Positive and Hopeful Words
- 夢想 (mèng xiǎng)-dreams, aspirations
Example: 夢想成真 / dream come true
- 抱負(bào fù)-ambitions, aspirations
Example: 遠大的抱負 /great aspirations
- 理想 (lǐ xiǎng)-ideal
Examples: 理想的工作 / the idea job、理想的生活方式 / ideal lifestyle.
- 目標 (mù biāo)-goal
Examples:人生目標 / life goal
- 快樂 (kuài lè)-happiness
Examples:什麼可以帶給你最大的快樂? / What can bring you the most happiness?
- 憧憬 (chōng jǐng)-to look forward to, to aspire
Examples: 對未來的憧憬 / a longing for the future
- 希望 (xī wàng)-to hope, to wish for
Examples: 希望能考上理想的學校。/I hope I can get into my ideal school.
- 渴望 (kě wàng)-to long for, to desire
Examples: 她渴望得到他的認同 。/ She longs for his acceptance.
- 努力 (nǔ lì)-to work hard
Examples: 再努力一點吧。/Let’s try harder.
- 加油 (jiā yóu)-a phrase used to cheer someone on
Example: 明天考試加油喔!/Good luck on the test tomorrow!
- 勤奮 (qín fèn)-diligent, hardworking.
Examples: 老闆喜歡勤奮的員工。/ The employer appreciates diligent workers.
- (qín kuài)-diligent, hardworking.
Examples: 他做事勤快。 / He’s a hard worker.
- 再接再厲 (zài jiē zài lì)-To persevere. Used to encourage people to keep at something despite difficulties.
Examples: 再接再厲! 下次一定會成功的。/ Persevere! You’ll get it next time.
Chinese-English Vocabulary Builder: Chinese Idioms
- 躊躇滿志 (chóu chú mǎn zhì)-To be immensely proud of one’s success; to be content. 躊躇: indecisive. 滿: satisfied. 志: will. 。
Example: On their daughter’s graduation day, her parents smiled from ear to ear with pride.
- 白璧微瑕(bái bì wēi xiá)-A slight blemish on a piece of white jade. Used to describe a small mistake . 白: white. 璧: a piece of jade with hole in it. 微: slight. 瑕: defect, flaw.
Example: Even the most senior staff in the company makes mistakes, but this one is just a small mishap that won’t hurt the company’s image.
- 突如其來 (tū rú qí lái)-An unexpected or sudden occurrence. 突: suddenly, abruptly, unexpectedly. 如: as if. 來: come.
Example: She was drenched by the sudden rain.
- 無可匹敵 (wú kě pǐ dí)-Unparallelled; unique in kind or quality. 無: none. 可: able. 匹敵: to rival or equal.
Example: His English language skills have been unparalleled to his peers since middle school, so we were not at all surprised when he got a perfect score on his TOEFL exam.
- 鍥而不捨 (qiè’ ér bù shě)-To persevere; to chisel away at something. 鍥: carve. 而: and. 不: not. 捨: give up.
Example: His perseverance pushed him to reach the finish line, completing the marathon.
- 冒冒失失 (mào mào shī shī)-Lacking care, acting in haste. 冒: risk. 失: to lose, to make a mistake, to neglect.
Example: Bob’s lack of attention to detail has made it difficult for Bob’s boss to extend his full trust.
- 一不做，二不休 (yī bù zuò, ‘èr bù xiū)-Either give up, or follow through from beginning to end. 不: no. 做: act, do. 休: to rest, to end.
Example: We should always finish what we’ve started. If you’re not going to follow through, don’t even start.
Merriam-Webster’s 11th Collegiate Dictionary.
MDBG Chinese-English Dictionary http://www.mdbg.net
Yahoo 奇摩字典 http://tw.dictionary.yahoo.com
Dirty Mouth: Let’s Talk Cursing (and Interpreting)
The default role of an interpreter is a conduit. Merriam Webster defines conduit as a natural or artificial channel through which something is conveyed. If we think of the channel as a telephone wire, the conduit transmits anything and everything that is received from one end to another. In other words, an interpreter relays all information that is spoken, without any omission, additions, or distortions of the message.
In medical and legal interpreting, there are times when we have to give bad news. And in times like this, the client may become upset and use curse words to express his feelings. In my medical interpreting training, someone raised a question of whether interpreters still need to relay everything in such cases, particularly if an interpreter has qualms about cursing. Despite what an interpreter’s personal feelings are toward swearing, interpreters must stay true to the original message, even if it means cursing or using words they wouldn’t necessarily use in their daily lives. Such is what’s implied in the code of ethics for interpreters.
Regardless of the cultural or social implications of cursing, if it happens that you must curse on the job, then you need to do it as part of your professionalism. I don’t curse, and haven’t really thought about how English curse words correspond with Chinese curse words, but as a responsible interpreter, I’ve put together a short list (you know, for my work, of course). Cursing is an interesting thing. You’ll notice below that the common curse words we use in English relate to sex and excretion and mothers. Even though sex and excretion are unavoidable parts of natural human conditions, and we all love our mothers, these words are considered indecent and taboo in both the American and Chinese cultures.
- Bastard-王八蛋 (wáng bā dàn)、 龜孫子(guī sūn zi)
- Fuck [angry fuck]- 幹 (gàn)、肏 (cào)
- Fuck, Fuck me, Fuckin’ awesome, Holy shit [excitement]-我靠 (wǒ kào)
- Fuck you, Go to hell- 去你的 (qù nǐ de)、 我鳥你 (wǒ niǎo nǐ)
- Fuck him, Screw him-鳥他的 (niǎo tā de)、去他的 (qù tā de)
- Bullshit–屁 (pì)、屁話 (pì huà)、鳥話 (niǎo huà)、你個狗屁 (nǐ ge gǒu pì)
Example: What the fuck are you talking about-你在講什麼鳥話 (nǐ zài jiǎng shén me niǎo huà)
- What the fuck is this?-這是什麼鬼? (zhè shì shén me guǐ)
- What the fuck are you doing?-你搞什麼鬼? (nǐ gǎo shén me guǐ))
- Damnit- 他媽的 (tāmāde)
- Son of a bitch- 狗崽子 (gǒu zǎi zǐ)
These are just some common English curse words and their cursory Chinese equivalents. If you’re interested in learning about Chinese curse words, their detailed explanations, and how they relate to English, the Transparent Language blog has a good post about it that you should check out.
Happy cursing! (Just kidding. Cursing is bad.)
Thoughts on Translation: Rise of the Planet of the Machines
It doesn’t look like monkeys will take over the world anytime soon, despite what the movie, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, says. However, machines are already taking over the world. We are so reliant on technology now, that without it, very few of us are able to actually function.
I recently started working with an organization on reviewing machine translation of texts. Rather than translating, I see it more as editing or correcting, but that’s not the point. It’s been fun and entertaining, and it has also convinced me that machines still have a long way to go.
We see mistranslated machine translations all over the internet and share the hilarity of some of these incorrect translations with our friends among our social-networking tools. I never thought much about the errors but wondered why people or institutions are fine with putting their reputation at stake, using shoddy translation tools (and not having a human review the translation for accuracy) that they should know fully well is not consistently accurate
True, our programmers are teaching machines vocabulary and grammar, and teaching them to make word choices based on surrounding text, but it is still not enough. Machine translations are often ridiculous because cultural nuances are not built in their system, they don’t know that one word can mean another in different contexts, and sometimes they’re not flexible about moving text around for better syntax.
I enjoy reading 「humorous」 machine-translated text, and I’m glad that we have yet to perfect this technology. Because until we program machines to produce completely accurate translations, I’ll have a job.
Literature in Translation: “Liu Qí-Wei’s Life as an Adventurer” by Liu Níng-Sheng
In 1993, I went to Papua New Guinea with my dad, Liú Qíwěi, who was then 82 years old. On our trip he lamented: “life has a way of messing with me: When I had the energy to travel, no one would sponsor my research; now that I’m old and have sponsors, I’ve lost all my energy.” However, when he was seventy, he was still researching different aboriginal tribes and collecting data on the Borneo culture. My dad was a strong man.
At our last stop in Papua New Guinea, everyone was suffering from mosquitoes bites along the Sepik river. Even with the most potent bug spray, the mosquitoes were unstoppable; and because I was filming and had to keep a steady hand, the mosquitoes were unscrupulous in their attacks. By the time I told my dad, “I’m not sure I can take this any longer,” my hands were utterly swollen. Seeing my condition, my dad finally agreed to go home with me a few days earlier than planned and we never went further up the river. I was once bitten by fleas when we were in the Tali highlands in China. It was extremely itchy and the swell from the bite was as large as a water glass. To stop the swelling, a shaman grabbed a few bushels of urtica thunbergiana, pulled up my shirt, and repeatedly hit my body with them. The excruciating pain left me covered in cold sweat; however, the ritual also stopped the itching. Throughout the whole trip, my father was pickier than I was about our diet, which consisted of “vegetables,” also known as tree leaves, combined with fish, canned meat, or crackers. With no variety day in and day out, he became tired of the meals and would sometimes skip lunch and just drink water instead. What he enjoyed most was instant coffee, so we brought some of that with us.
From that adventure I learned of my father’s deep respect for foreign cultures–he never treated the people as lower class, the way most travelers would. When I once again traveled through Papua New Guinea, I saw that most tourists didn’t judge foreign cultures fairly. Instead, they would use the cultural perspectives innate in them to criticize a local culture. For example, when purchasing food, they would say, “So dirty!” or “Is this edible?” These attitudes are indeed worth discussing.
When I sat on the floor with a Papua New Guinean to chat, I could tell from the body language of other tourists why cultural exchanges are so difficult. They don’t have the desire to understand, let alone identify [with the locals]. The Papa New Guinean later said to me: “You’re the only one who’s willing to sit with us, to identify with us.” How tedious would life be if the whole world spoke only one language, ate the same food, and dressed the same? Through my dad’s mentoring and influence, I learned the importance of respecting other cultures. When I once passed through Tahiti, I noticed that the aboriginals were working hard to restore their native music and dance after enduring foreign influence over the past hundreds of years.
When Paul Gauguin went to Tahiti, he argued with the local government, which was trying to suppress the local culture after missionaries were offended by the perceived flirtation of the native dances. In fact, promoting reproduction and the longevity of their culture was the essence of their dances. Many aboriginals are fond of war; some are even cannibals and head hunters. Aboriginals partake in cannibalism believing that it allows them to attain the spirit and wisdom of the hunted, whom they see as their respected enemies. [But without understanding], we criticize their cultures and customs, and simply think that their behaviors are amoral and uncivilized. However, we need to first learn about their culture to understand the reasoning behind such ceremonies. These are all lessons I learned from my father.
- 巴布亞紐幾內亞 (Bā bùyà Niǔ Jī nèi yà)-Papua New Guinea. This usage is most common in Taiwan. Abbreviated version: 巴紐(Bāniǔ).
- 感嘆 (gǎn tàn)-To sigh, to lament.
- 造化 (zào huà)-Nature, the creator.
- 弄人(nòng rén)-To mess with someone.
- 部落 (bù luò)- Tribe.
- 原住民 (yuán zhù mín)-Indigenous peoples / aborigine.
- 婆羅洲 (pó luó zhōu)-Borneo.
- 採集 (cǎijí)-To gather, to collect, to harvest.
- 熬 (áo)-Endure.
- 防蚊藥 (fáng wén yào)- Bug (mosquito) spray. 防: to protect , to defend, to prevent. 蚊: mosquito. 藥: drug, medicine.
- 吃不消 (chī bu xiāo)-To be unable to tolerate or endure / to find sth difficult to manage
- 肆無忌憚 (sì wú jì dàn)- Unrestrained; unscrupulous. 肆: indulge. 無: without. 忌: fear. 憚: to shrink (from fear).
- 跳蚤 (tiào zao)-Fleas.
- 巫師 (wū shī)-Wizard, magician.
- 咬人貓 (yǎo rén māo)-Urtica thunbergiana.
- 民族 (mín zú)-Nationality, ethnic group.
- 商榷(shāng què)-To discuss, to bring up for discussion.
- 認識 (rèn shi)-To understand, to become acquainted to.
- 認同(rèn tóng)- To identify with, to recognize, to approve of.
- 薰陶 (xūn táo)-Influence.
- 風俗 (fēng sú)-Custom (social).
- 壓制 (yā zhì)-Suppress.
- 傳教士 (chuán jiào shì)-Missionary.
- 西匹河 (xī pī hé)- Sepik river.
- 大溪地 (dà xī dì)-Tahiti.
Original commentary, “劉其偉的探險生涯,” by 劉寧生著, from 聯合報副刊. Dated November 14, 2011.
Chinese-English Vocabulary Builder: Chinese Idioms with Hearts (心)
- 心知肚明 (xīn zhī dù míng)- To be well aware. 心: heart, mind. 知: to know. 肚: gut. 明: clarity; to understand.
Example: Although Mrs. Chen is well-aware of her husband’s affair, she doesn’t have the courage to expose him.
- 心甘情願 (xīn gān qíng yuàn)-Out of one’s will; completely willing. 心: heart, mind, soul. 甘: voluntary. 情: feeling, sentiment. 願: wish, desire.
Example: Parents are willing to give all they can to guarantee the best future for their children.
- 意猶未盡 (yì yóu wèi jìn)-To wish to continue something. 意: idea, thought, intentions. 猶: like, similar to. 未: not yet. 盡: completed.
Example: The reception ended before everyone was ready for the night to end. A group of people then went to a bar for the after party.
- 誠心誠意 (chéng xīn chéng yì)-Sincerely and earnestly. 誠: sincere, honest. 心: heart, mind, soul. 意: intentions.
Example: He sincerely wants to be friends with you; why don’t you just go out with him?
- 提心吊膽 (tí xīn diào dǎn)-To be on edge. 提: to carry. 心: heart. 吊: hang. 膽: gallbladder.
Example: He’s been on edge, worried for his job, ever since he unintentionally offended his supervisor.
- 掉以輕心 (diào yǐ qīng xīn)-To be complacent, to lower one’s guard, or to treat something lightly. 掉: swing. 輕心: careless, casual.
Example: Even though this is a safe neighborhood, one should still be vigilant at night.
- 心平氣和 (xīn píng qì hé)-Calm and even tempered. 心: heart, mind, soul. 平: peaceful. even. 氣: breath; spirit. 和: harmonious.
Example: He is well-tempered and is calm even when dealing with unpleasant situations.
- 別出心裁 (bié chū xīn cái)-To come up with a new idea or original approach. 別: different. 出: come up with. 心裁: idea, concept.
Example: She came up with an idea and made a dress out of her curtains.
- 賞心悅目(shǎng xīn yuè mù)-Something that is pleasing and delightful. 賞: to appreciate. 心: heart, soul, mind. 悅: please, happy. 目: eyes.
Example: She couldn’t stop smiling after that delightful movie.
- 粗心大意 (cū xīn dà yì)-To be negligent or careless. 粗心: careless. 大意: careless.
Example: He’s so careless that he forgets things all the time.
MDBG Chinese-English Dictionary http://www.mdbg.net
Yahoo 奇摩字典 http://tw.dictionary.yahoo.com
When I Can’t Say “No” and the Virtue of Logging Hours
No, a one syllable, two-alphabet word, appears simple and direct, but is in fact one of the most difficult words to utter or type out. When it comes to potential projects that come our way, there are times when we want to or know that we should say no, but just have a hard time doing it. We end up taking on the project and regretting it once we dive into it, knowing that the instincts to reject the project was correct after all.
Knowing the reason(s) why we want to say no is the first step to mastering this difficult task. A few reasons that come to mind are:
1. The pay is too low for the time you would spend on it.
2. The client has a bad history of not paying on time, or paying at all.
3. You’re already over-committed and won’t be able to give the project the focus and care it deserves.
4. You’ve had bad experiences working with this client.
After figuring out the reason(s) why you want to say no, think about why you’re hesitant to cross off this project immediately. Examples may be:
1. Money is money, you can use any amount that you can get.
2. You’re just starting out and think that taking on this project would get you more experience.
3. This job might lead to future jobs.
These are all logical reasons for saying yes, but ultimately, you’ll have to decide if the cons outweigh the pros. In the end, the main reason you should say no is because: It is not worth your time, energy, or headache! If the pay is too low, then you shouldn’t waste your time on it. If you know that the client has a difficult time paying, and waiting is not an option for you, don’t do it. If you’ve been tormented before with a client, don’t waste your valuable time haggling with the client again.
Know Your Worth
As a freelancer, especially one who is just starting off, any opportunity seems appealing, even if the pay is low. We tell ourselves, 「I’ll do this for a while until I get more experience, then I’ll charge more,」 but I can speak from experience that it does not go this way. Once you agree to low-ball your rate, you’ll be stuck with it, which is why it’s important to know your worth and to try your best to stick to it.
It’s important to know the worth of your time and expertise. One way to calculate this is by calculating your hourly rate by breaking down the salary you would receive as a full-time employee. For example, if your goal is to make a gross income of $50,000, divide that by 52 weeks in a year and 8 hours a day, you’ll find that your hourly rate should be around $24. If you’re able to edit 4 pages per hour, then your rate-per-page would be around $6/page. Use these numbers to guide your rate, and stick to it, as much as you can.
But Where Do We Draw the Line?
But what if you really can’t say no? What if you can’t resist passing on a project? If you feel that you have to take on a project even though it is under budgeted, managing your time by logging your hours is the best way to help you use your time efficiently. For example, if you are asked to edit a 150-page textbook at $2/page, use your hourly rate calculated earlier to figure out how much time you should spend on this project. This project will bring in $300 for you. If your hourly rate is $24, then you should make sure that you only spend around 12 hours on it. This will help you control your schedule and will also minimize wasted time. For tracking hours, I like to use Toggl.com, a free time-management service that helps you to track multiple projects. It’s easy to use and it also has pro service for $5/month that can help you generate bills, estimates, and reports.
How do you decide whether to say no to a client?
Chinese-English Vocabulary Builder: Chinese Idioms
- 叫苦不迭 (jiào kǔ bu dié)-To complain incessantly. 叫: to cry out, to shout. 苦: hardship, suffering. 不: no. 迭: repeatedly, frequently.
Example: Ms. Wong’s love for shopping has led to many complaints from Mr. Wong, who holds a shrinking wallet.
- 匪夷所思 (fěi yí suǒ sī)-Unthinkable or extraordinary actions or ideas. 匪: same. 非 (fēi), not. 夷: ordinary. 思: think.
Example: This is a difficult murder case that has yet to be solved even after ten years.
- 唯利是圖 (wéi lì shì tú)- To seek personal profit over everything. 唯: only. 利: gains, profit. 圖: to covet, to seek.
Example: The founder of this company seeks profit over everything, selling his products at high prices with high returns despite their cheap materials and l0w quality.
- 得不償失 (dé bù cháng shī)- The gains do not make up for the losses. 得: to gain. 不: not. 償: return, to compensate. 失: to lose.
Example: After her breakup, she slept for weeks, missing her classes and thus affecting her grades. So not worth it.
- 打草驚蛇 (dǎ cǎo jīng shé)- To inadvertently alert an enemy. 打: to hit. 草: grass. 驚: startle, alert. 蛇: snake.
Example: In the game of hide and seek, you must not make any sounds to alert the seeker, in case of getting caught.
MDBG Chinese-English Dictionary http://www.mdbg.net
Yahoo 奇摩字典 http://tw.dictionary.yahoo.com
Bai Du 百科 http://baike.baidu.com