Jump to content
Learn Chinese in China

Tomsima Interpreting blog

  • entries
  • comments
  • views

Returning to Interpreting



Its now been about a year and a half since I last posted in this blog, and a lot has happened in that time. I wanted to return here to set down some progress updates and new targets. Hopefully some of you might find it interesting and/or useful! 


Covid accelerated my move into the translation industry when I thought I might go into language education, largely because of the work at home aspect of the job. In the last few years there have been some boring projects along the way, but also some really fascinating ones too. Regardless, I've become a lot more involved and interested in the industry than I thought I might when I completed my Masters in T+I back in 2019. Sitting at home in lockdown has also meant I've had a lot of time to work on my notetaking skills for interpreting, as well as actively building vocabulary in specific professional fields (as per my 2018 post, I've now surpassed 20k general vocab and still come across new words all the time - my experience is very similar in this respect to recent posts by @Woodford). I'm now looking at returning to interpreting and integrating it into my professional life.


I once said I wouldn't pursue this route, but in recent months I've been gravitating more towards interpreting practice in my daily study, and I'm starting to feel like I am actually getting the hang of the multitasking now - I've certainly improved since I was on the program, thats for sure. Anyway, I've decided I'm going to study for the DPSI here in the UK, to give me a target to work towards and push me to work harder at training up my interpreting skills, which I confess I have largely avoided since graduating (sorry to @Moki in particular, who started a great thread here but I never got organised enough to contribute to in the end).


Either way, its another few years of graft to gain a comprehensive grasp of English Law in both English and Chinese, but I'm looking forward to it - so look forward to more updates on this blog in the future!



Another aside: I'm happy to say I've got back on my Canto in the last few months too, which I'm very happy about, and hopefully can make some good headway with it in the coming years too.


Recommended Comments

It really makes me wonder--how many words will be "enough" words? Or when will I stop consulting with a dictionary so regularly? In my own native language, I rarely ever look up words. I usually just ignore them, have a vague sense of what they might mean, etc., and I continue on, undeterred. Sometimes, they fit into broad categories. When I look at a list of words like, "Jurassic, Triassic, Devonian, Cambrian, Paleozoic, Cenozoic, Silurian," etc., I just say to myself, "Oh, those are geologic ages." I don't know much beyond that, but that's fine. Or "captain, corporal, general, lieutenant, colonel, sergeant, private, chief petty officer," etc. I really don't know all the details of each ranking, but I know that they are military rankings, after all, and that's enough for me. Same with "ruby, topaz, amethyst, carnelian, onyx, sapphire, agate," etc. Okay, I don't know the specific details, but I do know that those are kinds of precious stones.


There's a sort of odd psychological effect that takes place when I learn Chinese--I feel compelled to learn all the words, probably even beyond what a native Chinese person would do. Even my Chinese friend says, "Oh, I don't know what that word means either. I just know it's a kind of stone" (i.e., like the example above). I'm in "study" mode, and if I fail to recognize any given word (even a word that many Chinese people don't know), I count it as a gap in my knowledge and feel like I have to actively learn it.

I wish I could remember who, but somebody on this site (maybe even you--I'm not sure) left this wonderful link, which I have saved in my favorites: https://puroh.it/how-many-chinese-characters-and-words-are-in-use/

This person lays out his method of counting, and he comes up with a total vocabulary size of a little more than 26,000 words, with about 21,000 words getting you to 99.9% comprehension (if there are 500 words on the average page of a book, I suppose that adds up to 1 unknown word on every 2 pages).

I wish you the best on your professional goals. 加油!


  • Like 1
Link to comment
8 hours ago, Woodford said:

"Jurassic, Triassic, Devonian, Cambrian, Paleozoic, Cenozoic, Silurian," etc., I just say to myself, "Oh, those are geologic ages."


I think you underestimate yourself - you'd definitely do the same in Chinese based on context and/or a list with compounds ending 纪 or 代 (plus with a lot of these kinds of scientific terms coming in from the English-led scientific community, many loans are easy to guess on the spot with context - one that comes to mind is something like 伽马 which came up the other week in some reading).


That link wasn't from me, but I have seen his website before. I can't help but think it somehow grossly under-represents the actual situation from experience. 3500+ characters would seem like the threshold moment from many including myself here on CF, and even then that would seem more like a 98% comprehension rate (that number is entirely based on subjective feeling on my part). As for the word list, I'm still wondering how, with "9,786,524,890 1-grams across a total of 94,933 books" analysed, words like 洗脑 and 南辕北辙 turn up in the least frequent list...am I missing something here?


From experience, I would say rough, round figures below would set you up well for professional Chinese competency:


20-25,000 common words

5-10,000 specialist field words

4-5000 characters


Of course, thats all very well when we really have no way of knowing how much we know or how to even properly count, but its always nice to have a rough idea! Thanks for the encouragement, good luck with your goals too!

  • Like 1
Link to comment
  • Create New...