Almost the end of the semester
(Sorry this is super long and incredibly overdue)
It was a challenging semester with a lot of ups and downs. I think I should reflect on a few questions before I begin.
1) Did I learn anything? Yes. I think I did. For a long time I felt like I wasn’t learning anything, just stress and homework. But I had the opportunity to interpret officially for my school three times this semester. The first time was at the very beginning of the term before I even had any interpretation practice, the next two were just recently (last week and the week before). Based on the experience, I can see a big difference, the crowd was more receptive, my interpretation wasn’t as dry, I had a better sense of constructing sentences, and I even made people laugh (not at me haha but at the speakers joke). I also got a lot of positive feedback from people afterwards. I know it wasn’t perfect but no one seemed to notice or lose any of the information.
2) Will I pass? Probably. But not because I’m a great student but because I’m not Chinese. This is kind of a bittersweet victory. The teachers have already made it clear that they’ll be easier on us 3 foreign students, though sometimes it comes off a little condescending. Our teacher for oral class basically told us that we should sit next to a Chinese classmate and copy from them because we probably wouldn’t be able to read the Chinese exam.
3) Will I continue? Of course.
There are some teachers who are a waste of time. The teacher who gives us weekly translations (E-C) is probably one of my least favorite teachers. Her idea of teaching is to sit in the class every week and tear apart the next person’s translation. She never reads them or reviews them in advance even though we’re required to submit our translations to her 2 days before. Her lectures tend to lead to rants about how all of us are horrible translators and that google translate and baidu translate does a better job than any of us. Sometimes she gives contradictory statements like “If you don’t want to do the HW or come to my class that’s fine it’s okay, just know that your grade will rely on the one you get in the final”, but when she realized people weren’t coming to class she got angry one day and called in what I’d call the ‘attendance police’, which is a person from the office who comes and takes attendance, if you’re not there when he’s there you’re late, if you get there 5 minutes after you’re ‘absent’. This attendance police entered quite a bit of our classrooms at one point. It’s a ridiculous waste of time. This same teacher then went on to say that the only way to pass was to do the homework. So as you can see she doesn’t make much sense.
Sometimes in class she gets angry and starts to say “minus one point minus three, oh look here you would have failed with this many mistakes”. By the middle of the term she decided to ask for feedback from us about her teaching and things we’d like her to do different. I was surprised at how direct my classmates were and vicious lol. Some commented on how she just sat all the time and spoke. But the most important was that the translations were too long. At that point she was giving us translations that were nearing 2000 characters (from The Economist) due every week (roughly 4 days to complete). She agreed and decided to go with shorter passages. Nothing too short but nothing as long as those 2000 characters. I think this was pretty good of her despite my hatred for her. Also, she never enlarges the screen. Nearly 90% of the class wears glasses but for some reason she thinks it’s appropriate to keep the screen at its tiniest font, and never turns off the light. My vision has gotten so much worse than at the start of the term.
Another class that is a waste of time is the one taught by our department head (Translation C-E). I think she has a lot of knowledge but honestly has no time to teach. Our classes with her are either cancelled or half assed. Or she just talks about translation phenomenon or stories. Also one of her biggest and most frustrating faults is her last minute assignments. For example, She’ll send something on Sunday 10 or 11 PM, and require it to be due on Tuesday 8 PM, but then sometime on Monday afternoon a thought will occur to her and she’ll add an entire extra part, deadline remains as is Tuesday 8pm. Then for class she doesn’t go over it, weeks later finally goes over it but never looks at it beforehand. She just takes a look during the class and makes comments. I don’t find this helpful at all. Plus we missed a lot of classes to go to mandatory lectures.
The “meh” classes have got to be the three courses on translation theory. One professor just reads the textbook. I think he has a lot of knowledge but he mostly just stands there and reads the text in weird English that’s difficult to follow or understand. He’s really boring though and as a result I can only remember his name as ‘boring guy’. The other teacher I have that teaches two theory courses is a bit more interesting but I don’t find the class to be a help at all. We usually spend time watching whitehouse.gov or random video clips or translating random clips, bits of history etc. The other class is on presentations that the class has on each topic. At the beginning of the term we were divided up in groups and chose our day to present. This teacher used to be really weird around me, like he was scared of me… it’s hard to explain. But anyway since my presentation he’s taken a fondness to me so I feel a bit better. It used to feel really awkward when he’d literally jump when I’d come up to him to ask a question (nothing weird or sudden just normal).
I have another class that’s on speaking. At the beginning of the term the focus was on English pronunciation and stuff but later became a more useful class for me but at the same time not really lol. Actually I’m not sure how I feel about the class. The teacher gives us really good resources but doesn’t really teach. We have interpretation exercises, then we go through random topics (medical, science, technology, terrorism, holidays, etc.) Lol. Also he has a very sarcastic/joking attitude that I’m okay with because I don’t get offended easily but sometimes it gets to my friends. Like for example, once we had to translate this very poetic text, and he told us in class “You two are about the level of a HS senior” and of course hearing that I’m a HS senior level I’m like YAAAAAAAAY and he’s like “no that wasn’t a compliment” and I’m like It is to me lmfao. And he went on to say that we would pass, but that our other classmate had no chance. But since day one he’s taken more of a fondness for me and that guy, he has a lot of fun joking with the classmate he said would fail.
Then that leaves three classes. The two consecutive interpreting classes (E-C and C-E) are taught by really great teachers. They’re patient, helpful, and have really good exercises for developing interpretation skills. Plus I think their best trait is that they don’t try and destroy a student’s self-esteem. I have a lot of fun in these classes and the teachers really make an effort to include us foreign students in class. Exercises we had were on memory, note taking, taking down numbers (big numbers, think million, billion, trillion, etc.), organizing cohesive sentences, etc.
The other class that I like and don’t like is Sight translation. The teacher is amazing, great, whatever but she has really high standards. One day I came into class and she was like ‘you’re late’ and I was like “huh really? “ I looked at the time and it was 7:50 so I was like “actually I’m early its only 7:50” and she was like “not in my class” and then proceeded to tell everyone that as a professional we had to get to the class a minimum of 30 minutes early. So every morning I rushed into class by 7:20 or 7:25. She also doesn’t take a break and goes over class time. We can’t eat or drink in her class which okay is reasonable. If your phone goes off she’ll lose it. Sounds make her neurotic and if she hears the classroom across from us she’ll storm outside and slam the door shut and then return back to rant about how annoying they are. Lol. Besides these quirks we’re also required to prepare a piece of news each week as well as memorizing vocabulary (countries names and their capitals, important organizations, technical vocab) and preparing our background knowledge on topics of her choice. Our recent stuff has been speeches, so we have to prepare the materials like vocabulary and what have you. If you don’t have these things she’ll lose it. I’m actually really scared of this teacher lol. She’s cool to talk with but extremely strict. She studied at the Monterey institute and is a professional simultaneous interpreter. She knows her stuff but honestly speaking I sit in that class and pray she doesn’t notice me.
Oh and that just leaves my Spanish class. It’s going goodish lol. I found that I have great listening skills. Probably the best in the class. My classmates have no idea most of the time what the audio is saying.
I took a look at my ‘first impressions’ so I wanted to point out changes from my first impressions
1) “Chinese students are insanely gifted. “ After a whole semester getting to know my classmates I can say most are quite average, there are about 3-4 that are really impressive but the majority are average and about the same level as me. They might be good at memorization but sometimes their translations suffer from lack of knowledge or misunderstanding. A lot of my classmates don’t really know much about the world. Actually one of the shocking things I found out was that no one in my class knew anything about the assassination of Kim Jung Un’s halfbrother in Malaysia.
2) “I don’t think that foreigners were supposed to be in this major. “ I still feel this way. Actually the worst part about being in this major is that I have to deal with the bitchiest secretary ever. Every time I’ve gone into that office she gives so much sass and attitude I can just tell how much she despises foreign students. I thought it was just the first time I went to the office but later I found out that’s just her state of mind. My friend said he gets the same attitude from her lol. She’s a ‘secretary’ but think ‘secretary general’ instead of office secretary. She’s got a lot of power which is unfortunate.
3) “The Chinese classmates think all 3 of us foreigners are stupid and can’t speak Chinese.” Pretty much feel the same. Just wanted to add that they think that all the teachers love us. Which is so insane. I just think the teachers tolerate us. I also had one of my partners get really cold on me out of the blue. We correct each other’s translations for the economist teacher, but one day I had more time than most to really look at her translation carefully. I noticed quite a bit of clumsy mistakes. Like for instance, she began a sentence with ‘亦或是甚至可能’ so I just told her to pick one not use all of them because it wasn’t grammatically correct. Since then she’s been more distant but still wants me to go over her translations. Her new thing is to tell me that my Chinese sucks. I think that it makes her feel better. So whatever. Lol.
4) “Students get to class something like 15-30 minutes before class begins. “ Hahaha. No. After the first few weeks wore down so did the Chinese ability to get to class super early.
I feel a lot better now than I did that first month. Especially after I began to realize that my classmates are not as good as I imagined and that in reality we’re pretty much the same level. Yeah their Chinese might be better than mine but my English is so much better than theirs hahaha. I think our level in foreign language is roughly on par so I don’t feel nearly as bad. They also don’t speak any other languages than English. I’m more impressed with my foreign classmates who can speak 3-5 languages.
I know it’s bad to admit but I’m really glad there are two other non-Chinese students in the class. We have so much fun laughing at each other and it’s not even in a condescending way. We also try and brain storm together or reconfirm translations with each other. And most important we’re always there for each other for support. All of us at one point during this semester hit a low point where we were discouraged or depressed. It’s really good to have a friend there for you who can relate with the problems and get you out of a funk.
I’d still like to get close with my classmates but I’m not making it a priority anymore. I’ll let it happen naturally if it doesn’t then it just wasn’t meant to be. Actually today I helped out my classmate with knitting. So maybe we’ll become knitting buddies.
3 weeks, 3 papers, and the rest are just exams. I’m a bit pressed because 2 of our papers are due by Christmas. The other paper has a research part, and that’s due in the middle of January. Actually if anyone has any free time to spare and would like to take part let me know. It’s a short study on translation protocols, think process rather than translation accuracy. Actually what you translate doesn’t really matter for the study but rather which approach you take and your methods for deciding it. I chose translating ‘slang’ J hinty hint hint. Haha. Sorry for being shameless.
I’m looking forward to going back home for winter break to relax, and give myself some time to go over all the vocabulary that I’ve been meaning to memorize. Also to read through all of those lovely resources that my tea