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Showing content with the highest reputation since 04/14/2019 in Blog Entries

  1. 15 points
    As promised, here is the second installment of my blog following the second term of teaching in a one year Masters program in interpreting and translation at Bath University in the UK. The structure and content of teaching in the second term has been very different to the first term, so if you are interested in comparing, please take a look at my first blog entry. The second term put A LOT more emphasis on live interpreting practice, pressure has been a lot higher, and the requirements for specialized vocabulary has been noticeably greater than the first term. I will break down the different classes over a few blog entries, in the hope its more palatable for reading. I will assess my own performance vs my Chinese classmates, as well as reflect on Chinese-English interpreting from a native English speakers perspective whenever it might be useful. Firstly I’ll start with Simultaneous Interpreting. Simultaneous Interpreting and using Glossaries So, our SI (Simultaneous Interpreting) class has been every Monday at 11:15. The course works both directions C-E and E-C, and we have alternated direction from week to week. We mostly work inside professional interpreting booths for the first hour, doing live interpreting of videos that vary from 10 mins in length to half an hour using headphones and microphones that record live. The second hour is largely dedicated to feedback and guidance for improvement. We are told the broad topic of the class via email around Thursday the week before, for example, “next weeks SI will be on ‘fracking’” and that’s it. We are then expected to prepare a glossary of specialized terms, usually that can fit on one A4 page, which we can then bring to class and place next to our microphones as we interpret, for reference. The point of this is not to actually collect huge lists of words (although this inevitably happens), but rather, read widely and educate ourselves on different subjects in both English and Chinese, as well as learn how to ‘prep’ for real life interpreting jobs. Many students seemed to have no issue with this set up, as many already have rich active vocabularies and encyclopedic knowledge. (side note: Seriously, I have never met such widely read people in my life. And that really goes for every single one of my classmates; they can talk through macro and microeconomics with ease, go to a doctors ward and discuss the treatment regimen for obscure diseases, explain in depth how neural networking is changing media reporting; all in both Chinese AND English. Quite amazing and very motivating for study). One downside of this set up for me has been that I have spent almost all my free time building glossaries and learning vocabulary, whereas my classmates have had time to practice the actual skill of interpreting in out-of-class hours. That being said, if I had known this before starting the course I probably would have been scared away and never even started. It is an inevitability for many of us coming from a background of only starting learning Chinese at university, there is simply not enough time to consolidate the vast amounts of knowledge required for professional level interpreting. Getting back on topic: everyone seemed to have their own method to putting together specialized glossaries, for SI classes some even came with entire prepared folders with concise glossaries on pretty much every entry to an encyclopedia (I later learnt that in some cases these glossaries had already been used for many years and were very familiar to their users). I have spent the better part of every week this year picking out key terminology for Monday’s SI class (and Thursday’s Consecutive Interpreting class), that is, terms that would require thinking time over and above the constraints of simultaneous interpreting. The reaction time to a speaker usually needs to be kept within 2 seconds; if terminology comes up that is not in your active vocabulary, it will almost certainly stretch you to around 5-10 seconds before you get it out in the target language, by which time the entire thread of the speakers argument has been missed. Evidently, glossaries are incredibly important to successful simultaneous interpreting. In almost all cases I short-term memorised every item on each glossary; heres a look at my anki: Vocabulary requirements In the last 3 months alone I have accumulated 1610 specialised vocabulary terms in my anki. This in fact EXCLUDES my cards from Supermemo (another well-know srs system which I both love and hate at the same time) which has another 2733 cards added since early March (see attached images). I use Supermemo for reading, so many of these cards aren’t vocabulary items, but clozed passages from Wikipedia/academic articles. Nonetheless, the mental strain for getting up to the standard required for SI is frankly unhealthy: it is simply not doable in the time frame that the course allows. Many of my classmates have already taken courses in interpreting prior to this course, and so managed to keep up with the pace, but lets just say there were tears in class from some a number of times. Left: Anki deck specifically for interpreting glossaries. Right: excel files for glossaries Regarding the workload and how I coped. I estimate (stressing estimate, based on a pleco deck I have added to over the last five years to track my vocab progress) my passive vocabulary is now around 15-20,000, but active is to be honest probably only around 10-15,000 (again, hard to really know). Which is certainly not good enough to do professional interpreting with. For anyone considering doing a course like this, you should know that you are aiming for ‘near-native’ level size of active vocabulary, what I have been working with seemed like an impressive vocabulary size when I started the course, but now it seems laughable. Some of my classmates are far better read than me in English, 30k+ I reckon. a deck I have added any word I think 'useful' to over the years. I review these words in anki. an example of what my supermemo decks for reading Chinese/English articles looks like. As you can see, the requirements for vocabulary appear very scary. That being said, to someone that has learnt Chinese or English seriously for 10+ years, this is quite reasonable and achievable. I first went to China in 2008, and didn’t properly start learning until 2013/14, so I still have many years to go! I’m sure some of the longer-standing members of these forums must be nodding with a wry smile right now - been there done that! That’s it for now, next entry I’ll go through my thoughts on the CI class. Sorry if this is a bit of a ramble, very hard to try and structure all that has happened over the last few months.
  2. 4 points
    Despite learning Chinese Mandarin, I don't get the chance to use it very often. I get the feeling of minimal progress. I haven't really been watching many intermediate learning materials since my last post. A bit boring for my liking... I wasted a lot of time on the hellotalk app. Being a native English speaker is a big advantage when learning Chinese. Eventually, I decided to tell people I am only interested in talking verbally and real time conversation. This proved helpful in screening out quite a number of people who just wanted a friendly text chat with a foreigner. I tend to screen out people who have a strong 南方 accent though Taiwanese are fine. In the end HT is just an area for practice and I cut down my time on it. For learning, I have been using Glossika. 25% through the A1 course. It's a bit boring but I stick with it. I don't like that it only gives two reps of a sentence. I prefer 3 or 4 at one time. Does it have an effect? I think it is hard to say for me - maybe a longer duration of practice would help. I recently dug out some old ankicards that I made long ago. These were made from the Growing up in China series. I remember I had tremendous difficulty in following the speech at time of making them. Well, amazingly, I found my listening comprehension is definitely much better. There are words which I forgot but definitely relearn much better and it's much less frustrating. I recently went to Qingdao for business and badminton. Initially a bit apprehensive yet looking forward to trying out the field experience. Last time I was by myself in China was two years ago in Guangzhou and I fell back to using Cantonese much of the time. Pleased to say I didnt really have any major problems using the language for day to day life. Of course there were the trip-ups. What I particularly liked was I had to use the language for some simple problem solving which sharpens the mind considerably. Although there is still a lot to learn in terms of extending conversations, the initial handling of issues went quite smoothly. I had a couple of nice conversations with taxi drivers and made a large number of wechat contacts from playing badminton. I played a lot of amateur competitions in the past and when I played my trickshots on this trip, they were really well received. Of course, there was also the novelty factor of being an overseas Chinese. So a great morale booster that there is some progression and I got a lot of extensive listening experience even though I didn't understand all of it.
  3. 3 points
    We are currently in the midst of our midterms. Last week was 听力,写作和阅读,next week we have 中国文化,语法学,口语和综合。It's good because we get all of our exams out the way before the 5/1 break. Exams seem to have gone ok so far. As far as how this semester is going, I am really enjoying it and I feel that I am progressing. Last week for 口语 we had to explain one of 8 成语 based on its story, and so I chose 愚公移山。I really enjoyed doing this, and was encouraged and how much I must have improved to even be able to consider doing this. Then a couple of days ago I was in the gym trying to have a conversation and basically couldn't understand a word the guy was saying! This seems to happen a lot - I will be really encouraged by my progress in one area, then take a hit in another area. More often than not it's when comparing what is spoken/heard in the classroom, with the authentic stuff that happens outside the classroom. Regular people are under no obligation to use standard Putonghua and dumb it down for you because you are a foreigner! I suppose this just needs a lot more time and practice. I have been trying to increase the input I get, and so I have been watching 男人帮。 I just finished episode 26 last night, and when I have watched all 30 I will find something similar to watch. I watched this series 2 years ago and understood very little, but now I am getting a ton out of it. I find that so many of the things I am learning at uni keep coming up in it, and it really helps solidify them in my mind. This has probably been one of the most useful things I have done so far, and actually although I would always make excuses about being busy, finding 45 minutes every other evening to watch an episode isn't hard.
  4. 1 point
    Here is the first installment of my blog on doing a Masters course in Translation and Interpretation (Chinese) at Bath University in the UK. Seeing as it is reading week, I've found I finally have time to do an update on how things are going, I guess I will probably do the next update when we break up for Christmas in December. There's really no time to do anything else except study and class prep in normal term time. Well I've been on the course for six weeks now, and it has been as intense as expected. Despite being at a UK university, I am the only westerner on the course, with 23 students, mainly mainland, but also a few Taiwanese and HK too. There is actually a Taiwanese American student who has taken English as his mother tongue (with all due right), but having been bilingual and living in Taiwan for the last 20 or so years, I feel like we're not really in the same boat. I am clearly bottom of the class in terms of relative language ability, as expected. Being surrounded by people who have studied English for decades, my 5/6 years of Mandarin stands out as particularly bad. I am so used to speaking Chinese colloquially, I am frequently lost for words when asked to interpret English speeches into Chinese using the right register. Anyway, onto the course content. All parts of the course have a two hour class slot that meets once a week: Simultaneous interpreting: we have a dedicated lab with fully equiped professional booths that all face into a bigger room with a conference table in the middle. The set up accurately mimics a real simultaneous interpreting situation, and the tech available is fantastic. Classes are very active, with every student having a chance to practice every class at least twice (practicing skills taught by the teacher in the lesson). I was placed on an internship at a UN week-long environmental protection meeting two weeks ago in London, to get in some valuable practice time. We used the real booths used by the pros for a week (with our mics switched off of course). We did shadowing and interpreting (almost exclusively from English into Chinese) for around 8 hours a day for a week. After this week something clicked in my brain, and now I can keep up with my peers in this class now. Not only that, but my professional Chinese has improved a lot as a result of the E-C direction. I have also discovered that in many cases working from English into Chinese is more often than not EASIER than Chinese to English. Why? I personally feel like the sparsity of phrases 'like' 成語 in English, plus the terseness of professional Chinese means you've always got enough time to think and interpret. Chinese to English is so much harder than I expected, to put it lightly. For example, 授人以魚不如授人以漁 was said in a speech during class a few weeks ago; not only had I not heard the phrase before, but I had no time to guess the meaning (多音字嘛 I thought the person had said the same thing twice by a mistake...), and by the time it was already too late the interpreting student had already interpreted it into "better to teach a man to fish than to give him a fish". I mean, that makes more sense than what I was able to offer (which was just silence). So, simultaneous as a skill, I can do. But the sheer amount of knowledge you need at your fingertips is insane, and I am still far from being at a professional level yet. Consecutive interpreting: This class is largely centred around memory skills and note taking. Most of my peers have already studied interpreting in some form or another before starting this course, and many are already able to acurately remember speeches of five or more minutes long using some quite fantastic symbol-based systems. The teacher does not teach us a system, but rather teaches us how to build our own personal system effectively. I have found that using English keywords and acronyms has helped a lot, but really don't get too much of a kick out of arrows going everywhere and houses with dollar signs on them etc. As a little side hobby, I've taken up learning Pitman shorthand (new era) mainly for fun, but also with the hope that /some/ of it may come in handy with consec. note taking at some point in the future. This class is by far the hardest, and the teacher seems to enjoy choosing incredibly difficult speeches from people with non-standard accents. Very difficult, very embarassing for me, as most students have no issues in this class. What can you do when you didn't understand, or have forgotten what was said, and have no way to ask the speaker to repeat/clarify? This class makes me so nervous. Liaison interpreting: We have a mock conference/meeting every friday and are expected to prepare for it in the preceding week. The class is split into two groups: Chinese side, English side, and interpreters. The two sides discuss a topic for 2-3 hours whilst the interpreters take it in turns to sit one-by-one in between the two groups and act as a liaison interpreter. The pressure is noticeable, as the whole course is there watching you, and everyone is able to discern how good or bad your interpreting ability is (unlike when you're in the sim. interpreting booths, secluded and safe). Again, note taking is a skill that many of the students here employ. I would say to any westerner thinking about taking on a course like this, aside from having a very, very strong and well-rounded ability in Chinese, you should almost certainly also be practicing note-taking on speeches both in English and Chinese BEFORE starting a course (evidently with Chinese students in particular it would seem). I regret being under the impression I was going to learn note taking skills ON this course; I now know this of course is not the case, as pretty much everyone is already able to do this. Translation: We have both 'Chinese to English' and 'English to Chinese' classes. This needs no real explanation, its pretty much exactly what you would expect: teacher teaches theory, sets translation piece for homework, you translate it, get feedback, rinse and repeat. C-E very relaxing, the teacher seems to enjoy literary translation (lately lots of 紅樓夢 talk), E-C also ok but a much slower translation process for me. The translation process is private, however, so there's no real embarrassment to be had on this part of the course (so far...) All in all? I am loving the course, my classmates are fantastic people, very intelligent, hard working, inclusive, not 'immaturely' competitive if you understand what I mean, and importantly, very supportive as a community. Nobody treats me like a foreigner at all, I'm just another student. In that respect, theres not much leeway given, and as a result I feel like I'm ALWAYS being pushed to get up to their standard rather than being forgiven for being a 'foreigner'. Teaching is top notch, facilities are fantastic. And the fact that the course DOES have English-Chinese direction (as well as C-E) is a massive bonus if you ask me. My Chinese has improved rapidly, I can now read news probably 2-3 times faster than when I started the course. Why? Because I now read (mostly outloud, under my breath) for about 4-5 hours a day (as opposed to about 1 hour before the course). As you may be able to tell, I now live, breath and sleep in a world of studying speeches. I would not recommend this course for anyone who 'wants a life'. I feel obliged to say "sorry for the wall of text" - see you all in December.
  5. 1 point
    The new semester started a week ago, and it's been a great first week. As far as my goals for this year, I've basically failed them all already! I wanted to read a lot more, but over the break I went home for the first time in a couple of years, and so unfortunately my Chinese took a back seat. However, I did get through one and a half books. Now being back I feel like I have so much more to focus on, and I'd rather do a good job of covering all my class materials well than spreading myself too thin by plodding through a book. Hopefully I can change this up when the books are a bit easier to read, and don't require constant stopping and note making. Rather than dwelling on my failure here, I am trying to put it behind me and go all in with everything else! This semester we have two different classes. Our 中国概况 and 汉字学 classes are over, and in their place we have 中国文化 and 语法学。 I really like 语法学 and find it to be incredibly useful. The books we are using are fantastic, and basically contain answers to many questions that keep coming up for me. 中国文化 seems to be fairly interesting, and we have a new teacher for this class. She's very friendly and asks a lot of questions. Although our class consists of 40+ students, there's only a few of us that don't sit on our phones and actually participate in the class, so I really appreciate an interactive setting. On that note, our speaking class has changed slightly. For some reason all of our exams are now going to be written exams (how someone's speaking can be tested with a written exam is beyond me, but it's out of the teacher's control). So in light of this our teacher has said he will just teach one of our classes each week, and the other one will be dedicated to us speaking (presentations/reports/skits etc.). All in all, I'm really excited about this semester!
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