Does the UK not have any native English speaking Mandarin interpreters?
Thread poster: Mark Sanderson

Mark Sanderson  Identity Verified
Taiwan
Local time: 07:29
Chinese to English
Jun 20, 2014

Has anyone else seen the coverage of Li Keqiang’s recent visit to the UK? On the official Facebook page belonging to No.10 Downing Street I came across this video here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2agJumjMM-I&feature=youtu.be

What struck me as odd was that the interpreter who was working from Mandarin into English was clearly not a native English speaker. Although she did an excellent job – far better than anything I could have done – I was still surprised that such an important event between two world leaders did not demand the services of a native English speaking interpreter.

Is this a reflection of the lack of native English speakers who can successfully interpret from Mandarin Chinese? Or, is this evidence of budget cutting by the British government? (However, I would have thought that the government would have had access to the best resources possible, with more concern being placed on quality over cost in this instance.)

I wonder if David Cameron was provided with the same interpreters feed? At certain times it did appear that he was struggling to follow what was being said.

Finally, I fully understand that consecutive interpreting is incredibly difficult. I don’t work as an interpreter, nor do I have any ambitions of becoming one. However, I am still interested in how the industry works.

Thanks,

Mark


 

Phil Hand  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 07:29
Chinese to English
Quite possibly not Jun 20, 2014

The number of native English interpreters who work from or to/from Chinese is tiny, and most of them live and work in China.

The gap in the market is real, if you fancy it. I did it for a while, and I'd go back to it if I could get myself up to a professional standard again.


 

Lincoln Hui  Identity Verified
Hong Kong
Local time: 07:29
Member
Chinese to English
+ ...
Pick your poison Jun 20, 2014

Would you prefer that Li Keqiang struggle to follow what was being said?

 

Loise
France
Local time: 01:29
French to Chinese
+ ...
4 interpreters working together Jun 20, 2014

In general, there shall be at least 4 interpreters, 2 native speakers of English and 2 of Chinese. Times are tough, but I don't think the UK government would have picked merely one interpreter for both English and Chinese interpretation tasks due to budget issues lol

 

wherestip  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 18:29
Chinese to English
+ ...
Prepared speeches Jun 20, 2014

I think the ability to simultaneously interpret takes a lot of practice. And to do a decent job is not only difficult, but exhausting. IMO, anyone who can truly handle it is truly talented, including perhaps possessing a little psychic ability.icon_wink.gif

I believe both speeches on this occasion were prepared though. Cameron pretty much read from his script, so that is obvious. As for Li, he glanced down at the podium from time to time. So for the most part, the main job of Li's interpreter was to adjust to the places where he deviated from his prepared speech in real time.

At the beginning of the clip, you can also see an aide come on stage and hand Li a script. The speech indeed seems to be prepared, although he did a good job in making it look spontaneous.

In the U.S. they use teleprompters a lot.

~*~*~*~*~*~*

BTW, it's kind of refreshing to hear a politician speak with such candor. IMO, U.S. politicians are usually not this straightforward. They'd give it a slight spin even if that's what they are saying ...



… First our economic and trading relationship. This Government is committed to implementing our long-term economic plan and to turning our country around. We are starting to see that plan bear fruit. And I’ve always said that a key part of that plan is linking this country up to the fastest growing economies on the planet. China is central to that ...




[Edited at 2014-06-20 21:35 GMT]


 

Phil Hand  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 07:29
Chinese to English
Probably a Chinese interpreter Jun 20, 2014

Also worth noting that standard protocol for meetings is for a side's own interpreter to interpret their remarks - i.e. when Li speaks, an interpreter supplied by the Chinese government puts it into English for him. I think that holds true in press conferences as well, so this interpreter was probably from the Chinese side, not from the British side. And I'm quite certain that the Chinese government has no native English speaking interpreters!

 

xtang  Identity Verified
Japan
Local time: 08:29
Member (2006)
English to Chinese
+ ...
Standard protocol it is... Jun 20, 2014

Thanks for sharing the link.

Seems like this particular case won't shed much light on the number of competent native interpreters in UK, nor on the availability of the kingdom's budget for language services—apparently the interpreter belongs to Li's entourage and so it's basically not much to do with the translation industry per se: http://www.afinance.cn/new/gjcj/201406/717610.html

According to this page, it is more or less a standard practice to assign multiple interpreters for a diplomatic visit, regardless whether the head official speaks English or not. It seems to me that it's more logical to use someone you trust to relay your message than the other way round (and perhaps Cameron did listen to another feed for similar reasons? Just a wild guessicon_biggrin.gif).


 

wherestip  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 18:29
Chinese to English
+ ...
Salute to the truly talented Jun 20, 2014


http://www.languagescientific.com/translation-services/multilingual-interpreting-services/interpreting-services-types.html

Modes of Interpreting

The two major modes of interpreting are Simultaneous and Consecutive.

Simultaneous Interpreting

Typically, while performing Simultaneous Interpreting, the interpreter sits in a booth wearing a pair of headphones and speaks into a microphone. Strictly speaking, "simultaneous" is a misnomer: the interpreter cannot start interpreting until he or she understands the general meaning of the sentence. Depending for example, on how far apart in the sentence to be interpreted the subject and the verb are located, the interpreter may not be able to utter even a single word until he or she has heard the entire sentence!

This fact should make it evident how difficult the task of the interpreter really is: she must translate the sentence into the target language while simultaneously listening to and comprehending the next sentence. You can experience the difficulty of the task even if you only speak one language: try paraphrasing someone's speech with a half-sentence delay while making sure you understand the next sentence and paraphrasing the previous one.

One of the key skills of the simultaneous interpreter is decisiveness: there is simply no time to weigh the merits of variant translations, or to recall just the right idiom in the target language. Any delay and a few words (and possibly a complete thought) that the speaker uttered could be lost, and since the speaker may be far away, or even in a different room than the interpreter, the loss may be permanent.

Consecutive Interpreting

During Consecutive Interpreting the speaker stops every 1–5 minutes (usually at the end of every "paragraph" or complete thought) and the interpreter then steps in to render what was said into the target language. A key skill involved in consecutive interpreting is note-taking, since few people can memorize a full paragraph in one hearing without loss of detail. Interpreter's notes are very different from those of, say, a stenographer, because writing down words in the source language makes the interpreter's job harder when he has to translate the speech into the target language.
Many professional interpreters develop their own "ideogramic" symbology, which allows them to take down not the words, but the thoughts of the speaker in a sort of language-independent form. Then the interpreter's output is more idiomatic and less source-language bound.



IMHO, simultaneous interpreting is not for the faint of heart, especially in front of a huge crowd at some important function such as a press conference.


[Edited at 2014-06-20 20:23 GMT]


 

lbone  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 07:29
Member (2006)
English to Chinese
+ ...
politically correct Jun 20, 2014

Our leaders' interpreters are dedicated professionals working for the government.
They are part of our government.


 

ysun  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 18:29
English to Chinese
+ ...
Quite possible Jun 20, 2014

Mark Sanderson wrote:

Is this a reflection of the lack of native English speakers who can successfully interpret from Mandarin Chinese?

Budget is not an issue at all.

[Edited at 2014-06-20 23:59 GMT]


 

Rita Pang  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 19:29
Member (2011)
Chinese to English
+ ...

Moderator of this forum
Budget not an issue, rate is Jun 23, 2014

Chances are, once you go through an agency, rates they offer put people off.

The same thing has happened here in Canada - I have yet to hear of any incident of the lack of professional Chinese/English interpreters (specifically, Mandarin-speaking) here in Canada for major political events such as having heads of state visit, but for one I can tell you that in my province of residence (Ontario) last I heard there are only TWO certified Mandarin-English court interpreters, which has resulted in the lag in the hearing of many court cases. I am not at all surprised; the government, while not lacking a budget, or at least will be very much willing to pay fair rates, have outsourced this work to shitty local agencies who are paying $25 CAD an hour for court interpretation. I have been approached by various agencies constantly for interpretation work and no one has been able to accept my (very) low rate of 40 CAD per hour. As much as I'd be interested to work in that industry - why would I break my back for 25 bucks an hour?

'nuff said



[Edited at 2014-06-23 23:43 GMT]


 

Maddison Norris  Identity Verified
Australia
Local time: 09:29
Member (2016)
Chinese to English
Ridiculous Jul 27, 2014

Rita Pang wrote:

Chances are, once you go through an agency, rates they offer put people off.

The same thing has happened here in Canada - I have yet to hear of any incident of the lack of professional Chinese/English interpreters (specifically, Mandarin-speaking) here in Canada for major political events such as having heads of state visit, but for one I can tell you that in my province of residence (Ontario) last I heard there are only TWO certified Mandarin-English court interpreters, which has resulted in the lag in the hearing of many court cases. I am not at all surprised; the government, while not lacking a budget, or at least will be very much willing to pay fair rates, have outsourced this work to shitty local agencies who are paying $25 CAD an hour for court interpretation. I have been approached by various agencies constantly for interpretation work and no one has been able to accept my (very) low rate of 40 CAD per hour. As much as I'd be interested to work in that industry - why would I break my back for 25 bucks an hour?

'nuff said



[Edited at 2014-06-23 23:43 GMT]

It's evident they don't realise how hard it is to interpret - it's a very specialised thing that only those who have been trained and properly certified should be able to do - not as life-saving but in some cases as important as medical professionals, lawyers, what have you. People should be paid accordingly! I've made more than that being a telemarketer.


 


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