Native in English and Mandarin with intermediate command of French, any future job prospects?
Thread poster: MichaelJohnson
Local time: 09:03
Jan 15, 2011

Hello my name is Michael and I'm 16. I'm in highschool right now. I've been reading about interpretation and translation jobs (interpretation interests me the most). I would like to know if anybody in the field of interpretation would be able to give me some advice.

I'm a native speaker of English and Mandarin, I was born in Canada and raised speaking English to my father and Mandarin to my mother. I can also speak French at an intermediate level, I'm still improving and am planning on taking classes for it in college or university. I'm wondering if the following interpretation pairs: Mandarin to English, English to Mandarin, French to Mandarin, and French to English would allow for me to find work. What do you guys think?

In case it's important, I love learning languages and am just starting with German (while continuing with French of course). I read a lot, have a solid vocabulary (in my opinion) and can use different registers of English depending on the setting. And I have an interest in learning in general.

If you need to know my level in French in order to answer my question, I can read and understand most of a text. Unless it is really technical, then I am only able to understand the gist of it. My written skills are equal I would say to my reading comprehension skills, but I of course have a larger passive vocabulary than an active one. My listening comprehension lags behind my spoken production (I think it's because of the speed at which native speakers speak at) but I'm working actively to raise the level of the former.

I hope this amount of information will suffice (and is not too long!!!) but I will be glad to elaborate if need be. Thanks

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The Misha
Local time: 12:03
Russian to English
+ ...
This is first and foremost a business Jan 15, 2011

... and your success in it depends just as much on your business acumen and marketing efforts as on how good your professional skills are. Sure, you got a hot set of languages, so go ahead, use them, what do you have to lose? Good luck.

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David Wright  Identity Verified
Local time: 18:03
German to English
+ ...
Suggestion Jan 15, 2011

This ain't really my field, but: I would think that if anyone can make a profession out of interpreting over the next 20 years or so it's a native speaker of both Manadarin and English (by the way - can you also write in both languages? - in which translating is a useful second string).

I would suggest getting your Mandarin really good (only speaking it with your Mom is a long way from discussing business deals with the guy from Xi'an!). Decide on a subject specialisation (law, medicine, art, whatever - it just helps to have that little extra in the bag) and work on it (studies, for instance). If you want to concentrate also on French, maybe spend a while in France (I suspect Canadian French is a bit too special to be a great deal of use, but maybe someone else can correct me on that) getting your French really up to almost native level (cos if you're interpeting, you often have to work in both directions). Train in intepreting (which you could do in France at the same time as getting your French up to scratch) By the age of 23 at the latest you should have an impressive range of talents you can market.

[Edited at 2011-01-15 10:44 GMT]

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Local time: 09:03
Thanks Misha and David :) Jan 15, 2011

@The Misha

How silly of me Of course languages aren't the only part and I seem to have forgotten that haha. Thanks for the reply ^_^

@David Wright

My reading skills in Mandarin are weaker than my writing skills. The written characters that I know in Mandarin aren't what they would be at if I went to school in China for example. But I'm working hard to bring up my level and I plan on taking Mandarin classes in University and also Chinese philology if they offer it.

There's an idea! I will definitely look into attending a university in France if it's possible. I'll have to find out more about specializations. Thanks a lot for the reply and advice!

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Local time: 10:03
immersion is the way to go- get thee to China and France/Quebec Jan 17, 2011

I am a native English speaker and fluent for some purposes in French and gained low intermediate Spanish. In each case, the best investment was immersion in the language environment. I did months of immersion in French in Canada and then studied at a French language university, staying with a local family. The best way to learn university level and colloquial French. I did some weeks of immersion. French helps other romance languages and I felt I learned it twice as fast. You say you don't understand full speed French. Immersion will cure that. Writing almost always takes longer to master than Speaking and listening. The French is similar enough in Quebec, at least at the academic level, it's cheaper to study there too. Much of that interpretation would be to and from versions of French that are more international than Quebec, so time, years even, in France would help. You can study interp in France, Quebec, or, if you choose to do more Mandarin, in China.

One of the best interpretation schools for Chinese is run partly by a guy from Canada, who is, I am told, one of the world's best intepreters for Chinese-English. He learned Chinese from friends and friend's families in Edmonton, studied Cantonese in HK, Mandarin in university in China and spent years in China. He is now interpreting for all the big names. Canadian PMs, the US president and the biggest companies. They say he has little or no accent.

also check out how "Dashan" learned Chinese in China and is now perhaps the most famous foreigner there. He is also from Canada, either Ottawa or Toronto. Both of these guys are caucasians who learned in their teens or later. I suspect they may have even worked harder than people who grew up bilingual as they needed to work harder, so they did.

You have the advantage of having learned at home but you likely need to work on all the vocabulary and culture that you don't learn at home. That is likely more than you think. You likely have a pretty good accent and a solid grammar base but there are usually more advanced grammar and vocab that require immersion in those countries for years. My French is better in many respects that many people who just grew up with it at home here in Canada, esp. if they did not use and study it beyond home.

My wife is one of the most bilingual Chinese-English people you will ever meet, with virtually no accent and very few few grammar errors. It takes rare talent, a good ear and years of practice. As you may have heard, being bilingual is not enough and many bilinguals would not necessarily make good interpreters. it takes a separate talent and practice.

My wife has heard many young people who speak Chinese at home and/or learn Chinese at elementary and secondary school in our city, even in immersion programs, and she reports that it takes extra work for those students to have the Chinese fluency close to speakers in China. Many in Canada learning Chinese from family at home still have some accent in Chinese. Those in Canada will of course have much more fluency in English than language students in China but years of work on Chinese will be required.

You have a great base for more work. Most people would love to have that base. I would have as we only had English at home. Hope you make the most of it.

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Soonthon LUPKITARO(Ph.D.)  Identity Verified
Local time: 23:03
Member (2004)
English to Thai
+ ...
Good combination Jan 18, 2011

Many of my Hong Kong/Taiwanese friends bore children in Canada. I guess they want options for their children's future. You are now 16, and you have time to master many commercial subjects in later days. I urge you to run business with Chinese partners [Many of my translation partners are Chinese living in Quebec, Toronto etc.]. Asia is emerging on international businesses of coming years.

Soonthon Lupkitaro

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Native in English and Mandarin with intermediate command of French, any future job prospects?

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