Andrew Dawrant is not a spy. At 40, he is widely considered the top Chinese-English language interpreter working in China today, a position he has held for nearly a decade, and therefore probably the most important interpreter in the world. It has been a most unlikely journey for the Alberta native, a personal rise in tandem with China’s meteoric ascent to become the world’s second-largest economy, at a time when it has never been so important that the ideas of the Middle Kingdom are properly communicated to the West and that China correctly comprehends the responses of the English-speaking world. Mr. Dawrant stands at the crux of that dialogue.

High-level conference interpreting, as it is known, is one of the most stressful jobs in the world, like an aircraft controller’s. A good interpreter doesn’t simply regurgitate words in a different tongue; he constructs a linguistic narrative to re-express ideas, all in a matter of seconds. When Mr. Dawrant is interpreting for the American president on a Chinese visit, he must be up to speed on major issues and tensions in the two nations’ relations, not to mention any number of treaties, economic agreements, trade disputes or legal cases as well as important people and places that could be mentioned.

And the interpreter must be just as cognizant of what is not being discussed. “The tone between the lines is just as important,” Mr. Dawrant explains. “How will you know what is unspoken and what was expected to be said that was not said unless you went in fully informed and knowing the expectancies that preexisted around the meeting?”

And just as if he were a spy, a top interpreter must never share the intimate details of his encounters with world leaders, dignitaries and celebrities. If Mr. Dawrant were to reveal what Barack Obama was focusing on or concerned about before meeting with his Chinese counterpart Hu Jintao in Beijing in 2009, he would never work again. Read more.

See:  The Globa and Mail