A long way from bridg­ing the lan­guage gap

China Daily (Canada) - - LIFE - By YANG YANG yangyangs@chi­nadaily.com.cn

China needs more qual­i­fied trans­la­tors and in­ter­preters as it opens its gates wider to the world, es­pe­cially driven by the Belt and the Road Ini­tia­tive.

But, though the num­bers have been grow­ing in re­cent years, the qual­ity is not up to scratch.

“China’s eco­nomic growth has drawn the world’s at­ten­tion to our ethics and val­ues. They want to know China’s stand on things, to see China’s im­age and to hear China’s voice,” says Zhou Ming­wei, pres­i­dent of the China Acad­emy of Trans­la­tion.

He was speak­ing re­cently at the In­ter­na­tional Fo­rum on Trans­la­tors and In­ter­preters Ed­u­ca­tion 2015.

“In com­mu­ni­ca­tion with other coun­tries, we need to have our own dis­course which is built on proper trans­la­tion and in­ter­pre­ta­tion,” he says, “so trans­la­tors and in­ter­preters are in­creas­ingly im­por­tant th­ese days”.

Mean­while, the vol­ume of China’s com­mu­ni­ca­tion with the out­side world has reached an un­prece­dented level.

Xu Hui, deputy di­rec­tor­gen­eral of the Depart­ment of Trans­la­tion and In­ter­pre­ta­tion un­der the Min­istry of For­eign Af­fairs, says that so far this year the work­load for the depart­ment was dou­ble that in 2014 due to in­creas­ing diplo­matic ex­changes.

Lin Huifang, deputy di­rec­tor gen­eral of the Cen­ter for In­ter­na­tional Co­op­er­a­tion and Ser­vice un­der the Min­istry of Agri­cul­ture, says that the cen­ter’s trans­la­tion work­load this year is three times that of 2005.

Lan­guage pro­fes­sion­als, es­pe­cially in­ter­preters are con­sid­ered very valu­able th­ese days, and more lan­guage stu­dents are tak­ing this route.

China be­gan offering a Mas­ter of Trans­la­tion and In­ter­pre­ta­tion (MTI) de­gree in 2007.

In 2014, the num­ber of grad­u­ates of English MTI had jumped to 13,800 from 8,000 the pre­vi­ous year. In­dus­try sources forecast that by 2017, there will be 38,000 English MTI grad­u­ates.

How­ever, em­ploy­ers com­plain that there are still not enough in­ter­preters and trans­la­tor­swhoare qual­i­fied for the jobs on of­fer.

Ac­cord­ing to a stu­dent’s re­search pa­per, 95 per­cent of MTI grad­u­ates have not done se­ri­ous in­tern­ships, says Liu Heping, di­rec­tor of the In­sti­tute of Trans­la­tion Stud­ies at Beijing Lan­guage and Cul­ture Univer­sity.

With­out a good com­mand of English, how can you be a qual­i­fied in­ter­preter or trans­la­tor?”

“Ex­pe­ri­ence is very im­por­tant for in­ter­preters and trans­la­tors. When the UN re­cruited in­ter­preters and trans­la­tors in 2013, none of the 10 in­ter­preters was a graduate,” he says

Be­sides lack­ing prac­tice, the qual­ity of MTI stu­dents is an­other prob­lem.

Wen Xiao­long, a free­lancer, who­has been work­ing as an in­ter­preter for more than 10 years, says: “I think one of the most im­por­tant qual­i­ties for a in­ter­preter or trans­la­tor is lan­guage skills.”.

Ping Hong, sec­re­tary-gen­eral of China Na­tional Com­mit­tee for MTI Ed­u­ca­tion, says that nowa­days only 40 per­cent of English ma­jors can pass the Test for English Ma­jors Level 4, and only 30 per­cent can pass the Level 8.

“With­out a good com­mand of English, how can you be a qual­i­fied in­ter­preter or trans­la­tor?” he asks.

Other prob­lems in­clude a short­age of qual­i­fied teach­ers and a prob­lem­atic teacher eval­u­a­tion sys­tem.

Zhang Ail­ing, pro­fes­sor at Shang­hai In­ter­na­tional Stud­iesUniver­sity, says: “Teach­ers are too busy teach­ing or writ­ing pa­pers, so they don’t have time to do in­ter­pre­ta­tion or trans­la­tion. With­out ex­pe­ri­ence, it’s im­pos­si­ble to teach MTIs. But the cur­rent eval­u­a­tion sys­tem for teach­ers is still pa­pers, which is not rea­son­able.”

On a sep­a­rate is­sue, Liu says that to bet­ter train grad­u­ates for jobs in com­pa­nies like Huawei, the ma­jor should com­bine ed­u­ca­tion with the spe­cific in­dus­try.

“For ex­am­ple, once we were asked to do in­ter­pre­ta­tion for an in­ter­na­tional medicine con­fer­ence. There we­sawthat there were­many med­i­cal terms ... . It was too tech­ni­cal for us,” says Liu.

“It’s im­pos­si­ble to know ev­ery­thing. So we asked them if they had doc­tors whose English was good, and we trained them to do in­ter­pre­ta­tion. They did it suc­cess­fully,” says Liu.

“This shows that we can co­op­er­ate.”

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