Friday, March 17, 2006

Coming to a Theater Near You: The Translator

Well, I called "Paula" today and she said I passed the test, but doesn't yet know when the interview will be. She is waiting for word from her superiors, the high command (in Kafka-ian terms).

In the meantime, something else has happened--something which might have long term consequences, or perhaps only temporary ones. Last week, I went to the Center for Chinese Studies at the National Library, across the street from the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial, to inquire about post-doc fellowships. They were very nice there, though I wasn't yet aware how nice, that is, until I received an email the other day from Jane Liau, who told me about a freelance job opportunity at the library, translating some materials on the history, culture, and other tourist information about different townships in Taiwan.

I went there three days ago, and have been working full time every since on Heping Township, in Taichung County, on a computer in the library. It has been very interesting learning about different parts of the island, on a micro level, especially since the current area is the homeland of one of the aboriginal groups, the Atayal people. How life changes, in a flash!

I also like translation work. The proprietress here suggested that if the radio position doesn't work out, I could open my own translation company. All I would have to do is apply for a license and I would have my own company, and a visa.

But face it folks, those of you in the same field as me, one of the primary tools of our trade is the dictionary, and one of the things I have become proficient at is using a dictionary. So, there I am, with my pocket edition of the ABC Chinese-English dictionary in one holster and my new mini 迷你 Far East dictionary in the other. I am the translator, one of the most dangerous professions in the world. You don't want to be caught within ten yards of my mini. It's like the wild west.

Why do I like translating? It is very hard work--hard on the brain and very tiring, mentally. It demands complete concentration, not like reading a book in my own language--English--where my mind often wonders to other topics, creating parallel universes, one generated by the book and the other by synapses in my brain. That just doesn't happen when one is translating, at least not as often (Well, as of 3:00 yesterday I was planning to go to Subway). It reminds me somewhat of that Tibetan monk I saw yesterday thumbing his beads, I think as I was walking to Subway.

I also like working with the languages, and you learn a lot about both--the origin language and the target one--in my case, Chinese and English. So, on one level translating isn't a very creative process, since you are really just copying what someone else writes, and yet it is, because you have to create sentences in your own language, ones that are equivalent to those you witness in the other. This requires both lexical and syntaxical imagination. In this way, the translator is like a medium through which culture flows.

Today, as I walked out of the library, there was a strange light emanating from the sky, created by the clouds that had accumulated since the morning. I gazed across the street and caught a glimpse of the memorial, the entire complex, and I said to myself, "That's cool!"

9 Comments:

Anonymous Wai di ren in Beijing said...

As someone who is in the same field as you (Chinese history), I feel like the work I do is always fundamentally an act of translation, even though I am not technically a translator. But I am trying to make another culture and another time comprehensible to people in my own culture and my own time (including me). I like doing it, so I always thought I might like doing actual translation too. Encouraging to hear that you are enjoying it!

6:11 PM  
Anonymous The translator said...

I do like it, but I guess that's because I'm used to it. It's certainly an option for people in our line of work--an option beyond the ones that are usually presented to us. But, I like the way you put it, this make of another time and culture comprehensible.

9:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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3:45 AM  
Anonymous chai xiaojie said...

The anonymous comment made me laugh.

I'm glad you are enjoying your work in Taiwan! The doors are opening, O!

4:37 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

hehe, I know where you are from here.
SJ

2:40 PM  
Blogger Wulingren said...

I don't know who the first anonymous was, but the second one seems to be the SJ. Welcome! Since the doors seemed to be closed to me in the states, at least in the channels I was searching, I came here, and as Miss Chai said, they are slowing swinging open, though not in the same channels. My interview is Thursday!!!

5:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I use anonymous coz I feel it probably will be the easiest way to leave a message. I called u and ur father told me you are in Taiwan. Good Luck!

3:25 PM  
Anonymous Sijia said...

The person who just left a message is SJ

3:26 PM  
Anonymous in taiwan said...

Sorry I didn't mention it; actually it was sort of a shot in the dark.

7:58 PM  

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