Not just singing and dancing
14 Apr 2004
They’ve been keeping me busy with lots of different tasks at work lately. I once complained that foreign teachers in China are expected to play the role of “singing dancing game-playing clown entertainers.” Working in Shanghai was supposed to get me out of that role and into more serious work where I could use Chinese. Ironically, while it has succeeded in that respect, it has also simultaneously brought me closer than ever to the “singing dancing game-playing clown entertainer” role.
My work today was an interesting combination of mind-numbing drudgery and light-hearted fun work. The fun part was doing the voice dubbing for a cartoon in which I play the bilingual role of a pig character. Originally they had me playing some rascally racoon, but I had trouble saying my Chinese lines quickly in character (i.e. altering my voice) and with proper feeling, so I got switched to the slow-witted pig. That’s fine by me. My lines are way easier, and they really liked my pig voice. (Those that wanted to hear me speaking Chinese may soon get their wish, if this animation goes public.)
Then after that I had to join in on a small group singing the chorus for a children’s song. Anyone who knows me knows I hate singing in public (especially karaoke!), so to have my singing actually recorded is a nightmare. But in a group it actually went OK.
When I’m part of a team giving 6-hour seminars to Chinese kindergarten teachers, presentation is key. I have to use mostly Chinese when I’m in the spotlight (unless I’m specifically covering pronunciation), but I also have to keep it lively and entertaining. Games, smiles, jokes. Education with a heavy dose of entertainment.
Today’s fun was balanced with translation work. I’m helping the parent company in Taiwan with one of its new products. Apparently in Taiwan there’s a lot of immigrant labor (from Vietnam, Thailand, the Phillipines, etc.) filling the demand for maids, and “mail-order bride” type situations as well. I have to leave out the details, but this product aims to alleviate the multi-lingual problems posed by the situation. A small sample of what I’ve been translating into English:
- Yesterday grandpa went to the hospital for a stool test.
- Do you want white bread or wheat bread?
- International calls are expensive. It’s best if you write a letter.
- I want to send this month’s salary home to my husband in Vietnam.
- I don’t understand when you speak fast, but I will study hard.
- Your soup is really not bad! It’s sour but tastes good, with that Vietnamese flavor.
- If that’s how it is, A-Fang, I’m sorry, but I must send you home.
OK, so they’re not all this mean and depressing, but it’s not fun work. I don’t blame the company at all, either; it’s just responding to a situation.
On the upside, I’m learning a lot of interesting/crazy Taiwanese terminology. [Does anyone know of any definitive list of Taiwanese/Mainland vocabulary discrepancies?]
Anyway, work remains engrossing. Now, back to that translation….