A Chinese Translator’s View from the inside at Chin Central by Shan Ying Li

Shan was offered a placement at Chin from our Monash University Scholarship Program last year.  At the end of her placement we invited Shan to share her insider view of working at Chin Communications. Her high praise is a big pat on the back for every one on the Chin team. In the meantime, her article also reveals how Chin differentiates itself  from some other ‘cheap’ translator/agencies that view profit as the utmost priority in today’s competitive translation and interpreting world.

Professor Charles Qin with Chin Communications-Monash University Scholarship Recipients Della and Shan Ying Li (middle)
Professor Charles Qin with Chin Communications-Monash University Scholarship Recipients Della and Shan Ying Li (middle)

Author: Shan Ying Li

Success requires making a hundred small steps go right –
one after the other, no slipups, no goofs, everyone pitching in.
~Atul Gawande

I first heard about Chin Communications from one of the interpreting instructors at Monash University. It was during my first semester when I was seeking internship opportunities.
“It would be great if you have a chance to gain a position at Chin Communications, they have really good reputation…”
“It must be extremely difficult to earn a place.”
“You never know, just try it.”
Four months passed since that initial conversation. Not only have I met the fabulous Chin Team, I gained a more in-depth insight toward the interpreting/translation industry.

. . . . . . . . . .

When attending classes of T&I, students are constantly reminded that unlike engineers, actuaries or physicians, translators and community interpreters often face drastic market pressure. Competition comes from the emerging CAT tools, cheaper quotes from translators based overseas or even translation agencies that view profit as the utmost priority. Chin Communications is no such company. In fact, throughout the internship period, I saw warm hearted professionals who treat colleagues with support, view customers as allies and who process the collaborative determination to thrive.

This unique attitude lies in all the minute and (sometimes) tedious details that the Chin Team attends to each working day. Since my first day at Chin Communications, Kate and Bea repeatedly told me: “We are not only about translation, we are about customer service. We want to make sure our customers succeed.” Translation is never only a “translating” job in the office. From the level of the customer front, the Chin Team tries to understand the customer’s needs, their target audiences’ needs, culture and taste. Does the customer have a mission in mind? Is the customer in a rush or can he/she wait? What does the customer envision when the completed translation is delivered? Are the target audiences Chinese people living in China, Hong Kong, Taiwan or Australia, etc. With Chin Communications’ vast experience, the Chin Team tries to consider all the elements and direct its customers in the right direction. Therefore, a business card translation is not only about the words, it’s also about whether the word font needs to be reduced, whether the translated names ‘sound’ right for the target audiences, whether the typesetting needs to be adjusted, whether the design and translation correspond with previous design and translation, etc.

When past experience from Chin Communications is not sufficient enough to answer the customers’ needs, comprehensive research is then undertaken. I still vividly remember the translation of “smartphone” in one of the jobs that I come across at Chin Communications. There is no debate that a smartphone is itself a daily encounter. Yet when looking at the existing translations, one can easily find variants. On the Mandarin Wikipedia website, there are five different translations of the word “smartphone.” Does the Chin Team simply pick one that suits the translator? No. Instead, Professor Charles Qin went through extensive research on the most acceptable translation in each region. Since the target audience resides in Hong Kong, when questions of the proposed translation were raised, the word is then reconsidered. Not only did the Chin Team search bilingual newspapers and dictionaries, the common Cantonese usage in Hong Kong was also considered. Jobs are never too small at Chin Communications. If it’s handed to the team, the team takes full responsibility.

Yet, even with all these responsibilities and minute details “boiling” in the company, the Chin office is still a place full of joy and fun. There’s no severe competition among peers, instead, support is everywhere. On a normal workday, it is likely to hear colleagues happily discuss what to have for lunch or what to read to improve one’s knowledge i.e. Japanese history. On special occasions, it is also never a surprise to see a treat on the office’s common table. Of course, if readers dig through Chin Communication’s Facebook page, one can also see group photos of the Chin Team at cricket grounds, and so on.

The image that most people have in mind when speaking about translation is a person sitting in front of the computer with various browsers opened at the same time. That, of course, is what one would see at the Chin office. However, there is much more than browsers and a fuzzy head. The minute details, the customers, research and peers are all in play. Everything counts and everyone needs to pitch in!