Reaching out the hand of friendship

By Charles Qin, Mandarin Interpreter, G20

It has been described by commentators as ‘monumental’ and even more significant than Gough Whitlam’s historic visit to China in 1972! I don’t think there has been so much attention expended on a leaders’ meeting since President Nixon set foot in China in 1972. 

The first meeting in six years has propelled weeks of coverage of the talks between Australian Prime Minister Albanese and Chinese President Xi Jinping. The mood at the G20, business confidence back in Australia, reading between the Chinese lines, and media hype all point to a turnaround in fortunes for this most important relationship.

A lot was riding on the success of the meeting – pressure on participants, including the interpreters: President Xi had three and our PM had me!

In fact, what has been overlooked in all the coverage is virtually any mention of translators and interpreters – after all, we are mostly hidden behind the scenes. 

But interpreters play a vital role whether in meetings like this, or in day-to-day work like we’ve all been doing helping keep multicultural communities safe from Covid

There has been blow by blow and word by word analysis of this meeting and snippets seen on TV; even an account in The Age from Peter Hartcher of a joke between the leaders, the short delay for “translation”, and then laughs all round.  Yes, a sigh of relief from yours truly that they got the joke! 

And to help flesh out the picture of the room: two tables with each side’s senior people lined up, national flags, swarming media (until they were banished), and 20 metres away in the corner – two soundproof booths – one for me and one for my Chinese colleagues. At these meetings, we deliver the interpreting “live” in simultaneous mode, so there is virtually no delay; otherwise a 32 minute talk would need to double in time (or cover half as much) if interpreters were speaking after their leader (what we call consecutive interpreting).

So next time you are meeting your Chinese partners in the flesh or on zoom, think about how much better and more respectful and efficiently it will run with professional Chinese interpreting. It doesn’t have to be grand with flags, flowers and soundproof booths; one interpreter, a meeting room or a zoom session – you’ll be amazed at the difference. Call us on 1300 792 446 for help.

Chinese Translators and Interpreters – a Prominent Role in the Australia-China Relationship
It is great to see Chinese interpreters featured in a new publication to celebrate 50 years of diplomatic relations. Australia China Stories presents 50 vignettes from individuals who have formed part of the rich fabric of the Australia-China relationship since the establishment of official ties between Australia and the People’s Republic of China.

Check out here for more details about the stories. I’m on page 80-81:


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