Interview with CETRA’s Intern: Miranda Zhang

Xu (Miranda) Zhang

Philadelphia, PA

chinese translation


What is your role at CETRA? What is your background?

This summer, I am working as a translation project management intern at CETRA. Currently, I am a graduate student at Monterey Institute of International Studies, California, majoring in Translation Localization and Management.

What languages do you work with? What are some of the intricacies or challenges of the particular language you work with?

My working languages are Mandarin Chinese, Cantonese and English. For spoken Chinese, there are many dialects. Mandarin is the official language of mainland China and Taiwan. Cantonese is spoken in the Canton Province in mainland China, Hong Kong, Macao, and most Chinese communities of North America. As for written Chinese, the two forms are known as Traditional Chinese and Simplified Chinese. Simplified Chinese has been promoted since 1949 in mainland China, while Traditional Chinese has remained in Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan. The basic difference between the two forms is that Traditional Chinese characters have more strokes than Simplified characters.

In terms of usage, the Chinese language differs in the above regions. For instance, Simplified Chinese has been adopted in mainland China, Singapore and some Southeast Asian countries, and Traditional Chinese has been adopted in Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan. But these regions may have different expressions for the same object. Therefore, as a translation agency, we are mindful of the differences and confirm target regions for translation projects.

What motivated you to get started in the translation profession? How did you get started?

As a child, my first love was reading, and I continue to be fascinated by the beauty of language. I majored in English translation and interpretation in college, and that was how I began my career. I enjoy contemplating words, and I am always interested to see how a subtle change in wording can alter the meaning and effect understanding.

What professionally inspires you?

Technology always gives me great inspiration. I feel like I have a radar for new technologies. I enjoy reading tech news and researching the most up-to-date products. I believe that technology can change people’s lives, and I know that I have benefited from technology from the minute I was born. From the new features of the iPad to a shortcut on the keyboard, this continuous learning gives me a sense of great achievement.

You recently worked on a project in which the client requested translation in Pinyin. What is Pinyin?

I checked Wikipedia and thought Wiki did a better job than I could do, so I’ll just quote from it. “Pinyin is the official system to transcribe Chinese characters into Latin script in the People’s Republic of China, Republic of China (Taiwan), Singapore, and Malaysia. It is often used to teach Standard Chinese and spell Chinese names in foreign publications and used as an input method to enter Chinese characters into computers.”

Pinyin is the phonetic system of Chinese. It is the most basic step to take when beginning to study Chinese. Every character has a corresponding phonetic script in Pinyin, while the same script in Pinyin may refer to several different characters. These homonymous characters also present difficulties for non-native Chinese learners.

Where are you originally from? What is it like to work for an American company compared to your experience in China?

I am from mainland China. Asian culture is more hierarchical and introversive compared to that in the US and Europe. When reflected in the working atmosphere, it is very interesting to see the difference. For instance, in Chinese companies, the distance between different levels of employees within the company is more obvious. People who begin with the company earlier, who have more experience, and who are older are naturally supposed to be more respected by others. Therefore, young people and interns like me must be aware of this, i.e. use honorifics and be humble regarding one’s own achievements.

On the other hand, American companies enjoy a more free and friendly atmosphere, where people in different positions can become friends more easily. Personally, I really enjoy working in American companies, and I am having a great time here at CETRA.

Can you translate a sentence for us? Your favorite quote? Your favorite word?

I will just translate a funny Chinese word here – “囧” (Pinyin: jiong). It is a popular word from the Internet and it means the “state of being awkward.” Young people like to use it when they want to express their feelings about a situation for which they cannot do anything. It is cute because this character looks like a sad and awkward face too.