My popular professional interpreter interviews are back, and today I have the pleasure to welcome another fabulous colleague Ling Song Chase, who may label herself as ‘stubborn’, but in my book and to many who have come to meet her in real life, she is smart, sassy, super slim and sexy By the time we come to the end of this insightful interview, I hope you’ll agree with my assessment.
Ling and I, like many other colleagues who have graced my site in recent weeks, met in London during the two demonstrations in March and April 2012. We clicked straight away because we both feel passionate about maintaining the quality and dignity of our profession and disgusted by what has been happening since the MoJ’s Framework Agreement to outsource interpreting services to ALS.
Ling, I’m delighted to have you here and thank you for taking time from your busy schedule to talk to us.
Where do you come from originally and how long have you lived in the UK?
I originally come from mainland China and I have been living in the UK since September 1991.
Cool. So you have been living in the UK for almost as long as I have Please tell us what you have been doing since arriving in the UK, and give us a couple of highlights in your colourful life.
I was studying at University of Stirling in Scotland for a condensed MBA when I first arrived in the UK. Then I moved London, did a second degree in Information System Design at University of Westminster alongside some part-time work with a translation company based in London. Upon graduation, I worked for a few banks including London Development Bank, Bank of South-East Asia followed by working for a publishing company before I became a freelance interpreter while bringing up my two children.
How interesting, from banking to publishing to interpreting – quite a career change. When and how did you become a professional interpreter?
I became a professional interpreter in 1996. I did so through working experience with a translation company based in London followed by completing the Diploma in Public Services Interpreting.
I never thought I would become a professional interpreter until I became a mum. Initially the beauty of working as a freelance professional interpreter for me was that it could nicely fit in my life as a mum to two young children. Gradually I have fallen in love with this profession because I feel that nothing I have learned in life got wasted in being an interpreter. For example, I used to think my second degree in Information System Design was a complete mistake in my life but then I realised that I could actually make use of the knowledge in this field while interpreting for a conference within the same field It keeps me going because to be a good interpreter you have to keep your knowledge up to date and learn something new everyday. I also love this job because I have met all kinds of people through this profession: professors, scientists, Prime ministers, barristers, solicitors, murderers, bankers, crooks and so on and so forth, but they all have something in common: they are simply humans. I am very proud of being an interpreter as good interpreters can act as a bridge of understanding among different nations, hence there are less war on this planet.
Wonderfully put, Ling. We are, indeed, a very crucial part of the British Justice System, as well as a bridge of building effective communications and enhancing understandings between different cultures and peoples. The MoJ may overlook and undervalue us as highly skilled professionals, but we know and value our own worth.
Ling, do you have a typical day working as an interpreter? What’s your day like?
A typical day working as an interpreter is getting up at 5am in the morning, waiting for the train at 6am and finishing work at 5pm or later The day is usually combined with interesting subject and challenge.
Yes, challenge is the key word for our profession. I guess right now we face one of the biggest challenges – would the MoJ continue their FWA or would they scrape it for the sake of quality and justice, not to mention respect and dignity which many professional interpreters have worked hard for and deserve.
Do you like your job? and what are the reasons?
Yes, most of the time I like my job. I like my job as an interpreter mainly because it makes me feel that I am the bridge between two cultures, two languages which makes communication and understanding possible.
Absolutely! Do you think the people you meet have a good understanding of your chosen profession?
I am afraid not, most of the people I met thought an interpreter is simply somebody who can speak two languages.
And that is a foolish and inaccurate assumption!
What do you do to rewind from what sounds like a stressful job? What are your hobbies?
I rewind myself by swimming, reading and nagging my husband to death (so I was told)
Here comes my favourite question: Since you enjoy reading, what is your favourite book of all time?
Yes, I enjoy reading. My favourite book of all time is Gone With The Wind :)
It is the first English book I read when I was an university student in Beijing in 1980s.
Oh yes, I loved that book too. Apparently it is one of the top ten most read books in the world I also love the beautifully made Hollywood classic adapted from this wonderful novel too.
Who, living or dead, do you most admire?
I absolutely admire my late mother as she had the kindest soul (I believe her soul is still around me although she passed away nearly 17 years ago).
I have no doubt that she is watching over you
Would you like to share with us a story, or a memorable interpreting assignment which is the highlight of your career, or something that has had an impact on you?
When I was interpreting for a trial in Maidstone Crown Court a few years ago, in this trial the Chinese defendant was charged with growing cannabis. He claimed that he did not know those plants were cannabis while he was paid to water and feed those potted plants as he was told by his employer that those plants were ‘Lingzhi’ (‘灵芝’, a kind of Chinese herbal medicine). However, the CPS stated at court that the defendant was lying as he said during the recorded interview at the police station that he knew ‘Lingzhi’ looks like a kind of mushroom. The defendant denied that he ever said that during the recorded interview at the police station. The court then asked me to listen to the tape to find out whether he said so during the interview.
So I listened to the tape and realized that the interpreter at the interview actually answered the police officer’s question on behalf of the defendant! Police officer: Do you know what does ‘Lingzhi’ look like? Interpreter: ‘Lingzhi’ looks like a kind of mushroom. The transcription of this interview considered this as the defendant’s answer instead. Therefore the police believed that the defendant must have known those cannabis plants were not ‘Lingzhi’ as they didn’t look like a kind of mushroom…the defendant thanked me for telling the court indeed he didn’t say that ‘Lingzhi’ looked like a kind of mushroom and he was sentenced as a gardener rather than someone who was much higher up in the chain of cannabis production.
Therefore it is important for an interpreter to understand her/his role, he/she mustn’t put words into the speaker’s mouth!
I agree, Ling. An untrained, unexperienced or insufficiently qualified interpreter often makes mistakes like this, while fully qualified and experienced interpreters are more likely to act in an impartial, ethical and professional manner. As we all know, there is a huge disparity among the interpreters working in the UK, and right now, many under-qualified or unqualified interpreters are working as ALS interpreters in British courts and police stations, while many qualified ones are out of work.
Finally please describe your job with 140 characters, as in a tweet.
I am a banker turned interpreter, partially out of choice, partially out of destiny.
Superb! Guess I could say something similar – “I am an interpreter turned writer, partially out of choice, partially out of destiny”
May UK professional interpreters stay UNITED and change our destiny!
If you have not watched our video on London Demo, here is another chance
Interpreters United – We Fight, We Feast & We Celebrate!