Wow, I just became an interpreter


Interpreting between Finnish and Chinese while eating cake and chocolate cookies, could have been a dream one year ago, but was completely true just last week! From Monday to Friday I interpret for a Finnish teacher who was helping out at a social enterprise, the Emmaus Bakery. The bakery was founded by Huiling, an organization that offers services and job opportunities for mentally disabled persons. I’ll tell you more about the bakery soon, but first we will take a look how my week of interpreting went.

I had accompanied customers before to wholesale markets, but last week really put my Chinese skills to a test. Interpreting isn’t easy as you don’t have much time to think what to say. You also have to be able to change the language back and forth without thinking. As everyone knew I’m not a professional, they were all very understanding that my interpreting was far from perfect. Luckily the bakery workers could also see what the teacher was doing, when I couldn’t find the right words to describe the way of mixing the dough for example.

Special baking related vocab was also a challenge. Or did you already know words like 擀面杖 and 糖霜? Good for you! I needed to make some dictionary checking on the fly despite of trying to translate the recipes beforehand. I’m sure my translations were a bit weird at times, juggling between Finnish-English and English-Chinese dictionaries.

Last week was a perfect example how you learn by doing! Without this interpreting gig I wouldn’t be motivated to learn so many new words, all of which became a part of my active vocabulary during the week. I practiced my listening and speaking constantly during the five days, speaking in Chinese with people I hadn’t met before. After the week I was even more convinced that my learning journey from now onwards will be using and learning the language at the same time.

Working at a bakery has its perks, even as a visiting interpreter. The Finnish culinary teacher made us delicious carrot cake, chocolate cookies, S-shaped biscuits, croissants, eclairs and so on. Of course these were all for sell, but we got to taste everything too! Could you imagine a better job than one including cake tasting?

The week went past super fast and left a wish to do similar work in the future too. I also noticed I need to link my Finnish and Chinese better, as I have always studied Chinese through English. I think translating exercises would be good for that, but do you have other ideas too?

If anyone of you is working as an interpreter or interested in it, I would love to hear your experiences and thoughts!