Meet the Chinese Interpreters!

Meet the Chinese Interpreters!

11 students in Chinese program will interpret at the Fall Forum.

Chinese Interpreters

From left to right, WANG Jingrui, LIU Chang, REN Junhan (Scarlett), Lorraine Wan, SHEN Peilan (Becky), SHEN Yingchun (Erica), CHEN Mo (April), SUN Yayuan, LIU Meng (Susan), WU Yiray, YANG Xiaoting (Gracey), SOONG Shan Chie (Grace), LI Lan (Fall Forum Planning Committee, not interpreting at Fall Forum)


Fun Fact about the Chinese Language:

Chinese is said to be among the most difficult languages for native English speakers to learn, along with Arabic, Japanese and Korean. However, it’s not really as hard as you might think!


There are none of the tenses, plurals, conjugations or genders that can make learning European languages such a daunting task. For example, instead of saying “I went to San Francisco last week”, “Last week, I go to San Francisco” is enough — as “last week” has already indicated that the action happened in the past.


The hard bit is mastering the tones. Mandarin is a tonal language, which means the intonation of a sound determines its meaning. Tones fall on the vowels in pinyin. If you get this wrong you might end up saying completely the wrong thing. For example, wǒ xiǎng wèn nǐ, means ‘I want to ask you’. Simple enough, right? But if you were to say wǒ xiǎng wěn nǐ, it would mean ‘I want to kiss you’. Oops!


In a famous one-syllable article, a form of constrained writing unique to Chinese, Yuen Ren Chao (1892–1982) wrote the 施氏食狮史 (literally: “The Story of Shi Shi Eating Lions”, pinyin: Shī Shì shí shī shǐ;) in Classical Chinese. In this 92-character modern poem, every syllable has the same sound shi, only to be differentiated from one another by the four tones when read in modern Mandarin Chinese.



Meet the German Interpreters!

Meet the German Interpreters!

At Fall Forum 2014 you can experience three contributions in German and their interpretation into English.


(Isabel Frey, Hannes Schauer, Yiray Wu)

Isabel is a non-graduate student on an exchange semester. Her C language is Spanish. She will finish her Master’s degree in Conference Interpreting at the University of Heidelberg next year.

Hannes is an advanced entry student. After graduating from MIIS in May 2015, he will finish the last year of his second Interpretation degree at the University of Leipzig. His C language is Spanish as well.

Yiray is from Taiwan. Her A language is Chinese. She started learning German in high-school and added it as her C language at MIIS. She studied as an exchange student at the University of Tübingen and at the SDI in Munich.

German: Flexible strings attached

While German is notorious for its seemingly endless compound nouns, they don’t pose too much of a hassle for interpreters.

What can become troublesome though, is the flexible nature of German sentences. Speakers can construct sentences, where essential information pops up at the very end. After listening for half a minute, the whole contend might be negated at the end by a little, sneaky “nicht”. Or imagine having only a misleading part of a verb at the beginning, while an important particle went on a journey right to the end of the whole sentence:

example deutch

Imagine not being able to trust a single verb until you get to the end! A nightmare during simultaneous interpretation.

Meet Fall Forum Speaker Rajeev Sinha!

Meet a Fall Forum speaker!

Fall Forum 2014 will be held in 3 days. In this event, speakers from more than 10 countries will discuss one of the most urgent global issues of our time: Water. Rajeev Sinha, a student in the Chinese Translation and Interpretation program at MIIS from India, is one of our speakers, and he will speak about water and politics.

Q – Thank you for accepting to be a speaker at Fall Forum. I’m glad that I can interview you for the blog. First, I’d like to ask for your observations on water issues.rajeev

A – Water is becoming an increasingly scarce resource, having political implications for a country both in the domestic and international arena.

Shortage of water directly affects people’s life, affecting availability of water for drinking, as well as agriculture. Such shortage also adversely affects country’s economic situation, industries, electricity production, etc. Bigger countries at times face a peculiar situation. For example, at times, while one part of a country struggles with droughts, another deals with floods.  While one part of the country is endowed with water resources, the other part is arid. That’s why some countries are engaged in river linking projects as well as water diversion projects.

In the international domain, as regards the trans-border Rivers shared by two or more countries, the concerned countries try to set up bilateral and multilateral mechanisms to alleviate suspicion between them regarding river water usage, and to share relevant hydrological data, which is useful in flood forecasting and disaster prevention and mitigation.


Q – Thank you very much. I’m also curious about your impression of the Chinese language. You obviously have spent a lot of time learning and using the language. What are your thoughts on the Chinese language?

A – People may disagree, but I think Chinese isn’t difficult language to learn in the initial stages; but it is difficult to master. After initial stages, it becomes increasingly difficult to reach higher levels of proficiency in this language.

I think this is partially because the Chinese grammar is flexible, and for a non-native speaker, it takes a lot of time to develop the “feel” of the language. One struggles in choosing appropriate words for specific contexts, and wrong choice of words leads to awkward sentences, lacking native flavor. Even though two words represent similar concepts, they may not necessarily be used in the same way. Moreover, sentence structure is different from several other languages including English.

– Thank you so much. I am looking forward to seeing you and listening to you at Fall Forum.

Four Days Until Fall Forum!

Fall Forum, MIIS’ annual consecutive interpreting event, is scheduled for November 14. That’s in 4 days!

This year, students from 6 language programs will interpret for speakers from more than 10 countries, who will gather together to discuss one of the most urgent issues of our time: water

The diversity of speakers and languages are a pure reflection of the Monterey community. Our speakers hail from China, Colombia, German, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Russia, Senegal, Spain, Taiwan, Uruguay and Venezuela, and they will speak about water issues in their countries in non-English languages (Chinese, French, German, Japanese, Korean, and Spanish). These speeches will then be consecutively interpreted into English.

Some of the speakers come from MIIS and other education instit utions in the area, but others are members of the community who have volunteered to speak. Among them are a German artist and a retired journalist from China.


The following six panel discussions are planned.

–         Water and Politics                                –     Water and You

–         Water and Food                                    –     Water and Art

–         Water and Blue Economy                    –     Water and Technology

The event will take place at MIIS as the following schedule.

November 14, 2014map

–           13:15   Opening remarks in Irvine Auditorium

–           14:00   First 3 panel discussion (Irvine Auditorium, V499 & McCone Board, CF 434)

–           15:30   Second 3 panel discussion (Irvine Auditorium, V499&McCone Boardroom, CF 434)

–           17:00     Reception


This year, unlike in past years, three panel discussions will take place simultaneously in four venues, including one teleconference-style discussion in two rooms.  Please download the schedule below to see which panel discussion will take place in which room. Programs are available at the reception desk of Irvine Auditorium as well, both before and during the event.


Meet the Korean Interpreters!

Come to the Fall Forum to see the Korean interpreters in action!


(Left to right) Sungouk Jang, Nari Jeong, Heami Jeung


Showing respect and politeness towards another person is an important aspect of Korean language and culture. Korean interpreters use the appropriate level of honorifics (suffixes or words used to express respect/politeness) to address someone. So when an English speaker says thank you to “Bob,” in Korean, it becomes thank you to “Mr. plus Bob’s last name,” or “Bob plus an honorific” when the last name is unknown.
 Technically, Korean does not have third-person pronouns. There are words in Korean for “he, she, it, they” due to influence from English, but they sound pretty awkward. Korean interpreters substitute English third-person pronouns with the actual name of the person or object or “that person” or “that object.”

MIIS Faculty Minhua Liu Published!

Minhua LiuProfessor Minhua Liu co-edited a book that was just published called Aptitude for Interpreting. Here is a description of the book:

“First published as a Special Issue of Interpreting (issue 10:1, 2011) and complemented with two articles published in Interpreting issue 16:1, 2014, this volume provides a
comprehensive view of the challenge of identifying and measuring aptitude for interpreting. Following a broad review of the existing literature, the array of eight empirical papers
captures the multiple dimensions of aptitude, from personality traits and soft skills such as motivation, anxiety and learning styles to aspects of cognitive performance. The
populations studied, with experimental as well as survey research designs, include students and professionals of sign language interpreting as well as spoken-language interpreting, and valuable synergies emerge. While pointing to the need for much further work, the papers brought together in this volume clearly represent the cutting edge of research into aptitude for interpreting, and should prove a milestone on the way toward supplying educators with reliable methods for testing applicants to interpreter training programs.”

Congratulations Professor Liu!


MIIS Faculty and Alumni Published!

beyond the classroom1Language Learning Beyond the Classroom is a new book of case studies edited by David Nunan and Jack Richards that focuses on how successful language learners are actively engaging language outside of academic settings. Published by Routledge, this volume touches on five broad topics: Involving the learner in out-of-class learning, Using technology and the internet, Learning through television, Out-of-class projects, and Interacting with native speakers. It includes contributions from MIIS alumni as well as current and former faculty including: Kathi Bailey, Kelly Calvert, Dave Chiesa, Akihiko Sasaki, Jennifer Grode, and Jodee Walters.

Meet the Japanese Interpreters!

The word for “Constitutionally” in Japanese is 憲法上, which takes up half as much space. Japanese is usually a space-efficient language. That doesn’t mean it’s easier when we interpret, though!


Tomoko Yokoshima and Ayaka Kumazawa will be the Japanese interpreters for Fall Forum 2014.

The linguistic distance between Japanese and English sets a extremely high bar for interpreters.

Having developed on islands at the eastern and western ends of Eurasia, Japanese and English are probably two of the least similar languages in the world.

This leads to challenges on multiple levels for interpreters and students of interpretation. These challenges include:


  1. On a basic level, it is a huge challenge to be proficient in both Japanese and English.
  1. Number conversion is ridiculously difficult.  1 billion becomes 10×100 million in Japanese. What the heck!
  1. Sentence structure and order is quite different between the two languages. In fact, simultaneous interpretation between Japanese and English was considered to be impossible 60 years ago when the Tokyo Tribunal was held.

See who’s coming to the Fall Forum here.