The Yin and Yang of Translating

So, I haven’t written in a while because I’ve been a little sick, probably because of the weather changing from super hot and 90 degrees (Fahrenheit) to rainy and 70 degrees. Beijing is more humid than I remember. The positive side to a day after a rainy day, such as today, is that the rain clears up the pollution, making Beijing truly have blue and clear skies. I have also been on weekends exploring Houhai, Nanluoguxiang Hutong area, Zhongshan (aka Sun Yat-sen) Park with various friends from China and abroad.

But, back to the title of the blog post. Why the Yin and Yang of translation, you might ask? Well, for the past few weeks, I have been working very hard on a No Shark Fin company document (the English one) for Roots & Shoots. They also have another Chinese intern doing the Chinese one, concurrent with the English one with me. I am not designing the brochure, but working on the content. We are hoping to send it out to companies to curb the amount of Chinese companies that purchase shark-fin or other shark products. This will hopefully lessen the amount supplied to the market because there are less consumers willing to purchase it. China accounts for 95% of the consumption, mostly in the form of shark fin soup. This is concurrent to their current campaign to get pledges from university students, the next elite consumers of the luxury dish, to say no to shark fin soup. The hope is to put pressure on both supply and demand, to stop this market and hopefully better protect sharks from an economic approach.

For those of you who just know about Discovery’s Shark week and get excited about it every year but don’t understand the background of it, please visit to see their videos of shark finning on their media, or Shark finning is a pretty serious matter. It cuts off shark’s fins, and leaves the bloody flailing shark to die in the ocean, just to save space for the prized fin. Shark meat is relatively cheap, so they are just dumped back in the sea. In fact, over 100 million are killed each year, which could lead to marine ecosystems collapsing.


An example of the cruel practice of shark finning.

An example of the cruel practice of shark finning.

So, this brings me to the title of this post. I went out to eat at a Cantonese restaurant with a group of people. I was ordering, and I noticed they had shark fin soup on their menu. I knew this from all the English and Chinese documents I had read. I then asked them what soups didn’t have shark fin, and they said all of them did, so I didn’t order any soup that night. I told them I don’t eat it, and I take my pledge seriously. So, even though they still had the item on the menu, if consumers all throughout China all were like me and took a stand to say no, perhaps sharks might have more of a fighting chance, besides problems associated with bycatch.

Another flipside to translation came this last Sunday. We had an event at an International environmental conference at Tsinghua University, where we were exhibited. One table was trying to get pledges for our shark-fin campaign, and the other to describe the basics of Roots & Shoots’ programs. I’ve done so much English and Chinese work the past month and a half, that I was able to talk and give basic introductions to the different programs in both languages. Most students attending the conference were Chinese, and so some felt intimidated speaking with me. However, by being able to speak Chinese, I was able to bridge this language gap, and get the organization potentially more students to either volunteer, intern, become members of their universities’ chapter, or even to start a new Roots & Shoots group at their respective universities.

Lastly, I have been excited, because most of the material I have translated thus far, with some exceptions, has appeared on the Roots & Shoots webpage. You can see this on the Organic Grow’s background tab of their webpage ( as well as all of the first page of news on the clear water’s webpage ( I don’t design them, but the content is all material I have translated, as intricate as it is (since some is very technical Chinese).

That’s it for now. Until next time, Zaijian!

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