Naoko Honda, CNI ’17

East Asia Practicum (China & Japan), 2017

The practicum research trip to Tokyo and Beijing was an immensely valuable experience for me as a GSTILE student/Japanese MACI candidate. I believe that having a solid understanding of complex, yet often discussed subject matters in the international community is essential for a conference interpreter to provide accurate interpretations. By attending the seminar, Foreign Policy, Trade & Security in East Asia, I could expand my knowledge sphere of international trade and security policies, and through the class discussions, I became aware of a wide spectrum of issues stemming from painful historical conflicts between neighboring countries in East Asia. The reading materials Prof. Akaha and Prof. Liang introduced to me were excellent references, which allowed me to get off on the right foot to conduct my research not only for this practicum trip but also for the real life assignments in the future.

The highlight of this trip was the closed lecture session with Mr. Masataka Suzuki, former Parliamentary Vice-Minister of Defense (under the second Mori Administration, 2000). After taking a private tour of the House of Councilors with Mr. Suzuki, we sat down with him in his office in the Diet Members’ Office Building over two and a half hours. Following brief remarks on current Japanese national security outlook, Mr. Suzuki answered students’ in-depth research questions in great detail. I, along with another Japanese TI student, provided consecutive interpretation for the entire session. It was a nerve-wrecking experience as I had to provide interpretation for a seasoned politician with rich experience in attending international conventions, in addition, the contents of the dialogue were very much nuanced due to the nature of the topic being highly sensitive national security/nuclear deterrence related matter. However, I believe we worked well as a team and succeeded to provide accurate interpretations for the session.

It was regrettable that I had to cancel my interpretation for an interview planned by two individual students with a Japanese professor as I came down with a flu, however, I learned so much from this trip. Not only through the experience with Mr. Suzuki, but also by attending lectures in Beijing watching closely how Chinese TI students provided simultaneous interpretations. (I am submitting some feedback from the participating students separately).

Furthermore, after this trip, I am more comfortable dealing with subject matters related to East Asia countries. Visits to rather controversial sites, such as Yasukuni Shrine and its War Museum, were complemented with high-level lectures given by top intellectuals of both Japan and China, and now I embrace a balanced, objective view of historical events while being aware that there are many angles to East Asia issues.

In short, this practicum was one of the best courses I have taken at MIIS. I am grateful that I was allowed to participate as a Japanese interpreter and what I learned from this trip became a building block for me as a professional interpreter.