Being stuck in America for so long is hard, especially for me, a teacher who spent 27 years in China and now finds herself no longer in the classroom or in China due to Covid. (Yes, I’m still waiting for the ban to lift!)
At Luzhou Vocational and Technical College, as the only foreign teacher on the campus, I was always busy: creating fun, interactive lessons for my students, monitoring our English Language Resource Center, hosting English Corner activities, organizing holiday events with the English Association members, arranging extra lessons for those who were struggling in my classes, working with students for language competitions, judging our yearly school contests (English speech, drama and singing contest), participating in faculty events and adding my expertise concerning language questions my colleagues had.
While I’m not physically present, I still have the ability to connect and give advice through WeChat, China’s equivalent of Facebook. Every day, my phone is constantly dinging with messages from Luzhou, either from the church choir members, or my students, colleagues and friends. My favorite phrase is: “Connie, can you help me?”
Yeah!! I can once again be useful!
A Message from “Bruce” Lu
“Bruce” Lu is one of our English department’s better vocabulary experts. While his teaching skills need some adjusting, his language ability is quite impressive. He graduated with an English translation degree, which spurred the administrators to put him in charge of translating all campus Chinese signs into English. Three years ago, when we moved to the new campus, Bruce and I worked together to make sure the Chinese had appropriate English counterpart translations. Such placards on doors (such as President’s Office, Vice-President’s Office, Office of Finances) or important signage (Handicapped Facilities, Cafeteria, Sports Field), made our campus look quite impressive for our overseas partner school reps who came to tour the college.
Of course, there were always a few that escaped my eye when Bruce felt he had it translated correctly and didn’t consult with me. We still have a couple questionable ones spread throughout our classroom buildings, such as “Teacher Resting Room” (a direct translation of 教师休息室). A better fit would be “Faculty Work Room.” My all-time favorite, however, is the one door that is announced as “The Secret Room.” I’ve forgotten what the Chinese was but I do remember that door was always locked, which I guess would definitely make it a “secret room” since none of us were privy to what was inside.
Moving on, Bruce’s message this morning began as follows:
“Connie, I need your help. How to translate ‘荣誉墙, 学生风采, 老师风采, 学生作品欣赏.’ The first phrase is a wall to display the awards our teachers and students got. We mean to display the excellent students and teachers, put their photos on the wall. The photos are mainly about their participation in all kinds of contests and activities. The original translation are as follows: Wall of Honor, Student Charm, Teachers Presence and Students Work Display. How do you think?”
He next included his computer skills at work, the below which will be posted on the school’s website with a printed version displayed on a campus billboard along our walkways or inside one of the buildings. (Notice my photo in there as well, when I received Sichuan Province’s highest honor for foreigners, The Jin Ding Award, in 2008.)
A Cooperative Effort
All morning, my mom and I have been discussing how to convey the meaning of the Chinese without using the direct translation, which sounds a little off. This is what happens when you directly plug Chinese characters into translation Apps or websites. You often get something that makes little or no sense, plus doesn’t convey the meaning of what’s needed.
So here’s what my mom and I came up with:
- Celebration of Excellence; Wall of Distinction
- Faculty Honors
- Student Honors
- Student Extracurricular Activities; Student Activities
It’s 2 a.m. in China so Bruce won’t be checking his messages until China’s Sunday morning. My guess is that he’ll most likely “but” me on several of these, insisting that the translation doesn’t fit the meaning of what he wants. Bruce does have a tendency to get his back up when it comes to advice: He asks for it sincerely but when it comes down to it, he sometimes goes rogue and ignores my sound suggestions.
We’ll see what he comes up with. When I return, I might very well be walking by my “Wall of Distinction” only to find it touting something else, right alongside that mysterious, enigmatic Secret Room.
When it comes to Bruce, one never knows.
Love this story! Glad you are still connected to job, place and people you love. Hang in there. So much is uncertain when it comes to COVID.
Oh, my…..what a challenge! Like the options you and your mom have thought through. We were not asked to help with such public signage, but have used “translators” to try and understand messages sent in Chinese characters…..can certainly cause one to go, Oh!
Connie, I love reading your blogs. This is such a great example of how difficult it can be to navigate in different language and culture.
Thank you for your continued work to help Bruce.
Rev. Dr. Judy Y. Chungâ
Executive Director Missionary Service
General Board of Global Ministries / The United Methodist Church
458 Ponce de Leon Avenue NE, Atlanta, Georgia 30308
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