Monday, April 30, 2007

Canton Fair Experience

For the last three weeks, I’d been working as an interpreter for two companies at the Canton Trade Fair. It was my first intern job officially and I think I’ve gained more experience than I could write in my 2000-word intern report assignment. Every day, I had to work for around 9 hours (not to mention the time for transportation), so I was almost exhausted by the time I got back to my dorm each day. The first period was totally awesome but the second period was a struggle for me because I’ve got a cold and there was NO lunch time. But as I reflected on the whole thing now, everything was so worthwhile!

Here’s a collection of discovery, or rather, just my thoughts from this job experience that I think I’d share:

1. There are really WEIRD people in the world and be CAREFUL who we trust.
The first afternoon when I looked for job outside the fair hall, a middle aged lady from Taiwan claimed that she wanted to hire people. But she didn’t mention what kind of jobs she offered, and since she came to the Interpreter Area, we all assumed that she was looking for interpreters. She was kinda serious at first and required all applicants to speak English and Japanese. A bunch of students started to crowd around her and stuffed her with name cards. I was completely lack of experience, so I followed the flow. Then she selected 16 boys and girls (astonishingly, I was one of them and those selected were mostly from my school). Then she asked us to take her to the nearest KTV bar so that she could hear our voices for the first round of interview and then decide who would go for the second round. During the next four hours, she spent 600rmb on the KTV room and let us sing and eat while telling us some weird stuffs like how girls should keep healthy (she smoked by the way) and how to be successful…we tried to figure out her real intension but she kept keeping us in the dark. Finally, we excused ourselves and left, but she seemed quite ok with that. On our way back, we all shivered for meeting such strange person like that and swear that we would never work for her…maybe she had evil intention that didn’t get to show or maybe she was just lonely and had money to burn and so she just found some silly people to entertain her…I don’t know…

All that I know now is that there ARE_WEIRD_ people in the world and we need to be careful who we trust!

P.S. This news was reported on the next day's newspaper and TV news with the title," Want to be interpreter? Sing KTV first!"

2. Don’t give up till the last minute.
Working at the Trade Fair is a big deal for foreign language majors in Cuangdong. For most students (me included), the only way to get a job in the fair is to dress up neatly and wait outside the gate of the fair hall, holding a sign on which it said “Interpreter, passed TEM4” (or whatever we wanted to boast about ourselves) and asking people if they wanted to hire interpreter. For the lucky ones, they didn’t need to wait for more than 5 minutes before being snatched out, but for some, it might be for days and still stood like a salt pillar.

It was widely recognized that there weren’t many job openings in the first period, for those big companies usually had their own interpreters, but I gave a try anyway…As expected, I stood for almost three days- no employment! By 4pm on the last day, many students had left in disappointment; I thought it wouldn’t hurt more to wait till 6pm, so I persisted. Just then, a lady came by, watching us one by one…I went up to her and asked, “Could you please give me a try?”(I didn’t expect anything really, but just a talk with people to kill my boredom and frustration.) Surprisingly, she said OK and took me aside for a brief interview, and then I GOT IT!

The lady was called Fanny, the development manager of Puyi Tungsten Carbide Plant Company. She taught treated me really kindly and taught me a lot of things at work. I was very grateful!

This experience reminded me of Mathew20:1-8 in the Bible, where a similar story was told. Indeed, being patient is hard but don’t give up till the last minute!

3. Put my feet firmly on the ground.
One evening, I accompanied my boss to have dinner with two Canadian customers and their Chinese associate. I didn’t remember the name of that Chinese associate, but she seemed to be sophisticated in foreign trade and occupied a high position in her company in Tianjin. Her words to me sounded encouraging at first, but then they went into exaggeration. Frankly, I was kinda stupid and found myself floating with pride at some point…but later my boss told me that we had to carefully weigh her words (not that she meant any harm, but in business if we are off guard, it could be dangerous). Glad that I realized my mistake and thank you, boss!

Always remember - put my feet firmly on the ground!

4. Be willing to endure and work positively.
The fair kept most people in the halls pretty busy every day and there could be no lunch break till 2pm or 3 pm, or sometimes no lunch break at all. So complaints or a negative attitude would just make the days tougher. But if we are willing to endure and work on positively, tough time passed quickly and more satisfaction could be gained. I’m not advocating workaholicsm, but willingness, endurance and a positive attitude have helped me a lot!

5. There is a great demand for people who can interpret between Chinese/English and Spanish/ Russian/ Arabic.
Since English is so widely spoken, the demand for English interpreter is on the decline. So it’s the same with interpreters in Japanese, followed by French and German (most French and German people can speak English). There is almost no difference in the paid of English interpreter and Japanese interpreter. However, a person who speak Chinese/English and either of the following: Spanish/ Russian/ Arabic can get paid at least 3 times higher or even 6 times higher. So consider carefully before you choose your second or third foreign language to study.

6. Make good use of the little time for language study.
I think the study of any foreign language is great fun, especially English, Japanese and Spanish that I really like. But honestly, I was as busy as a bee sometimes and sparing a few hours for language study could be absolutely overwhelming. Therefore, it’s useful to make the most of the little time, even just 20 minutes on the bus. For example, I tried to remember a few Spanish words and sentences on my way to the fair every morning, and I found I could communicate (even though barely) with customers who only spoke Spanish. I think I should continue applying this method…

Haha…I know this is the longest post ever, but I think I still need to share. Thank you for reading it if you did! :)

Today is May1, and it was our one- week-long national holidays in China. I am grateful that I finished my job yesterday and could go home later this afternoon for rest and relax. There is study and intern report to catch up with though. But I officially proclaim that the word “laziness” has lost its derogative meaning in my dictionary! Well, at least for now... :)