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Keith Tse


  • Writer's pictureKeith Tse

Simultaneous translation

In addition to my ongoing academic research on the nature of human language, I am also a professional translator and language teacher. In the past few years, I have been offering language services in face-to-face/telephone interpreting to clients from different parts of UK and US, and I have taught foreign languages (mainly Chinese, both Mandarin and Cantonese) to university students and working adults in the northern part of England. I really enjoy these extra-curricular activities, since they allow me to utilize my language skills to the benefit of my community. It is also a nice break from my research, which can get quite tiring at times, especially after staring at trees and graphs on the computer screen for 10+ hours. It is hard to explain my interest in languages. While I firmly believe in the power of cold logic in human decision-making, I also realize that human beings are sentimental beings and our minds do not always function logically. I have hence given up trying to over-analyse and make sense of everything and have tried to just observe and accept things as they are. I remember that it was in the Fourth Form (Year 10) at school (February 2002, to be precise (!)) that I decided that I wanted to become a linguist began reading avidly about human language and exposing myself to as many foreign languages as I could. Thinking back, it was an entirely spontaneous decision. There was no logic or calculation behind it. I just felt that it was the right thing for me to do. There was one episode, however, which really sticks out in my mind. It was a train journey that I took from my school (Sherborne) to London on the first exeat (weekend schoolbreak) of Michaelmas Term 2001 (very shortly after 9/11). A Chinese guy was sitting opposite me, and we started talking in Cantonese. I could tell that he was from the mainland, as his Cantonese was not perfect. The train operator came over and asked to check our tickets. I duly showed him mine, but when my compatriot failed to show his, the operator decided to call the police and detain this man at our destination. However, this man spoke no English and when they interrogated him on the platform, they suddenly asked me to translate for them (Chinese-English, both ways). It was a messy affair, and the whole thing dragged on for close to an hour. It was eventually cleared up when this guy’s friend came to pick him up and offered to pay for the journey. The police officers thanked me cordially and shook my hand. This Chinese guy, on the other hand, cursed to me (not at me) about how the English were wankers etc. I was delayed on my journey to my guardian’s and did not reach their home till late that night. But for some reason, I do not recall being irritated or inconvenienced at all. In fact, I remember feeling quite glad that I was able to help a helpless man and local authorities to sort out their issues. I did not realize it then but it was probably that moment that I started to acquire a passion for languages and the social interaction that goes with them. I have mentioned before that episodes in one’s early life can dramatically alter one course of life. This was one of those that changed mine forever.

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