CET Kunming and My Academic and Professional Goals

I think the most strange (and probably most fascinating) phenomenon that I’ve been experiencing lately is the more time I spend in China, the more I can see myself living here long-term. Since I’ve only just started college, I’ve still got lots of ideas (albeit extremely vague ones) for what I’d like to do in the future. Now that I’ve had the opportunity to experience China through an unbiased lens, the more that I appreciate it for just what it is, and that’s caused to me to want to experience what it’s like to work in China.

There will always be things I never quite understand (like places designed for pedestrians are also places for bikes and scooters to drive through apparently), but it’s refreshing to experience a completely new environment and I’d like to see what a typical Chinese working environment is like. As I prepare to head back to America, I’ve also acquired a knack to auto-translate sentences in my head (otherwise I will completely misunderstand at times), so I’ve thought about working in a translating job, especially since some translation jobs here are complete wrecks. One thing that still interests me is that nowadays Chinese people are all about things that are 洋气 (yáng), which means “stylish” but more accurately means things that are have a Western essence to them. Because of that, it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say almost every sign or place has an English translation or some kind of shout out to a Western country.

A prime example of the translation craze; if it’s in any way a tourist attraction, they will have English translations (sometimes not so great ones).

A prime example of the translation craze; if it’s in any way a tourist attraction, they will have English translations (sometimes not so great ones).

In America, it seems like the only Chinese influence we have in our immediate reach is the “Made in China” sticker on virtually all of our goods, or some rant from the news or media about a Chinese situation that we can’t quite wrap our heads around, which is very unfortunate. At times I think this can cause us to be so inward-focused on our country and language that we sometimes don’t have the desire to go the extra mile to learn something out of our understanding or language.

Speaking of languages, my biggest academic goal is to reach as much fluency in Chinese as I can. Since advancing my language skills from elementary to intermediate, I’ve discovered that when learning a language, you have these awkward and weird gaps in your language skills. To give an example, I’m very capable of saying “China’s economic development has caused Chinese people’s living standards to improve greatly” but when I’m at a restaurant or at a store I don’t know what the word for laundry detergent or banana. Imagine the surprise on the cashier’s face if I say with complete confidence “I think this product’s quality is great!” but turn red just trying to say a fruit’s name. That kind of situation is honestly an out-of-body experience, probably more for the Chinese cashier than for me.

The language barrier awkwardness aside, I think knowing at least one other language than your own opens so many doors and creates so many interesting stories that you can’t get anywhere else while at the same time allows you to study your own language and how it’s structured. In Chinese, since the sentence structure can be so vastly different from English, it’s very easy to make a fool of yourself if you don’t pay attention to how you’re saying things. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve tried saying something (and made myself look like a flailing tomato while doing it) and only succeeded in confusing the Chinese person more. Alright, to wrap things up, I’ve made a little fun list of my academic dreams, professional goals, and what I have learned in China:

  1. I’d like to work as a translator maybe for a video game company or TV show to make English content available to Chinese audiences (and vice versa), but it might get difficult when I try to translate words things like “I’m a little salty” or “Today my clothes are on point”.
  2. Fluency: The funniest and most embarrassing thing to try to accomplish, especially when you try to say something simple and end up saying a curse word instead.
  3. Humor: Sarcasm is a tricky affair in Chinese. Your intention is to lighten the air but you inadvertently insult the other person instead.

Until next time,
Garrett Schuman, 许可儒

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Filed under East Asia, Garrett in China

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