LOST IN TRANSLATION
Shanghai, 9th November 2009
Today I travelled to Hangzhou for some project coordination meetings, about 1 ½ hours with the speed train outside Shanghai. Hangzhou is one of those satellite cities around Shanghai that are riding the wave of economic growth in the Shanghai area. While greater Shanghai boost of about 20 million people (can you imagine…about as much as in the whole of Australia!), Hangzhou is a relatively “small” but beautiful city of only 5 million, nestled around Westlake, its most famous tourist attraction.
Doing business in China is an experience by itself, not in the least because of the cultural differences. The biggest challenge I find however is communicating with the project team if you don’t speak the Chinese language. Now I have picked up some Chinese words over the years and can take a taxi to get around but a presentation of your lighting design concept is a different piece of cake. So generally I end up presenting in English with one of my colleagues translating. This whole process besides being time consuming requires utmost attention. Why is it that what you explain in a few sentences seem to take an eternity to translate? Are things added in the translation? Are they explaining the same thing in 5 different ways? Likewise a question put forward in Chinese taking several minutes is translated to me with a one liner? My point is that probably a lot is lost in translation which is not easy to identify as they all nod friendly saying “mei wan ti” (no problem in Chinese). You keep your fingers crossed they have really understood and all is good… however when you do discover all is not good it is generally too late and you get a sheepish smile…..
Note: It seems blogging in China is not as easy as it is elsewhere in the world! As I wanted to access by blog to post my entry for the day I found out I could not access the blog site. I had heard this problem before from a friend who was travelling in China and kept a blog with the travel experiences. Not sure if this is ”controlled” by the government but direct access to blogging sites seemed blocked. I will have to find another way to post my blogs when in China. For the moment the entry is emailed to Singapore and then posted on the blog from there by one of my colleagues. Bare with me if there is a daily in my posting while I am in China.