EHLION Magazine

5 minutes with… Joanne Zhai


What is your name and what do you do?

My name is Xiaoyi (Joanne) Zhai. I am a UK-based freelance translator, and conference interpreter.

How did you get started in the language industry?

After I graduated with a master’s degree in 2016, I started working as a freelancer in the UK.  I was providing translation and interpreting services to clients in both public and private sectors.

What language combinations do you tackle? What is your specialization?

My language pair is English-Mandarin Chinese. My areas of expertise include government/politics, marketing/market research, medical (healthcare and pharmaceuticals), and business/commerce.

Why did you decide to study the English language?

Learning different languages has always been a passion of mine… Studying  English has offered me many benefits, such as the possibility of meeting and working with people from all over the world and getting exposed to different cultures.

What is your favourite thing about translation?

Translation is a self-learning process as well as an exciting experience. With each project, you do not know exactly what kind of content you will translate until you get the material in hand. You can always expect something new. At the same time, it is full of challenges because you always need to learn new things, even if you are working in a familiar area.

What is the most difficult thing about translation?

Getting to know the client’s tone of voice or style preference is the most difficult part. In many cases, clients might not have a clear idea of what kind of translation they like until they are presented with the project outcome. What is always helpful, is when new clients provide existing translations in a similar field or existing reference materials. That can help translators have a better understanding of the tone, terminology, and style desired by the client.

What the most challenging content you have ever translated and why?

Based on my experience, most texts in the marketing area are quite challenging. For example, the translation of a pun or wordplay might not be perfectly accurate as some expressions are non-existent in the target language.. Although accuracy is a very important factor in translation, creativity and transcreation are also required.

What does a translation process normally look like?

At the initial stage, the translator needs to understand the content and have an overview of the source documents to see if any further clarifications or explanations (e.g. terminology, abbreviations, etc.)  are needed during the translation process, the language professional conducts the initial translation, followed by a self-check or quality control, which includes assessing the accuracy, punctuation, terminology, grammar, consistency and so on. When submitting the translation, the translator can provide his/her comments to the proof-reader or reviewer who will perform the final quality control before delivering the finalized translation to the client.

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