China · translation · research · policy · advocacy · publications © 2015-2019 by SIJIN XIAN. 

 

Let's start with a simple quiz. Select only one answer for each question: 

 

What kind of translation are you looking for? 

A. A rough translation that helps me grasp the general idea--grammatical mistakes don't bother me much;

B. As long as it gets the message across, I don't mind there being some rough edges here and there;

C. An expertly written piece that I feel comfortable showing on my organization's website/brochures and sharing with the world. 

 

What do you value the most? 

A. Fast turnaround 

B. Low costs

C. High quality 

IS IT ME YOU'RE LOOKING FOR?

01

If you think these are leading questions where C is the only acceptable or least-awkward-to-admit answer, think again. You, the client, know what you want the best, and your expectations are entirely valid. In fact, I have worked with clients with all three levels of expectations and adjusted my focus, time, and energy accordingly.  

 

That said, as I progress in my experience and skills, I've come to understand myself better as a translator and the type of translation I enjoy doing the most. 

I have a discerning palate for what I call the flavors of words, with which I pick up the nuances and read between the lines. I take tremendous pride in my ability to compartmentalize the English and Chinese sections of my brain, so to speak, which allows my rendition to flow naturally instead of sounding stiff or "translated" to the target audience. I am drawn to the craftsmanship aspect of translation and take great pleasure in pondering over words and turns of phrases. 

 

I work best when given ample time to think and create. I adore clients who appreciate the artistic charm of a translation well done. So yes, if you answered C to both questions, it's very likely our collaboration will be a breeze and a delight. 

Three words encapsulate my vision for the kind of translator I want to be.

 

Neutral 

Translation, in a sense, is ghostwriting in another language. Margaret Sayers Peden compares it to melting and recreating an ice cube. “Molecules escape, new molecules are poured in to fill the spaces, but the lines of molding and mending are virtually invisible.” As a translator is expected to latch onto the ideas, worldview, and writing style of the original author as seamlessly as possible, neutrality--the ability to strip away preconceived notions and embrace a new authoring identity--is vital. To this end, I am continually training myself to become a more perceptive reader of the English language and a more versatile writer in Chinese. 

my Approach to translation 

02

Neural

It can be tempting to reduce the translation process as one of conversion-- there is an input, and then there's an output. In goes “113°F,” and out comes “45°C.”  Put "green" in column A, and you get 绿色 in column B. However, in the real world, translation is a fluid, thoughtful, and creative process. I believe the best translation goes beyond word-for-word equivalence and communicates on a deeper, cognitive level. It does so by evoking the same mental image as the source text would for a native speaker. The phrase "the green-eyed monster," for example, would be 眼红 (red-eyed) for Chinese readers. 

Neurotic 

If translating doesn't drive you insane, you are probably not doing it right. Unsatisfactory rendition is the monster under my bed that gnaws at me at night. I reread and rewrite. When I feel there is a perfect word out there somewhere, I go hunt it down. Samuel Johnson said it the best: "What is written without effort is in general read without pleasure." At the very least, the pleasure of reading lies in clarity in logic and syntax, precision in grammar and word choice, and smoothness in musicality and breathability. It's my mission to protect the world from the pollution of careless translation and put more thought in every word I write. 

I think about words and the world all the time. 

 

I was born and raised in Chengdu, China, where pandas thrive and hibiscuses bloom. When I was little, my country was also quite a child herself, having opened up to the world just over a decade ago. As our curiosity and hunger for unfamiliar cultures grew, learning English became a national pursuit. I started learning English when I was only six years old, unswayed by either good cartoons or bad flu. And since then, I've never stopped. 

A little about me

03

English has indeed taken me places: Phoenix as a student delegate of cross-cultural communication, Singapore as a Model UN'er, and Prague as a government-sponsored exchange student. I harvested from these experiences a childlike fascination with the world, a stubborn faith in humanity, and a painful understanding of still-existing injustices. After I earned my B.A. in English, I came to the United States for graduate school and received my Master's degree in Ethics, Peace, and Global Affairs from American University. 

Equipped with years of experience in English-Chinese translation and a solid knowledge of international affairs, I aspire to advance the missions of research, advocacy, and advisory institutions working on China through the art, craft, and science of words. I take the greatest joy and satisfaction in helping my clients communicate more effectively with Chinese-speaking communities. 

 

True to my Sichuan roots, I am a voracious consumer of hot sauce and down for drunken noodles or Vietnamese pho at a moment's notice. My passions include cooking and taking long walks with my hubby, cracking up at punny jokes, and keeping copious reading/vocabulary notes that I can never find the time to review.