As each language is unique, every interpreter behind that language, equally, has a unique story to share. Welcome to The Many Faces of Languages - a forum of thoughtful sharing and discovery.

We are pleased to offer this story selected for June 2024.

Diem

Story Introduction

From Secondary School in Hong Kong to living in one of the most diverse countries in the world – Canada - Chungon takes us on his educational Language journey.

Chungon’s story

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When I was in high school, I was not a language enthusiast. I gradually became interested in language learning,  and then translation and interpretation. Most Hong Kong secondary schools taught most subjects in Chinese, but I was in an elite school that also taught in English, and it still does.

Since I wanted to learn more English, I asked my teacher for help. She proposed “English Grammar in Use” and “A Practical English Grammar”. Given that history was a humanities subject, I felt compelled to read passages on historical analysis. I made friends with grammar and dictionaries. My vocabulary expanded by far, and my history essays would never look the same again.

I took up university studies in humanities and started learning German, my fourth language. Later, I become an exchange student in Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany. I enjoyed my 3-month stay there and I came to meet students from different countries. I still stay in touch with some of them. I graduated with majors in English Studies and German.

Through sheer luck, I was hired as an English-Chinese translator for the Hong Kong government. I started my language career and engaged in translations involving legal cases, police statements, immigration laws, technical papers, policy papers, budget reports, etc. With the encouragement of my former supervisor, I took up English-Chinese translation studies, and earned a master’s degree in it. I still remember having worked with Mandarin speakers, and learned interpretation in English, Cantonese, and Mandarin.

In recent years, I’ve started learning further languages including French, Italian, and Ukrainian. The federal government gave me the opportunity to sharpen French skills in Cours de langue pour les immigrants au Canada (CLIC). Thanks to this class, according to Canada’s definition of bilingualism, I am officially a bilingual person in English and French. I have made international friends from different countries and have visited a few of them in person. Most recently, I have dabbled with Spanish and Portuguese, and people in Latin American countries have been some of the most proactive interlocutors in teaching me their languages. I am very thankful for their generosity and friendliness.

In my capacity as interpreter of CanTalk, I interpret Cantonese and Mandarin with my best effort to help civilians who need to consult service agencies on matters including health, auto insurance, and legal cases. I have come to know how other immigrants, including Cantonese and Mandarin speakers, have encountered challenges in life. Many immigrants tend to seek advice and help within their language communities. This is where community interpretation will be of great help. The simple reason is that no one thrives alone, and we need to work together for the greater common good.

Canada is one of the most diverse countries on earth. I cannot possibly master every single language spoken in Canada, but there are always chances to learn a little bit of each language. Through increasing linguistic knowledge, we can improve our understanding of people and in turn foster and strengthen friendship. As my interpretation teacher liked to say, let us make the world a better place to live in.

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