Translation is the link
Jenny Wagler


Last summer, I bumbled into a large bookstore in Beijing, and walked out with a beautifully illustrated book called “Love in the Cards,” in my hands. With a stunning drawing for every page of text, it was an accessible and appealing option for a novice translator. It is a bit of a mystery as a book. For whatever reason, it makes no mention of an author. Its only identifying feature is the claim of belonging to the “Timmy” collection—an assortment of Taiwanese merchandise, featuring a cartoon character of that name. For all that, it is a fascinating collection of whimsical, emotion-driven letters/poems.

The fact that I find myself in the midst of translating Chinese to English surprises me as much as anybody. I took Mandarin on a whim in my second year at UBC. I wanted to try a tough language; I live in Vancouver, Russian was harder to justify.

Despite its reputation for being difficult, I have found Chinese a very satisfying language to delve into. Once you adjust to tones, oral Chinese is fairly easy. There are no tenses. There are no irregular verbs. There is only one major preposition. Writing is where you do your work. A knowledge of several thousand characters is required for a basic reading level.

Chinese bears hardly any resemblance to English in word formation. It generally builds longer words out of two or three basic words: a computer is an “electric brain,” a giraffe is a “long-necked deer.” How can one resist such a language?

This is how, three years later after my sudden decision to begin, I find myself majoring in Chinese, along with a second major in Creative Writing. Translation is the link.

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