It was only at university that my attention was really turned towards China. Southampton where I studied offered the opportunity to study one language ab initio (from scratch) while continuing the French and Spanish I had long, and happily, been trying to wrap my head around. With this open door down an entirely new path of language study, I decided it was best to look outside of the romance language sphere. Chinese seemed to tick all the boxes.
Then began a long, tortuous, exciting road of study which I was propelled along by the great amount of support offered by my university to go to China to study at Nanjing University for an exchange year. Following this year I realised, and still believe, that the only way to effectively study Chinese is to live in the country, so come graduation I took up a placement at a middle school in Xindu, Chengdu as organised by British Council. There, while teaching English in the day, I spent my evenings and weekends studying, reading, listening, writing, and speaking the language at any opportunity I could. During this year, I began to read Chinese literature for the first time in the form of Lu Xun’s short stories and from there I was hooked. Inspired by my slither of success at understanding the stories I was coming across, I moved to Xiamen University and undertook a year of scholarship on Modern and Contemporary Literature. It was there that the opportunity to begin translating came my way. Translation had formed quite a considerable part of my French and Spanish courses at Southampton – both learning the theory and putting it into practice – and so I was well equipped to give it a try. Longquan Monastery in Beijing had contacted my friend and former classmate asking if he wanted to translate Haohaoshuohua (Say Good Things) by Master Xuecheng. He kindly offered for me to join him on the project, and that was that.
Since then, the more I’ve worked in this field, the more I enjoy it, and the hungrier I am to continue deeper into it. It’s a complex craft to hone, translation, but all the more fun because of the never-ending challenges it presents.