From the Expats

Finding what has been lost in translation

By Pauline D Loh (China Daily)
Updated: 2013-03-07 07:01

A personal encounter convinced me that both my birth and marriage certificates were invalid until proven otherwise.

One was demanded as proof that I was daughter to a father about to be hospitalized, and the other demanded as proof that I am wife to a Chinese husband who was trying to get me registered at the police station as an "alien resident". Both were rejected.

The documents must be translated in the country of issue, happily assuming that the translators back in Singapore did possess a standard of Chinese that could pass muster. Fortunately, they did and I am now officially recognized as wife, and daughter.

This is not meant to be a litany of complaints. Instead, it is meant to highlight the increasing connectivity between China and the rest of the world as more foreigners visit, live and work here, and more Chinese go out, bearing the flag, to study, to learn, to travel.

In the intermingling, friction will occur as contrasting cultures and customs clash. The only thing that will lubricate the contact and smoothen the encounters is the ability to understand each other.

Among our colleagues are Westerners who speak decent Mandarin and who actually enjoy posting comments in Chinese on Weibo, China's most popular micro-blogging site. In 140 words, they share experiences and encounters and show they are committed to making that first step in communicating.

Among our reporters are eager young Chinese who make the effort to report what they see and hear at home, at all levels, to an international audience. They, too, are making the attempt to help the world better understand their country, explain how it works and why it works this way.

Most of all, they help our newsmakers - from top politicians to humble farmers in the field - make that connection with the world.

In return, we hope the world will see beyond the prejudices so often colored by reports from those who analyze from afar, and who depend on secondhand reports from runners on the ground to write commentaries on what is happening in China.

Dr Pauline D Loh is managing editor of Features and China Daily Sunday Edition.

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