My short bio: We are two freelance simultaneous interpreters who work for the CTV News Channel, one of Taiwan's largest television networks. CTV News airs the 2016 US Presidential debates in real time on Taiwan television. We translate from English to Chinese. As you might guess, there is little room for error when it comes to simultaneous interpreting on live tv, especially when the person you are interpreting for uses phrases like “the best words.”

We are Ellen and Tony. Nice to meet you and look forward to hearing from you!

My Proof:

And we're signing off to get ready for the 3rd debate-- it will be early morning here at GMT +8:00 so the best preparation is really to go to sleep. Thank you~ (Ellen)

Comments: 163 • Responses: 76  • Date: 

boogie_woogie_25 karma

When Trump says things such as "win bigly," "yuuuuuge," "I know words, I have the best words," etc., how do you render that into Mandarin? Do you try to remain faithful to the source and try to convey the absurdity of what he's saying or do you generally skip things like this because it's simultaneous?

InterpretersRUs29 karma

I do try my best to remain faithful to the source by repeatedly using really simple, colloquial words. Come to think of it, it actually made my job a lot easier. - Tony

emceeinprc16 karma

So do you guys interrupt each other when the candidates do?

InterpretersRUs35 karma


Yea we do. Or, at least we try. LOL - Tony

InterpretersRUs19 karma

We tried very hard to. I had to end really quick whenever I saw Trump grab the mic. LOL. -Ellen

HawFlakess14 karma

Are they liked/disliked? Is there a large viewing audience during the debates?

InterpretersRUs27 karma

People like watching the debates and actually quite a few TV channels are doing live broadcast. My guess-- it's after all someone else's election-- the general public here are more impressed by and thus interested in how far can Trump go. ex. what are the jokes he's making today. -Ellen

davidmsca13 karma

I assume one of you, Ellen, always interprets Hillary and Tony for Donald? Is there a strong preference that the interpreter's gender match that of the speaker?

InterpretersRUs18 karma

I don't know if there's a "strong preference" per se, but we just decided that dividing the assignment based on gender would probably make it easier for the viewers to understand what's going on. - Tony

achoo_tw7 karma

So for the moderator's questions, you two just take turns interpreting the questions?

InterpretersRUs10 karma

I was responsible for all of the moderator's questions during the first debate. But for the second debate, we divided the questions based on the gender of the speaker. - Tony

InterpretersRUs10 karma

It's really the decision of the TV station. Otherwise I would like to try interpreting Trump sometime. LOL. -Ellen

cahaseler8 karma

Let us know if you figure out what he's saying.

InterpretersRUs3 karma

He's saying rude, vulgar, appalling words that can be translated but can't be taken for ____. -Ellen

Veltsu13 karma

Do you find yourselves thinking "I can't believe he/she is saying that, this is horsesh*t!" while you do the interpreting during debates?

InterpretersRUs34 karma


Haha, but seriously though, as interpreters, it's our job to interpret regardless of whether we agree with the speaker or not, so... - Tony

Veltsu7 karma

A follow-up to that would be, are you ever even close to burst into laughter at the more outlandish remarks they make?

InterpretersRUs29 karma

No, not really, just silent screams inside my head. - Tony

InterpretersRUs20 karma

I could feel Tony's silent scream, I swear. LOL -Ellen

emceeinprc11 karma

What are Hillary's and Trump's official Chinese names? Do they 'mean' anything, or do they just sound like their English names?

InterpretersRUs16 karma

Well, in Taiwan, Trump is translated as 川普 ("chuan pu", or literally, "river normal") and Hillary as 希拉蕊 ("xi la re", or literally, "hope pull pistil"). - Tony

LeMayMayPoster12 karma

Wait, is "Xi la re" pronounced like "Shillary?"

InterpretersRUs2 karma

Close! Also we have four intonations. Xi1-La1-Re3. (Since you're interested.)-Ellen

InterpretersRUs15 karma

Hillary, if translated literally is Xi (希)/Hope, La(拉)/Pull, Rei(蕊)/Blossom-- Xi-La-Rei, hope-pull-blossom. Trump is Chuan (川)/River, Pu(普)/Public-- Chuan-Pu, river-public. -Ellen

InterpretersRUs16 karma

Usually, unless people have publicly announced their Chinese names, for example former US diplomat Richard A. Boucher (包潤石), foreign names are rendered according to pronunciation. -Ellen

BeijingOrBust3 karma

If you had to give them new Chinese names based on personality what would they be?

InterpretersRUs8 karma

Personally I think they don't really need foreign names. They are both the kind of people with strong personalities and impressions. -Ellen

InterpretersRUs5 karma

No idea. I'm really bad at naming things lol. - Tony

jeffinRTP11 karma

How do the Taiwanese feel about the candidates and the election?

InterpretersRUs28 karma

Well, as far as I know, I'd say the majority of Taiwanese people are pro-Hillary. Trump, on the other hand, is mostly perceived as a buffoon... - Tony

rootbeertoker-9 karma

Do they report on her scandals? Or is it biased still only bashing Trump?

InterpretersRUs24 karma

The media in Taiwan also reported on Hillary scandals, e.g. WikiLeaks, emailgate, etc. But I'd say people here are still overwhelmingly pro-Hillary because Trump is simply too...unconventional. - Tony

InterpretersRUs15 karma

People feel it might be Clinton taking over. But after Brexit, I guess it feels like anything could happen...-Ellen

ShuaiPigu29 karma

What is it like to interpret inappropriate words on television like "locker room talk" or some other things Trump has said and are these type of things censored for the audience in Taiwan?

InterpretersRUs21 karma

Actually, the TV station specifically told us not to say ANYTHING sexually explicit on air, so we had to generalize and change "grab 'em by the p*ssy" to 關於性侵女性的發言 (talks of sexually assaulting women). - Tony

InterpretersRUs14 karma

"Locker room talk", when rendered literally like talk in the locker room (更衣室裡聊天) is accepted. "Sexually assaulted" was not censored eithet, so we said something really blunt (性侵). —Ellen

MmeInterpreter7 karma

How do you handle error correction (if it happens), since you're interpreting live on TV?

InterpretersRUs9 karma

It happened to me a couple of times. I just said "Excuse me, I meant..." and moved on. - Tony

InterpretersRUs7 karma

I tried my best to find time to insert and correct. -Ellen

davidmsca7 karma

Do viewers have the choice to listen to your voices or to the original English (perhaps via a "second audio program")? Or do they just broadcast your interpretation? Does the original English play quietly behind your voices or do viewers hear only you?

InterpretersRUs7 karma

I'm not sure about the TV viewers, but for those watching online and using headphones, I think the audio is separated into left/right tracks. - Tony

InterpretersRUs5 karma

On older TVs, I guess viewers only hear the interpretation. But on newer models, I guess they can choose. -Ellen

priyainterpreter7 karma

Hi Ellen and Tony, So excited to have you chatting with the world on this unique assignment. What do you think about the fact that Clinton is called by her first name and Trump by his surname. Is there a preference in Taiwan or your channel? Your preference?

InterpretersRUs20 karma

We do that here too. For some reason when you say Clinton, people automatically think of Bill, and when you say Donald, people think of the duck. So, whatever works. - Tony

InterpretersRUs13 karma

Yes the duck! (I should bring my Disney cup for the 3rd debate!) -Ellen

InterpretersRUs10 karma

Referring Ms. Clinton by her last name might create confusion since her husband is no less well known in the Chinese world. As interpreter, I use whatever the moderator uses, most of the time Ms. Clinton. -Ellen

ShuaiPigu26 karma

When it comes simultaneous interpreting do you often rely on lip reading? And my follow up question would be are Trump's lips a bit... misleading given they seem to be in a constant state of furling?

InterpretersRUs8 karma

I'd say it's very important. That's why I'm always looking at the screen off to the side, so that I can see Trump's lips, as well as his facial expressions and gestures, to help me interpret better. - Tony

emceeinprc7 karma

I can assure you there's no problem with these lips

InterpretersRUs30 karma

Many people are saying that these lips are great. Believe me, they're the greatest lips ever. - Tony

InterpretersRUs7 karma

I rely on the acoustics more. We deliver interpreting live right next to the anchorwoman, and the equipment is different from what we usually have in conferences. -Ellen

emceeinprc5 karma

As a native English speaker, I swore I heard the phrase 'bigly' in each of the debates. Did I hear that? Or was it 'big league'? Either way, do you recall that, and how did you handle it?

InterpretersRUs8 karma

Honestly I thought I heard "bigly" too, though apparently most online transcripts had it as "big league". Either way, that doesn't really affect the meaning of Trump's message, which is that everything he does will be YUGE! - Tony

boogie_woogie_5 karma

Are you guys also interpreting the debate tonight? If yes, how do you prepare for something like that?

InterpretersRUs11 karma

Yes. For Hillary's part, I frequently check out her website, follow news discussions to sort of make reasonable guesses on what the topics might be. -Ellen

InterpretersRUs10 karma

Yup, we are. Well, to get myself prepared, I just watch Trump's past debates on Youtube, and lots and lots of political talk shows. - Tony

emceeinprc5 karma

How did you handle "Trumped-up, trickle-down economics"?

InterpretersRUs17 karma

I tried to make the renditions rhymed too. Back translation "if Trump gets in [the White House], the economy would collapse." (川普上台,經濟垮台) -Ellen

emceeinprc8 karma

Wait ... so you're a rapper AND an interpreter?

InterpretersRUs12 karma

Well, but it was a split-second decision. I didn't expect myself saying this and still don't know how I did it...LOL -Ellen

tzlemily4 karma

What was the most difficult part in interpreting for Trump and Hillary?

InterpretersRUs18 karma

I'd say the hardest part is following Trump's logic (or the lack thereof) in his responses. - Tony

MisterWonka1 karma

That's awesome.

InterpretersRUs1 karma

Thanks! -Ellen

InterpretersRUs9 karma

Hillary did prepare herself very well and it's quite info-intensive. I had to speak quick and to the point all the time! -Ellen

Joseplh4 karma

How much time do you get to interpret people? Is there a 5 minute delay, real time, or pre-recorded?

InterpretersRUs14 karma

For the first debate, it was a live broadcast and we had to interpret in real time. For the second debate, because it coincided with Taiwan's national holiday, the debate special was still a live broadcast, but it was aired a few hours after the debate was over. So, we actually had the chance to listen to the whole debate first before we had to interpret it on live TV. - Tony

InterpretersRUs6 karma

We did the first debate live. For events like this, I tried to follow the speech closer, i.e. with shorter EVS (ear to voice span), so the lag is about one sentence or a few seconds. -Ellen

bauherta3 karma

What would you recommend to people who are experienced in translating in various forms, have the required foreign language skills but have no experience on simultaneous interpretation? Or is it even recommendable? Does that person need to be at a bilingual level and that's the end of it?

InterpretersRUs9 karma

I would recommend formal training. Personally, I think there's much more to interpreting, especially SI, than just language skills. There are also lots of techniques, which can be difficult, if not impossible, to master on one's own. - Tony

bauherta2 karma

Thanks, really appreciate this chance to talk to you and Ellen. Lastly, by formal training, do you mean formal education or an extra course/training outside school?

InterpretersRUs7 karma

Our pleasure. Again, it's just my personal opinion, but I'd prefer formal graduate programs (like Monterey in the US, Taida and Shida in Taiwan). There are other training programs out there, like some 4-week or 8-week training courses, but I don't know if they're nearly as effective as the rigorous 2-year training that you get with those graduate programs. - Tony

InterpretersRUs5 karma

It's like when you're learning to cook, if you want to cook really well and be a chef, you need to go to school. Be trained in the properly-equipped kitchen, mingle with people of similar talent and aspirations, and be part of the network. :) -Ellen

InterpretersRUs6 karma

No not necessarily bilingual. I always think it's more important to master mother tongue/ A language than sharpening foreign languages, especially when you're working in your own region (in my case the Greater China area). -Ellen

ShuaiPigu3 karma

How do people in Taiwan react to US left wingers anti-TPP stance?

InterpretersRUs8 karma

As far as I know, not many people here talk about it, actually. But I imagine they'd feel deceived or betrayed, because hopes of getting into the TPP was the main reason why our government opened up imports of American beef and pork. - Tony

emceeinprc3 karma

Deep down, are you secretly happy that Trump got the nomination and not someone like Jeb Bush or Marco Rubio?

InterpretersRUs12 karma

I was actually rooting for Kasich on the Republican side, because I lived in Ohio when I was studying in the States. - Tony

emceeinprc4 karma

But no one would tune into a "I am the voice of John Kasich on Taiwanese TV. AMA!"...

InterpretersRUs8 karma

Sadly, true. He's far more reasonable as a candidate, though. - Tony

toaster992 karma

Where in Ohio did you study? I'm guessing probably either Athens or Columbus

InterpretersRUs7 karma


InterpretersRUs5 karma

I am not sure. I always believe even if Trump is elected and got into the White House, the system-- aka "democracy"-- should guarantee that business are as usual. President has the power, congress has the shield, and media/ people have their tools. -Ellen

achoo_tw3 karma

How far in advance did you confirm this debate assignment and how long did you have to prepare for the first debate? I assume that you both generally stay up to date on current affairs and US development, but for a debate like this, with such wide ranging topics, there must have been a lot of prep work to do?

InterpretersRUs5 karma

I once was a journalist/ staff reporter for international affairs. Keeping an eye on everything is like my hobby, if not habit. -Ellen

InterpretersRUs4 karma

Thanks to the TV station, the assignment was confirmed pretty early on, and we had a few weeks to get prepared. I just watched all Trump's debates in the primaries and lots of political talk shows (as well as shows like Colbert, Last Week Tonight, The Daily Show) to get myself prepared. - Tony

danceronkeyboard3 karma

Did you guys feel really pressured while interpreting the debate? As a minor mistake might lead to "political issues"?

InterpretersRUs6 karma

I did it as I always do. Not that I don't have pressure, but I am confident in what I can achieve and what I can not. If it's an obvious and factual mistake, I prefer correcting it right away. -Ellen

mjgraves2 karma

Does it bother you that people conflate "interpretation" and "translation?"

InterpretersRUs11 karma

"Translate" is like an umbrella term (can take it) and "interpret" is just-- precise (appreciate it). -Ellen

InterpretersRUs10 karma

Well, in Mandarin the distinction is actually quite clear. Interpretation is 口譯 (literally, "oral translation") and translation is 筆譯 (literally, "pen translation"), so it's not really a problem. But when it happens in English? Yea it really annoys me. - Tony

bauherta2 karma

Did you ever have to translate an event they referred to or just something only somebody with a US background would get? Something of cultural or historical importance, let's say. How did you translate it? Just mentioned the name or gave a brief information on the referred historical or cultural word?

InterpretersRUs11 karma

When I translated "gold star family" (the Khan family as Hillary mentioned in 2nd debate), I managed to insert a short sentence saying that it refers to individuals who lost family members in the Iraq War. -Ellen

InterpretersRUs10 karma

They did talk about things like Roe v. Wade, Citizens United and Antonin Scalia in the debates. Luckily I've actually lived in the States so I'm quite familiar with most of the topics they brought up. - Tony

FunkyTown3132 karma

People tend to use inflection to get across this point of view (sarcasm etc.), do you also add that to your "performance" (poor wording on my part but I am curious about how much of it you consider acting)? Why or why not?

InterpretersRUs7 karma

When Hillary said "Well...", I had to mimic the way she said it and the tone of the voice. Not really acting, but more than words. -Ellen

Mohd05082 karma

What was the most interesting thing you had to intrepret?

InterpretersRUs7 karma

Oh I didn't do Trump so I guess I missed most of the fun part. LOL. But I prefer interpreting Ms. Clinton when I could feel her anger. She tried to smile so much during the debates. -Ellen

Xtacles2 karma

Is it more common for interpreters of your skill level to work for private or governmental employers? And are those two fields very similar, or do interpreters tend to pick one and stick with it?

InterpretersRUs6 karma

Taiwan is not a very big market and most of the time I try to take whatever assignment coming to me. Although I am not hired by private or government as in-house interpreters, I do have steady referrals from PR agencies. -Ellen

Determined_Echo2 karma

How do you translation when there are two (or three) people talking at the same time?

InterpretersRUs6 karma

Deal with one at a time and catch up quickly. -Ellen

Frajer2 karma

What got you interested in interpreting?

InterpretersRUs6 karma

I have always been interested in studying languages and communication. So interpreting is quite a nice mix! -Ellen

InterpretersRUs5 karma

I know it's probably a cliche answer, but I've always liked to help people communicate and understand things. - Tony

BeijingOrBust2 karma

Related to this, do you guys do the YouTube community translation projects to practice? They're super useful.

InterpretersRUs3 karma

I haven't tried that but would love to explore. Thanks for sharing! -Ellen

mjgraves1 karma

How common are such high-profile jobs? Do they help you in securing different assignments later on?

InterpretersRUs5 karma

I'd say not very common. Interpreters are "invisible" in most settings, and people rarely stop to think about us. In fact, I've actually heard people say that they thought the interpretation at international conferences are done by robots...As for whether this helps us secure different assignments, well, I certainly hope so LOL. - Tony

BeijingOrBust3 karma

It's like a good IT department at a company - nobody notices there's a problem till things are done badly / stop working. If you do your work well people don't realize you're there. Must be a strange dynamic.

InterpretersRUs3 karma

Yes, exactly. - Tony

InterpretersRUs3 karma

I have translated for Nobel laureates quite a few times, and honestly no much difference. For me I always maintain the same level of professionalism for every assignment I have. -Ellen

MoorusFaan1 karma

have you ever had to translate something so stupid, so devoid of brain cells that you had to pause for a second, before translating it?

InterpretersRUs1 karma

Professionally it's not our call to judge whether the speaker is saying anything stupid or smart. Stupidity is a way of life, I guess. But I do admit I kept rolling my eyes while interpreting for the debates. -Ellen

wurstbowle1 karma

What is the difference between interpreting and translating and why do you - as professional conference interpreters - use the verb 'translate' to describe the work that you do?

InterpretersRUs3 karma

Personally I feel "interpret" refers to orally translating a speech and "translate" is more of an umbrella term. -Ellen

BeijingOrBust1 karma

If I was planning a conference on world domination at my secret Bond villain layer, how much would you guys cost to hire?

Asking for a friend.

InterpretersRUs3 karma

It depends on for example the format, the venue, etc.. Ask Cadence, so my friend says. -Ellen

Ryltarr0 karma

I'm pretty shocked no one has asked yet, but why?
Why is it being broadcast and translated live to Taiwan?

InterpretersRUs10 karma

The US is THE most powerful country in the world and one of Taiwan's most important allies (albeit no formal diplomatic relations), so this election is definitely going to affect us here in Taiwan. - Tony

InterpretersRUs8 karma

Trump has produced so many amusing, albeit not always politically correct, speeches. I guess some people just thought it's entertaining and would like to watch live. For TV stations, in Taiwan we have so many 24-hr news channels, they have the time and space to do it. -Ellen

TheBoarHunter0 karma

How mindblowingly frightening is it for you, and your viewers, to see the candidates we have put up this year with their documented anti-East views?

InterpretersRUs11 karma

He's such a stereotype that I must have seen in some movies. Quasi-familiar but still can't quite believe it's true! -Ellen

InterpretersRUs5 karma

Personally, I think it's truly scary. But I suppose there's nothing I can do about it, so... sigh - Tony

BeijingOrBust0 karma

You guys mention that you freelance. I presume there's a big difference between simultaneous translation and interpreting. Do you exclusively do one and not the other? What's the difference in average hourly cost to hire someone for one or the other?

Do you use an platform to help you find work? Perhaps you can recommend somewhere I could find a good translator?

InterpretersRUs4 karma

Most translators I know are more capable of translating longer pieces, for example books, while the interpreters I know mostly do documents, for example press releases. I highly recommend Cadence as a platform to find qualified interpreters/ satisfying translation services. -Ellen