MATI Member Spotlight: Shenyun Wu
For this Member Spotlight, MATI Director Sasha Federiuk Carrillo interviews Shenyun Wu, a Mandarin Chinese <>English interpreter. She holds a B.A. in English and International Affairs (double major) with a minor in Chinese language and literature from George Washington University. Shenyun currently works as a Senior Account Executive at a translation agency.
Where do you live and/or work?
I currently live and work in Madison, WI, but I was in Chicago for four years and in Washington, DC for four years before that.
What are your working languages, and how did you acquire your language skills?
I work between Mandarin Chinese and English. Born and raised in the US, I was fortunate to have spent my formative years in Taiwan because of my father’s work. In Taiwan I went to traditional Chinese schools and was thus able to build a solid foundation for my Chinese. I then moved back to the States to finish high school and college. Knowing that it was important to keep up my language skills, I made a conscious effort to take advanced Chinese language courses and found volunteer and internship opportunities to use and expand my language skills.
How long have you worked in your field? How did you get started in the field of translation and/or interpretation?
I started in both translation and interpretation in 2005 when I was in college and was looking for volunteer opportunities where I could use my Chinese language skills. My first exposure to interpreting was when I worked as a bilingual advocate for a nonprofit organization advocating against domestic violence. I also got trained through a nonprofit law firm to become a qualified Chinese interpreter and translator. I've been providing language services ever since.
Describe an especially memorable or fulfilling professional experience.
One of the most memorable experiences I had as an interpreter was interpreting during a C-section for twins. It was quite the experience being a part of the birthing process. I learned that an interpreter not only needs to just interpret, but also needs to provide a presence that allows the client to trust the interpreter during stressful or difficult situations.
I notice that you are active on Twitter and LinkedIn, and even have a blog. Do you believe that social media is important in the development of our profession?
Social media is an effective tool to get the most updated information in specific industries. Twitter and LinkedIn have allowed me to get access to the most-talked-about information and exposure to different aspects of the job that I'm not always aware of. My blog simply allows me to reflect on and share my experiences in the industry. The life of an interpreter can sometimes be lonely because it's often an independent job, so being able to interact with my peers and help them through my experiences has been a learning experience for me as well. We are able to grow more when we interact with others, and social media is an effective way for freelancers to share and exchange notes.
Do you believe social media has had an impact on your career?
Social media has encouraged me to be aware of the most up-to-date trends and news related to language services. The feedback I receive on my blog has also motivated me even more to improve my skill set.
Do you have any tips for those starting out in the field?
The first thing to know is that bilingualism doesn't automatically qualify someone as a translator or interpreter. Language is constantly evolving, and even seasoned interpreters and translators need to continue to expand their skills. Even after nine years in the field, I still have to prep for interpreting assignments to make sure that I anticipate potential terminology, especially the technical ones. When starting out in the field, I think it's important to understand the code of ethics, which is a set of guidelines for interpreters to follow. Lastly, always be professional, know your capabilities, and never stop learning.