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Into the World of Interpreting: China’s Latest TV Drama Hit The Interpreters

On May 25, the long-anticipated TV series The Interpreters (亲爱的翻译官) premiered on Hunan TV. The series immediately attracted a large audience and became trending on Sina Weibo. While the ‘mysterious’ world of translation and interpreting has got many viewers glued to the screen, professionals criticize the show for not corresponding to reality.

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On May 25, the long-anticipated TV series The Interpreters (亲爱的翻译官) premiered on Hunan TV. The series immediately attracted a large audience and became trending on Sina Weibo. While the ‘mysterious’ world of translation and interpreting has got many viewers glued to the screen, professionals criticize the show for not corresponding to reality.

China’s new tv drama The Interpreters (亲爱的翻译官) has become a hit since it premiered on Hunan TV and two other online broadcasters. It is the first Chinese TV drama focused on the professional lives of people working in China’s foreign language sector. Under the hashtag ‘My Dear Interpreter’ (#亲爱的翻译官#), thousands of netizens are discussing the series on social media.

Millions of viewers

The Interpreters was adapted from a 2006 novel of the same name by Chinese female author Miu Juan, who was trained in Chinese-French interpretation. The story features a young French-language-major girl, Qiao Fei (Yang Mi), who just stepped into the world of interpretation. With the help of experienced and handsome male translator Cheng Jiayang (Huang Xuan), Qiao sets out on the challenging journey to become a professional interpreter.

The series immediately became a hit after its first airing. According to The Interpreter’s official Sina Weibo account (@电视剧翻译官), the premier had a national viewer rating share of 6.87%.

The topic The Interpreters (亲爱的翻译官) attracted over a billion readers within five days time. On the online video platforms Mangguo TV (芒果TV) and LeTV (乐视电视), the series has received more than 100 million views. On the Asian TV drama platform Viki, the series was rated with a 9.3.

Into the mysterious world of interpreting

One reason why The Interpreters is so popular is its leading actress Yang Mi (@杨幂, over 61 million Weibo followers) whose many devoted fans are eager to see her first appearance after giving labor.

But apart from Yang, it is mainly the world of translation and interpreting that has got many viewers glued to the screen. The drama’s spoken French lines, interpreting booths and conference scenes are the highlights of the show. Through these scenes, viewers can have a peek into the professional lives of interpreters, often considered an appealing and mysterious career by many Chinese. As one viewer said: “This is really a respectful and great occupation!”

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Being an interpreter is regarded an exciting and attractive job by many Chinese netizens, as the career generally involves much traveling and international contacts. But also the ability to master another language than Chinese is also often admired.

But those who actually work in the foreign language sector criticize the show for its depiction of the interpreting profession. Many point out that it makes no sense for French major students to exchange in a Zurich university, as featured in the show, since the official language of Zürich is German.

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There are also other details that do not correspond to reality. Leading character Qiao Fei is, for example, seen doing simultaneous interpreting at an empty desk. In reality, interpreters are always equipped with pen and paper for note-taking.

realvsfakeThe ‘unrealistic’ scene from the show (top) versus reality, by Sohu News.

According to China’s state media outlet People’s Daily, many professionals were also appalled by the actors’ French lines, which they called “awkward” and a low level of proficiency.

This is not the first time that a Chinese TV drama depicting a certain professional life becomes a hit. ‘Fatal Case Group 6’ (重案六组) is a popular series about police and detectives. The 2013 series Obstetricians (产科医生) was also a hit, just as the 2003 Hong Kong TV series Triumph in the Skies (冲上云霄), which increased interest amongst Hong Kong young people to become a pilot.

As this show might also inspire more people to go into the world of interpreting and translating, Sohu Learning warns viewers that in reality, being an interpreter is much less glamorous than this TV drama portrays it. After all, Sohu writes: “A tv show is just a tv show, the reality is much different.”

– By Diandian Guo

Edited by Manya Koetse
©2016 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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Diandian Guo is a China-born Master student of transdisciplinary and global society, politics & culture at the University of Groningen with a special interest for new media in China. She has a BA in International Relations from Beijing Foreign Language University, and is specialized in China's cultural memory.

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  1. Avatar

    guoyuguang

    August 24, 2018 at 9:28 am

    couldn’t agree more.
    This TV series really doesn’t correspond with the real work and life of interpreters.

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China Media

Surprise Attack: CCTV6 Unexpectedly Airs Anti-American Movies as China-US Trade War Intensifies

“They have no new anti-American films, so they’re showing us the old ones instead.”

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CCTV 6, the movie channel of China’s main state television broadcaster, has gone trending on Chinese social media today for changing its schedule and playing three anti-American movies for three days in a row.

Some suggest the selection for the movies is no coincidence, and that it’s sending out a clear anti-US message while the trade war is heating up.

The three movies are the Korean war movies Heroic Sons and Daughters (英雄儿女, 1964), Battle on Shangganling Mountain (上甘岭, 1954), and Surprise Attack (奇袭, 1960), airing from May 17-19 during prime time at 20:15.

Ongoing trade tensions between China and the United States heightened when Trump raised an existing 10 percent tax on many Chinese imports to 25 percent earlier this month. Chinese authorities responded by raising taxes on many American imports.

Over the past week, anti-American propaganda has intensified in Chinese state media, with the slogan “Wanna talk? Let’s talk. Wanna fight? Let’s do it. Wanna bully us? Dream on!“* (“谈,可以!打,奉陪!欺,妄想!”) going viral on Chinese social media.

The movies broadcasted by CCTV these days are so-called “Resist America, Help North Korea” movies (“抗美援朝影片”).

The ‘Resist the USA, Help North Korea’ (or: “Resist American Aggression and Aid North Korea”) was a propaganda slogan launched in October 1950 during the Korean War (1950-1953). China came to the assistance of North Korea after the war with the South had broken out in June that year and the UN forces intervened in September.

The government, led by Mao Zedong, sent troops to fight in the war. Mao’s own son, Mao Anying, was killed in action by an air strike a month after the start of this 3-year war against US aggression in support of North Korea. The war ended with the armistice of July 1953.

“That’s not a target, it’s the enemy: American Imperialism.” Political poster from 1950 (http://military.china.com/).

“Resist USA, Aid North Korea” propaganda poster抗美援朝.

All three movies aired on CCTV6 are set during the “War to Resist US Aggression and Aid Korea.”

Battle on Shangganling Mountain focuses on a group of Chinese People’s Volunteer Army soldiers who are holding Triangle Hill for several days against US forces.

Heroic Sons and Daughters tells the story of a political commissar in China’s volunteer army who finds his missing daughter on the Korean battlefield.

Surprise Attack revolves around the mission of the Chinese army to blow up the strategic Kangping Bridge, cutting off supplies to the American army and allowing the Chinese to engage in a full attack.

On Chinese social media, the unexpected decision of the CCTV to change its original schedule and to air the three historical films has become a much-discussed topic, with many people praising CCTV6 for showing these movies.

The issue was also widely reported on by Chinese media, from Sohu News to Global Times, which called the broadcast programming itself a “Surprise Attack.”

Not all netizens praise the initiative, however, with some commenting: “It seems that there are no new anti-American TV series or movies now, so they’ve come up with these old films to brainwash us.” Others said: “This kind of brainwashing is not useful.”

Many Weibo users, however, just enjoy seeing classic movies, saying “They don’t make movies like this anymore,” and “It’s good for the younger generation to also see these classics.”

If you’re reading this article on Saturday night China Central Time, you’re still in time to watch the airing of Battle on Shangganling Mountain on CCTV6 here.

Update 18th May CST: It seems that a fourth movie has been added to the series now. This might just become the CCTV6 Anti-American movies month! We’ll keep you updated.

By Manya Koetse and Miranda Barnes

*Translation suggested by @kaiserkuo.

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us.

©2019 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com

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China Arts & Entertainment

The Lawyers Are Here: Chinese State Media Popularize ‘Rule of Law’

The Chinese TV show ‘The Lawyers are Here’ is “helping the people through the rule of law.”

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The Lawyers are Here (律师来了) is a weekly television program by state broadcaster CCTV that focuses on the legal struggles of ordinary Chinese citizens. The program educates through entertainment, and in doing so, propagates core socialist values such as equality, justice, and rule of law.

You just bought a new house when you discover its locks have been changed and you’re denied access. Together with five colleagues, you’ve been working in a factory when your boss suddenly lays you off without explanation. You won a lawsuit but still have not received the settled compensation. What to do? What kind of rights do you have as a Chinese citizen?

These kinds of legal cases are at the center of a weekly Chinese TV show called The Lawyers Are Here (律师来了), which was first aired on CCTV’s Legal Channel in 2017 as a follow-up to the 2016 I am a Barrister (我是大律师).

The Lawyers Are Here introduces a different legal issue every week. The problems range from the aforementioned examples to people wanting custody over their child or a former patient fighting a negligent hospital for financial compensation.

Besides the TV host (Cao Xuanyi 曹煊一) and the people involved in the case, every 45-minute episode features various topic experts and four lawyers who offer their views and advice on the matter.

Each show begins with a short video explaining the story behind the case, after which the participants analyze the different legal aspects. One person provides further clarification at certain moments throughout the show by reading from Chinese legal texts.

Once everybody has a clear picture of the current situation, the show enters its most thrilling stage. Background music heightens the tension as the lawyers have to answer the most crucial question of the night: are they willing to take this case? It is then up to the party involved in the case to choose the lawyer they trust the most to win their case.

The Lawyers Are Here describes itself as “China’s first legal media public service platform.” It does not only offer help to the common people on the show who are caught up in legal issues, but it also informs viewers on how to handle certain problems, and educates people on China’s legal system.

One 2018 episode featured a female nurse from Beijing who was seeking help in getting divorced from her abusive husband. The woman only wanted a divorce if she could get full custody over her 15-month-old son. The lawyers on the show explained that if the woman could prove she suffered from abuse at the hands of her husband, she had a stronger case in getting full custody.

The woman, visibly upset, tells that she has never reported the abuse to the police, but that she did go to the hospital and took photos of her injuries. Although the lawyers on the show predicted that the pictures and hospital records would be sufficient evidence for the court, they also strongly advised all viewers to always report these incidents to the police.

Legal advice on the show goes beyond family-related issues. In another episode, a victim of a fraudulent car dealer was reprimanded by the lawyers for signing a contract before thoroughly reading it. “Never sign a contract before reading it completely”, the show warned, also telling viewers never to be pressured into signing a contract.

The Lawyers Are Here also often shows how the people featured on the show receive help from their lawyer after filming, and how a dispute is finally settled in court.

 

Popularizing Rule of Law

 

Every episode of The Lawyers Are Here starts with the slogan “The law is the rule, help is the intention” or “Helping the people through the rule of law” (“法为绳墨, 助为初心”).

By clearly reinforcing the message of ‘live by the law and justice will prevail,’ The Lawyers Are Here serves as a media tool to propagate the idea of ‘Governing China with Rule of Law,’ which is emphasized by the Party leadership.

“Rule of law” is one of the 14 principles of ‘Xi Jinping Thought’ and one of the 12 Core Socialist Values. This idea is clearly promoted throughout the show, along with other socialist values such as equality, justice, and integrity.

Image via 博谈网.

An important aspect of promoting the idea of a nation that is ruled by law is educating people on Chinese law, and, perhaps more importantly, creating more trust in legal institutions among the people.

Besides news media and other forms of propaganda, TV shows such as The Lawyers Are Here are effective tools for doing so. Not only does it present legal cases in a popular and modern way, even adding a game factor to it, it also personalizes it by letting the people tell their emotional stories – sometimes even moving the TV host to tears – and showing that the law can resolve complex family or business problems in an efficient matter.

On social media, people compliment the CCTV show for “bringing justice to ordinary people” and “standing up for the weak.”

“I hope we can have more programs such as these,” one Weibo commenter writes.

The Lawyers are Here is broadcasted every Saturday on 18:00 at CCTV12.

By Gabi Verberg, Manya Koetse

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us.

©2019 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com

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What’s on Weibo provides social, cultural & historical insights into an ever-changing China. What’s on Weibo sheds light on China’s digital media landscape and brings the story behind the hashtag. This independent news site is managed by sinologist Manya Koetse. Contact info@whatsonweibo.com. ©2014-2018

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