On 22 March, I had the privilege and honour of being the interpreter at K and J’s wedding. K is from a Taiwanese background, and her mother, brothers, sister and niece had all travelled to Sydney to celebrate. J is originally from France, and his family and close friends had also made long journeys from Paris and New York to be there. For some, it was their first time in Australia. For others, they were returning to a place that had given them many fond memories. For everyone, it was an opportunity to meet members of their new family and learn more about their respective backgrounds and cultures.
It was my first time interpreting at a wedding, and it was a valuable chance to put my skills to good use, while having the opportunity to meet and talk with some great people. At the ceremony, I sat with K’s family and translated the celebrant’s and couple’s words.
Following the ceremony and at the reception, I helped K’s family converse with J’s family and other guests. I was happy to be able to help them feel more included on this important day. While there were not many speeches at the reception, there was an unexpected poetry reading: a humorous poem was read in French, then translated into English, and I was asked to translate it into Chinese for the guests. I did my best, although I do think some of the humour was lost in translation! After the reading, I explained some of the poem’s nuances at the guest table, and we discussed some of the cultural differences they represented.
For me, the experience was as much about cross-cultural communication as it was about linguistic interpretation. I was able to offer some insights into wedding culture in Australia, while expanding my own understanding of the differences between French, Taiwanese and Australian customs and traditions. Knowledge of Chinese (or any other foreign language) is not simply a communication tool, but a gift that often offers unexpected learning opportunities.