Freelance Chinese-English Translation Work

If there is something that characterises me, it is that I am always willing to try out new things, even as there are many new things that I do not want to try. I have gotten and completed my first freelancer project, a translation project.

It is not the first time I get paid for my translation services (most of the time I do not get paid). The first was when I did the book Flowing Desires for Vivian (a China-born Singaporean), who has since become a family friend. Kitten and I put in long hours to translate the novel – it was harder than we thought.

This time, I translated an 8-page brochure from English to simplified Chinese. It was a brochure on yacht ownership, and it makes me really want to own one of those yacht memberships one of these days. If the Lord be willing, one day I shall. Perhaps when the children are all flown the coop, Kitten and I can live onboard a yacht!

I was rewarded for my few hours of work with USD27 (USD 30 paid by my employer, of which USD3 goes to Freelancer), which is relatively low. I am not complaining though. At a time when I am jobless, any income counts.

Feel free to join Freelancer through this link (Freelancer) here, for those of you interested in getting some side income! They offer all kinds of freelance work, from IT jobs, to data entry jobs, to voiceovers!

A Gift and a Bribe in Oriental Societies

This was originally published when Sensei Michael was in China.

Many westerners who come over to oriental societies have to immediate grapple with one reality – the strong culture and presence of gifts-giving and even bribery that takes place in our societies. It can range from the blatant (Indonesia or Vietnam) to the indirect (China or Philippines) to the “legalised and regulated” (Singapore!).

I remembered my first encounter with gifts as a teacher – I got a very expensive book from a parent. It was very, very difficult for me to return that gift without offending the parent so I approached my principal for advice. Public servants in Singapore (of whom teachers are a part of) have very strict instructions regarding gifts (declare value, report to superiors, etc), to avoid any problems or even appearance of bribery. I decided to make that book publicly available to all my colleagues.

Over at my school, I encountered Korean parents – and I realised that Korean parents took their gift-giving very seriously. It’s something like a mark of respect or even “face” to them to present a gift of nominal value (chocolates, for example) to a teacher they respect. But since I’m no longer a public servant, I could accept them without any problem.

There was one gift I had to return though, and that really destroyed my relationship with the parent (sigh). It was a very beautiful idol of some Indonesian tribe or something, which we suspect to be a totem of some sort. I don’t think it’s very appropriate for a Christian family to have this in the house so I wrote a card explaining my position and returned the gift. That parent never spoke to me again.

I know that God has very serious instructions regarding bribery.

“And you shall take no bribe, for a bribe blinds the discerning and perverts the words of the righteous.” Exodus 23:8

“You shall not pervert justice; you shall not show partiality, nor take a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and twists the words of the righteous.” Deuteronomy 16:19

“A wicked man accepts a bribe behind the back, To pervert the ways of justice.” Proverbs 17:23

In other words, bribes are given to blind the eyes and to pervert justice. When money is given for the judge to award you his judgement, that’s a bribe. When money is given for a person to award you the contract, even if other parties obviously gives the better deal, that’s a bribe.

How about gifts? What does the Bible say about gifts (remember that the Hebrew society is an oriental one)?

“Many entreat the favor of the nobility, And every man is a friend to one who gives gifts.” Proverbs 19:6

“A man’s gift maketh room for him, and bringeth him before great men.” Proverbs 18:16

I think it is very clear here – a gift is an introduction, a means to put ourselves in good standing before a person in an oriental society (I suspect it works in western societies as well!). Herein lies the great power of the oft-acclaimed Chinese guanxi 关系, which literally means “connections” or “relations”. You can get guanxi by being a childhood friend or relative, or by being friends later in life (mostly through gifts – monetary, in kind or by being the leverage for your own personal guanxielsewhere).

What gifts have I given so far that has given me some of this guanxi? I’ve a friend who has connections with government officials – she likes me, and I’ve been a great help to her in establishing herself in Singapore. I’ve leveraged upon my network to create opportunities for the school to perform in public venues – both sides are happy in the process.

I learnt one thing though – that ultimately, we need to be discerning over what constitutes a bribe and what constitutes a gift (I suspect many of my definitions of “gifts” are considered bribes by most governments of today). I believe that as long as we are sure we are not perverting justice or blinding the eyes of the decision-maker, any gifts we give to make room for us in high places would be regarded by God as wisdom. And what is the value God has placed upon wisdom?

My son, if you receive my words, And treasure my commands within you,
So that you incline your ear to wisdom, And apply your heart to understanding;
Yes, if you cry out for discernment, And lift up your voice for understanding,
If you seek her as silver, And search for her as for hidden treasures;
Then you will understand the fear of the LORD, And find the knowledge of God.
For the LORD gives wisdom; From His mouth come knowledge and understanding;

Proverbs 2:1-6

Why GDP Figures do not make sense in China

One of the best answers on why GDP figures do not make sense in China.

Answer on @Quora by Robin Daverman to Why is it estimated that Chinese economic growth is lower than official figur…

The Evolution of English

A very good piece on how English evolved to the English we know today, using the familiar Lord’s Prayer.

Answer on @Quora by Scott Mauldin to What happened during the transition between Old English and Modern English?

When a Teacher’s Not a Teacher

This post was originally written during my years in China.

It is very interesting how culture comes into play when bridging two different sets of understanding of the same word. One of my Chinese friends was inquiring about teaching jobs in Singapore and she was puzzled when her Singaporean contact told her that a university lecturer is not a teacher.


“Isn’t a university professor a teacher too?”

I had to explain to her that, to those of us whose primary culture is English, a “teacher” refers to a job that requires a certain degree of pastoral care, because a teacher handles minors (high school and below). On the other hand, a “lecturer” simply lectures, and is not expected to give the same degree of pastoral care that a teacher is expected to give. To those of us who think in English, a teacher is not the same as a lecturer, even if the lecturer teaches as well.

I am reminded of another Chinese friend of mine, who was very puzzled because Singaporeans like to say 一百千 (a hundred thousand) instead of 十万 (ten wan – a wan being a unit of ten thousand in Chinese) when we speak in Chinese. She understood when I explained to her that we tend to think in English, and the next unit after thousand is the million – we have no wan in English. The Chinese has no million. Instead, their next unit of count is the 亿 yi, which is a hundred million. There is no bigger unit of count, as far as I know, when the numerals stretches into the billions and trillions.

It is great to be bilingual and bicultural!

How do I get good grades in college?

Answer by Richard Muller:

I had a graduate student who, as an undergrad at Cornell, had more A+ grades than As — about 15.  Once I asked him how he did that.  “I use tricks” he said. They all seemed so obvious when he told me, that I’m not sure I can recall all of them.  Below I’ll mix in what he said with some of the things I observed in other great students.

He said he always read the assignment before lecture, not after. Do that, and you know what to pay most attention to.  You can ask questions about things you didn’t understand.  You can’t ask a book questions, but you can ask a professor. Moreover, your professor will be impressed that you ask the best questions. Remarkably, it takes no longer to read all the material before class than after class.

Visit the professor during office hours.  Some professors will just try to intimidate you into not coming so often; ignore them. Some will be delighted to have visitors.  It is a great opportunity to interact with a very smart and very knowledgeable person.

Don’t try to learn what you think is important, but try to learn what you think the professor thinks is most important. That’s really why the professors are there; they have enormously more experience in the subject, and know what is really important. You’ll discover you do much better on exams.

Find other students to study with. College is not a place to try to prove you are better than everyone else; it is a place where, among other things, you can learn how to work well with other people. Try throwing good questions at your friends.  It turns out that thinking of good questions gets you very far.  Don’t be surprised if some of the questions turn out to be the same ones the professor asks.

Go to lecture and, particularly if it is boring, try to figure out why the material is actually fascinating. All those courses are there because someone thinks it is important, even if your current professor doesn’t. Once you become interested in the  material, it will be easy to learn; in fact, it will be hard to forget.

Recognize that not all the material is equally important. See if you can identify that.  Think hard about the important stuff.

Take this to be your top homework design: there is a person who has limited time, not really enough, to learn some material.  What is the best way to approach that?  Pretend that that question is a homework exercise, and write a page.  Then follow your own suggestions.

How do I get good grades in college?

On Evangelism, Politics and MLM

In life there are three sensitive matters that drive off friends and relatives fast – evangelism, politics and MLM*. I have seen what happens in the first two, and I suspect will see more of my friends and relatives putting me at arm’s length when they realise I am also into the third one too.

As a young Christian, I was full of fervour for God and His Kingdom. Words of “Hallelujah!” and “Praise God!” spouted out freely from my lips, and fire and brimstone issued forth in condemnation for those who did not walk in the ways of God. Many years and much life lessons later, I have tempered down as I understood more of what it meant for God to show grace and mercy to sinners like myself. I am grateful for friends and relatives that kept their relationship with me through all these years despite my craziness.

The latest election fever had me on the side of the PAP, joining the party and fighting alongside Victor and my fellow comrades, in order to get him elected at Aljunied. Because of the huge amount of rhetoric being thrown around by the incumbent party, I dropped my usually more balanced viewpoints and went totally pro-PAP in my Facebook posts. As the election fever subsided, I have returned to my more balanced viewpoints (but still remain a PAP activist, helping them with their activities). I am thankful for friends and relatives that kept their relationship with me till date despite my craziness.

MLMs have hardly interested me, because I am not into health products, travel products or training products (the three type of products normally sold via the MLM method) and could not find the passion to promote them. I remember telling all those who tried to pitch me the same – if they can find a financial MLM, I will definitely be interested. And I have indeed found one.

It is FOREX-based investment product that I studied for a month, before investing. Unlike other products where you have to keep “maintenance”, it is a one-off investment of USD1300 and you begin taking in 8%+ every month. Such a product is perfect for a salary hedge if you are just a plain investor (not interested in network marketing) but can bring in good money if you are an aggressive referrer (like my upline).

You may find out more by visiting my investment website Sensei Michael Investment. Or you can feel free to Contact Sensei Michael.

My upline has been encouraging me to be more aggressive in my approach but I suppose that aggressiveness is never in my blood (but do not provoke me). Other possibilities include my possible lack of hunger to improve my financial situation. Whatever it is, I feel that I should make some changes to my life, and push this MLM business (finally one I can be passionate about) to those who want to see financial changes in their life.

Do find out more by visiting my investment website Sensei Michael Investment. Or Contact Sensei Michael!

*I have excluded asking for money and having an infectious disease from the list, because my article would then lose the analogy!