Chinese New Year, also known as Spring Festival or Chunjie, is the most important holiday for China and Chinese people all over the world. Perhaps a more accurate and inclusive term would be Lunar New Year given that this holiday is also celebrated in other Asian countries and communities such as South Korea, Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore, and Vietnam.
Today, we celebrate the start of the Year of the Ox with a nice chat with five A Data Pro analysts who work with the Chinese language in Due diligence & compliance screening team.
What it is like to be a Chinese analyst?
(Part of A Data Pro for 2.5 years)
When we asked Rositsa how she first got acquainted with the language, she said:
“It found me. I always dreamt to work in an art-related environment and being a film director, an artist, or an animator was at the top of my priorities. At the same time, I had a very strong affinity to languages, and being the non-gambler that I am, I also applied for a Major at Sofia University’s Center for Eastern Languages and Cultures (CELC).
I vividly remember the day that I walked into CELC. The hall was full, the line of people almost reached the building’s entrance. There were two doors in front of me – to the right, an impossibly long line where I had to be, and to the left, an empty open door. I turned left, ‘Chinese Synology Applications, Bachelor’s Studies’, and never regretted it. CELC gave me a lot of opportunities that I never knew I had, including a language specialization in China, which shaped me into who I am today and encouraged me to return to China for a Master’s degree where many other adventures awaited.”
For Rositsa, “the biggest challenge when working with the Chinese language is the very specific research that comes with the territory. China is a communist state with a capitalist economy and a Confucian/Marxist belief system which leads to a very distinct business culture and environment. The state monitors businesses and individuals closely, so a lot of information is often blocked for foreign viewers.
Chinese language (Mandarin) is also one of the most difficult languages in the world and learning it is a never-ending process. Translation sometimes takes twice as long due to the language’s specification. For example, monosyllabic and disyllabic characters could mean a single word, a phrase, or a concept that has to be explained with a whole sentence. Mandarin has about several hundred possible syllables (English has over 8000), which means that there is a large number of homophones and homonyms. This makes the search for individuals especially difficult and time-consuming. Also, Mandarin used in Mainland China is different from the Traditional Chinese used in Hong Kong and Taiwan. These and other factors lead to a usually large volume of information which exceeds the time restrictions that we have.”
How does she overcome these challenges? “Frequent sacrificial offerings to the old gods. But in between those, we have created several collective information databases where one can access specific search strings, information about large companies in China, and a lot of writing tips that refer to specific, strictly China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan-based situations that we encounter. Our Chinese team is as thick as thieves and we are in constant communication regarding different cases, new ways to avoid the Chinese firewall, and censorship. We also try to keep a smooth communication with our clients regarding writing methods to make the best possible product. In short, teamwork is a big part of our daily life.”
Her colleagues and her team are Rositsa’s favourite part about A Data Pro. She adds:
“We are close because we work with a very specific language and specific regional characteristics that require teamwork and communication. I also enjoy the variety of cases that we encounter, for example I know a lot about diamonds and rubies now.”
Something more about Rositsa? Well, she enjoys
“travelling and used to travel/backpack a lot before the pandemic. Getting ready for a journey, organizing everything from A to Z and then going someplace new brings me a lot of joy. In 2019, I was solo travelling through Colombia, trekking through the jungles in Tayrona, and climbing up 3400 meters to see the 590 meters high La Chorrera waterfall. But I also got lost in the forest near the Wallace Monument, in Sterling, Scotland, while searching for Bambi (did not see any), so I am not great with directions. And I will not even start with the Asia adventures. This year I have been discovering the joy from hiking in Bulgaria. We do have wonderful nature…if we manage to preserve it. I am also a big fan of procrastinating, reading books, photography, and checking out bakeries.
I upload pictures from my trips on Instagram @rossiencheva and hope to become decent at photography one day.”
(Part of ADP for 2 years)
Tanya first started learning Chinese at the University of Veliko Tarnovo “Sts. Cyril and Methodius” and says that she had no idea what she was getting into.
“This is definitely not an “I have been in love with the Chinese culture since I was little” story but it is still kind of a love story. I knew nothing about the language or the culture, but I knew studying it was definitely going to be difficult and I get excited when I face challenges. I fell in love with the language soon after we met and decided to take our relationship further. In my first year at university, I won a full scholarship to study in China. I grabbed the opportunity and four years later I obtained my bachelor’s degree in Business Chinese from Zhejiang Normal University in China. Now a little part of me is still in China, but a little bit of China is with me in Bulgaria, too.”
Tanya says that one of the biggest challenges of working with Chinese comes from the fact that
“China can be very private about its internal affairs. A lot of websites do not open outside of the country and accessing the information we need for the research becomes difficult. Searches in Taiwan and Hong Kong are more challenging because the two countries still use traditional Chinese as a writing system, while China uses simplified Chinese.
I have also noticed a lot of metaphors in Taiwanese articles, which do not really have an equivalent in English or Bulgarian, making it time-consuming to figure out. One time I had to find out why one individual was accused of being both a magician and a ghost (内神通外鬼), and it turned out he was just involved in insider trading, whew! Sometimes Chinese people have funny nicknames, which are considered name variations, but we still have to use them in the research. It can be quite surprising to see that “Mr. Dumpling was accused of corruption” or that “Cinderella Wang was a defendant in a contract dispute lawsuit”.
Tanya says that teamwork and accumulated knowledge helps her overcome any challenges! “Throughout the years, analysts with Chinese have contributed to creating help files with tips and tricks. We have a chat group and whenever someone has a question, other colleagues immediately come to the rescue. We sometimes ask our colleagues in Singapore and they help us as well.”
About A Data Pro, Tanya says that:
“The company believes and invests in young individuals and trains them from scratch when needed. It gave me an opportunity to use Chinese and, at the same time, helped me develop skills in the due diligence field, which, at first, was very unfamiliar to me. I have always enjoyed detective movies and I even jokingly tell people that I work as an ‘Online Detective’.”
Tanya’s hidden talents? “I love stand-up comedy and I have been on the stage a few times. I also have a huge collection of board games. My apartment looks like a board game shop. Apart from playing board games, I love reading fantasy and science fiction books. I quite like these genres, because there is no limit to the imagination and anything can happen, and I like it when a story surprises me. My friends and I are quite passionate about escape rooms and since we escaped from all rooms in Burgas where I live, we now travel to different cities just to escape from rooms some more.”
(Part of ADP for 7 months)
Siyana, also known as Seni (思雅娜), says that she has “always been fascinated by ancient cultures and decided to study the “South, East and Southeast Asia” bachelor program at Sofia University, which focuses on this colourful, amazing region of the world. There I studied Chinese, Hindi, and Indonesian and fell in love with those languages. In 2016, I won a scholarship and had the opportunity to study and live in Shanghai (Fudan University). That was an unforgettable experience which made me realise that I want to work with Chinese and make it part of my daily life. Currently, I am not only working as a Junior Data Analyst but also as a professional teacher and translator with Chinese and English. And I am having the time of my life!”
Siyana says that: “The biggest challenge of researching in Chinese is describing Chinese lawsuits for sure! This is because they are very long, the terminology is specific, and it is hard to follow through.”
How does she overcome this challenge? “First, I try not to look frightened by the volume in front of me! Then, I extract the most important parts of the lawsuit one by one and read them carefully. If there are some unknown words, I search them up or ask a Chinese friend to explain them to me. And lastly, once I understand the whole point, I begin to summarize it and enjoy the process.”
Siyana appreciates the diversity of work tasks she gets to do at A Data Pro.
“I feel challenged to work on different types of reports and do research on an abundance of topics which open my perspectives and enhance my knowledge in many aspects. And the cherries on top are my amazing colleagues and flexible work time!”
In her free time, you can find Siyana “reading, meditating, exploring all kinds of interesting touristic and non-touristic spots, or petting cats. I also love to go to the theatre and experiment with all kinds of quirky ingredients in the kitchen!”
(Part of ADP for 6 months)
Diyana got introduced to the Chinese language when she was “eleven. My mother and I decided to do a movie marathon with surprise, surprise – Jackie Chan movies. At some point, we played one where he only makes a short appearance. However, that was the movie that made the biggest impression on me. Let me point out that the movie was extra cringe, and I think it has only 5 stars out of 10 on IMDb. It is so ridiculous, but I still love it! So that is when I first paid attention to the language. What I did not know then was that I was actually listening to Cantonese, not Mandarin. I did not hear the difference back then, but I still fell in love with both simultaneously.”
She says that probably the most difficult part about the language is that “some words can have completely different meanings depending on the situation or the way they are used in a sentence. I reckon the same goes for other languages, especially Japanese. This sometimes confuses me while translating. Using Chinese, particularly in formal documents or articles, you have to go an extra mile in finding the right meaning to a phrase. It is fun but it could also be time-consuming.”
When we asked her about what was challenging, Diyana said “with enough practice and hard work, anything can be learned. Plus, with the time you just get used to having to check or double-check the meaning of certain expressions. At this point, Google is more than just a search engine or a friend. It is family! And for string building, you just have to play with the words, see what works best, and put it to good use. Practising and experimenting are key!”
What does Diyana like the most about her work in A Data Pro? “Initially, I loved the idea of working with my favourite language doing a lot of research. Research meant more knowledge, so like the nerd that I am, this was a big YES for me. I have not met any of my colleagues personally, I really wish to do so though! All of them are super helpful and sweet, and some of them have quite a sense of humour as far as I can see from the chat!
Reading and writing stuff, working with languages, and with awesome coworkers? Yes, please!”
Diyana has a variety of hobbies! “Apart from my love for books and travel, what I like to do in my spare time differs depending on my mood. I am fascinated by many things, so different hobbies are easy to find. One of my passions is languages. I studied French, Chinese, Korean, even Spanish at some point. From time to time I try to pick up a new German phrase or word. Besides that, I enjoy exercising and doing yoga. I dabble in music, dancing, gaming, and creative writing. The last one is actually my favourite. My first finished story was in seventh grade and it had supernatural and horror themes. Now I have ideas for a children’s book and a few horror stories. Hopefully, I will put these ideas to good use one day!”
(Part of ADP for 6 months)
Siyana says that her journey with the Chinese language started as “a joke. When I was in 12th grade, we were reading some Sun Tzu and Lao Tzu’s sayings and the Chinese characters sparked my interest. However, I still picked English Philology as my first wish. Later, when I was in the office registering, I suddenly asked: “Hey, can I still change my mind? I am pretty sure I want to study Chinese!” So, I got accepted, and after my 3rd year, I went to China for a language course. I instantly fell in love with the country and decided I am going there for my Masters. I spent four years in total there and I still love it!”
The biggest challenge for Siyana when working with Chinese? “The fact that sometimes I have to conduct research in Simplified and Traditional Chinese and that can be a very daunting task, especially if I have to read court documents. Sometimes a lawsuit can be very complicated, and it takes a lot of time to figure out the right legal terms in English. Another challenge is the idioms and phrases that Chinese people use, which can be confusing at times. It is not just about understanding them, but also about finding the best way to present them in English.”
Her solution? “I research different articles and posts in Google that aid me to understand the case better. Sometimes, if it is a lawsuit, you can find online sources that explain in a very simple way what exactly happened. In addition, I use multiple dictionaries or search for similar cases. On some occasions, I even reach out to my Chinese friends for help. Moreover, I follow the rule – put yourself in the client’s shoes – if you are unfamiliar with the topic, are you going to be able to understand it just by reading the report I wrote?”
About working at A Data Pro, Siyana says:
“I love the fact that everyone is extremely helpful. I often tend to ask questions, since I am still new to everything and there is not a single person that would say: “Sorry, I cannot help you”. Even if they do not know the answer, they will tell you where to look or who to ask. In order to learn and perform to the best of your abilities, teamwork is paramount. Furthermore, I strongly believe that it is one of the most important assets of a company.”
For Siyana, “to travel is to live. I am willing to put all of my savings into a memorable journey. I enjoy exploring new places, embracing different cultures, and capturing almost everything in photos and videos. In my opinion, travelling makes you more open-minded and helps you learn about life. I also believe in the saying ‘there’s always room for dessert’. To me, chocolate is something you cannot say no to. Recently, I have become passionate about making desserts. I do not want to brag but my chocolate cheesecake is the bomb!”