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Interpreters bridge the language barrier

Interpreters bridge the language barrier
A significant barrier facing the soldiers and marines on Exercise Kowari is language. The Australian and United States personnel speak English; the Chinese speak Mandarin. Few speak the others’ language with fluency.

Coming to their assistance is a team of interpreters led by Major Garth Fallon, who spent five months studying Chinese at a university in Beijing earlier this year.

“I first heard about this exercise through the Chinese media while I was in Beijing,” Major Fallon said.

“As soon as I returned to Australia and arrived at my new job, I sought a position on the exercise.”

The interpreters include Warrant Officer Lee Nimmo who first did her Chinese course 30 years ago.

There are also two Chinese-born interpreters, Lance Corporal John Liu, from the 1st Combat Engineer Regiment in 1st Brigade, and Corporal Zhu Jiyan from Headquarters 7th Brigade.

All have used their language skills to help the soldiers and marines get to know each other while undergoing survival training in the Northern Territory.

Corporal Zhu was born in Jinan City, Shan Dong Province, the same province as three of the Chinese soldiers.

“I came to Australia to do a Masters degree in Accounting at the University of Tasmania,” he said.

“I had seen the Defence Force Recruiting ads on television and the Army looked like a challenge so I enlisted after I completed my degree.”

Corporal Zhu said he knew how the Chinese soldiers felt, not understanding the language.

“I went through exactly the same thing at Kapooka,” he said.

“I found it difficult to understand the words of command, and learned most things through observation.”

He described the Chinese soldiers participating in Exercise Kowari as very professional and disciplined.

“Everyone has a positive attitude. It requires courage to do this, especially as they can’t speak the language,” he said.

Last updated
6 September 2016
Army: Courage. Initiative. Respect. Teamwork.
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