This is the fourth in the allegedly weekly “Ten Questions with” series from my steno group on FB, but the first I’m posting on the blog, because the subject is in mainland China and may not be able to see his own interview if it’s just on Facebook.
The interviewee today is 姜毅 (Yi Jiang). Yi is a Chinese stenographer with a decade of experience, living and working in Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province. He works for massive Chinese e-commerce business Alibaba. At Yi’s request, I have edited the grammar and spelling in some of his answers, but not very much, and when you find out shortly he taught himself English (SPOILER ALERT) you will feel ashamed about how comparatively bad your own written Chinese is *cough*
Yi, welcome. We’re happy to have you here! I am especially pleased, since I’ve been trying to explain Chinese steno periodically and it’s really just been my best guess and observations from doing events with Chinese stenos. At last, an expert in the house!
JADE: Firstly, could you tell us about your experience learning steno? Did you learn in a school? Did you have to wear a blindfold like this?
YI: I started to learn steno in a Computer Training Center of Shanghai in April 2004. It’s full-time training. I learned for about more than 10 hours a day. It took one year to reach 220 words per minute. Most students cannot do it only by one year, in my opinion. Three points in my experience are important. The first is key word “high strength”, which means take much time to train every day. The second is “concentrate attention and devote mind”. Take time is necessary but not enough. Concentration is very important. Remind myself to catch up with speed and type accurate in one stroke in training time. The third point is the right finger shape or stroke style. It must be right and relaxed. If type by wrong shape, it will cause very serious consequences.
I learned in a Computer Training Center, not a school. Teacher had not any skill or experience, so I learned it mostly by myself. [Ed: This was also my experience. If you have the aptitude to become a successful stenographer, you definitely have the attributes to teach yourself – no matter where you live!]
I did not wear blindfold to train, but I won the eye-covering realtime audio writing national championship last year because I have a good hand feeling and accuracy without eye catching the screen.
JADE: Alibaba is a huge company. How many stenographers work there?
YI: Only me, one stenographer. [Ed: Well that was unexpected.]
JADE: What sort of work do you do?
YI: Typing in executive meetings, which is very important to write down and keep it as historical words and data. Besides, I participate in works such as magazine design of our company, organize different activities such as birthday parties or athletic games etc. My department is called Culture Organization (OC Department).
JADE: You taught yourself English, which is very impressive! Do you have to use English at work?
YI: I taught myself English because many Chinese speak some English words or sentences when they have a speech in Chinese. As a Chinese stenographer, I need to learn English better and better to do my job perfectly, but it’s not easy to learn well, especially in listening. To learn English needs a good English environment and to practice. Most impress me is that to learn English, I need to persist in practising day by day, but when I am busy in daily working, learn English also forgotten some days. I do not have to use English at work most of the time.
JADE: You recently went to Intersteno, where you purchased a Velotype.
So you aspire to learn English shorthand. Do you hope to move overseas to work eventually?
YI: I am interested in English steno as well as Chinese steno. It’s my dream to learn English shorthand well, but it takes so much time and painstaking effort. My job is very busy. I only take spare time to learn. Velotype is not good to learn. I think USA steno is better for me.
JADE: When I work with Chinese stenographers, I am so impressed by how they can work even in “bad” conditions, like uncomfortable chair, no desk, very noisy environment. We English stenographers usually think we can only perform well in a quiet room, sitting close to the speaker, etc. Can you tell us what your work area is like?
YI: I admire you have a quiet room to type. Yes, it’s a big problem in China. Conference organizers often take for granted that stenographer can hear by themselves. We need to change this situation.
JADE: How many characters per minute can you type/write?
YI: I type about 300 words per minute [Ed: characters?]. I think no more than 10 stenographers can reach this speed in China. I worked for 10 years, and I have a golden medal in national competition. Many students regard me as a steno star with influential power.
JADE: Do you use many “shortforms”? That’s what we call a shortcut – like for a common phrase, we would just do one stroke instead of stroke each word individually.
YI: Yes, I often use. It is a good way to save time and increase efficiency.
JADE: How many stenographers are there in China? Are there many schools?
YI: No official statistics. I think about 1,000 or 2,000 stenographers – I just guess. There are not may schools, only as a major in some colleges. [Ed: this conflicts wildly with what I have been told previously, which was that there are hundreds of thousands! This could be due to the number sequencing issue I’ve talked about before (where Chinese numbers are divided after four digits, not three) or it could be that other Chinese stenos I’ve worked with work in a particularly steno-friendly province. My life’s work shall be a census of the Chinese stenographer population.)
JADE: Finally, please tell us about your life outside steno! What is it like in Hangzhou? What are your hobbies?
YI: I have many hobbies – listening to music, playing guitar, sports activities (football, basketball), motorcycle, travelling etc. Hangzhou is a big city near Shanghai, which his a beautiful city. It’s known to all that Hangzhou is famous for its beautiful views. The people there are friendly and the environment there is clean and tidy. So it’s suitable for people to live in such a city. Each year a lot of tourists come to visit Xizi Lake and the views impress them a lot. They can see the views of the lake by boat. Can you imagine how interesting it is? And the food also tastes yummy. You could go to other places of interest such as Huanglong Dong Future World. If you go there, you will enjoy yourselves and the memory of this pleasant trip will last long.