U.S. Court Reporting Delegation to China
When I received my invitation to be a member of
the first People to People Court Reporters' Delegation to China, I wondered what I could possibly learn about court reporting
and the legal system in a Communist country. To an observer, the Chinese court reporter's method of machine shorthand utilized
in making a written record of the spoken word is very similar to our CAT (Computer Aided Transcription) method.
Denise McCauley from Charleston, S.C. and I were two of 45 court reporters and 12 guests from across the country
who participated in this excursion in June of 2007. We had panel discussions in various locations with Chinese court reporters,
attorneys, and court reporting educators in Beijing in Northern China and in Guangzhou in Southern China. We visited the Beijing
Stenography Association, the Beijing National Culture & Art Vocational School, and the Weisu Stenographic Service Company.
All of our meetings were with translators and I definitely had a sense of some "lost in translation"
moments. First, we were a group of 43 women and two men, all in our 40's, plus. Students attending stenography schools in
China are very, very young. Only a small percent become court reporters, but instead procure jobs with the government, TV
stations, publishing houses, etc.
The students who progress on to become court reporters
only work for about five years after which they attend studies at universities such as the National Judge College or the National
Prosecutor College and become judges and prosecutors. So our counterparts couldn't figure out why we were all so "senior".
Why had we been court reporters for 25 to 40 years? Surely, something must be wrong with the American system.
Another "lost in translation" subject for us was: Do the Chinese
reporters take down every word that is spoken? We are still not sure, but we don't think so. Their written language utilizes
40,000 pictographic square characters of which 10,000 are in current use and only 3,000 of those are in very common use. Their
transcripts are instantly signed off on and made a part of the record. In our litigious society, court reporters go through
the transcript in its entirety before certifying it.
on the subject of our culinary experiences, our group found the food to be very ... interesting. We were served Chinese food
twice a day for two weeks. Breakfast buffets were also comprised of Chinese food with some American entrees such as omelets.
Firsts for us were the garnish of the rooster head, deep fried, on a platter of chicken. The cooked scorpions of which a few
reporters actually consumed. The pig head and feet used to garnish a pork dish. Snake soup which resembled cut-up jelly fish
in a sauce.
Lasting friendships were formed and experiences shared that can't be replicated.
I really, really love my job!