Professional Profiles

SFU legal interpretation grad is passionate about helping people

October 28, 2015
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Li Ding. Photo by Greg Ehlers.

By Amy Robertson

After seeing firsthand through an SFU program how the legal system can help people, Li Ding is headed for law school.

The graduate of SFU Continuing Studies’ Legal Interpretation and Translation Certificate has always been interested in the law. Upon coming to Canada several years ago, he thought he’d pursue a new career to go with his new life. Given his longtime interest in the legal profession and experience in interpreting between English and Mandarin for his colleagues, legal interpretation and translation seemed like a perfect fit.  

The program began with an intense, six-week primer on Canadian law and continued with language and skills development. At times, Ding says, the amount of reading seemed daunting, but he feels he truly learned something valuable. One of Ding’s instructors assured him that after succeeding in his course, he could handle law school. “His encouragement inspired me,” says Ding.

Connecting the curriculum to the real world was also an inspiration. The same instructor who encouraged Ding is a Crown litigator, and he invited his class to observe a major federal case. It was only one of a number of other cases and tribunals Ding and his classmates observed. Afterward, Ding felt certain he’d enjoy a career in law.

He got another real-world opportunity near the end of his time in the program, when Access Pro Bono, a non-profit organization in B.C. that provides legal help to people in need, approached SFU Continuing Studies about a partnership: Would Ding’s class consider volunteering for the organization to provide interpretation and translation services for clients whose first language was Mandarin? Li and most of his classmates jumped at the opportunity both to practice their skills and make a difference for clients who were struggling to navigate an English-speaking legal system.

“When you go to see a lawyer, something is wrong,” Ding said. “It’s a huge burden.” Speaking about a family he interpreted for recently, he said, “I can feel this case brought significant results to them.”

Since completing the program, Li has interpreted for a few events including B.C. Law Week and is continuing to volunteer with Access Pro Bono. At the advice of an instructor, he’s also practicing his simultaneous interpretation by “shadowing.” While listening to the radio, he’ll interpret immediately, as the announcers are speaking. It’s a vital skill in the courtroom while interpreting for expert witnesses and others.

Ding is also preparing for the Law School Admission Test and looking to the future. His experience with Canada’s legal system has given him hope—he says it’s quite different than the legal system in China. “Here, the law really works!” he says. “The thing I like best is that I can help people.”