CYNTHIA Chew, a 30-year-old Malaysian, describes her job as an operator at 962288 Shanghai Call Center as “challenging and interesting.” She is firmly backed by her colleague, Desislava Koleva, from Bulgaria.
This 24/7 free hotline provides information and translation services to travelers and expatriates in Shanghai in 13 languages. It has a staff of over 50 people many of whom come from different nationalities.
At times, the services it offers goes beyond the call of duty.
As one of the foreigners, Chew has been working at the center for almost two years. She speaks English, Malay, Bahasa Indonesian, Cantonese and Hokkien as well as Mandarin.
“It is really a nice experience working here. First, I improved my Chinese a lot here and learnt more than what they taught in school. Secondly, I learnt more about the roads so I’m more familiar in Shanghai compared to my friends,” Chew said.
She also said that her ability to catch accent improved in the last two years.
“Working here has also helped me to manage my temper. Before working here I used to lose my temper quite a bit, but now on the phone, I have to show that I’m happy.”
Chew came to Shanghai in 2012 to study Chinese. She Loved the city and decided to stay back and get a job here.
“It will be three years this summer. I plan to live here for a very long time because I really like Shanghai.”
She said the majority of the calls she receives are about translation, addresses and transportation.
Some of the calls she received were from hospitals. “I’m glad to help them,” she said.
Once she received a call from an American couple whose son was sick. She helped them deal with the doctors and explained to them what was wrong with her child.
The job can be challenging because “you never know what will you be getting.”
They also have to deal with various accents and tantrums from people who call them.
Koleva, 27, was always fascinated by China and it was a natural thing to do after graduation.
“I think the most difficult part is the training, which includes learning a lot of information about Shanghai,” she said.
They include remembering the English and Chinese names of famous hotels, restaurants, companies and streets.
“The trainee is helped by previous call recordings. The final step is taking test calls where you can practice what you have learned.”
She said she had also received strange calls. One of the saddest was from a foreign man who said he was cheated by a Chinese girl. He needed help translating while reporting the incident to police.
It sounds like a common trap in China. A man is lured by a woman on a bar street. As he follows her he is suddenly confronted by a man who beats him up and steals his money.
“I listened to him but I can’t really comfort him in the real sense of the word. I am only supposed to translate what he says to me.”
“Dealing with people always takes a lot of patience,” said Koleva. “Communication is something very very complicated. One simple sentence could be interpreted in several different ways.”