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Hi, community.

It's been almost 5 years (!) since I first posted here and now I've finally entered the world of interpreting as a fresh grad.

However, a lot has changed during the time: most notably, there has been a synchronized rate cut across the Chinese market (perhaps across over the world as I've heard?), making this line of work much less lucrative (for beginners at least) than it used to be - the other day I came across this post discussing low rates and work ethics. Still, the 'low' rates mentioned in the post were much higher than what I've seen.

The language services market in China is notoriously unregulated and undersold. Translation rates for the entry market had never gone higher than 0.15 yuan/w ($0.022) before I started my MATI and now 0.12 yuan/w ($0.017) is the norm - and that's before the 20% tax which leaves the rates virtually 0.10 yuan/w ($0.014) for any large project with an invoice over 800 yuan.

Interpreting was considered the more 'expensive' form of language service. But after the rate cut, $430/day sim jobs are considered a rare find for juniors, and the rates for cons jobs have gone down to near $140/day and not all the time can interpreters get the amount in full because clients always find excuses to curtail the payment, e.g. it's only a 2-hour job; The users speak 'fluent' English/Chinese themselves and you won't be interpreting the whole time. I was once approached by a high-profile client who asked specifically for 'student' interpreters, i.e. desperate beginners like me who'd be paid off in peanuts.

Rejecting lowly paid assignments on the ground of work ethics and an intellectual's integrity isn't always the option for obvious reasons: one has to pay bills. Plus there's always someone else who's ready to accept these jobs. The talks about leaving the profession have been buzzing among my classmates, the alumni, and even some of the senior practitioners have been dissuading prospective students from joining the field.

Sorry for being whiney. Please treat this post as a discussion post. What do you think of the situation? Has the same rate cut happened in your market? Do you think, too, it's time for us to jump ship?

asked 08 Jan, 00:43

EliChang's gravatar image


edited 08 Jan, 02:27

PS: any tip on getting contracts as a beginner is welcome :p

(08 Jan, 00:44) EliChang

Hi EliChang,

I don't know much about the interpreting market in China since I have never worked there. However, after meeting with representatives of interpreting universities and international institutions in Shanghai a few months ago, I was under the impression that the market was actually doing great (mostly for qualified biactive interpreters with English). The rates mentioned were higher than in most European countries. Furthermore, some universities mentioned that most Chinese students who study interpreting outside of China return to China a few years after graduation because the market is better. Maybe this only applies to Shanghai? What cities and what language combinations are you referring to more specifically?

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answered 08 Jan, 14:36

Camille%20Collard's gravatar image

Camille Collard

Hi Camille

My language combination is ZH<>EN and I'm based in Shanghai. I think the issue is the market is very polarized. Most seniors I've met could afford a middle-class life off interpreting alone. But many fall by the roadside before they could reach that level in the market for reasons I stated above in addition to the fact I failed to mention in the question that there's a strong sentiment among beginners the efforts they invest in is disproportionate to the gain. I know this is true for every line of profession. But in this context where there're a lot 'easy money' jobs around, e.g. teaching (tuition fees at private academies could cost Chinese parents an arm and a leg and still they won't blink an eye), many simply couldn't help but feel discouraged and eventually leave interpreting.

(09 Jan, 10:09) EliChang
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question asked: 08 Jan, 00:43

question was seen: 1,069 times

last updated: 09 Jan, 10:09

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