By David Tan
A good simultaneous interpreter in Shanghai can earn up to RMB500 an hour. I teased a friend of mine (who was one) that she was having a dream job, and shouldn’t be quitting. She would take on 1 to 2 assignments a month,lasting 5 days max, and earn between 7,000 to 10,000 RMB a month. By the average local standards, 10,000RMB a month is more than enough to live comfortably. The remainder of the 25 days in a month, she spends it doing the things she likes. She finally calls in quits one day citing the “pressure”.
Pressure? What pressure? What’s so difficult in repeating what someone just said. Shouldn’t be too difficult if you are fluent in both languages? Right?
I got my first taste of the interpretation/translation business recently. A friend of mine was overwhelmed with her work and asked me to translate a small part of a powerpoint presentation for her (from Chinese to English). I took a quick look. It was about 16 pages with a few sentences on each slide. Seems easy enough….or so I thought…She asked me how much time I need. I confidently replied that it shouldnt take more than 30 mins. 60 mins later, I am still struggling to complete the last few slides.
Sabrina was right earlier. Without a proper glossary, knowing the background / objective, who the recipients of the information are, it is impossible to churn out any quality translation fast. Its like writing a letter and not knowing who you writing for. I kept needing to backtrack and make corrections on previous slides to ensure the overall coherence of the presentations. Same words can conjure different meanings and connotations to different audiences. I kept having to ask her how these are linked to other parts of the documents. It was finally finished at a “record” time of 1 hr 20 mins.
So next time, if you ever have a translator working for you, be kind to them! Provide them with information of your target audience/recipient info, background, objective and glossary. In return, you get better quality of work out of them, in a lot less time.
David Tan, Mad About Shanghai