Cost of interpretation services in China

What is the cost of interpretation services in China?

The Canton Fair has started. It is an important event for any interpreter in China. All clients are in a hurry now. They are looking for the interpreter who will help them to hold important negotiations and to get the desired prices. They need the one to get them on a sightseeing tour around the city and read some inscriptions in ancient Chinese. They need the one to tell them about a monument or ask the caretaker of a temple.

Some days ago I got a call from the representative of a company from Moscow. He was looking for an interpreter in Guangzhou for his superiors who were at the exhibition in Guangzhou meanwhile. They needed the Chinese interpreter for negotiations with factories near Guangzhou. Well, the company’s management from Moscow spoke English at the exhibition in Guangzhou, and that was enough. When I told him the cost, the answer was that he needed to submit it for approval by the management. That answer made me understand that I would not work with those clients. When I asked about the service cost charged by their previous Chinese interpreter, the answer was 60$. I know interpreters in China who work for 40$. It’s all about quality of interpretation and understanding. I assumed the interpreter was a Chinese student and not professional interpreter, and I was right. The representative of the company said that the 60$ interpreter was inadequate and did not understand what they wanted. Still, the management did not agree to my terms. Apparently, they kept on looking for a new 60$ interpreter in China to negotiate with suppliers met at the Canton Fair. Unfortunately, I do not know the outcome of the negotiations. I want to believe that everything went well.

A few days later, when the active work began at the exhibition in Guangzhou, I was returning from the Pazhou Complex by subway. I noticed a couple – an interpreter, a Chinese boy, and a large Russian (maybe Ukrainian) man in a brown jacket. When the train moved off, the man in the jacket asked the boy in Russian: “Will the train go across Guangzhou?” The boy looked at him and squinted… The man in the jacket asked him the same question again. The interpreter squinted again. Then the large man asked in Russian clearly, without changing the intonation and word order, for the third time: “Will the train go across Guangzhou?” The Chinese interpreter pulled his right earlobe, a kind of a Chinese variant of scratching his neck, and shook his head uncertainly. It was not clear whether he shook it to say yes or no. But the man in the jacket was probably satisfied that his Chinese interpreter had finally answered him. I have no doubt that the interpretation services cost the big man in the jacket $40–50. I wonder how the negotiations with the Chinese factories went and what the outcome was. So it is clear that the cost of interpretation services in China is determined by knowledge and experience.

My interpretation services are more expensive. The cost of my services ranges from 80$ to 180$. It depends on the required level of interpretation, its topic and place. I understand that in China or Guangzhou, there are many interpreters who know Chinese and who have been living in China for many years. They graduated from universities in China and received great diplomas. They know how to work and how to deal with Chinese suppliers. I am one of them, and I am glad that I work in this field. Сlients choose an assistant and interpreter in China themselves. If a 50$ interpreter helps to hold high-quality negotiations in China—it is a victory and an economy. If not—it is a defeat and a loss.

The cost of my working day is real. It is the money that any of the clients may spend in a cheap restaurant in one evening. You may pay this sum for a night in a usual hotel in China or spend it buying unnecessary things during your stay in China. I value my work and my knowledge. I understand people, and people understand me. I offer interpretation services in China according to my knowledge and skills. The choice is always up to you. If you just call me, it is already important. You will understand that on the other end, there is the person who speaks your language and can help at any time. Anyway, I will always be busy with interpretation work in China. Not everyone wants to ask three times whether the train goes across Guangzhou and to get an ambiguous answer. So maybe the equipment purchased at some factory in China is not 30,000 yuans, but 3,000 yuans? And then you wonder how competitors get the Chinese goods so cheaply… Again you have a lot to think about…

The interpretation market in China is becoming more and more saturated: there are interpreters of Chinese and non-Chinese origin whose services differ in quality and price. Since much of Chinese manufacturing concentrates in Guangzhou, Chinese interpreters offer their services here.

There are interpreters of different levels in Guangzhou. The ones whose language command is worse seek to make money on the clients knowing nothing and speaking only English/Russian. In my experience, there are interpreters in Guangzhou who can barely string two sentences together. Still, they get the same compensation as the interpreters who were at universities and have experience in interpretation. In Guangzhou I once watched the interpreter quickly pulling away his client from a manufacturer’s stand at the Canton Fair. The interpreter didn’t want the client to ask more complex questions than just the cost of the goods and the production time. You could say that was the point just looking at the frightened expression on the interpreter’s face when he saw that “terrible” equipment in front of him. Be reasonable in choosing your interpreter in China. Please remember: as the interpreter, so the the outcome of negotiations.

this article was written in 2010