Hiring an interpreter in China – to be or not to be?

I am an interpreter and sourcing agent in in China. My clients’ calls and my own observations gave me the idea that many businessmen are trying to do business in China on their own. That’s exactly what happened at the 107 Canton Fair: many businessmen were walking around the exhibition alone. Maybe it works but only for those who collect Chinese manufacturers’ catalogs quietly and use calculators to know prices. The businessmen spend their energy and a lot of money on travelling and accommodation in China, on the business trip (as visiting the Canton exhibition is still not an easy job). If I were them, I would prefer high-quality work for my own satisfaction and full understanding. You can order the manufacturers’ catalogs online. It is not necessary to spend time and thousands of dollars to see just pictures and obscure squiggles. There are other issues that are important to clear up face to face with Chinese suppliers. Well, not everyone has the opportunity to fly to China and back home constantly.

Today many well-known companies such as Sony, Nissan, Apple, Mango, Zara, Samsung and a huge list of foreign companies locate their factories in China. It is unlikely that they do without a amateur interpreter establishing a clear system of work in China. Different languages, different cultures should be understood by each party. I don’t think Apple, a technology giant, could do without Chinese in China. Any company locating its manufacturing in China cares not only about quality, but also about its reputation. China is famous for its constant mistakes that can lead to large financial losses. I’m not talking about Sony that monitors production strictly. I’m not talking about Zara that sorts the goods on the basis of an extra thread on the seam. The work of all the major companies is established and is tightly controlled. That’s why Mango, Zara, Vero-Moda clothes are very expensive in China. Well, the clothes with the threads follow the old path to the Chinese market.

Such companies do not think that they waste money hiring Chinese interpreters and do not even try to save on it. And the question is not in the means they already have but in the desire to work efficiently.

Imagine a situation when you work at the exhibition on your own. Imagine what you will feel at the end of the exhibition. No one feels cheerful after that. It is a fact. The interpreter who works with you at the exhibition in China every day, who accompanies you to other Chinese cities for negotiations with Chinese factories is the same human being as you. The work is more stressful as he or she has to interpret from Chinese and into Chinese whatever you ask: to explain the technology of some equipment, to interpret a conversation on Chinese-English relations at lunchtime, to read inscriptions on sights, or to buy some medicine in the drugstore. It is difficult to list all the points that may be of interest to the client. Just imagine that you communicate in English all day long. But the Chinese interpreter has been giving you and your Chinese interlocutors all the information in Chinese all day long. Now you can evaluate this work. It will not cost $50, especially if the work begins in the morning, ends late in the evening and lasts for several days without a break. Any self-respecting interpreter with the proper command of Chinese will not work for such money in China. Maybe it sounds cynical, but the amount and quality of any work should be paid for respectively. Chinese interpreters offering high-quality Chinese interpretation services, for sure, have been learning the language for at least 5 years at university and had a language training in China. They have working experience in China. It is true for freelance Chinese interpreters, managers in trade companies, and those involved in manufacturing. Otherwise the interpretation services will cost exactly as much as many businessmen mindlessly think them cost. 

I still believe that we need interpreters working with China if this work aims at a positive result. Chinese interpreters can not only transfer information, but also suggest something, help somehow and be your right hand in negotiations. I offer interpretation services mainly in Guangzhou and the surrounding area (Foshan, Shenzhen, Dongguan, Zhongshan). I hope I will have the opportunity to prove myself cooperating with you.

Today a lot of factories can get you an English interpreter on their behalf, but many customers prefer to hire their own interpreter who will assist them as buying agent in the future and help them to make orders, check goods and solve different problems.

This article written in 2009