Working Conditions in Chinese Translation Agencies.
Thread poster: chinaluke
chinaluke
Local time: 13:15
Chinese to English
Apr 18, 2013

I've just been offered a job as an in-house Chinese-English translator for what seems to be a fairly large translation firm.

There's a few points that concern me:

1. They say that on average their translators translate about 80 thousand words a month, which seems to work out at 4000 words a day.

I can only manage 2500 words a day of high quality text and that's when I'm familiar with the subject matter. How hard is it to get up to that higher rate?

2. What are the long-term skill trade-offs and effects of being a 'quantity' translator, as opposed to being a 'quality' focused translator?

2. How much are Chinese-English translators paid in-house? How much do the rates differ for native Chinese, and native English? I've got no idea how much to ask for.

3. How much has the cost of living gone up in China the last 3 years?

4. What is the working environment like in large Chinese translation firms?

I'm interested in both the views of mainland Chinese people, and 老外 translators, and of course, answers in English or Chinese are all good!

Thanks in advance.

[Edited at 2013-04-18 15:05 GMT]


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Phil Hand  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 13:15
Chinese to English
Experience of a friend Apr 18, 2013

I've never worked in-house, but a friend of mine, a Brit living in Xiamen, did it for a few years. He started on a very low salary (I think it was about RMB 5000). Over the course of about five years his pay went up to something like 15,000. The agency he was working for is respectable for our city, but it's still a low-end agency - last I checked, they were still paying freelancers less than RMB 100 per thousand characters.

My friend enjoyed it. At first, he was given mainly "polishing" jobs, then did more and more translation as time went by. Over five years of doing it five days a week, he learned mad skills - the guy is a masterful translator these days, truly exceptional. His ability to read and understand a very broad range of texts is exceptional (he can read Taiwanese legal texts!) That's what practice does for you. But he was living on relatively low pay for quite a long time.

He says the office atmosphere was good: respectful and professional. The workload was not beyond his capabilities. 4000 characters per day is within reasonable expectations, I think. On a day with few distractions, I would expect to do 4-5000. Of course, as a freelancer, I don't have any days with few distractions, but in-house, you do. But I expect a big firm hiring you will know what they're getting, and I'd bet you'll be given mostly proofing tasks, at least to start with.

Cost of living - depends where you are. You can still live cheap, but housing is much more expensive these days than it was a few years ago.

I was once offered an in-house job for a translation firm, working onsite in a bank, and I negotiated them up to RMB 40k for that (didn't take it because I didn't want to live in Shanghai), so higher pay is possible. There is still a great shortage of people who can translate well from Chinese to English.

That's all the experience I can offer you. I never really wanted to work in an office, hence I'm a solitary freelancer, but if you prefer a more collegial experience, it can be great.


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chinaluke
Local time: 13:15
Chinese to English
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks and visa query Apr 20, 2013

Hi Phil,

Thanks a lot for the detailed reply Phil.

You talk about your friend being exceptional, but looking at some of the help you've given some of the people on here, you're really not too bad yourself!!

A second question, as a freelance how do you deal with visa issues in China?


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Phil Hand  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 13:15
Chinese to English
Get married, P.K. Purvis. It's the only life... Apr 20, 2013

There's two issues. One is the visa, and marriage solves that. If you don't fancy marriage, it's a real hassle these days. Used to be you could net a year's business visa from some dodgy types in Hong Kong, but it's much harder now. Basically, a job is the best way, and I would recommend teaching in a university. I taught in Xiamen U for a year, and you get short hours, pleasant students, access to a library... it's all good.

The other issue is fapiao, which you won't be able to provide. I avoid the issue by mostly working for non-Chinese clients, but the Chinese market is gradually improving, and there are clients worth having in China now. How you get around the fapiao issue is an ongoing problem.


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