Trouble with hiring Translators in China

Trouble with hiring Translators in China


Working with translators is a fact of life for foreign business executives in China-even the most accomplished Mandarin-speaking expats need a true linguistic expert for some types of negotiation. Thus, our 40 interviewees offered the following advice on finding and using translators.

Danish furniture business owner Simon Lichtenberg warns of the challenges of finding a qualified interpreter in China:If you use a foreign translator, he may not understand the Chinese well; if it's a Chinese translator, he may not catch the English nuances." His solution has been to develop his own Chinese skills to the level where he is fluent. “You get so much closer by speaking Chinese. I do everything in Chinese. I speak Chinese to my son."

Brazilian distribution entrepreneur Winston Ling comments that it was only after his Mandarin skills improved that he began to recognize mistranslations. “Learning the language helps. I just started to speak it a year and a half ago. Before that, I had to have an interpreter all the time”. He tells of an instance when he hired a translator for a business deal. “I used a PhD student to translate many of the presentations I gave-I did it in English, and she translated into Chinese. At the beginning, I didn't speak Chinese. Some years later, when my Chinese was okay, we did a presentation in Suzhou and I asked her to come along. While I was presenting, I realized that she wasn't saying this and that. She was summarizing way too much, but I didn't know that in the early years."


Gaining the ability to assess the quality of translations is only possible for those who can invest years of study into speaking fluent Chinese. For those who need to rely totally who not only on a translator, consultant/entrepreneur Nicolas Musy advises finding a translator who not only has excellent language skills but, more importantly, is also committed to understanding and helping you and your company. “My Chinese partner supported me as an interpreter in the beginning. He's not a professional interpreter, actually, but you need to have a person that is more than just an interpreter. You need a person who not only understands what you want to do and what you want to say, but also what it means in the circumstances, and who can also give you his opinion and advice."



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