English-Chinese Interpreter: Job Information and Requirements

Sep 19, 2019

An English-Chinese interpreter must be fluent in both English and Chinese. A bachelor's degree provides the academic foundation for a career in this field, while certification is optional. The certification offered by the American Translators Association may help those pursuing a career as an interpreter increase their job prospects.

Essential Information

English-Chinese interpreters convey real-time speech into or from Chinese and English. They use their fluency in both languages to facilitate legal, medical, business or personal communications between two or more people while remaining impartial. Most English-Chinese interpreters have a bachelor's degree and must be fluent in both English and Chinese. Optional certification is also available.

Required Education Bachelor's degree
Other Requirements Optional certification
Projected Job Growth (2018-2028) 19% (for all interpreters and translators)*
Median Salary (2018) $49,930 annually (for all interpreters and translators)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

English-Chinese Interpreter Job Description

English-Chinese interpreters assist with communication between English- and Chinese-speaking people. English-Chinese interpreters convert the verbal communication of one these languages into the verbal form of the other. However, English-Chinese interpreters do more than just convert individual words from one language into another. They are knowledgeable in specific subject areas and convey ideas or attitudes that may be lost in translation due to cultural differences

English-Chinese Interpreter Job Duties

English-Chinese interpreters have three methods by which usually they work: simultaneous, consecutive and sight translation. When performing simultaneous interpretation, it's imperative that English-Chinese interpreters have such a complete understanding of the topic at hand that they're able to anticipate what the speaker will say next. This is because simultaneous English-Chinese interpreters have to listen to the speaker while interpreting for the listener at the same time.

Consecutive interpreters usually take notes of what a speaker is saying and then interpret it for the listener afterward. Consecutive interpretation is usually the preferred method when facilitating person-to-person interpretation. Interpreters may also perform sight translation, where they verbally communicate text that's written in another language.

Judiciary Interpreters

In the U.S., judiciary English-Chinese interpreters are needed because under federal and state laws and regulations, federal and state courts are required to provide them to limited-English-proficient (LEP) defendants, litigants, victims and witnesses. English-Chinese interpreters work in courtrooms, jails, lawyers' offices and other law enforcement settings, and remain a neutral party in all interpreted communications. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), judiciary English-Chinese interpreters are well-versed in the U.S. and Chinese legal systems.

Healthcare Interpreters

Healthcare English-Chinese interpreters help medical patients and their families with limited language capabilities communicate with doctors, nurses and other healthcare providers. State and federal laws also require interpreters for LEP patients. English-Chinese interpreters need to know Chinese and English medical terminology to inform the patients and their families of the healthcare provider's diagnosis and orders for therapeutic care. They also relay questions or concerns of patients and their families to medical caregivers. The English-Chinese interpreter uses cultural sensitivity when relaying information to patients and their families and vice versa.

Business Interpreters

English-Chinese interpreters working for businesses are needed during conferences to interpret speeches to international attendees. The simultaneous interpreting method is most common during conferences. English-Chinese interpreters may also accompany people who travel abroad to help them communicate during their stay in different countries. In this case, English-Chinese interpreters convey both informal and formal information, and most likely use the consecutive interpreting method.

English-Chinese Interpreter Requirements

The BLS reported that being fluent in both English and Chinese is essential for English-Chinese interpreters, but education standards vary for each employer. A bachelor's degree is often required by many employers. English-Chinese interpreters can earn bachelor's degrees in linguistics, interpretation, Chinese, or a relative subject matter.

Several master's degree programs are offered for interpretation studies. Depending on the specialized setting where interpretation activities will take place, a master's degree may be preferred. Some employers also prefer to hire English-Chinese interpreters with several years' experience, which may be formal or informal, gained through volunteer activities with humanitarian organizations or tourist guide companies.

The BLS reported that it's beneficial for English-Chinese interpreters to spend ample time in China and English-speaking countries to absorb the culture and have direct communication with native speakers. They also read books and other literature in English and Chinese to help hone their skills.

English-Chinese Interpreter Certification

Although not required, certification as an English-Chinese interpreter helps to establish credibility and demonstrates aptitude in both languages. Certification is available through the American Translators Association. Although not certification, the U.S. Department of State also offers a series of tests for interpreters to demonstrate their skills and abilities. English-Chinese interpreters may also take exams for membership in the International Association of Conference Interpreters.

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that interpreters and translators earned a median annual salary of $49,930 in 2018. In 2018, the BLS predicted 19% employment growth for interpreters and translators through 2028. The need did vary among languages, and Chinese was one of the languages expected to have strong demand for interpreters and translators.

English-Chinese interpreters convey speech from English to Chinese or Chinese to English in real time. They may also translate written text from one language to the other. Knowledge of the judicial system, healthcare, or the business industry can be an asset to those who want to specialize as an interpreter within one of those fields.

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