Translator or Interpreter, Both Lonely Jobs


When we put up ads on the Internet to seek interpreting opportunities, we specifically place both Translator and Interpreter in the title, which means we know consciously or subconsciously that potential customers may search either term for interpreters. And true enough, more than once my clients discussed with me if there was any difference between the two. Some clients, not all of them, believed translation and interpreting are the same thing, and others seemed to understand that there exists a slight difference between oral and paper works. Therefore, our clients will search both terms for the same service, though the term of Interpreter may enjoy a little advantage over the other in search result. About 20 years ago when I joined the translation service, I did not pay much attention to Interpreter. Everyone talked about translation and my job was to bury my nose deep in papers and dictionaries. Translation is a hard job, and, lonely. The Internet, emails, Google and Powerword were powerful weapons and translators did not have to go to work, unless full-time translators in the employment of translation agencies had to punch in and out each day. For a freelancer, I stayed home, busy and lonely, all by myself. Fed up with working alone and not seeing any new faces, I turned my eyes to interpreting. I guessed interpreters have to meet and communicate with people and, about 10 years ago, began to advertise interpreting services on the Internet. Google was still in the country and free advertising space was plentiful. Therefore, before a week had passed, I got my first job, an interpreting job at an electrical installation site in Nansha, Guangzhou. The job was exciting at first. I helped the American and German even Japanese engineers straighten out loads of petty troubles with their Chinese counterparts. Then, three days later, as the installation works began to proceed smoothly, I had nothing left to do. I found the guy in charge of translation and told him I was leaving. He was scared and blabbered frantically: no, no, no, James! You stay, I stay. You leave, I lose my job! As a matter of fact, for a month before I came to the site, the installation had been in a standstill, and the guy had to send away over 10 interpreters, who were not interested in electrical, mechanical or metallurgical industries at all. I stayed, not for the rice bowl of that guy, but, for an accident, which took place and required me on site. Two months later, I left the project, and Chinese engineers and workers were already used to addressing me Engineer James, instead of Interpreter James. Ever since, I travelled like a busy bee between wholesale markets, factories and cities in different provinces. It was an interesting job but loneliness hang on, especially after returning to your hotel room after a day’s work. We do communicate with various people: the clients, distributors, suppliers, engineers, sales staff, bosses of manufacturers, just the communication is basically within the scope of business, nothing personal. We did not have WeChat, and Moments was no where to find. However, as I sometimes had to reassign some of my works to fellow interpreters, I somewhat created a Circle of Friends of interpreting services. Interpreters that I found on the Internet became my friends and we helped out each other when we needed someone to take our places. We are lonely, but with some interpreter friends, that loneliness thaws a little, doesn’t it?

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1 thought on “Translator or Interpreter, Both Lonely Jobs”

  1. Hi James. Thank you for sharing your experience and your thoughts about the job. I hope you’ll feel at home on Interpreter Database.


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