About 5 Major Types of Interpretation in Chinese Market

(Last Modified: 2019-08-13 09:21:45    Author: jinyu)

With the diversification and development of the world, exchanges between countries have become increasingly close, which has speeded up communication between different countries or cultures. This requires relevant translators or interpreters to work as middlemen to express their respective ideas and insights.

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Interpretation is a kind of communicative behavior that can accurately and rapidly transform the perceived and understood information from one language to another through oral expression, and then achieve the immediate transmission and exchange of information. It is a basic mode of communication in cross-cultural and cross-ethnic communication in modern society.

How many types of interpreters here?

Similar to that of any other places, in China, there are also 5 major types of interpreters. Distinguished by working pattern, they are respectively:

  • Alternate interpreter

    It refers to interpreters who use two languages as the communicating parties of different languages to interpret alternately and in turn. A translator takes notes when the speaker is talking, and interprets at dialogue intervals.

  • Simultaneous interpreter

    The simultaneous interpreter interprets the content of the speaker's speech to the audience without interrupting the speech. Basically, translated voices transmitted via special devices are 3-10s slower than original discourse based on speech rate.

  • Whisper interpreter

    The content of utterance is interpreted gently into the target language in whisper by this kind of interpreter. Generally speaking, whisper interpreters are suitable for individuals who are listening to certain speeches.

  • Visual interpreter

    Interpreters get the source language information by reading and deliver the translated content orally. Visual interpretation is commonly used on court where the interpreter announces judicial results by reading and translating the relevant legal documents at the same time.

  • Sign language interpreter

    It is a kind of on-site translation form that builds a communication bridge between deaf-mute and non-deaf-mute. In China, the amount of professional gesture language interpreters is rare, as few universities opened such majors.

How they get trained to be an interpreter?

In China, most of the full-time students, irrespective of their future majors, are receiving compulsory English education for around 10 years before the college entrance examination. Schoolchildren started to learn English alphabet in Grade 3. According to college entrance examination syllabus, when they finish high school, students are expected to use a vocabulary of 3,500 English words.

Chinese gaokao

However, the road of English learning for university students of this major is far from stopping here. According to Jinyu's survey on our employees of English major, students are required to attend following courses throughout 4 academic years:

  • Intensive reading
  • Extensive reading
  • Listening
  • Grammar
  • Phonetics
  • Writing
  • Oral English
  • British & American Culture and Society
  • English and American Literature
  • Linguistics
  • Translation
  • Interpretation

That's not enough for a professional translator or interpreter still, as some of the courses are antiquated or are tailored for exams. Nearly all types of language interpreters who want to acquire more knowledge or be proficient for work have experienced practices or training below:

  • Listening & reading

    Combining listening and reading together is a simple and useful practice to train the interpreter's ability to comprehend, pronounce, response and to memorize.

    listening practice

    Normally, listening to native speakers and repeating adjusts irregular pronunciations or improves the capability to do so, as some of the phonemes or tones are difficult for Chinese and require lots of training. Meanwhile, for the different structures between languages, listening is a good way to trigger language sense, which is crucial for comprehension and expression.

    In addition, reading loudly to articles can generate effective stimulate for memorizing and understanding it. So, an interpreter often spends 1-2 hours a day on listening and reading practice.

  • Improvised interpreting

    A qualified interpreter is doing his job on any subjects: public signs, news programs, other's daily dialogs, advertisements and so on. Without the help of notes, it is a challenging task by which one can get fully trained by such random topics.


    Improvised interpretation improves not only on interpreting skills by updating language knowledge more quickly, but also on thinking paradigm while creative assumptions are often made.

  • Using the target language

    Like improvised translation, translators are also willing to use target language as much as possible. Taking English for example, when looking for some new words, they prefer using English-English dictionary; when using mobile Apps, they like to download those products with international users such as WhatsApp, Google, or Twitter.

    social apps

    While chatting with a real foreigner or dealing online information with foreign language, the user has to think in the way of foreigners do. This can greatly increase one's linguistic competence on new language.

What are their career prospects?

In China, there are 4 major future options for interpreters:

  • Diplomatic interpretation

    Candidates take China's Civil Service Exam to get the chance to work in Ministry of Foreign Affairs or its affiliates. Normally, only students from top universities such as BFSU are preferred to be recruited.

    Diplomatic interpreters show up on press conferences, summits, meetings of leaders, state visits or relevant open statements. They shall master both comprehensive knowledge and perfect flexibility.

  • Freelancer

    Freelancers take up a big proportion from Chinese interpreters. As general interpreting tasks do not take big chunks of time, interpreters' working time is not so regular. Meanwhile, it is easy to start the interpretation job at nearly zero cost.

    Freelancers here are travelling between cities, attending activities of different themes or scales, or accompanying customers from all countries. They have relatively high working pressure and income than others.

  • Translation company

    Working as a team is another popular choice among Chinese interpreters. Workers are not only doing interpretation, but also handling internal affairs such as marketing, document translation and administrative affairs etc.

    By this way, interpreters get more access to resources on both language learning which improves skills rapidly and social ability which greatly added service value for interpretation itself.

  • Changing career

    It is shown in our survey that around 70% of the students of English majors will not work on translation field. Someone choose to teach; someone stay at factories or trade companies to sell goods overseas, and someone just find a job which totally have no links to English.

    Once leaving language industry, they seldom change their careers back to interpretation. For many of them, their ability to utilize English diminished as time goes by.

How to find a good Chinese interpreter?

Jinyu has witnessed so many foreigners who get stranded at airport, hotels, and streets or get ripped off from strangers they know from Apps, websites or ads. If they have found right person to help, those will not happen. So, how to find a good suitable interpreter in China?

Here are the 3 key factors which help you to decide:

1. Company/freelancer's years in business. According to White Paper on Financial Services for Small Businesses of China 2018, the average age for enterprises of medium or small scales in China is 3 years. Small businesses are not going far if wrong strategy has been applied.


When you choose to cooperate with those newly established companies or individuals, you may also experience the side effect from wrongful strategy they adopt. Situations such as unfair price, bad schedule, or inconvenient communication all lead to unwanted service.

2. Interpreter's working experience. The person who is going to help you shall be qualified in communication. There are some Chinese call themselves interpreters, but nobody knows about their language skills, or their understanding about certain tasks.


A good interpreter is good at communication in your language, as well as at information relevant to your needs. If one has problem of getting your idea correctly, or of finding something exactly you want, you may not consider this trip as a pleasure.

3. Your purpose. Interpretation solutions are also subject to customer's needs. Finding a simultaneous interpreter just for a tour guide is unnecessary, and getting a college graduate for a formal business conference is insufficient.


So asking yourself again about your requirement is essential. The answer will lead you to choose the proper solution on selection of types of interpreters.

Here is a checklist for finding a suitable interpreter:

  • Company establishing years
  • Scale of the company
  • Interpreter's public evaluation
  • Interpreter's qualification certificate
  • Interpreter's working experience
  • Your purpose


There are 5 types of interpreters in Chinese translation industry. Professional interpreters are training hard to be competent in their jobs. Working as freelancer and in a translation company are 2 major occupational options for an interpreter. For customers who want to find an interpreter here, we recommended 3 indicators for reference, which are company establishing years, working experiences and your needs.

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