The Chinese are Coming!

A few months ago BBC made a documentary series on the Chinese ‘expansion’ into Africa and called it ‘the Chinese are coming’. Here I would just like to borrow the title and write a little bit about my experience from travelling in Italy and Spain.

My boyfriend Sam arrived in Milan a few hours earlier than I. He decided to enjoy a real Italian espresso and wait for me in a cafe. Before the trip, he made what he called a ‘cheat-sheet’–Italian phrases marked with pronunciation. Sam was expecting to use it and practise his Italian in the cafe, but fortunately or unfortunately, after trying a few ‘Italian’ words, he found that the shop owner was actually Chinese. So instead of practising Italian, he ended up practising his Chinese.

When we were in Venice, Sam was writing postcards in St Mark’s Square, and I ran to a small pizza shop near the square to buy rolled up pizza. The Asian looking waitress decided to test if I was Chinese by speaking to me in Chinese, and of course, we ended up chatting in Chinese. In Barcelona, my Chinese helped us change a meal deal to black paella instead of just the regular mixed paella without paying extra.

Everywhere we went, we always saw Chinese shop owners, restaurants or huge groups of tourists. We felt like we were in a mini-UN, speaking English, Italian, Spanish, and, Chinese the whole trip! I just hope this surge of overseas Chinese will also bring along with it an increased need of translation and interpreting work!

This post is also available in: Chinese (Simplified)


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    Not to forget Chinatown in Milan or the streets and streets of Chinese shops near our hostel in Rome…

    I’m not convinced about the impacts on the translation and interpretation markets of an increased Chinese diaspora. On the one hand, yes, the movement of Chinese people and with them the possibility of Guanxi business growth could increase the want for professional standard translation/interpretation into and out of Chinese. However as your experience freelancing has shown many jobs are only interested in a cheap and basic level of translation, so the growth in the numbers of Chinese having a working use of more languages (those in Italy adding Italian to their English) could just feed the competition at the bottom of the market – increased competition to do interpreting work at a worse standard for a cheaper price!

    Alternatively, genuine growth in Chinese tourism to Europe seems more beneficial. Where there are already many home-grown English speakers we didn’t see the same for Chinese, which lead to speaking to the Chinese chefs over the front of house restaurateurs (another example of this was in Girona!) when their grasp of English was limited. This industry seems more geared to translators than interpreters, with the possibilities for menus/price lists/websites/tourist literature/museum and gallery information/transport signs/visitor guides/tickets etc outweighing the tour guide positions at the top of the market. Again, this brings good prospects for immigrants to work in shops/restaurants/attractions etc though not for the professional interpreter – who would be less likely to relocate for a permanent job than translators able to do work over the internet.

    So it remains an openness to trade and the self-driven over sea ambitions of Chinese business that remain (in my humble opinion) the most likely source of potential jobs for interpreters and translators alike. At the top end those able to work directly from Spanish/Italian/etc to Chinese and back have a slight advantage though it is likely that top business executives will have good enough a command of English to forgo the premium this could cost to have E>C C>E instead. Not that there won’t be more tourist work, just that this is likely to be spread thinner and be smaller/of a lower level.

    Either which way prospects seem good! Mixed prospects perhaps, but there’s potential for work nonetheless for those keen enough to vie for it in foreign markets.

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    Good blog. I lived in London and found lots of Chinese people, Chinese restaurants and Chinese businesses. Also in China, there are many international companies trying to start running business in this country. This is the reason why Chinese language become one of the most important language at this time. Therefore, the demand for Chinese translation has increased significantly.

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      Damn, I wish I could think of soemhting smart like that!

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      Its like you review my mind! You aapepr to find out so very much about this, like you wrote the publication in it or something. I think which you can do with some pics to generate the message home just a little bit, but other than that, this is outstanding blog.

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      Begun, the great internet eductiaon has.

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