If you speak Chinese and English, you have solid skills that will keep you employed and possibly traveling the world for years to come. Over one billion people speak Chinese, and being able to speak it and English puts you in a position to interact with professionals from a variety of different sectors. According to the Embassy of the United States, China is an up-and-coming world power, and as their power increases, so will the need for professionals who can confidently speak both Chinese and English.
When someone brings up an interpreter, many of us think of the United Nations interpreters that wear the cool headphones and fancy suits, and these are one of the several types. Interpreters convert one spoken language to another. Some do it in real time, where they are interpreting simultaneously as the other person speaks, and others do it after the fact, listening to speech and transferring it as recorded media into another language. Since so few English-speaking people speak or understand Chinese, there is always a need for interpreters. The international business sector and government entities are prime users of Chinese to English and English to Chinese interpretive services. These jobs are well-paid, with a median salary of $43,300 per year, and the Bureau of Labor statistics anticipates a 42% growth in these jobs by 2020. Crazy, right?
Chinese to English and English to Chinese translators are language masters, converting printed words and documents from the original language to the target language. This is a specialized area, because often documents cannot be converted outright -- local slang and customs can make this pretty tricky and possibly offensive if not done right. If translation is your career area, you will have a wealth of opportunities. Jobs range from entry-level salaries of $22,000 per year to high-ranking professionals receiving $86,000 per year. The BLS anticipates huge growth of 42% for translators.
The need for English teachers in China is great, with teachers of English to speakers of other languages experiencing rapid growth in the past 20 years. According to Boston University, China is a leader in internet commerce and international business, so there is a large need for teachers in this area. Job opportunities range from teaching in Chinese schools to teaching in the Disney English program, which teaches Disney cast members in China how to speak English specifically for Disney's purposes. Fun, huh?
The need for Chinese teachers in America and other English-speaking nations is also growing. The business sector is a prime audience for this kind of instruction, with professionals finding a need to read and speak Chinese to understand contracts and converse with their Chinese counterparts. There are also a load of elementary schools -- at least 60,000, according to the National Education Association -- who are starting to teach little ones Chinese at the primary level.
2016 Salary Information for Interpreters and Translators
Interpreters and translators earned a median annual salary of $46,120 in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the low end, interpreters and translators earned a 25th percentile salary of $34,230, meaning 75 percent earned more than this amount. The 75th percentile salary is $61,950, meaning 25 percent earn more. In 2016, 68,200 people were employed in the U.S. as interpreters and translators.
- Boston University: Why Study Chinese?
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: Interpreters and Translators
- TESOL Direct: What is TESOL?
- Columbia: Teaching Chinese to Speakers of Other Languages
- NEA Today: Elementary Schools Move Ahead with Chinese Instruction
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook: Interpreters and Translators
- Career Trend: Interpreters and Translators
Based in the Pacific Northwest, Arin Bodden started writing professionally in 2003. Her writing has been featured in "Northwest Boulevard" and "Mermaids." She received the Huston Medal in English in 2005. Bodden has a Master of Arts in English from Eastern Washington University. She currently teaches English composition and technical writing at the university level.