China Is In The Midst Of An Exciting Transformation That Is Opening Her Doors Ever Wider To The Outside World. As International Contacts Multiply, growing Demand For High-quality Interpretation Is Creating The Conditions For The Emergence Of Conference Interpreting As A True Profession. In This Article, we Give An Overview Of The Development Of Conference Interpreting In The World's Largest Developing Country, and Describe The Joys - And Challenges - Of Working As Conference Interpreters In A Rapidly Changing China.
With Beijing's Selection As Host City For The 2008 Olympics And WTO Accession Just Around The Corner, china's Level Of International Engagement Has Reached An Unprecedented Height As A Result Of More Than Two Decades Of Reform And Opening. In The Context Of Ever-increasing International Contacts In Both The Public And Private Sectors, professional Conference Interpreters Are Becoming Valued For Their Critical Role In Ensuring Effective And Successful Communication Across The Linguistic And Cultural Divide. Higher Demands Are Being Placed On Quality, professional Credentials Are Becoming Recognised - And Even Required, new And More Diverse Training Programmes Are Being Offered, and Increasing Numbers Of Colleagues Are Becoming Full- Or Part-time Freelances In A Rapidly Maturing And Diversifying Conference Market.
I. The Beginnings
The Profession Of Conference Interpreting Was Formally Introduced Into China With The Establishment Of The United Nations Training Programme For Interpreters And Translators In 1979. Set Up As A Joint Project Between The UN And The Chinese Government To Train Professionals For The United Nations, the Programme Turned Out 98 Interpreters (out Of 217 Graduates) , many Of Whom Are Now Working For The UN And Other International Organisations, some For The Chinese Government, and A Few As Full-time Freelances.
In 1994, the UN Programme Was Reconstituted As The Graduate School Of Translation And Interpretation Of Beijing Foreign Studies University ("Bei Wai") . It Continues To Offer A Two-year Course Of Professional Training In Conference Interpreting At The MA Level, but Its Graduates (32 In Conference Interpreting Out Of 57 To Date) Are Now Responsible For Securing Their Own Employment. Most Become Staff Interpreters Or Officers In Government Ministries And Agencies, with A Minority Taking Positions In The Private Sector; It Is Still Rare For A Graduate To Go Freelance.
To Date, the Majority Of China's Professional Interpreters Have Been Trained At Bei Wai, but These Make Up Only A Fraction Of The Large Number Of Practitioners, including Government Officers And Corporate Personnel Who Perform Interpretation Duties.
II. Interpreting In The Government System
The Government Is By Far The Largest User Of Interpretation (and Translation) , and Mostly Meets Its Needs In-house. Almost Every Government Entity, from The Central Government To The Provinces And Municipalities, and From Ministries To Agencies To State-owned Enterprises, has A Unit Specifically In Charge Of Dealing With The "non-Chinese" World. Variously Known As The Foreign Affairs Office, department Of International Cooperation, office Of Foreign Economic And Trade Relations, etc. , these Units Employ Officers With Foreign Language Degrees Who Provide, inter Alia, t&I Services For Their Institution.