Jobless interpreters left speechless

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 16 October, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 16 October, 2008, 12:00am

College student Li Xiaoqun was growing impatient waiting at the entrance to the fair with a cardboard sign reading 'English interpreter'.

After standing for half a day, she still did not have any business.

'It is pretty bad. You can see nobody is coming. It must be because of the financial crisis, so no businessmen from the US are coming. It is why no one needs an English interpreter,' she said.

Ms Li was one of about 100 interpreters outside the convention centre hoping to earn 200 to 300 yuan (HK$227 to HK$340) by interpreting for foreign buyers for a day.

But she said her main goal was to practise English and accumulate contacts to pave the way for a full-time job as an interpreter after graduation next year.

'If I spoke another language, I think the situation must be better. The Spanish interpreters are charging 500 to 600 yuan a day,' she said.

But Yessica Wen, a Spanish interpreter, said business was also tough for her. The 22-year-old learned Spanish after spending five years in Panama. She said the daily rate for a Spanish interpreter during the spring session in April was about 700 yuan.

'I earned nearly 15,000 yuan in April by providing interpretation services to a Peruvian businessman for the entire fair period. It was tough because I had to follow him everywhere - the fair and factories.

'Now, I don't even have a chance because so few people are coming this time. I will go home,' she said.

To increase her chances of getting business, Li Zuyi , who studied English, chose to stay away from the other interpreters.

Standing several hundred metres away, she said she was prepared to cut her price to 150 yuan a day.

'The problem is only a few people asked and none of them were prepared to pay this price,' she said.