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Translating hard times into future opportunities

UNIVERSITY junior Wang Yichen, 22, used to be very busy on weekends, furiously translating Chinese into English. The student at Shanghai International Studies University translated for businesses and manufacturers - technical stuff, commercial contracts, news for Websites.

Since the global financial crisis hit his employers, it also hit Wang's pocket book.

"My work is less than half of what it was a year ago," says Wang, who used to work six to eight hours every Saturday and Sunday. He translated 4,000 to 5,000 Chinese characters daily and received 140-150 yuan (US$20-22) for every 1,000 characters - if he met his deadline.

He also worked for a computer game Website and translated news about foreign video games, but four months ago he was told that more costly foreign video games were not as popular as domestic games because of the economic crisis. Less work for Wang.

"And a foreign trade company told me three month ago that since their business had dropped off, they didn't need to keep a regular contract translator," he says.

Now he only works for a couple of hours on Saturday and Sunday, and he is paid less than before.

"I used to work for five companies at the same time. Now two have abandoned me, and two have cut their rates from 140-150 yuan to 80-100. Only one cable factory still keeps their original price, probably because it's hard to find someone to translate complicated technical specifications."

Wang is not the worst off. Many part-time translators have quit because they lost all their clients, says Wang. He's lucky to have some.

"I like translation and want opportunities. I don't care about price."

Wang wants to set up a translation company after his graduation.

"By then, the global economy may have already recovered and we can take advantage of the Shanghai Expo in 2010 to find more opportunities."


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