An interpreter's job is to provide real-time translation between people who speak two different languages. It demands an excellent command of the two languages to ensure conversations go smoothly.
A quick mind is also important to help an interpreter switch between languages smoothly.
What employers look for is a degree in translation or interpretation. But even if you do not have one of those, there are professional certificates and short courses at tertiary institutions. At the end of these courses you will sit exams that are recognised by employers.
The starting salary for junior translators/interpreters ranges from HK$8,000 to HK$10,000. It can go up to about HK$15,000 when you have a few years of experience.
Work prospects English-Chinese interpretation is the most common type in Hong Kong and is required in occasions related to public interest, such as court proceedings, Legislative Council meetings and government press conferences to announce new policies.
Interpreters can work in an even wider range of jobs serving the community.
Rana Faisal is an interpreter for Cantonese speakers and speakers of Indian and Pakistani languages. He speaks five languages fluently: Urdu, Hindi, Punjabi, English and Cantonese.
After graduating from university, he started working as a part-time interpreter with the SKH Lady MacLehose Centre's service for ethnic minorities team in 2008.
Faisal says many people from minority groups cannot speak English or Cantonese. They can have communication problems in many daily tasks such as seeing a doctor, buying food in the market and filling in forms for various applications. This is where Faisal and his colleagues step in to help.
Faisal has to work in the evening and at weekends, but he says he enjoys using his language skills to help others.
He also interprets at business meetings and internet conferences between business managers from Hong Kong and South Asian countries.
After two years, Faisal is now a senior interpreter. From mainly doing real-time translation, Faisal's duties now extend to overseeing the quality of the centre's interpretation services and training junior interpreters.
He also translates the text of promotion brochures from government departments into the languages of minority groups, and edits translated texts.
Topics in the brochures range from personal hygiene awareness to prevention of domestic violence and welfare rights. Most of the brochures are written in English and Chinese.
Since many people from minority groups can only read their native languages, translating the brochures is important in making sure the messages reach them.
Lo Kai-chung, Faisal's manager, says the next step in Faisal's career ladder would be a project manager. At this level, the job's responsibilities include finding new company clients from hospitals and social welfare groups and overseeing the progress of various projects.
English-Chinese interpretation is the most common type in Hong Kong ... such as court proceedings and Legco meetings