The construction sector in Kenya is facing massive growth as developers rush to fill in the housing gap of 250,000 units yearly. Chinese construction companies are at the forefront with housing projects dotted around the capital city, Nairobi. Being a translator/interpreter in one of these sites comes with its own unique set of experiences that varies from site to site. The following 5 items are worth reading (for newbies) before taking up a similar assignment.
Experiences are unique from site to site but experienced interpreters will find most to be somewhat similar across different construction sites in the country.
Construction Site Vocabulary
This is perhaps the most important aspect of the job. Construction site vocabulary is quite vast as the syllabus of civil engineering at bachelor’s level. You pretty much don’t have to burn the mid-night oil cramming all of it since most terms are quite are straight forward. The challenge arises when you have to interpret really 专业 structural terms which might throw you off-balance. A experienced HSK 4 or 5 memory will help you sail through. Worry not since am going to share my Pleco App Construction terms Flash Cards (Premium) for those who might need them.
Working Hours 工作时间
Be sure to enquire about the working hours before taking up the offer. Construction sites working hours tend to have very long working hours which make make some feel too tired at the end of the day. Most sites start at 7.00am till 12:30pm, 1:30pm till 6:30 pm. Also get to know whether there is 加班 (Overtime). Most Chinese-run construction projects will run 7-days a week so if you can hack this, be ready to commit yourself. One more thing to note is be on time. If you feel that you will be late due to 堵车 (traffic jam) give your boss a notice.
Work Situation 工作情况
This is a very important aspect that will influence how you will work with your fellow Chinese co-workers. Get to know what your work will be and which part of the site you will be working from. I have met interpreters who dislike the site office and translators who shun the rough site and like to seek refuge in the office. A construction site might be a challenge for those who are not accustomed to it. Be sure to demand for PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) if you will be based on the rough site. For ladies, Chinese will reserve them in the office due to the nature of the construction site.
Whats Your Take Home? 薪酬
We all have bills to pay. This is where you set the record clear. Chinese companies are clever and so are you. Be sure to calculate how much your standards are per hour before negotiations start. They like to calculate per hour and build that up to per month. During negotiations, be clear in your language and use simple terms that you are comfortable in and for newbies, make sure you understand 什么时候发工资 (when the pay is sent to your account). One more important thing to know is 怎么算工资 （how the pay is calculated）. This helps to know what deductions are made and how the tax (PAYE) is calculated. Be sure also to check on your iTAX, NSSF, NHIF accounts’ statement so see if the deductions are reflected.
Get It All On Paper 把它放在纸上
As simple as the title gets, get it all on paper. This will help resolve and reduce further disputes down the lane. Make sure that both parties sign as a sign of agreement.