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Sliding rate scales for CAT tools
Thread poster: Catherine Bolton

Catherine Bolton  Identity Verified
Local time: 19:30
Member (2002)
Italian to English
+ ...
Oct 18, 2002

Hi folks,

I\'ve been working quite happily with WordFast for about six months.

Today a regular customer called and said that on texts they want done with a CAT tool they have decided to apply a sliding scale, based on the fuzziness level.

I realize that we have addressed various aspects of CAT tools here, but I can\'t recall seeing any specific mention of rates.

Are there any industry standards for this?

This customer came up with three main rate groups:

pay 30% of the agreed rate for repetitions and 100% matches. From 75-99% matches they\'re offering 60% of the rate, and the rest is at the full rate.

I wouldn\'t get the segmented text, at least not in the beginning (until they build a database) and would have to do that myself. I don\'t know who cleans up the text, but that\'s the smallest part of the job anyway.

Any input would be welcome.

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Derek Smith  Identity Verified
Local time: 19:30
Italian to English
+ ...
By comparison, your sliding rates look better Oct 18, 2002


A medium-sized local agency I work with recently specified the following rates for a Trados job:

0-74% match -> tariffa intera

75% - 99% match -> 50% tariffa

100% match e rep. -> 15% tariffa

I was rather unhappy about the second category because much of the 90%+ stuff was so far from the required translation that it had to be completely rewritten - let alone the 75%+ strings, many of which had been sourced directly from the Moon and other more distant planets in the solar system. Also, I suppose it depends on how you set up the fuzziness in the first place. Logos uses sliding scales for its CAT software, but I don\'t currently know exactly how far they slide.

In any event, with customers being offered big discounts on the basis of translation memory (maximizing the old \"fidelizzazione\"!)and with me being something of a pessimist in this area of things, I generally assume that translators will get the thin end of the wedge.



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Daniel Meier  Identity Verified
Local time: 19:30
Member (2002)
English to German
+ ...
Some tips on sliding rates Oct 18, 2002

On the Trados Website for Freelancers you can find quite a similair rule (see They claim it is some kind of industry standard, which I am not so sure of. Nevertheless it seems to me a quite fair rule, which can satisfy both the client and the translator.

The only difference between this rule and the proposal of your client is in the range of 75-84% Matches, which according to the \"Trados-Rule\" belong to the 100% rate.

In my opinion as a translator you should always consider, who is providing the TM, at which point the sliding rates shall be applied and also the responsibilities for 100%-Matches should be discussed, as there is always a risk, that a database not provided by you can be full of errors which you are not aware of in advance.

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Ralf Lemster  Identity Verified
Local time: 19:30
English to German
+ ...
Depends on who delivers the TM Oct 18, 2002

Sliding-scale invoicing is quite common, and when done properly (30%/60% is actually rather good), it should be profitable from your point, too.

The only condition vis-à-vis customers I apply is that this is only valid for previous translations I have delivered (or for successive versions of the same document). I would not accept a sliding scale unless I knew who produced and quality-checked the project TM.

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Judy Rojas  Identity Verified
Local time: 14:30
Spanish to English
+ ...
Watch out for other file formats! Oct 18, 2002

That rule is fair for straight text in Word formats. However, t in today\'s translation word, there are a myriad of other formats or contents where the rule cannot be applied. Computer text strings, files with Trados internal codes, etc. , where the translator not only has to translate, but also make sure that the internal codes are properly inserted and some, such as apostrophes are eliminated in the target segment.

As to client-supplied TMs, I always make it clear that I will first have to review the TM and aprove it before accepting the project.

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xxxMarc P  Identity Verified
Local time: 19:30
German to English
+ ...
CAT tool discounts Oct 18, 2002

This debate never ceases to amaze me. It certainly leaves me with more

questions than answers!

1. Why does a customer decide how a job is done (i.e. whether or not it\'s done

with a CAT tool)? I can understand customers, be they end customers or

agencies, wanting a translation memory (or an \"uncleaned\" file, which comes to

the same thing). In that case, why not give them that - for a minor additional

fee to cover the extra additional administration. As to what tools are

actually used for the job, I don\'t see that as being any of the customer\'s


2. Why does a customer \"decide to apply a sliding scale\"? I\'m not opposed to

sliding scales - I give discounts for volume myself. But as a business, I

decided my prices, or at the very least negotiate them with my customers - and

I\'m under the impression that, at least here in central Europe, this is

normal! I certainly haven\'t noticed customers at my supermarket or filling

station telling the cashiers what they\'re prepared to pay today, much less

what equipment these businesses should be using.

3. I actually find it positive that a customer should want to build up a

database of past translations. But do we have here a customer who is going to

do this work himself? No. Is he going to pay the translator for doing the

work? No. Is he expecting the translator to do the work for free? No, it\'s

even worse than that - the customer is expecting the translator to PAY for

doing the work (by charging a lower rate)! This idea is so ingenious that my

only question is: why, oh why, didn\'t I think of it!

4. Why, after investing in equipment and spending much time learning to use

it, should I be rewarded by earning LESS? If translation memory offers such

great efficiency benefits, why don\'t customers process their texts BEFORE

sending them out to translators, with the 100% matches marked? Translators

could then simply skip the marked sentences - not look at them, and not charge

for them. That\'s what happened before translation memories were invented.

Why the change? Because customers know when they\'re on to a good thing, that\'s


5. What logic is there behind being paid 60% for a sentence that is 75%

identical to a sentence which has already been translated (to quote figures

already given, though the figures themselves are largely irrelevant)? I might

just as least supply my customers with translations which are 75% correct, and

only charge them 60% of my usual fee. Any fool can get a translation 75%

right. In fact, this sounds like a highly profitable business model!

6. Since when have any of the rates quoted been an \"industry standard\"? The

two associations of which I\'m a member (ITI and IoL) don\'t issue

guideline rates for translations, much less for CAT tool discounts - and even

if they did, I and many others would be suspicious of such rates. Not only

is there no standard for CAT tool discounts, the whole idea of quantifying the

work saving for the translator in this way across the whole industry is

ridiculous. If individual translators wish to pass on the benefits of the

technology to their customers in order to remain competitive, they have my

support. But a so-called \"industry standard\" for CAT tool discounts is no more

than a propoganda tool used to sell TM software. Well, isn\'t it?

7. I use CAT tools: I have done since 1997, in fact, when I paid 4,000

Deutschmarks for Trados (ouch!), when the alignment tool was an extra 4,000

Deutschmarks (ouch! ouch!). But I don\'t discount for doing so. Question: why do

my customers keep coming back?

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xxxMarc P  Identity Verified
Local time: 19:30
German to English
+ ...
multiple posts Oct 18, 2002

Wow, my long ramble appeared four times! Is there any way of deleting duplicates, or can the forum moderator do that for me? Thanks!

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jccantrell  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 10:30
Member (2005)
German to English
+ ...
deja vue all over again Oct 18, 2002

Marc makes a lot of sense with his posting (and makes it and makes it...)

What business is it of my customers HOW I do the work, so long as it is done on time and within budget (and done correctly)? Should I charge more because I dictate the text rather than just write it out longhand?

If the customer has a glossary (or TM) that he wishes used, fine, send it on and I will use it. If he wants MY glossary (or TM) after I am finished with the text, we can discuss that before I start the job. If he wants a discout for 100% matches, let HIM match them and mark them as not to be translated. Customers have done this for a long time, as Marc points out.

Anything less than 100% match? Well, I will use the glossary to provide the words, but I do not get by any quicker or cheaper, I still have to read it and edit it. Why should the customer get by cheaper.

Sorry, but none of the arguments in favor of translation memory products work in favor of the translator unless the translator has a long-term relationship with the customer and wishes to be more consistent in his terminology. Fly-by-night jobs with TMs from who-knows-where do not benefit a translator\'s pocketbook or his reputation.

My take on it from the USA.

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Jacques Van de Velde  Identity Verified
Local time: 19:30
Member (2008)
English to Dutch
+ ...
100% Matches? Watch out before you get cought !!! Oct 18, 2002

I offer technical only translations. Consequently I have seen many of those green backgrounds (using Trados\' standard set up).

Watch out for so called 100% matches, they may blow your reputation EVEN IF the TM is yours UNLESS you keep checking every sentence ALSO the 100% matches!

I have picked a life Job sample (a questionnaire, thus not too technical, so most readers will be able to follow):


a. {0>Service Software is vanaf CD geïnstalleerd, dit functioneerdeLe logiciel de service est installé à partir d\'un cd-rom. Que trouvez-vous de la procédure d\'installation ?slechtMauvaise.matigPassable.goedBonne.zeer goedTrès bonne.uitstekendExcellente.De Service Software is gedownload dit verliepLe logiciel de service a été téléchargé. Le téléchargement s\'est déroulé comment ?slechtDe façon mauvaise.matigPassablement.goedBien.zeer goedTrès bien.uitstekend Parfaitement.d. De gedownloade versie installeren verliepd. L\'installation de la version téléchargée est considérée comme :slechtMal passée.matigPassablement passée.goedBien passée.zeer goedTrès bien passée.

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Dora O'Malley  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 12:30
Member (2003)
English to Spanish
+ ...
comparing professions Oct 19, 2002

1) Lawyers, engineers, doctors, surgeons, technicians, insurance companies and system managers, among others, are using computer systems that may do their work faster and better.

Are they cutting down their prices?

Writing a contract today may be a \"cut and paste\" job. Are lawyers cutting down their fees?

2)When you have to move words around a sentence (match of any sort)you may have to rewrite it, delete parts, add extra words. In the end, you have to read the whole sentence several times (during the translation, proofing and TM verification).

3) Some discounts are fine if there is identical text and it has already been approved and you do not have to read it or modify it, but beware of abuses.

I do not think that those scales understand the real work of a translator.

Good luck


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Endre Both  Identity Verified
Local time: 19:30
Member (2002)
English to German
A simplified economic model of translation Oct 19, 2002

Let me outline an economic model of translation, a sketchy one, as usual in models, but one that could help to make a few points.

A translator\'s fees can be considered to consist of two main elements:

  1. Time worked. The price of a translator\'s time is influenced by many factors, including education, writing skills, overall economic situation, competition and expected earnings in similar professions.

  2. Expenses. These include the translator\'s outlays on office space, software, dictionaries and the like. These expenses can be distributed over time to get an average figure per unit of time.

The expenses in (2) can be added to the figure calculated in (1) to get one single charge per unit of time.

Customers, however, don\'t want the translator to charge by time, they prefer prices to be quantifiable in advance. So you need to convert your charges per unit of time (which we will assume to be hours) into charges per unit of text (let\'s take words). To do that properly, you need accurate data about your word output per hour (first difficult part if you want to apply the model to real life). Of course this ratio will vary vastly depending on many things.

Time for some (very hypothetical) numbers:

  1. Time worked: $40/hour.

  2. Expenses (distributed over time): $40/hour.

-> Total hourly charge: $80/hour.

Output: 400 words/hour

Resulting price per word: $80/400 words = 20c/word

Where does CAT come into this model? Let\'s make the following assumptions, which will apply to each text, each CAT tool and of course to each individual translator to varying extents (this is the second difficult part when applying the model to real life):

  1. Increased productivity (400 words/hour -> 800 words/hour).

  2. Better quality through increased consistency (translator charges 5% more for his/her time).

  3. Higher expenses - cost of purchasing and maintaining the CAT software (5% up).

  4. Higher skills required - the translator needs to learn how to operate the CAT tool (translator charges another 5% more for his/her time).

Please note that the model can accommodate changes in both directions, e.g. decreased productivity (literary translations, maybe?) or lower expenses (if a CAT tool makes other software dispensable).

What is the economic impact of these changes?

  1. If both your time and your expenses are 10% up, your total hourly charge moves to $100/hour. Your output grows to 800 words/hour, the new rate per word you will want to charge your customers will be $100/800words = 12.5c/word.

  2. If you do not modify your rate per word, you will get a higher hourly rate: 800words * 20c/word = $160/hour. To do so, of course, you need to be a monopolist, a very nice position to be in (even then, demand for your services may decrease if your customers are price sensitive). Otherwise competition will force you back to (1).

What conclusions can be drawn from these considerations?

  1. CAT can have a significant impact on productivity and quality for certain types of text. For translators dealing with those, ignoring it would be similar (not equivalent) to rejecting phones in the 50s, faxes in the 80s and computers in the 90s. (In response to a previous comment: Of course lawyers, doctors and virtually all other professions have either reduced their prices or significantly improved their services owing to the use of computers. If this is not immediately apparent, it is because NO ONE in the professions mentioned tries to get along without a computer any more - they would just be laughed at and swept away by competition.) However, for non-repetitive work, CAT is useless, unless a large customer needs a bilingual parallel corpus (which can be of sufficiently great interest to pay for lower productivity).

  2. While theoretical calculations may be very alluring, calculating productivity effects in practice is complicated and costly. These costs must be offset against any gains. \"Industry standards\" which would relieve the translator from these calculations are theoretically conceivable, but only within a very limited scope (e.g. car maintenance user manuals EN-DE; user manuals for standard consumer electronics EN-ES, etc.) which again would threaten to reduce them to absurdity. The buzz word \"100% matches\" is nonsense, of course, as very nicely shown above by Jacques Van de Velde.

    Individual, realistic agreements with large customers whose texts one is familiar with may nevertheless be reached to the satisfaction of both parties.

Should you have read this far, please feel free to comment on the assumptions or the conclusions of the model. Please do not comment on the figures used (unless you find an arithmetical error ).

A nice weekend to all,


[ This Message was edited by: on 2002-10-19 08:32 ]

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Jacques Van de Velde  Identity Verified
Local time: 19:30
Member (2008)
English to Dutch
+ ...
100% Matches? Watch out etc. ... (Postscriptum) Oct 19, 2002

This thread being positive thinking, I wish to expand a little on the statements made in my above posting (i.e. ...\"Which I have managed to refuse till today, even if it cost me a new customer! ...\").

I do accept a discount on 100% matches and/or Repetitions (If a TM is of my own making or in theory of equal thrustworthiness), the discount can vary but usually it is a predefined percentage of the regular translation fee.

All customers pay 100% for all other fuzzy matching levels i.e. from 0% through 99% I demand full rate no discount. Most discussions, disagreements, bargaining rounds and the like finish in \"Prospect accepting or Prospect leaving\". Such is live if you know your subject matter.

The reason why I have my customers even pay for 100% Matches/Repetitions is that EVERY translation I finish, must be proofread by a collegue Engineer on \"form/fit/function/and naturally grammar and spelling\" before it may be released.

Colleagues/correctors are payed for their work (by me) and cannot BUT also MAY NOT distinguish 100% matches/repetitions from freshly or \'fuzzy\'-translated sections of the Job they review. The document must be monolitic.

Quality is (my/everybody\'s) life insurance policy in the technical translation\'s market and ... quality has a price. Quality minded customers understand this and will reward quality with repeat orders or inform their suppliers when market forces order them to change policy.

CAT software products like Trados are excellent tools to help the translator to provide sustained quality, certainly with higher efficiency than the craftsman ever could and when the TM can be trusted, faster.

NOTE: I can and do provide full sentence examples of 100% matches \"that do not match\" if prospects are in serious doubt about the statements I make them on that subject.

Nice weekend to all contributors and readers.

Jacques Van de Velde

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Erika Pavelka  Identity Verified
Local time: 13:30
French to English
*Not* useless for non-repetitive texts Oct 19, 2002


However, for non-repetitive work, CAT is useless, unless a large customer needs a bilingual parallel corpus (which can be of sufficiently great interest to pay for lower productivity).

Sorry, Endre, but I have to disagree with you here. I\'ve been using DejaVu for around 3 years and I very rarely get repetitive texts. I do lots of \"creative\" work (tourism, marketing, etc.) and DV helps me keep terminology consistent. That\'s why I use it.



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Endre Both  Identity Verified
Local time: 19:30
Member (2002)
English to German
Consistency in non-repetitive texts? Oct 19, 2002

I\'m glad to hear that you like DejaVu, Erika.

However, if you translate non-repetitive, creative texts, where the same term can (and probably will) require a different translation each time, where exactly does consistency come in? I thought one of the main things about creativity was to avoid repetitions, to take a holistic approach instead of just muddling through term by term (which is what DejaVu\'s terminology function helps me to do in my technical translations).

I\'m probably missing a very obvious point, sorry .

Anyway: I agree that terminology tools are indeed fine implements to improve consistency wherever it is needed. But they are no more than obliging glossaries that look up words for you before you do it yourself. Maybe that\'s why these modules are often distributed for free by the very manufacturers who usually attach quite hefty price tags to their TM packages. You don\'t need a whole TM suite just for terminology. It\'s a perk offered by TM makers, and I will be surprised if electronic dictionaries won\'t include the same functions in less than five years\' time (I think they are beginning to do so already).

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Catherine Bolton  Identity Verified
Local time: 19:30
Member (2002)
Italian to English
+ ...
Thanks for all the input! Oct 20, 2002

Thanks to everyone for giving me so much food for thought. I suppose my real gripe, if that\'s what we want to call it, is that I get the feeling that the agencies want a discount from me for repetitions, near matches and the like, but that the \"savings\" won\'t get passed on the end customer. In other words, the savings go into the agency\'s pockets.

If any agency cares to rebut this I\'d be quite interested to read comments from the other side of the fence.

[ This Message was edited by: on 2002-10-20 14:17 ]

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