Prices a factor of value placed on knowledge
Thread poster: Anil Gidwani

Anil Gidwani  Identity Verified
India
Local time: 16:24
German to English
+ ...
Feb 6, 2009

This is likely to raise the hackles of many of us, but is what I honestly believe: the more a country lays store by knowledge, the better its pricing for the language services it consumes. In other words, those countries that truly believe in the value of knowledge in today's knowledge-driven global economy are willing to pay premium prices for translations and other language services.

I genuinely believe, for example, that Germany values knowledge and is possibly a true knowledge-driven economy, hence the high rates one sees in Germany.

May I hasten to emphasize that the value of knowledge is only ONE of the factors that determines price levels for language services in any given country.

The less specific naming of countries with low rates, the better. I do not intend to start regional wars here on these forums, though I am not shy of being politically incorrect in these trying times.

Do you believe this surmise is correct in broad and general terms?


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KSL Berlin  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 11:54
Member (2003)
German to English
+ ...
Not sure about that one Feb 6, 2009

I would be inclined to consider regulatory environments and tort law as well, but then look at the US and the low rates usually on offer there, and that theory goes down the loo. I haven't seen any great disrespect for knowledge in your country or China, but the rates offered by outsourcers there are generally not interesting, quite aside from my usual objections about legal reach.

I think you are more likely to see a simple and very approximate correlation with domestic wages, fees and costs of living. I know that in Mumbai you pay just as much as I do for software licenses in most cases and probably a good bit more for some goods and services, but actual costs for some things and perceptions of necessary "standards" surely play a role. Here I'm thinking of the case of an acquaintance of mine who did well as an English teacher in South Korea and Ecuador but was unable to move to the US with his Polish wife because he didn't meet certain income standards for three years running. So he moved to Germany, where he made over € 100,000 per year teaching English for a while. I think that's an unusually high amount for that activity even in Germany, but I think he was just as much of a workaholic in those other countries where he earned about a quarter or less on the local economy.

So no... whatever else may be involved, I don't think we're talking about a disrespect or a lack of importance placed on knowledge. I've never seen a rate I liked from an eastern European prospect, but the attitudes toward education and knowledge I have encountered in that part of the world can stand right alongside any other.


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Anil Gidwani  Identity Verified
India
Local time: 16:24
German to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Value vs. respect Feb 6, 2009

I know this may be splitting hairs, but I draw a small distinction between respecting knowledge and valuing knowledge at the practical level.

Speaking for conditions in India ( and not worrying about being politically incorrect )I can safely say that while India respects knowledge, it does not seem to place great value on true knowledge on a day-to-day basis.

While we respect knowledge, and parents are determined to turn their children into doctors, lawyers and engineers, Indian society today does not seem to understand the true value of knowledge.

Thus we have large sections of the judiciary operating in English with translators/interpreters paid peanuts for translating to/from the local language, who consequently are not very motivated to perform. The sufferers are mainly litigants who do not know English.

We have many areas in our society where translation is a crying need, but no service exists because government cannot or does not want to pay. A fine example is the police force, which has to deal with documents such as medical certificates, not in their native language, but in English, which is practically as useful as reading Italian is for a knower of Spanish. Makes sense, but falls short.

Even the private sector in India fails to understand the value of a proper translation and the pitfalls of improper knowledge conveyed by a faulty translation. The focus is always on reducing rates AND time to delivery. I have yet to take a phone call from an Indian direct client where I have not had to educate the client on the importance of giving enough time for the translation (and better rates). Perhaps as a consequence, I've only had 1 Indian direct client so far

Domestic wages, fees and cost of living play an important role, but then why are rates so different between France and Germany for example? Or between translations with French and Dutch as the source languages, even within the same country, Belgium? It could be the complexity of the source language that determines the sizable difference in rates, of course, but I think there are other factors at play here.

It IS surprising that the rates in the US are so low. The US is in my view a model for information sharing and knowledge utilization, and I would have thought translation would be highly valued.

Ultimately, price is determined by the value perceived by the purchaser. I don't see that perception of value for translation services here in India, even taking local conditions into account. Which is a pity.



[Edited at 2009-02-06 13:25 GMT]


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Balasubramaniam L.  Identity Verified
India
Local time: 16:24
Member (2006)
English to Hindi
+ ...
Political incorrectness Feb 7, 2009

Since you have mentioned political incorrectness, I will try to offer another explanation to the phenomenon of lack of interest by the Indian judiciary, etc., to translation from English to Hindi.

You are completely off the mark when you generalise that Indians don't respect (or value) knowledge. India has been one of the oldest knowledge-based societies of the world, if you look at the breath-taking range of religions, philosophies, languages and sciences that have originated in India.

So the answer to your puzzle doesn't lie in that direction.

The thing is India is still a very undemocratic society where the state institutions like the judiciary, higher education, etc., are loaded in favour of the elite. The elite use several strategies for keeping the incline in their favour, one of which is to continue with the use of English in these institutions. This effectively disqualifies about 98 % of the Indian people and reduces the claimants to the economic/judicial pie of India to just a handful.

So, neither the elites, nor the judiciary, nor the large state institutions (like the universities, great scientific labs, research organizations, even NGOs) are interested in translating English documents into Hindi or other Indian languages because this would rob the English-speaking elites of the exclusivity.

As for the private sector, the Indian private sector is more oriented towards the global markets and would show more interest in getting their material translated into Chinese or Japanese than into Hindi. As it is, since English is used in the major markets of USA, UK, Canada, Australia, etc., and is quite well understood in the other European areas, the Indian private sector can do quite well with sticking to English alone.

But things are now changing with the current global downturn in which India is emerging, along with China, as the only growing economy of the world. Because of this, Indian companies will have to pay more attention to the local Indian market and then they will realise the importance of translation into Hindi.

I also foresee major setbacks to the English-speaking elites of India after the May general elections in which Mayawati is likely to become the new prime minister, and she is one who is completely innocent of English, and her coming to power could shake up the elitist, English-oriented judiciary and state institutions and make them more democratic.

So that is the answer to your puzzle. It is not that India is not a knowledge-respecting society, but that the instituions that you mention (judiciary, etc.) are in the grip of the English-speaking elites of India, who don't want any gatecrashing into their bastion. So they thwart every effort at replacing English with Hindi in these institutions, because, if that happens, they will have to compete with one billion people, now the competition is at a more manageable level of just a few million English-knowing Indians.

So, this apathy towards translation into Hindi is a well-thought-out strategy on their part and it goes much deeper than just translation into Hindi. The very capacity to work in Hindi is systematically dismantled in these institutions by not recruiting people trained to work in Hindi, not purchasing equipment needed to function in Hindi (such as typewriters, computer, software, books, etc.).

Not until the vested interests of the English-speaking elites are broken, can they institutions become more democratic and broad-based, and only then can they become more responsive to issues like making documents available in the language of the people.

So the answer to your question is -- lack of democracy, lack of respect to democracy in minds of the ruling elites of India. This manifests in many forms. The most glaring form of course is that even after 60 years of Independance, about 200 million Indians live below the poverty line, about 40 per cent of Indians are illiterate, child mortality rates in India are among the highest in the world, male-female ratio in the population is skewed in favour of men in India, while the opposite is the norm in more egalitarian societies, et., etc. Compare the situation with other large countries like China, which became Independent at about the same time, and which have eradicated poverty, malnutrition, illiteracy and other evils in their societies.

And the lack of interest in translation is just another (minor) manifestation of this apathy towards democratic values.


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Kaiya J. Diannen  Identity Verified
Australia
Member (2008)
German to English
Wow Feb 8, 2009

Balasubramaniam L. wrote: ...like China, which became Independent at about the same time, and which have eradicated poverty, malnutrition, illiteracy and other evils in their societies.

I had never actually heard this repeated by anyone outside the Chinese government before. Can't help but wonder where you get your information from?...


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Anil Gidwani  Identity Verified
India
Local time: 16:24
German to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Agree with you to an extent Feb 8, 2009

Balasubramaniam L. wrote:

You are completely off the mark when you generalise that Indians don't respect (or value) knowledge. India has been one of the oldest knowledge-based societies of the world, if you look at the breath-taking range of religions, philosophies, languages and sciences that have originated in India.



I repeat, I used phrases such as "believe in the value of knowledge" and "lay store by knowledge" and NOT "respect knowledge". India has a healthy respect for knowledge even today, and I'd love to debate Indian philosophy if you (or anyone else) are so inclined. (I must warn you that was one of my few A's in college!)



So the answer to your puzzle doesn't lie in that direction

.....

So the answer to your question is -- lack of democracy, lack of respect to democracy in minds of the ruling elites of India


We can go deeper into the causes of low pricing, but that could turn into washing our dirty linen in public, and we could defer that to an India-only forum, perhaps (since there is a lot of dirty linen to wash....;-) ).


As for the private sector, the Indian private sector is more oriented towards the global markets and would show more interest in getting their material translated into Chinese or Japanese than into Hindi. As it is, since English is used in the major markets of USA, UK, Canada, Australia, etc., and is quite well understood in the other European areas, the Indian private sector can do quite well with sticking to English alone.


I find the same lack of willingness to pay reasonable prices for translations into English. So this argument does not hold water in my view.


But things are now changing with the current global downturn in which India is emerging, along with China, as the only growing economy of the world. Because of this, Indian companies will have to pay more attention to the local Indian market and then they will realise the importance of translation into Hindi.


I couldn't agree more. The age of vibrancy in local languages and consequently, local translation industries, may be right around the corner, especially in India. The process can only accelerate after Washington's recent emphasis on Hindi and other Asian languages.

I'm sure we both agree that giving knowledge high marks is a prerequisite for increasing prices for language services in any market, which is what this topic is all about, IMHO. Going deeper into the causes of an alleged lack of interest in quality translations could be counterproductive.


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Lutz Molderings  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 12:54
Member (2007)
German to English
+ ...
Eradicated poverty? Feb 8, 2009


I had never actually heard this repeated by anyone outside the Chinese government before. Can't help but wonder where you get your information from?...


Nor me.
More than 200 million people in China live off less than a dollar a day.


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