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Can you make a living from translation? (Considering NAATI accreditation)
Thread poster: ihd
ihd
Local time: 05:36
Jan 6, 2009

Hello

I am a fluent bilingual that is thinking of attending a program in Australia to gain NATTI accreditation.
While looking at various site, it seems as if translation and interpreting don't earn as much money as I hoped.
For example, this site below states that "According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median hourly income for a qualified translator or interpreter was $16.28 in 2004."
WHAT!? I have been paid that much as an English teacher in Japan!
I have always assumed that translator would get paid a lot, for it requires lots of researching and preparations, and the job itself requires lots of concentration and is mentally fatiguing.
http://www.ling.mq.edu.au/translation/lmtip_australia.htm
Yet the site above tells that interpreting in Australia is so depressing that "Some agencies pay less than the minimum fee of $60 and do not contribute to superannuation. This places the gross annual salary at just $20,283. "

Oh god! How can a job that requires special skill sets (yes, I know that there are many bilinguals abound now....), which include language and personal attributes such as concentration, get paid so low?
Can people make a decent living as a freelance translator/interpreter? My life goal has always been to be extremely rich to make my family feel reassured...





[Subject edited by staff or moderator 2009-01-06 08:22 GMT]


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The Good Translator  Identity Verified
Australia
Vietnamese to English
+ ...
nice shared goal Jan 6, 2009

I share with your nice goal of a rich and comfortable life But you know, it's not that easy. NAATI is just one requirement.

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KSL Berlin  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 21:36
Member (2003)
German to English
+ ...
Take Willie Sutton's advice Jan 6, 2009


My life goal has always been to be extremely rich to make my family feel reassured...


Go rob banks. That's where the money is. Or was at least until the current financial crisis


I am a fluent bilingual... the median hourly income for a qualified translator or interpreter was $16.28 in 2004. WHAT!? I have been paid that much as an English teacher in Japan!


Yes, and that's about what my starting wage as a chemist was 20 years before that. So what? What relevance do averages which include all languages, all specialties and all levels of ability (both linguistic and business) have for you? If you are dead average in all respects, maybe the numbers aren't far off. Your other language is Japanese, but unlike Spanish (which is included in those statistics), I don't see a lot of Japanese bilinguals running around the southwest of the US scratching to earn a living with language services. And the really good Spanish/English people there do far better than that. Australia is different, of course. Always research local data and consider to what extent it really applies to you.

As for "fluent bilinguals", they are a dime a dozen. I have been a fluent bilingual for a very long time, but I probably wouldn't have had much luck surviving as a translator until I accumulated experience in a range of useful specialties.

I have always assumed that translator would get paid a lot, for it requires lots of researching and preparations, and the job itself requires lots of concentration and is mentally fatiguing.


Never assume that compensation is proportional to effort. If that were true, I'd be dodging Maseratis driven by literature translators. Haven't seen one yet, and I'm told their average gross earnings are less than a cleaning lady or gardener.



Can people make a decent living as a freelance translator/interpreter?


Of course they can. There are plenty with low six-figure dollar or euro incomes, and with the right combination of language pair, specialties and business sense it's not even that "hard" to get there with a little patience (but you'll still have to work hard as a daily routine - none of this bullshit about translators not even having to get out of bed). If anything is missing from that combination, or if you are in a hurry, you may be very disappointed, however.


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Taija Hyvönen
Finland
Local time: 23:36
Member (2008)
English to Finnish
+ ...
The best way to get rich - be born into the right family Jan 6, 2009

- Being bilingual doesn't mean you can even read and write, it is no guarantee. Of course it is an advantage WHEN you get the education and experience.

- Making a living - yes, getting extremely rich - you should really look elsewhere for quick & easy money. This is not easy money. I can only speak for myself of course (this would be another topic, which does interest me), but for me translation work is something I enjoy - you could almost say it's a calling. We spend such a big part of our lives working, that I prefer it to be something that I like, for not so much money, than something I don't like, even if I made more money that way.

- Depends on where you live. I live in a country where the cost of living is very high and where taxation & such were designed to prevent anyone from getting rich by honest work.

- Depends on whether you want to support a sizeable family + a spouse at home. I have a spouse who earns well on his own, so I only have to feed little birds

- I can't anything about NAATI accreditation, however I have observed that formal accreditation is in translation business seldom required. I'll get one when I'll get around to it.


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 22:36
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
Where is that quote from? Jan 6, 2009

indie_hunk wrote:
For example, this site below states that "According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median hourly income for a qualified translator or interpreter was $16.28 in 2004."
http://www.ling.mq.edu.au/translation/lmtip_australia.htm


The page you mention has this to say:

Freelance Interpreters
Depending on the nature of the job, freelance interpreters charge between $45 and $100+ per hour, or $250 to $700+ per day. ...

Translators
... A typical Professional-level translator earns between $25 and $45 per 100 words, with a normal workflow of 150-200 words per hour.


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Giovany Rodríguez Monsalve
Colombia
Local time: 15:36
English to Spanish
+ ...
Not only money. Jan 6, 2009

Are you happy and healthly by earning $XX,XXX per year?


That's the question you should think about.


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Lawyer-Linguist  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 21:36
Dutch to English
+ ...
Yes Jan 6, 2009

A very good one in fact, all depending on your language pair(s), specialisation(s), ability and willingness to invest in continuing professional development.

But it's not a quick way to make a buck. It takes a while to get properly established and you have to keep it up, day after day - I constantly remind myself: "you're only as good as your last translation".


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Tomás Cano Binder, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 22:36
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Income depends on many factors Jan 6, 2009

indie_hunk wrote:
Yet the site above tells that interpreting in Australia is so depressing that "Some agencies pay less than the minimum fee of $60 and do not contribute to superannuation. This places the gross annual salary at just $20,283. "


I think you are probably forgetting that translation and interpretation is --for most people-- a freelance activity. As in every freelance activity, your income will depend on many factors: translation skills, tools, communication skills, number of hours worked, specialisation, commitment, amount of days you reserve strictly for your holidays, etc. etc.

In general, I think that the better the service and availability you offer to your customers, the higher your income. As in any other freelance activity! If you are good, responsive, proactive and available most of the time, it should not be very hard to achieve an income much higher than the 20K.


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Astrid Elke Witte  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 22:36
Member (2002)
German to English
+ ...
I find that I have a respectable income from translating Jan 6, 2009

It is also true that my income is probably on the low side for the amount of time and effort that I expend in a year, but it is not low compared with "average" earnings for an "average" job (if there is such a thing).

In order to earn a "respectable" amount per hour, you have to accumulate a little bit of experience, so that it gradually gets faster, and constantly work on ideas to increase productivity. Also, you have to sit on clients who do not want to pay on time, and be as firm as possible with agencies about your prices. The first and only aspect that you really carry out on Day 1 of your business, however, is quality control, and if you work on quality for the first few years it tends to create a lot of advantages in the long run, not least economic ones.


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Tomás Cano Binder, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 22:36
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Making a respectable living too Jan 6, 2009

Yesterday I had a chance to pay a brief visit an old friend I hadn't seen in several years. He's always been a successful businessman with an ample home, nice cars replaced every 6 months, and a profitable business. He's now retired and the proceeds of selling his business allowed him to purchase some more property and make a complete, classy renovation of his ample house in the wealthiest part of town. He even showed me his rich collection of red wines, of which he is a true connoisseur.

Of course he was not in the translation business. Although I would love to be in his position when I retire, I am well aware that it will be impossible. Having said that, 13 years as a full-time translator have brought me to a situation I would have never dreamed of after 12 years in my previous career. I think it is quite possible to make a reasonably comfortable living, pay your mortgage well and save a little bit as a translator. As for the approach, I entirely agree with Astrid Elke's.


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darkokoporcic  Identity Verified
Slovenia
Local time: 22:36
Member (2005)
German to Slovenian
+ ...
Forget about interpreting Jan 7, 2009

My experience says that it is not worth the extra effort. I have considered entering the interpreting world several times (due to high hourly rates) but ended up translating technical texts and specializing in my field (certain areas of mechanical engineering). High specialization pays off, but of course you must be a professional in that field.

If you are a "pure" linguist, it is more difficult, you have to cope with many different fields and you cannot be so selective when choosing clients.

For instance, I have never accepted a job, where I would have to "clean up" after a high school student or a completely incompetent person. I also basically don't accept jobs in other fields of engineering, jobs paid in USD or below my minimum price, where payment terms are strange, .... But I guess I can afford it. Primarily due to my experience in translation and elsewhere (trade, engineering, finance, ...). To become a freelancer in translation was a late decision in my career, not an early one. I am trying to cash my experience and enjoy freedom.

There is no easy money in translation, I agree, but there is a lot of money there. You should consider how to earn it, because there will always be freelancers making 60+ kUSD (or even EUR) and those struggling to pay for their rent. Like in any other business.

Good luck,

Darko


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Rod Walters  Identity Verified
Japan
Local time: 05:36
Japanese to English
Wrong direction probably Jan 7, 2009

If you want to succeed, you would do well not to waste any time paying for accreditation and start working in your logical language pair, ie, English to Japanese, in subjects that you understand. Otherwise, agencies will be paying me to correct your work by taking 's' off where it's not needed and adding it where it is - things that fluent bilinguals get wrong all the time. (I don't always get 'ha' and 'ga' right, which is why I don't translate into Japanese...)

But I think it's very unlikely you'll get extremely rich from English to Japanese translation. My really wealthy friends are doctors, dentists, and estate agents. My comfortably off friends are translators in their natural language pair.


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Kaiya J. Diannen  Identity Verified
Australia
Member (2008)
German to English
On a side note/NAATI Jan 8, 2009

Rod Walters wrote: If you want to succeed, you would do well not to waste any time paying for accreditation and start working in your logical language pair

Just to address this, what you (Rod) may not realize is that it's very very difficult to gain a long-term visa here in Australia without either the NAATI accreditation the OP is talking about, being a full-time university student (very expensive), or having an appropriate job offer from a company that meets the immigration standards and is going to bat for you.

It sounds to me like the OP might be considering a move to Australia, in which case unless he has a great deal of experience (several years, with provable income levels) in his chosen field and meets a variety of other requirements (they have a point system), it might serve his interests to get NAATI accreditation.

That having been said, I've had some negative experiences with NAATI, so I am not a fan. I agree with Rod that experience is the best teacher, provided you have the basic knowledge, skills and talents, and will be the best route in the end to a better income (as is true in many fields) not to mention pride in your work.

Good luck!


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QUOI  Identity Verified

Chinese to English
+ ...
My A$0.02 Jan 8, 2009

The reality is that if you want to work as a T&I in Australia (emphasis on "in Australia"), you will need to have NAATI accreditation. Now you even have to revalidate your accreditation every 2 years (more $ to NAATI). Generally no agency will give you job if you are NAATI-less. Plus you won't be able to deal with government-related jobs which can be rather lucrative and which always require NAATI accredited T&Is.

A little bit of ranting if you are interested.

Ever since the occupations of Translator and Interpreter were included in the federal immigration department's Skilled Occupations List, many universities in Australia, including Macquarie University in NSW, have been offering overseas students full fee (read "expensive") T&I courses which can lead to NAATI accreditation. Most these students see gaining a NAATI accreditation an easy way to migrate to Australia. This has for years been a good money earner for both the universities and NAATI.

Macquarie University for one mass produces T&I graduates (MA in Translation/Interpreting) every year with a lot more translators (mostly into native) than interpreters.

In some languages, there are so many new graduates that they have seriously distressed the market and caused the rate to plummet. Since everyone is a freelancer, some will be lucky to make a living on T&I at all in the first few years.

It's rather ironic that Macquarie University is telling T&Is how much one should be paid. Do a survey among your gradates!


[Edited at 2009-01-08 06:11 GMT]


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Kaiya J. Diannen  Identity Verified
Australia
Member (2008)
German to English
[small clarification] Jan 8, 2009

... at large wrote: The reality is that if you want to work as a T&I in Australia (emphasis on "in Australia"), you will need to have NAATI accreditation.

I can't speak to the "I" part, but it is possible to work as a translator in Australia without NAATI accreditation, provided you have contacts outside of the Australian market to provide you with work. Such is the case in my situation.

Cheers!


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