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Is the line-based rate going the way of the dodo?
Thread poster: Anil Gidwani

Anil Gidwani  Identity Verified
India
Local time: 13:46
German to English
+ ...
Feb 24, 2009

I've always found the line-based rates prevalent in Germanic countries a more accurate way of assessing translation volumes for translations into or out of the Germanic languages.

Recently, though, even German outsourcers seem to be requesting and accepting quotes in words rather than lines. Rather reminds me of the old VHS/Beta format wars, where the technologically superior Betamax format lost out to the VHS format.

Is the line-based rate dying out, even in Germanic countries?

I genuinely hope the line-based rate for Germanic languages survives, since it seems intrinsically fairer and more accurate, notwithstanding the fact that there are plenty of conversion methods between line and word rates.

[Edited at 2009-02-24 08:03 GMT]


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Heinrich Pesch  Identity Verified
Finland
Local time: 11:16
Member (2003)
Finnish to German
+ ...
Probably Trados-policy Feb 24, 2009

The trend is going towards word-based rates. More and more use Trados and the analyse function, which is based on word-count.
This gives us a chance to increase our rates, if we play it right, but it seems unfortunately that in fact it helps outsourcers to lower rates.
Regards
Heinrich


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Ralf Lemster  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 10:16
English to German
+ ...
Trados? Feb 24, 2009

Heinrich,

The trend is going towards word-based rates. More and more use Trados and the analyse function, which is based on word-count.

I use Trados analyses myself - together with line-based charges. Not that difficult.

This gives us a chance to increase our rates, if we play it right, but it seems unfortunately that in fact it helps outsourcers to lower rates.

Only if you don't play it right.

Best, Ralf


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Astrid Elke Witte  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 10:16
Member (2002)
German to English
+ ...
I always charge in lines of 55 characters with spaces Feb 24, 2009

Hi Anil,

Certainly, lines is fairer in the direction from German into English. However, I have noticed that many colleagues translating from English into German are - understandably - happy with counting words, because it is English words that they count.

The only way of counting words, if you translate German into English, is to count the target words, but that means that the exact price cannot be determined in advance, and many clients do not know, or fail to understand, that a price estimate can only be given by first adding 30-35% to the source word count.

If it is any comfort to you, I originally always charged target words, but have now successfully changed all my clients over to lines. Some preferred lines in the first place, but accepted my target words, others only knew about counting words, but have got used to lines and do not object to it.

I use PractiCount to count the lines, but also know how to work it out with Trados. Trados gives you a character count. To this you have to add the word count, to account for the spaces - and then divide by 55.

Astrid


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KSL Berlin  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 09:16
Member (2003)
German to English
+ ...
Going away? Hardly. Feb 24, 2009

It seems that the agencies in Germany who are insisting on word rates are trying to seem more "international" or accommodate international customers. As you know, I don't buy the argument about one method of counting being more intrinsically "fair" than any other, and am willing to quote according to any scheme using my conversions. If you get a line rate to a text where every instance of "und" is "u." and "oder" is "o." and nonsense like that, you'd be surprised how bad the line rate looks.

I actually find it very useful to quote line rates to a word rate agency during the initial negotiations. They've got a price which they may or may not understand, so they focus on the workflow and delivery issues and ultimately agree to the price, which I will convert into a word rate equivalent in the end to make them happy.

Or just avoid the whole issue by quoting a flat fee for jobs. Plenty of agencies and direct customers seem to expect this even when they have all the information to calculate my charges to the penny. Although this takes more of my time, I appreciate it because it allows me to take the particular circumstances of the job into account, sometimes very much to the financial benefit of the client, sometimes warning the client of extra effort involved and avoiding a mis-quote to the end customer. Once in a while a PM will rush off and quote a complex job based on my standard rates, only to discover that half the text was missed (embedded objects) or there is some other difficult aspect to the job which requires a different charge. So whatever rate calculation method one chooses, it should be backed up by a good effort at clear, timely communication to help everyone.


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Heinrich Pesch  Identity Verified
Finland
Local time: 11:16
Member (2003)
Finnish to German
+ ...
I see the trend clearly Feb 24, 2009

Many customers who traditionally based their calculations on line-rates have been switching to word-rates. Even when German is the source language.
Of course it is not Trados per se but probably the way it is advertised to customers. "How to lower costs using Trados". It is possible to convert the analysis into lines, but it requires an additional step.

Of course I routinely calculate the amount of text that will be the result of my work and adjust the word-rate accordingly. Lots of agencies especially in Italy or Spain just cannot understand why it must be more expensive to translate 1000 words of Finnish than 1000 words of German.

Regards
Heinrich


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Victor Dewsbery  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 10:16
German to English
+ ...
Alive and kicking Feb 24, 2009

I charge by standard lines (55 characters) for just about all jobs - both for agencies and for direct clients. Almost always based on the target text. When clients ask for a quote, I explain how I calculate the standard lines.

As for word counts, have you seen my instructions for the game "word rate roulette"? Can be found at:
http://www.proz.com/forum/money_matters/36413-rates_per_character_line.html#259767


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KSL Berlin  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 09:16
Member (2003)
German to English
+ ...
Touché Feb 24, 2009

Victor Dewsbery wrote:
Go and get a grip on yourself = 7 words.
Excruciating verbal diarrhoea = 3 words.
(These two samples are equal in the number of characters, but players of "WORD RATE ROULETTE" will notice the exciting potential for variations in the fee at the end of the day.)


Thank you Victor You've given me a good excuse to become even crankier and more inflexible in my old age, though I think I'll stick to source text calculation just for the sake of being able to quote a price in advance. The other issue I have with target text calculation is that it encourages excruciating verbal diarrhea.


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Victor Dewsbery  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 10:16
German to English
+ ...
Killing the goose that lays the golden egg? Feb 24, 2009

Kevin Lossner wrote:
The other issue I have with target text calculation is that it encourages excruciating verbal diarrhea.


Depends. It may sound like a way to earn the golden egg, but overdoing it may have the effect of killing the goose (i.e. the client notices the trick and goes elsewhere).
Better to do the best possible job whatever the basis of the fee, even if it means earning a couple of cents less, in the hope that the client will like the good work and come back for more.


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KSL Berlin  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 09:16
Member (2003)
German to English
+ ...
Not a deliberate strategy, of course Feb 24, 2009

Victor Dewsbery wrote:

Kevin Lossner wrote:
The other issue I have with target text calculation is that it encourages excruciating verbal diarrhea.


Depends. It may sound like a way to earn the golden egg, but overdoing it may have the effect of killing the goose (i.e. the client notices the trick and goes elsewhere).
Better to do the best possible job whatever the basis of the fee, even if it means earning a couple of cents less, in the hope that the client will like the good work and come back for more.


I think only an idiot would deliberately inflate the text size. I'm thinking of perfectly legitimate differences in style or the extra effort that goes into good, concise phrasing. Plus I simply like the predictability and transparency of saying, "Dear customer, I will charge you € 543.25, and here is how I have arrived at that figure" in many cases. The boss signs off on the expense and everything is a go. For me at least, saying "The cost will be somewhere between 500 and 600 euros" makes less of a good impression, though I'll admit that the "fuzziness" might have the nice effect of taking the focus off price.

I have noticed over time though, that when my partner and I both translate contracts, for example, her English text is longer compared to the German source than mine. Both translations are reasonable, and I doubt that anyone could tag one of us as being better than the other in this particular field. Yet there would often be a significant difference in cost based on a target text line count. The intellectual effort involved in the task is the same, so I would charge the same in each case using the source count as the basis.


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Anil Gidwani  Identity Verified
India
Local time: 13:46
German to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Will try Feb 24, 2009

Astrid Elke Johnson wrote:

If it is any comfort to you, I originally always charged target words, but have now successfully changed all my clients over to lines. Some preferred lines in the first place, but accepted my target words, others only knew about counting words, but have got used to lines and do not object to it.

Astrid


I'll certainly give it a try too. Having analyzed various jobs that were billed on a word rate, I've found wide variations in the resultant line rate. Surprisingly, a decent word rate has resulted in a line rate that was below my expectations in some cases, although my sample set is certainly not very extensive, since I started doing such comparisons only recently. I guess it all depends on the domain too.


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KSL Berlin  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 09:16
Member (2003)
German to English
+ ...
Surprise! You just gave an unexpected 15% discount! Feb 24, 2009

Anil Gidwani wrote:
Surprisingly, a decent word rate has resulted in a line rate that was below my expectations in some cases, although my sample set is certainly not very extensive, since I started doing such comparisons only recently. I guess it all depends on the domain too.


Not surprising at all. Allesandra Muzzi's statistics on the Amtrad site are based on EU texts, but the statistics for computer manuals, patents and other stuff may be very different. That's why I had several sections for rate comparisons with different text types in that sample Excel calculator I cobbled together. (The one where one deluded individual curiously assumes that the data reflect usual or current business practices on my part.)

I suppose you could justify the line rates with an argument along the lines of "look, this is the most accurate way of determining how much text I'm going to gave to scan with my eyes, the 'page real estate' that will contribute to my eye strain and reflect the amount I have to think about. If I have to think about a compound German word that stretches across an entire page width, then mentally I will have to cope with several units of meaning which are resolved as separate words in English. So it's silly and finacially disadvantageous to call it one word."

Still, I go for the averages in an ongoing relationship and don't worry about it much. If I feel there is a problem in a specific case, I'll quote a special rate calculated to cover that case.

The BDÜ data that were released on average reported translator fees for different types of text showed a very interesting difference, which I do not think I mentioned when I posted the line rate data in response to a message by Michael Meinhard (I think that's how it's spelled). I was going cross-eyed trying to read black on red printing in the publication, so I ignored the word rates. The line rates don't look bad on the whole. Most of the word rates are appalling. Part of this, I think, reflects a lack of understanding on the part of translators of rate equivalency as well as a tendency to accept what is offered and not negotiate. In such cases, it should come as no surprise that some clients will take advantage, just like we saw with the DM to euro changeover. But as Ralf said, this need not be the case, and I can assure you that my word rate earnings are very much in accordance to the line rates I would charge a particular customer. In the few cases where I charge a low word rate, I would charge a low line rate as well, these cases being limited to special partnerships with huge off-the-books value. If I want a high line rate from a client and that client wants it expressed as words, the ultimate rate granted will not come out at all lower on the average when I've done a few larger projects. In fact, one could even explicitly build in a "word rate risk margin" and say so, and I'll bet those line rates might be accepted after all. Or you'll just be asked for a flat fee quote, which you can figure with the help of your astrologer if you like.


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