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Deciding how to charge for native to non-native translation
Thread poster: JoGunn
JoGunn
Local time: 20:28
English to Icelandic
+ ...
May 21, 2004

I am just beginning to work professionally as a translator and have been offered a job translating a short technical text into English.
During my time in university, my translation teacher hammered into my head that I should not be doing translations into English, only into my native Icelandic. (Not because my English is bad, but because it's not native to me).
Now I'm wondering how to charge for the job: do I charge less than for a translation into Icelandic because English is not my native language, or do I charge more because it is more difficult to translate into a non-native language?


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Patricia Posadas  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 21:28
Member (2002)
English to Spanish
+ ...
In my experience... May 21, 2004

If you go for it, charge more and pay a qualified English-speaking colleague to get your work reviewed. I sometimes translate educational research work into English, but always have my work reviewed by an English-speaking colleague. This means I charge my translation + the revision.

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Orla Ryan  Identity Verified
Ireland
Local time: 21:28
translation May 21, 2004

Patricia Posadas wrote:

If you go for it, charge more and pay a qualified English-speaking colleague to get your work reviewed. I sometimes translate educational research work into English, but always have my work reviewed by an English-speaking colleague. This means I charge my translation + the revision.


I agree. Only take on the job if you are totally confident you can handle it, and get it checked by a native speaker.

O.


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Henry Hinds  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 14:28
English to Spanish
+ ...
Charge the same May 21, 2004

To the client it is irrelevant how you get the job done or how long it takes you as long as it is done right.

Only accept it if you can do it right, and charge the same.


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xxxLia Fail  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 22:28
Spanish to English
+ ...
lengthy reply - be warned! May 21, 2004

JoGunn wrote:

I am just beginning to work professionally as a translator and have been offered a job translating a short technical text into English.
During my time in university, my translation teacher hammered into my head that I should not be doing translations into English, only into my native Icelandic. (Not because my English is bad, but because it's not native to me).
Now I'm wondering how to charge for the job: do I charge less than for a translation into Icelandic because English is not my native language, or do I charge more because it is more difficult to translate into a non-native language?


Why have they offered you the job and not a native speaker? Is it becuase they are not aware of the difference? If so, I would say you should explain this difference. Is it becuase for some reason they cannot obtain a native speaker (for whatever reason)? Likewise, you should point out that you are not a native... In other words, there are circumstances in which a non-native will translate, but they are usually becuase of very specific circusmtances. As a GENERAL (I say general) rule, your teacher is right.

Naturally your English isn't bad, becuase you translate from it and probably use it a lot in other ways. But not even all natives can write well, so what are the chances for a non-native? I have met a number of translators who are non-native who are excellent writers in English (my language), but they are rare. Note that of these, one in particular stood out as an excellent translator, although the English was slightly defective in minor ways; from the point of view of editing, this person's work was far easier to edit (minor linguistic errors) that would have been a poorly translated text by a native speaker (major terminological errors). So, before anyone jumps down my throat, I fully acknowledge that non-natives can make good translators, but only in excpetional or particular circumstances. And, for example, you mention a technical text, and if this is your field of expertise, you may well do the text better than a non-expert native (or even an expert native). But as other contributoirs have pointed out, it should be reviewed by a native anyway (but will the client pay the extra for the non-native translator + native editor combination, when a native could do the job straight - doesn't make economic sense, does it? Unless it's for a regular client, where cost isn't the only issue).

As for charging, there is no argument there. You should never charge less simply becuase you feel you can't do the job right. You simply shouldn't do the job in that case, in other words, you are - by implication - admitting that you cannot/feel you cannot produce a professional quality job.

The ultimate translation standard is professional quality - unless otherwise agreed with the client (becuase of time, because they want/can only get a non-native, etc) - which means a text equivalent to one written directly in the native language.

I see you are relatively new to ProZ, but in time you will see, from looking at profiles for people answering your questions, etc. that the MAJORITY of the people who impress most on this site with the quality of their answers and their general level of professionalism translate into their own first language(WITH some exceptions, i.e. there are some who translate into two, and they too impress). For what it's worth, the person with most KudoZ points in Proz translates exclusively to his own native language.

I know this is a terribly sensitive subject here in ProZ, but it's something I (and undoubtedly others) feel very strongly about, becuase as far as I'm concerned, the WWW is awash with pathetically awful websites translated by non-natives that make you cringe......and I am talking about websites from major European languages, where there is no question of the availability of natives with those particular combinations.

This issue is covered by the Code of Ethics of most professional translation bodies (e.g. FIT), where, except for exceptional circumstances, members subscribe to the principle of translating into their native tongue.

I once translated into ES. It was 'for information only' and the circumstances were very special. Even though I spelled it all out to the company beforehand and put it in writing, I just felt terrible, knowing that a native could have done the job in HALF the time and with IMMEASUREABLY better quality. Never again, the quality of what I write and what people can attribute to me matters very much to me.

These are some of the issues as I see them, I hope they are some help in your decision as to whether or not to do the job:-)



[Edited at 2004-05-21 17:27]

[Edited at 2004-05-21 17:28]

[Edited at 2004-05-21 17:56]


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Anjo Sterringa  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 22:28
Member (2003)
English to Dutch
+ ...
Same charge, REVIEWED May 21, 2004

Hi!
Ailish, you had a very good point (I always try to explain that) that in a number of cases a non-native technical translation is understandable and to the point while a native technical translation by a non-technical translator (technical in the broadest sense of the word - legal, medical etc.) does not make any sense.

I worked with an engineering company and some manuals were very good English, but the engineers were not able to time the engines with the instructions provided....

Whenever I translate into English, I have it reviewed by my English partner. You could also team up with an English translator who would like to get 'into translating' - it could work out very well.

What you charge for is the end result- and the result will be excellent, so there is no reason to charge less. However, it will take you more time and you will have to pay your proofreader of course but that is the price you pay for this.... You will learn a lot from translating the other way (I do!).


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ntext  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 15:28
German to English
+ ...
Icelandic? Uhm ... Björk is cool ... May 21, 2004

Ailish Maher wrote:
Why have they offered you the job and not a native speaker?


The fact that it is probably next to impossible to find native English speakers with a thorough understanding of the lovely Icelandic language may have something to do with it. (Just try to find one ProZ.)


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Narasimhan Raghavan  Identity Verified
Local time: 01:58
English to Tamil
+ ...
My answer is valid for the circumstances described below May 21, 2004

As I have written elsewhere, it is good that I was not aware of the ethics of translating away from the native language, when I started my career way back in 1975.

I just went ahead and did it, when in 1981, I became a full-time French translator drawing a monthly salary in a pharmaceutical company. Try telling the employer all these considerations. You will be out within no time. So I translated technical specifications from Indian English into French for the Algerian client. And I am happy to report that not one page of translation came back due to it being unclear to the Algerians. On the other hand, there were technical queries about the services provided by my company, which were translated from French into English and the clarifications translated from Indian English into French. I stayed in the job for 12 years and then took voluntary retirement, but then that is a different story.

So, my posting is based on my experience. For technical translations it is more important to translate the technical literature correctly than worry about the language style. For that matter even the original English leaves much to be desired, in that it is influenced by the writer's mother tongue, say Hindi or Tamil (my mother tongue) or any other Indian language. For translating such documents it suffices to have a good command over the target language. I am sure, a native Frenchman will not fully understand Indian English in the first place. So by virtue of supply and demand consideration, we end up translating away from English.

Another consideration is that of cost. An Indian translator being paid in rupees costs much less than a native translator, who has to be paid in foreign currency.

Given the above circumstances, I charge more for translating away from English. I translate into French and German.

But I will not touch literary translations. To me it is reserved for the native translators. Anyhow, I don't see any European agencies asking us to translate Harry Potter into French. Here too there is another aspect to be seen. For translating from Tamil into French, I do not see any Frenchmen capable of doing it because of the cultural shock. Here people like us will be more useful. In fact, a Tamil short story was rendered beautifully into German by a Tamilian and this story was included in an Anthology of short stories from all over the world. (Die Welt erzählt, "Die drei Mahlzeiten der Bettlerin Subbhalakshmi" von Akilan, translated from Tamil into German by R.Desikan, at that time the Administrative Officer of the Goethe Institut at Chennai, India. His German had a melodious ring and he was a very good actor, who interpreted the role of the Doctor in "Andorra". Alas, he is no more).

As for getting the French translation vetted by a French native writer, my stand will be to let the client have it done and to pay for the privilege. My increased charge is solely due to the higher difficulty level and the more time it takes for me to do the job. I charge 25% to 30% extra.

Regards,
N.Raghavan


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 22:28
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
Charge more May 22, 2004

JoGunn wrote:
Now I'm wondering how to charge for the job: do I charge less than for a translation into Icelandic because English is not my native language, or do I charge more because it is more difficult to translate into a non-native language?


Charge more. Your rate should be consistent with the time it takes to complete a good translation. Even if the quality of the translation will be less, charge more. The client is free to go elsewhere.


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Özden Arıkan  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 22:28
Member
English to Turkish
Charge twice as more May 22, 2004

In my language pair where it is again next to impossible to find a language professional whose mother-tongue is English and who has a professional command and competence of Turkish, the market rates for the Turkish>English direction are approximately twice as more than for the other way around.

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JoGunn
Local time: 20:28
English to Icelandic
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks for the advice May 23, 2004

There are some very good points here that I will have to think about before I decide what to do. Getting a native speaker to review the translation is a good idea.

The guy who's asking me to do this is my former employer who probably thinks I will do it cheaply because I used to work for him


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