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rate for translating Chinese non-fiction book from Ming dynasty
Thread poster: Mi Ling Tsui
Mi Ling Tsui  Identity Verified
Local time: 00:12
English to Chinese
+ ...
Mar 4, 2006

Dear colleagues:

I’m considering taking on a large volume project translating a non-fiction Chinese book from the Ming dynasty into English. Aside from the language – which is in my mind the equivalent of Chaucerian English -- the original text includes many specialized terms for foodstuff, vessels, and measurements, etc. So, it will be difficult translation. I’ve never done a project of this size -- in the hundreds of thousands of Chinese characters – and would be grateful for any advice on the following questions/issues:

1) Should I charge by the source or target word?
2) Based on my experience, 1000 Chinese characters in contemporary text roughly equal 580 translated English words -- is this an accurate ratio?
3) What would the ratio be if the source is a Ming text (presumably denser, which will translate into more English words)?
4) What percentage would you add onto the rate per estimated word/character for the higher degree of difficulty?
5) And then, what percent should one discount from that rate to reflect the economy of scale in such a large project?
6) In the event that royalty will be part of the compensation (let’s say 5%), how much should one discount from the rate per word/character?

Many thanks.

Mi Ling Tsui

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United Kingdom
Local time: 05:12
English to Chinese
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wordcount for ancient Chinese Mar 6, 2006

I think you'll have to discuss with your outsourcer/publisher about wordcount/specific rate, as it's very hard to make assessment without acturally seeing the book.

But just for your reference, I think it's better to

1) charge by the source word,

so that the outsourcer/publisher won't get annoyed if you put a lot of 'translator's notes' within the book;

2) convertion ratio: when I did a piece from Tang dynasty, I used a ratio of 1.8 (1 ancient Chinese character=1.8 English words). But for a book in Ming Dynasty, the ratio should be lower.

3) Double your normal rate for difficult ancient piece, as long as your outsourcer can endure.

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