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Ability as a factor in determining rates
Thread poster: Kristel Kiesel

Kristel Kiesel  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 00:07
Italian to English
+ ...
Jan 24, 2007

Dear colleagues,

For those of you who work with multiple languages in your translation business, do you charge more for languages in which you have more experience and less for those in which you feel less confident?

Also, this may have been treated in these forums before, but what is the minimum level of confidence you feel a translator ought to have in their source language before they begin to take on translation jobs into their native language?


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Fiona Grace Peterson  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 06:07
Member
Italian to English
Experience and confidence two different things Jan 24, 2007

I feel that experience and confidence are two different things. If someone is not confident in their translation abilities then I do not think they should be translating. You should have a rate for each language pair which hopefully earns you a decent wage as a translator without undercutting your colleagues. It is normal practice to charge higher rates for very technical and specialist fields such as law or medicine, but this should not be confused with charging low rates at the other end because you are not confident in your abilities; this sends the wrong message to the customer. If you have the skills then they are worth paying for.

I am not sure how you quantify confidence! But as a translator you should be able to turn out a text that is faithful to the original in style, meaning and register.


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Tim Drayton  Identity Verified
Cyprus
Local time: 07:07
Turkish to English
+ ...
Prevailing market conditions determine rates Jan 24, 2007

I used to work in two pairs but have now specialised in one (which I feel to be my strongest). When I was working in two pairs I felt that it was the market conditions in the specialised segment (finance/legal) in which I worked within that language pair that determined rates, rather than my ability. In fact, since for a long time there was a lot of demand for translations in the pair that I felt weaker in, I was actually generally speaking able to command higher rates than I could in the pair in which I really feel expert and in which I am accredited by the Institute of Linguists. This situation has reversed over the past year or two, thanks to a massive increase in demand in my preferred pair, so that I can now concentrate on the language I know best.

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Victor Dewsbery  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 06:07
German to English
+ ...
Source language confidence level Jan 24, 2007

I think it is important to have a VERY high level of confidence in your source (foreign) language, so that you would understand tricky sentences BETTER than the average native speaker, at least in your special subject areas.
It is ideal if you can also WRITE better than the average native speaker.
If you are not that confident in a language, it is better not to offer it on a professional basis. No dictionary in the world can bridge the gap if you do not have a complete command of such issues as sentence structure, idiomatic use, rhetoric devices etc. (at least to a standard that enables you to understand them fully).
And of course you need excellent writing skills in your target (native) language.

[Edited at 2007-01-24 13:21]


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Luisa Ramos, CT  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 00:07
Member (2004)
English to Spanish
That sums it up, Victor Jan 24, 2007

N/C

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Kristel Kiesel  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 00:07
Italian to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Professional translation as a vehicle for improvement Jan 24, 2007

Fiona Peterson wrote:

I feel that experience and confidence are two different things. If someone is not confident in their translation abilities then I do not think they should be translating.



Hmm, so do you think it's a bad idea to use professional translation as a vehicle to improve your language skills? I feel certain your answer would depend on how good a person's language skills are to start with.

In my particular case, my translation habits are based on years of Latin and Greek study. I'm looking to gain experience in one or two other Latin-based languages besides Italian, and I'm wondering how and at what point I can reasonably begin to offer my services as a translator in those languages.

Victor's suggestions certainly sound practical and ideal, but is it totally unreasonable to offer translation services if you are knowledgeable, but not expert?

--Kristie


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Victor Dewsbery  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 06:07
German to English
+ ...
What sort of job do you expect? Jan 24, 2007

Kristel Kiesel wrote:
Victor's suggestions certainly sound practical and ideal, but is it totally unreasonable to offer translation services if you are knowledgeable, but not expert?


If you offer professional translation services, you must expect clients to come to you with texts that are too difficult for them to handle. You should not expect easy texts that you can crack with a basic grasp of the language and a battery of dictionaries.

In practical terms in my case: I did several years of French at school and university, and I still have a reasonable level of reading comprehension (even though my French has had several decades to go rusty). But I know that my French is not good enough to offer for professional purposes.


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xxxMarc P  Identity Verified
Local time: 06:07
German to English
+ ...
Ability as a factor in determining rates Jan 24, 2007

Kristel Kiesel wrote:

...what is the minimum level of confidence you feel a translator ought to have in their source language...?


Confidence that they can do a satisfactory job. Because that is what the customer is assuming, in good faith, that he or she is being charged for.

Marc


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Fiona Grace Peterson  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 06:07
Member
Italian to English
Agree with Victor Jan 24, 2007

Kristel Kiesel wrote:
Hmm, so do you think it's a bad idea to use professional translation as a vehicle to improve your language skills?


Of course everyone has to start somewhere, and your language skills and knowledge of different subject areas improve as your translation career progresses. As Marc says, you need to be confident you can do a satisfactory job. But I feel that offering professional translation services as a way of bringing sub-standard language skills up to scratch is unprofessional. But if you posted this question as a way of gaining reassurance about the level of your own skills, I am sure that you can gauge your own capabilities if you analyse your own work closely, or ask the advice of a colleague.

[Edited at 2007-01-24 15:20]


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Andrea Riffo  Identity Verified
Chile
Local time: 02:07
English to Spanish
My 0.02 Jan 24, 2007



Kristel Kiesel wrote:

Hmm, so do you think it's a bad idea to use professional translation as a vehicle to improve your language skills?



I have to say yes. Like Victor said, in professional translation it is highly likely that you will get tricky texts that require full grasp of the source language and on sensitive subjects that leave no room for guessing and/or learning on the spot.

When I was interviewed for admission to my university's Translation program, one of the questions was "why do you want to study translation?". An acquaintance of mine replied "to perfect my English" and was rejected. University courses, tandems, private lessons, reading in your source language... all of these are vehicles to improve one's source language. Taking up translation at a professional level is not (it's actually an oxymoron).

What you can, should and, with the proper guidance, will improve with professional translation is your knowledge of a couple of specific disciplines or fields as you find yourself translating more and more on a specific subject.

Greetings!


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Patricia Rosas  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 22:07
Spanish to English
+ ...
Paid for practicing? Jan 24, 2007

Kristel Kiesel wrote:
my translation habits are based on years of Latin and Greek study. I'm looking to gain experience in one or two other Latin-based languages besides Italian, and I'm wondering how and at what point I can reasonably begin to offer my services as a translator in those languages.
--Kristie


I suppose that I got some "paid practice" when I first started translating years ago, but in retrospect, I am ashamed of myself.

My situation was very specific: I worked with a research group with a publishing program where EVERYONE was bilingual in my language pair, so my errors were caught by the authors and editor, and I was paid very little. I didn't know what I was doing, but they did (and they saved me from myself).

There are 3 opinions I hold that I want to stress:

Translation is a profession and you have no business charging if you can't produce an accurate translation that reads well.

Knowing a language requires much more than just knowing the possible translations for a given word. Cultural context counts. There are dozens of dialects of Spanish, example. A strong background in Latin is wonderful, but it isn't going to help you figure out current slang. You really need to live for a time in the country whose language you want to translate.

You need to specialize in one or more fields (a good legal translator does not make a good medical translator). Without a solid grounding in the terminology of your fields of specialization, you won't be able to produce a good translation.

These are my OPINIONS, but I really believe that if you need practice, you should do it on your own time.


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Kristel Kiesel  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 00:07
Italian to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Looking for perspective Jan 24, 2007

Fiona Peterson wrote:

...if you posted this question as a way of gaining reassurance about the level of your own skills, I am sure that you can gauge your own capabilities if you analyse your own work closely, or ask the advice of a colleague.

[Edited at 2007-01-24 15:20]


I suppose I was looking for affirmation that my skills in certain languages, though minimal, might still be useful. But what I really wanted was a healthy dose of realism and a good sense of perspective. All of these responses are tremendously helpful and will certainly keep me from making outrageous claims about my abilities.

Thank you all for your advice,

Kristie


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Williamson  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 05:07
Flemish to English
+ ...
Learning by doing Jan 25, 2007

One of my acquaintances graduated as a civil engineer in computers. The program he had to learn was Modula 2. A programming language nobody uses anymore. Like many young graduates he went into the corporate world and started programming tv-sets at Philips at the usual low employee salary.
Then he went to Canada and the US for a while, where he must have picked up the idea to become a freelance programmer. To get into IT he started giving Windows 95 lectures for nothing. After that, he taught Office95, first word, then excel and then access. Not for free anymore but at 200 euro per day going up to 400.
Wait a minute, Access is database which you can program according to the customers specifications. So he bought a book of VBA and got a few short time assignments, where he learnt VBA. Through an outsourcing agency, he got an assignment at a major bank. After doing away with the middle man and paying damages for that, he directly worked at the bank, programming a currency-risk programme database. This was a three years assignment at about 500 euro per day. He has been hopping from bank to bank for the last 10 years, offering his I.T. services at the aforementioned rate.
Why this story, well, most of your colleagues will not agree with that method.
If you know a Latin language sufficiently to understand its subtleties, why not start out translating. How many did not start that way? At a given moment in time, you have to make you first translation and increase your language register. Learning by doing. If you do not start, you will not learn.
With regard to interpreting, I agree that you must be booth-ready. Otherwise, you fall flat on your face.


[Edited at 2007-01-25 09:14]


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Angela Dickson  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 05:07
French to English
+ ...
Learning by doing Jan 25, 2007

If you know a Latin language sufficiently to understand its subtleties, why not start out translating. How many did not start that way? At a given moment in time, you have to make you first translation and increase your language register. Learning by doing. If you do not start, you will not learn.


Translating (in either direction) is an excellent way to improve one's language skills. And only by translating a lot can one translate better.

But isn't it obvious that unleashing one's skills on paying customers before attaining a certain level is a very different matter? As Marc says, the customer should be able to assume that he/she is receiving a certain level of service for the money.


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