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Professional and unprofessional business practice the bigger picture
Thread poster: Bernhard Sulzer

Bernhard Sulzer  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 16:53
English to German
+ ...
Jan 25, 2014

Opinion:

I don't think it is good/professional business practice to offer a translation project to and expect it to be done by a professional translator for USD .04/source word (not just in my language pair but in any language pair), for example in the medical field, say about 4500 words. No! Far from a professional price, for certain!! Then to expect it to be done over the weekend, within 2 days, is an added minus. I'd say added hilarity if it weren't that sad.

I don't think it shows good/professional business practice to accept such a job and deliver a high-quality product.
I further believe it is most likely impossible to expect this translation to be a professional translation.

The bigger issue/picture:

is the chain of events most likely going on here. The end client uses the services of a translation agency that uses/gives the job to another agency, most likely in a country whose official language(s) are neither the source nor the target language of the project, and that agency then turns to a translator portal and does get a translator for above-mentioned rate.

Granted, maybe the end client is looking already for cheap solutions and goes to agencies that will offer such services wherever they are located - such agencies appear anywhere these days.

The sad part about this is that it happens and continues to happen. As you can easily verify for yourself. But it doesn't have to happen.

It's not professional, in my opinion, to offer/accept such jobs and claim to be following professional practices/guidelines; it has been and is hurting the industry as a whole but, most importantly, in the case of the translators who accept such jobs, it is hurtful to them - in my opinion!! You can't make a decent living working for such rates. You will see. There have been other forum posts that show how much you would have to earn to make a decent living in your language pairs and in the country in which you live - it being the country of your source or target language(s). It's simple math.

Unfortunately, many might not be aware of it and that's why I keep talking about it. Why should a translator work crazily to submit a professional product for which he/she receives unprofessional pay and eventually runs out of money - and others who didn't do the actual translation make much more money from that project - for doing absolutely nothing - aside from writing and receiving a few emails?

Just be smart is my advice to anyone who accepts such unprofessional offers. And my advice
to the end client: better check who you are working with and buying from - good translations are not items on a shelf at a translation discount store/portal. That will never happen.

And if you call yourself a professional, please act professionally! In my opinion, low rates offered or accepted do not show professionalism and whoever offers/works for such rates shouldn't really be claiming to follow/believed to be following professional business practices/guidelines.



B

[Edited at 2014-01-25 18:46 GMT]


 

Meriem Bouda  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 21:53
Arabic to English
+ ...
Totally agree with you Jan 25, 2014

I have been contacted by agencies and been offered rates as low as $0.05 a word. This is just ridiculous. I wonder how these people expect quality translations at such low rates. I am based in the UK, if I work at this rate, I would simply go hungry!

 

Peter Simon  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 22:53
Member (2013)
English to Hungarian
+ ...
Agree, but ... Jan 25, 2014

Dear Bernhard,

I have to draw your attention to the fact that in this world (and we know of no other), everything depends. If one happens to have relocated to Thailand, for example, he could afford to accept a task at $1.5 per 500 words because there he would be making enough money on that. In South-Asia, and in most of East-Europe, $2 for 100 words is an outstanding opportunity for people. Let's not forget that lots of native English people have taken over jobs in those areas and if there's a greater need, highly trained speakers of other languages are also taken on board (I also worked in China and was happy to receive the same pay for a bit less work than in my own country because the levels of costs of living were way below).

If end-users from such countries put up a job, they only expect 'translators' from that area to work for them. We simply can't get on the most booming part of the market with W-European levels of costs. And because more and more W-Europeans are slim enough to relocate to low-cost countries, those of us here are a losing race.

Besides, the spread of machine translation also works to the hands of those 'experts' - I'm using the 's because I believe that most of the work on the market is not yet done by ex-pat native E or German people. Most of the work may be done by Bangladeshis or Sri Lankans using free GoogleTranslate, and with some languages, it almost works. With others, the end-user may not care.

To what extent this practice is prevalent with end-users and agencies, one example. I've applied to an ad which stated that preference will go for the most experienced translator even with higher costs. After the contract was made, one on the site could easily make out that it actually went to a student of E who offered by far the lowest price. Despite the conditions given before.

Such is the state of affairs. So i have to admit I'm happy to have regular work for a relatively low rate, so that I at least have something, because at higher rates I can get about one 500-word project per month. But, of course, that also depends on your language pair - in my case, there are 2 or 3 such small projects a month. For bigger languages, probably a hundred times more.

[Edited at 2014-01-25 21:01 GMT]


 

Orrin Cummins  Identity Verified
Japan
Local time: 05:53
Japanese to English
+ ...
Can't be the whole story though Jan 25, 2014

Peter Simon wrote:

I have to draw your attention to the fact that in this world (and we know of no other), everything depends. If one happens to have relocated to Thailand, for example, he could afford to accept a task at $1.5 per 500 words because there he would be making enough money on that. In South-Asia, and in most of East-Europe, $2 for 100 words is an outstanding opportunity for people. Let's not forget that lots of native English people have taken over jobs in those areas and if there's a greater need, highly trained speakers of other languages are also taken on board (I also worked in China and was happy to receive the same pay for a bit less work than in my own country because the levels of costs of living were way below).

If end-users from such countries put up a job, they only expect 'translators' from that area to work for them. We simply can't get on the most booming part of the market with W-European levels of costs. And because more and more W-Europeans are slim enough to relocate to low-cost countries, those of us here are a losing race.


You make some very valid points, Peter, but that doesn't explain why many agencies based in countries with high costs of living are currently paying extremely low rates per word for translations. I have done some work for a major Japanese technology company (I can't name it but believe me it's as big as they come) - guess what the rate was? About USD 0.4 per character...for 0-50% matches. Higher matches paid less...down to almost 1 cent per character.

Another Japanese agency that I used to work for didn't pay per character, but by the job. If you calculated what the rates were per character, though, it often fell below 1 cent, or at the most, 2 cents per character. I'm talking about prices like USD 80 for 35 pages of text.

These jobs were mostly aimed toward Japanese natives or English natives. As far as I know, there isn't any country in the world using Japanese or English as an official, daily language where one could survive as a translator working for these rates. Maybe if you lived in a tent next to a Starbucks and leeched Wifi, living on Poptarts and water fountains, it might be possible.

So the question is: are agencies and clients looking at the lowest rates found anywhere in the world then illogically applying them in a blanket fashion to all translators? This seems possible. Someone else recently mentioned the "hobbyist" translators, people who really don't need the money at all but rather are bored or just want to practice their secondary language(s) - I feel that this group may have a significant impact on rates as well. How do you compete on price with someone who doesn't care how much they get paid? Oh, you have to compete on quality, you say? Good luck! Hopefully you will be fortunate enough to get jobs with end clients who actually read the target language at a sufficient level to discern quality at all. If no one on the receiving end can tell the difference in quality between your professional translation and Google Translate output that some first-year student polished up, I don't see how you can compete on the quality front.

In those cases, it seems to me that the only way to compete would be to separate yourself from the pack further by offering other services that might be needed - things like desktop publishing, audio transcription, graphic design, etc. These things cannot be "faked" with GT, and they are apparently often needed in the translation world. Diversification might be the only way to survive in this industry in the coming years, at least in all but the most specialized subject areas.


 

Mark Benson (X)  Identity Verified

English to Swedish
+ ...
Thanks for a good topic! Jan 26, 2014

Dear Bernhard,

"I don't think it is good/professional business practice to offer a translation project to and expect it to be done by a professional translator for USD .04/source word (not just in my language pair but in any language pair), for example in the medical field, say about 4500 words. No! Far from a professional price, for certain!! Then to expect it to be done over the weekend, within 2 days, is an added minus. I'd say added hilarity if it weren't that sad."

In my view '0.04' is, has always been, and will always be to be regarded as an 'unprofessional' rate and nothing else. Actually talking about the good old 0.04 (and its likes) in terms of an 'unprofessional rate' seems both desirable and elegant. As long as we maintain that it's unprofessional on behalf of those offering to pay it!

This is my opinion when it comes to the market for Swedish translations, and it extends to most of the Western languages. On some markets, I understand that this rate might be equivalent to our normal rates, but I have no first hand experience or knowledge about this.

"I don't think it shows good/professional business practice to accept such a job and deliver a high-quality product.
I further believe it is most likely impossible to expect this translation to be a professional translation."

I have accepted that I will at some point be willing to accept this. But not without reservations!

1) There's a huge number of translators who both accept this rate and should be regarded as professional.

2) Depending on what your standard rate is, even some translators based in the West might drop to this rate to make ends meet, or even freely choose to do so with their time, for some projects. I see no grounds to consider this unprofessional.

3) I don't agree with the formulation 'accept and deliver high-quality.' To be brief, I don't think that we can talk about deliberately doing a bad job due to the rate paid. I'm also skeptical about what the word 'quality' is supposed to stand for many times when talking about a translation. Whatever it is, I don't believe that it's something you would want to try to control and change from one project to another without maintaining it 'high.'

4) I categorize these projects as fairly easy to get for an established professional, and at all possible to get for someone who is less experienced. None of these categories exclude professionalism.

I feel the same way about professionalism as I do about quality, in that I don't really think it's something you can sort of tune, as the volume on a radio.

I'm also of the opinion that it's the buyer's responsibility to get good quality, unless otherwise has been stipulated beforehand in an agreement (e.g. what grounds would be acceptable to 'refuse' a translation.)

"The bigger issue/picture:

is the chain of events most likely going on here. The end client uses the services of a translation agency that uses/gives the job to another agency, most likely in a country whose official language(s) are neither the source nor the target language of the project, and that agency then turns to a translator portal and does get a translator for above-mentioned rate."

The most common translation project is probably conceived when a company decides to bring themselves and their products to a foreign market. Our professional codes do not apply here. They might not even be entering the room most of the time. And that's unfortunate. For those who are entering the market.

I would categorize any translation buyer (and I have been one myself, for personal use and at highest possible rate, for the record) into one of two categories. Those who care, and those who don't.

Not everybody understands the importance of translation. Not everybody is willing to. The client might think that translation is something trivial, or stupid, or whatnot, that just has to be gotten over and done with already. Rather than looking at what translation is and why it matters, it's too much 'I need it, I want it good, and I don't want to be paying too much.'

I'll end with a reflection. While 'marketing' is very important, it's also important to know what it is you're marketing. I think this is the determining factor when it comes to the higher rates.

I have known translators who have probably been more active than I in their years, and are still stuck at lower rates than those I get. Still, I know translators whose translations I can look at and have to wonder what the big deal is (considering that I know they're making 2 - 3 times my rate.)

Ok, last thing: The idea of ending low rates by not accepting them will in my view lead nowhere. You will be doing yourself a favor by dropping this idea, but I must emphasis that this is merely the way it's looking from my perspective.

I think that this whole 'ending low rates' thing is mainly a legal matter, where it's a question of whether translators comply with their local systems in terms of tax payment etc. In the language pairs where this is even an issue, such as mine.

Otherwise, I hope you don't mind if I share with you this silly little clip! I almost always come to think of the first 15 or so seconds of this when I hear suggestions to 'block low rates' and this kind of stuff: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZPQpsipHKU8

So that is my advice, if I may: Work on your own rates, and don't worry about those of others! The former will eventually get you where you want to go, and maybe others too, while the latter can only ever be counter-productive. I have more than tripled my rates over 10 years, and I'm looking to double in the next 10, or to prepare to set something up to complement with at that point if it can't happen.

"And if you call yourself a professional, please act professionally! In my opinion, low rates offered or accepted do not show professionalism and whoever offers/works for such rates shouldn't really be claiming to follow/believed to be following professional business practices/guidelines."

It's frustrating for me, because I absolutely agree with what I know you are saying, but I do get a little bit caught up in the whole discussion around it. What you just said there is doubtlessly true. If I put it in my own terms, I believe it's part of professional ethics to consider yourself as part of a greater whole and to act accordingly in every possible way.

Pay attention to those who are older, who've been around longer, who know more and who are more experienced. Also know that others will regard you in the same way, and seek the same answers you once sought from others, from you.

To stand for a low and (if we can now start using this term, I don't know) unprofessional rates when others are looking at your profile and wondering what might be ahead - is not only deplorable, it's depressing.

I have pointed out in the past that the community rate generator for Swedish is probably on the low side, and we have talked about why it might not be accurate at great length. However, I think we need to point to the community rates when 0.04 comes up. That's one of its most important uses. Otherwise people will be scared away, or simply (Swedes) wonder what it is that's really going on...

However, it's totally clear that translators work their way up, and I'm worried that the flourishing of Translation Science as an academic subject is driving up expectations. Translation Studies is just one of many ways of approaching a life in freelance translation. If you approach it from the bottom, or some other way of breaking in - I believe this is part of what will define your 'journey.' But it's not easy, it's a lot of hard work, and the rates for your first projects might not allow you independence of other sources of income or means of sustentation right away.

Thanks for another good topic, and hope you enjoyed my thoughts!
/Mark

[Edited at 2014-01-26 00:07 GMT]

[Edited at 2014-01-26 00:18 GMT]


 

Bernhard Sulzer  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 16:53
English to German
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Cheap is not professional IMO not anywhere Jan 26, 2014

Peter Simon wrote:

Dear Bernhard,

I have to draw your attention to the fact that in this world (and we know of no other), everything depends. If one happens to have relocated to Thailand, for example, he could afford to accept a task at $1.5 per 500 words because there he would be making enough money on that.



1) Enough money on that to earn what and to live how?
2) $1.5 (USD?!)/500 words = 0.003/word!
Please check the rates reported on Proz.com - and these are not high rates:
German that they will find someone who is either from a German- or from an English-speaking country who now lives in China or India and moved there because he can now charge USD .02/- 0.04/word and have a nice life. There must be tons of these people judging from the job offers out there.
I would venture to say that hardly any of the professional translators in my language pairs lives in either India or China.
No, what I believe is much more likely is that some not-so-professionals undercut the professionals (no matter where they live) because they don't know any better.

Peter Simon wrote:
And because more and more W-Europeans are slim enough to relocate to low-cost countries, those of us here are a losing race.

Believe me, no weight loss, not even 60 pounds, will make me want to move there. I rather do something else than translating then.

Peter Simon wrote:
Besides, the spread of machine translation also works to the hands of those 'experts' - I'm using the 's because I believe that most of the work on the market is not yet done by ex-pat native E or German people. Most of the work may be done by Bangladeshis or Sri Lankans using free GoogleTranslate, and with some languages, it almost works. With others, the end-user may not care.

Yes, I am sure this scheme has been tried (non-source or target speakers, Google Translate). But that's not professional. It doesn't even "almost" work. You would or will have to put in considerable editing work to "make it work." Editing work by someone who actually is a professional in these languages.
Well, you don't know if the end user/end client cares or not if you are working for a cheap agency. You'll find out when the agency refuses to pay because the result was unprofessional and the end client or end user DID care.
But that's a little bit beside the point.
A professional will make sure that his/her client, be it an agency or a direct client, knows that the work is of high-quality. Nothing else would ever be reason enough to call oneself a professional or to claim to be abiding by best practices/professional practices.

Peter Simon wrote:

To what extent this practice is prevalent with end users and agencies, one example. I've applied to an ad which stated that preference will go for the most experienced translator even with higher costs. After the contract was made, one on the site could easily make out that it actually went to a student of E who offered by far the lowest price. Despite the conditions given before.

The practice is prevalent by cheap agencies and is endorsed by people who believe they have to accept this or that there are no projects or other jobs (in general) out there.

Peter Simon wrote:
Such is the state of affairs. So i have to admit I'm happy to have regular work for a relatively low rate, so that I at least have something, because at higher rates I can get about one 500-word project per month. But, of course, that also depends on your language pair - in my case, there are 2 or 3 such small projects a month. For bigger languages, probably a hundred times more.


The state of affairs is that there are way too many people accepting low-paying translation projects. It will work itself out eventually, and some of the professionals have found their niches or work additional jobs or have (for now) left the profession.
I would not give in to ever-lower rates. It's not professional. Why would I want to belong to a profession where none of the quality I can provide is adequately compensated? You think a lawyer will work for peanuts?

Instead of defending this sorry state of affairs, I would at least expect everyone to find ways to make the money they deserve. As you said at the outset -

"I have to draw your attention to the fact that in this world (and we know of no other), everything depends."

I agree, everything depends on many factors. But I would urge everyone to take a close look at what you're worth. This world of ours is also very connected in the internet age. Our profession is a global profession - professional work has to have professional merit, anywhere. Just because some cheap translation agency wants quality for cheap doesn't mean that that's what I have to do - sell myself cheap.

B

[Edited at 2014-01-26 00:28 GMT]

NB: no offense intended, Peter. Feel free to add your thoughts.

[Edited at 2014-01-26 02:34 GMT]
edited for typo

[Edited at 2014-01-26 16:38 GMT]


 

Mark Benson (X)  Identity Verified

English to Swedish
+ ...
I know you addressed it to Bernhard, but Jan 26, 2014

[quote]Peter Simon wrote:

Dear Bernhard,

I have to draw your attention to the fact that in this world (and we know of no other), everything depends. If one happens to have relocated to Thailand, for example, he could afford to accept a task at $1.5 per 500 words because there he would be making enough money on that. In South-Asia, and in most of East-Europe, $2 for 100 words is an outstanding opportunity for people.

There's a difference between moving to a country and being born in one. I think moving abroad seems like a drastic strategy in order to compete for low rates. But that's quite an insignificant part of the things I find questionable about such a strategy.

If end-users from such countries put up a job, they only expect 'translators' from that area to work for them. We simply can't get on the most booming part of the market with W-European levels of costs. And because more and more W-Europeans are slim enough to relocate to low-cost countries, those of us here are a losing race.


Please specify if you're referring to Western European individuals, professionals or companies!

I think it's much more common for Swedish translators to relocate where they want to live, and that's at a point where they're professional life (and rates) are fairly secured.

I believe that the fraction of Swedes who would be able, or even willing, to relocate only in order to get to a cost level that they could afford while accepting low rates as translators... I believe that it's highly unlikely that any such Swedish translators will ever exist.

Besides, the spread of machine translation also works to the hands of those 'experts' - I'm using the 's because I believe that most of the work on the market is not yet done by ex-pat native E or German people. Most of the work may be done by Bangladeshis or Sri Lankans using free GoogleTranslate, and with some languages, it almost works. With others, the end-user may not care.


I don't see any reason to believe that such work will ever be done by native English or German people. I would be curious to find out what it is that makes you imagine such scenarios.

To what extent this practice is prevalent with end-users and agencies, one example. I've applied to an ad which stated that preference will go for the most experienced translator even with higher costs. After the contract was made, one on the site could easily make out that it actually went to a student of E who offered by far the lowest price. Despite the conditions given before.

Such is the state of affairs. So i have to admit I'm happy to have regular work for a relatively low rate, so that I at least have something, because at higher rates I can get about one 500-word project per month. But, of course, that also depends on your language pair - in my case, there are 2 or 3 such small projects a month. For bigger languages, probably a hundred times more.

[Edited at 2014-01-25 21:01 GMT]


You mean that the statement that they were looking for the most experienced translator was just for show? Who would be interested? I mean, what is the most this could lead to?

I believe that it's better to establish regular work at a relatively high rate, and then think about what you might want to do with the rest of your time. It's a widespread 'truth' among translators that it's better to spend your time developing skills etc. to market, or marketing skills otherwise, than it is to work at a low rate.


 

Mark Benson (X)  Identity Verified

English to Swedish
+ ...
Even Japan! Jan 26, 2014

[quote]Orrin Cummins wrote:

Peter Simon wrote:

I have to draw your attention to the fact that in this world (and we know of no other), everything depends. If one happens to have relocated to Thailand, for example, he could afford to accept a task at $1.5 per 500 words because there he would be making enough money on that. In South-Asia, and in most of East-Europe, $2 for 100 words is an outstanding opportunity for people. Let's not forget that lots of native English people have taken over jobs in those areas and if there's a greater need, highly trained speakers of other languages are also taken on board (I also worked in China and was happy to receive the same pay for a bit less work than in my own country because the levels of costs of living were way below).


Orrin, it's interesting that you mention Japan. I was involved in a project where the end-client was Japanese. I received a translation that was by far the poorest (or richest, for howlers, incidentally) I had ever imagined possible. I mean, where I personally couldn't understand how the translation had originated given that it obviously hadn't been made neither by a translator, nor by MT (at least not alone).

So I re-did the job. The rate was not the lowest perhaps, but we're still talking about a low-end range.

This goes to show both that even a company that's successfully selling an IT related product that only few people will understand the first thing about considers translation to be a bottom priority. How strange...

What isn't strange, on the other hand, is that this company will not be willing to pay much for the translations they need!

[Edited at 2014-01-26 02:27 GMT]


 

Bernhard Sulzer  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 16:53
English to German
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
No bananas, please Jan 26, 2014

Thanks for your thoughts Mark.

This gives me a chance to clarify a few points:



Mark Benson wrote:

Bernhard Sulzer wrote:

"I don't think it shows good/professional business practice to accept such a job and deliver a high-quality product.
I further believe it is most likely impossible to expect this translation to be a professional translation."


I have accepted that I will at some point be willing to accept this. But not without reservations!

1) There's a huge number of translators who both accept this rate and should be regarded as professional.

2) Depending on what your standard rate is, even some translators based in the West might drop to this rate to make ends meet, or even freely choose to do so with their time, for some projects. I see no grounds to consider this unprofessional.

3) I don't agree with the formulation 'accept and deliver high-quality.' To be brief, I don't think that we can talk about deliberately doing a bad job due to the rate paid. I'm also skeptical about what the word 'quality' is supposed to stand for many times when talking about a translation. Whatever it is, I don't believe that it's something you would want to try to control and change from one project to another without maintaining it 'high.'


Re: 1) Yes, so it seems. Question is why? Because they can't find better-paying translation jobs or jobs in general? Or because they don't know better?!

Re: 2) Question: is that what it comes down to for a professional translator - to make ends meet (and is this a good goal - making ends meet)? Judging by the large number of cheap jobs offered and translators accepting these jobs, it seems many really must believe that's the only way to make ends meet. Why not find another profession in which one can earn more than just make ends meet? Don't get me wrong, I know many people struggle to make ends meet. But it shouldn't be because they let themselves be exploited over and over again.

Re: 3) I see how my statement isn't worded too well. What I meant is I don't think it shows good/professional business practice if someone accepts incredibly low rates for the quality work they are doubtlessly willing to provide AND, since they accepted the rate, are most likely expected to provide - unless there was an agreement first that for this low rate, no good quality will be provided. None of this is professional, of course.

Accepting a job at any rate would mean to me that I will give it my best. So why do that for unprofessional rates? That was the issue I was trying to raise. Therefore, I would never accept such rates in the first place and if my livelihood would depend on it.

Mark Benson wrote:

The idea of ending low rates by not accepting them will in my view lead nowhere. You will be doing yourself a favor by dropping this idea, but I must emphasis that this is merely the way it's looking from my perspective.


I would advise every translator who is capable of providing great work = every professional translator - not to accept these rates - personally. I won't be able to stamp out the low rate market by myself and I can't but I might be able to contribute to it by sharing my thoughts. More importantly, talking about it might spare quite a few newbies or not-so-newbies continuous disappointments and/or personal hardships.

Mark Benson wrote:

So that is my advice, if I may: Work on your own rates, and don't worry about those of others! The former will eventually get you where you want to go, and maybe others too, while the latter can only ever be counter-productive. I have more than tripled my rates over 10 years, and I'm looking to double in the next 10, or to prepare to set something up to complement with at that point if it can't happen.


I think what I would take away from this advice of yours if I were a newbie is to work on my rates, yes, to try to work only for better rates or work something else for better pay, period. Indeed, monkeys we are not!

B

[Edited at 2014-01-26 01:12 GMT] - edited for typo



[Edited at 2014-01-26 23:46 GMT]


 

Mark Benson (X)  Identity Verified

English to Swedish
+ ...
Yes, we have no bananas, but good clarifications! Jan 26, 2014


Re: 1) Yes, so it seems. Question is why? Because they can't find better-paying translation jobs or jobs in general? Or because they don't know better?!


I honestly don't know, but my understanding is that the general income level and situation in these countries make the 0.04 proportional to a better rate, which would still be considered to be in the low range, for example in Sweden.

Re: 2) Question: do you really have to work as a translator when you just want to make ends meet? Judging by the large number of cheap jobs offered and translators accepting these jobs, it seems many really must believe that's the only way to make ends meet. Why not find another profession in which one can earn more than just make ends meet?


I don't want to speculate about your age, but I do believe that translation has become an industry much more than it probably ever was. I know too little about how it used to be say 50 years ago, but the value of general translation is dropping and that's due to the rise of an industry where translation can be 'mass produced' as it were.

'Making ends meet' is not why you go into translation. But it's not why you go into anything either. I think the old days where translators became translators because they saw an open door to a high income working from home are more or less going to be over after another generation has retired.

Re: 3) I see how my statement isn't worded too well. What I meant is I don't think it shows good/professional business practice if someone accepts incredibly low rates for the quality work they are doubtlessly willing to provide AND , since they accepted the rate, are most likely expected to provide - except there was an agreement first that for this low rate, no good quality will be provided. None of this is professional, of course.

Accepting a job at any rate would mean to me that I will give it my best. So why do that for unprofessional rates? That was the issue I was trying to raise. Therefore, I would never accept such rates in the first place and if my livelihood would depend on it.


Bernhard, I agree, but there is no single individual translator who can decide what a professional rate is, or vice versa.

"Do you make EUR 0.2 per word? No? Good, then you're not professional!"

I'm still young (at 30) and I'm not even sure that the 0.2 - 0.3 will still exist in another decade.

What I think is a professional rate is based on me, and not 'the profession.' It seems hard to get around this.

Mark:

The idea of ending low rates by not accepting them will in my view lead nowhere. You will be doing yourself a favor by dropping this idea, but I must emphasis that this is merely the way it's looking from my perspective.

Bernhard:

I would advise every translator who is capable of providing great work = every professional translator - not to accept these rates - personally. I am not out to stamp out the low rate market by myself and I can't but I might be able to contribute to it by sharing my thoughts. More importantly, talking about it might spare quite afew newbies some big disappointments.


In my opinion you will accomplish nothing. I think 'newbies' need input from matter of fact reality, rather than from what I consider to be idealism, tangential on politics.

Mark Benson wrote:

So that is my advice, if I may: Work on your own rates, and don't worry about those of others! The former will eventually get you where you want to go, and maybe others too, while the latter can only ever be counter-productive. I have more than tripled my rates over 10 years, and I'm looking to double in the next 10, or to prepare to set something up to complement with at that point if it can't happen.

Bernhard:

I think what I would take away from this advice of yours if I were a newbie is to work on my rates, yes, to try to work only for better rates or work something else for better pay, period. We are indeed not monkeys!

[Edited at 2014-01-26 01:01 GMT]


Right, that's what I'm saying. I don't limit this advice to newbies. We need to see more people focusing on obtaining the 0.2 - 0.3, otherwise this segment will disappear when another generation has retired.

And in general, I'm sorry to say this as I like you, I totally disagree with the effectiveness of this 'blockade' or what it's supposed to be. Like I said already...

Look at the copyrighting industry. What did they do when pirating started happening? And I think they've been successful, by and large. Keeping in mind that the world has to change, no matter how. If we can still discuss work related philosophy (rather than politics.)

I'm not suggesting that anybody gives up trying, but please - make concrete and useful suggestions that can be acted upon with a quantifiable result, other than loss of opportunity and income. Just because you, well-meaning as it may be, want to decide what others make, rather than focusing on your own business.

I might be just as wrong as I think you are, but I see legal actions, possibly through an association, to be an excellent way of stopping translators who can accept low rates because they evade taxes.

I think that the 0.04 rate in Sweden is only possible for people who won't earn more than EUR 800 in a year (exempt from tax.) That's mostly going to be kids, but to some extent young people who need to be informed about the practicalities of the translation world, information that's not widely available in updated form at this time (talking about Sweden still.)

On the other hand, I'm aware that there may be teachers, librarians and whatnot, who think that 0.04 x 10,000 = 400 = SEK 2,500 is a very tasty equation. And when these jobs keep coming in they might start smelling a nice vacation. These people have no excuse.

I'm definitely up for devoting some of my time to busting these bubbles - just let me know when we start!

But do not ever expect me to tell other translators what they should and shouldn't charge. That is, literally, not my business.

Yours/
Mark

[Edited at 2014-01-26 02:21 GMT]


 

Bernhard Sulzer  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 16:53
English to German
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Talking about it is good Jan 26, 2014

Mark Benson wrote:

But do not ever expect me to tell other translators what they should and shouldn't charge. That is, literally, not my business.


Yes, I can't tell them that. If they want to charge $.0.01/word, they can.
I can share my opinion though and give someone advice not to accept/charge/work for such amounts or I can let them know that I don't work for that and that I don't regard it as professional to work for such a rate. It's exploitation. IMO.
And I don't buy into the mass production argument and the ever lower rates. Eventually it will work itself out but the current situation isn't good for anyone.
I appreciate your thoughts - I believe we should be talking about it.
We don't have to agree on everything.

B

add-on: I forgot, yes, if agencies want to offer such rates, they can. But I don't consider it professional. I would not consider myself a professional if I were to work for such rates. It's not enough money for professional work. It's simply wrong. IMO.

[Edited at 2014-01-26 04:33 GMT]


 

Lincoln Hui  Identity Verified
Hong Kong
Local time: 04:53
Member
Chinese to English
+ ...
It's simple math, yes Jan 26, 2014

All I'm going to say is this: My US/Europe/Australian colleagues are going to have trouble convincing me to raise my rates when I make at least twice what I might expect to make from a full-time job with half the work time.

there isn't any country in the world using Japanese or English as an official, daily language where one could survive as a translator working for these rates.

Japanese is one thing, but English is the official, daily language of the Philippines, India and Pakistan.

As far as I know, a professor in India usually earns less than $15,000 USD per year. That's not much of a hurdle to clear, even at $0.04 USD/word.

[Edited at 2014-01-26 07:19 GMT]


 

LilianNekipelov  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 16:53
Russian to English
+ ...
Yes, I agree, absolutely, Jan 26, 2014

that even in the cheapest country the rate for translation should be at least $0.05, and in the countries with a high cost of living at least $0.10-0.20. I don't think ANY translator in any country should be working for less than that. As to the repetitions--in 99% of the cases they are a total nonsense. They might be valid when a document has certain parts called boilerplates, this is what they are called here at least, but only then--these are large fragments of repeated text--from one paragraph in length to even a few pages, in some cases. Other than that--no, there are no real repetitions in language since the meaning of each word depends on the context. Perhaps some lists of objects, or terms, might be another case where repetitions would be valid.

I think everyone is free--the translation companies can offer whatever they want, especially if they want to look totally unprofessional--as if they were taking advantage of people and didn't have a clue what translation involved. Then, they could offer $0.04/w or less. I am just really surprised that some of the, so called, "translators" would be willing to work for such rates. Are there no waiting jobs around or answering the phone jobs--much easier? Perhaps some think that it will get better and that the agencies will start paying them more, just for their devotion and charitable nature--no, it won't. It will never get better, or almost never, if you teach people that they can take advantage of you, either consciously or unconsciously. It will only get worse because they will think that as you gain experience, you should be working twice as fast for the same money, and give them discounts when you become more experienced.

[Edited at 2014-01-26 08:34 GMT]


 

Lincoln Hui  Identity Verified
Hong Kong
Local time: 04:53
Member
Chinese to English
+ ...
Repetitions Jan 26, 2014

As to the repetitions--in 99% of the cases they are a total nonsense. They might be valid when a document has certain parts called boilerplates, this is what they are called here at least, but only then--these are large fragments of repeated text--from one paragraph in length to even a few pages, in some cases. Other than that--no, there are no real repetitions in language since the meaning of each word depends on the context. Perhaps some lists of objects, or terms, might be another case where repetitions would be valid.

It really depends on which field you work in. In website and computer program translations, repetitions are a regular occurrence.


 

LilianNekipelov  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 16:53
Russian to English
+ ...
Yes, technical terms--I agree, Jan 26, 2014

but other than that, repetitions do not apply to language, in the sense some agencies view them. Like "the front wheel", but then sometimes it has to be "the front wheel', at other times "a front wheel", or "the same front wheel", or "such a front wheel,or "this front wheel" -- so to translate it correctly takes more than just replacing words with matches (even the less fuzzy ones). This is just about English which does not have declensions. Now, think about the languages that have 18 declensional endings-- to know which case to use might also be a challenge, sometimes. So, if something is "a pen" in English -- it may turn into a few totally different forms in another language.

[Edited at 2014-01-26 09:49 GMT]


 
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