Rates - a function of language pair or country of outsourcer or both
Thread poster: Anil Gidwani

Anil Gidwani  Identity Verified
Local time: 09:39
German to English
+ ...
Aug 31, 2008

I apologize if this is an issue that has been discussed earlier.

It goes without saying that all language pairs have a generally defined range of rates for translation, be it per line or per word, as shown for instance in the ProZ Rates section.

Although no empirical numbers have been compiled, it is also well known that there are certain high-paying countries (such as Germany), and certain low-paying countries (such as Italy). (Let us leave low-cost destinations out of this discussion, please!)

However, the broad general assumption (and correct me if I am wrong) is that jobs from a particular country center around the language pair in that country (for example, one can assume that the language pair of jobs originating in Italy is IT>"target" or "source">IT). In other words, there is an implicit assumption that the end consumer of the translation is in the country of job origination.

A) Is this assumption correct even broadly speaking?

Now, there have been some jobs offered where the language pair is not connected with the country of the outsourcer. It has been my experience that i) an outsourcer in Italy offers lower rates for a DE>EN translation than an outsourcer in Germany. Conversely, ii) an outsourcer in Germany offers higher rates for an ES>EN translation than an outsourcer in Spain. Of course, scenario (i) is far more common.

B) Why this inverse correlation?

In scenario (i), it is possible that the outsourcer is a sub-agency, which explains the lower rates it offers to the vendor/translator. But what could be the reason in scenario (ii)? It's hard to imagine that the end consumer of the translation from the high-paying country would be in the high-paying country, since both source and target languages are not used in that country. So the chances of the outsourcer in the high-paying country being a sub-agent are practically nil.

C) Shouldn't the language pair be more significant in the determination of rate than the country of outsourcer?

Yet in the cases I've seen, the country of outsourcer tends to overshadow the language pair in setting the rate. I generally tend to decline offers from such outsourcers, but would be interested in hearing from others on how they deal with them.

Again, can we leave low-cost destinations out of this discussion, and focus on the difference between high-paying and low-paying similar cost destinations, please?icon_smile.gif Low-paying low-cost destinations are just another facet of globalization and the translation industry.


KSL Berlin  Identity Verified
Local time: 05:09
Member (2003)
German to English
+ ...
Factors in determining rates Aug 31, 2008

>> Again, can we leave low-cost destinations out of this discussion

I assume you mean the country in which the translator lives/works. Agreed - not relevant here, and it should never be relevant as far as I am concerned. The value of quality doesn't change when you cross a border.

As far as rates paid by outsourcers are concerned, broadly speaking I see the same trends. Countries with higher general costs of living and higher wages "expect" to pay more and usually do. Swiss and German outsourcers seem not to pinch their pennies nearly as hard as the ones in Spain and Italy for the language pairs I've seen. As far as how an ES->EN job ends up in Germany, a typical example I have seen is a business proposal written in Spanish for a local subsidiary of an international company based in Germany (Siemens, for example), which will be recycled for a proposal in China or Australia, where English, not German, will likely be the language of negotiation. In today's global economy there are all sorts of interesting "crosslinks" like this, and it happens that bits of a document are copied from several languages and then submitted for translation. (I saw an English + French doc recently that was supposed to go into German.)

I wouldn't be surprised, though, if many of our colleagues can come up with examples to contradict what appear to be the general trends. There are really so many factors going into prices, including the cultural expectations of the customer and the negotiating skill of the translator, that I'm not sure it's all worth worrying about.


Williamson  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 05:09
Flemish to English
+ ...
Cost-calculation and MY rate Aug 31, 2008

I am not into translation for the "love of words....".
Economic courses have taught me another view of business. Based upon the cost of living, tax-rates of a country, investment in personal growth, I have determined my (lowest) rate.

I am not in this business to earn just enough or because it seems to pay more than a normal "clerical" office job, but to make enough money to eventually move on to something else.... I have found out that if you stick to your rates, some low payers make an effort to pay more, no matter where they are based. If they refuse my rate, i simply thank them for their offer and wish them good luck in finding the right translator, which I am sure they will find, because there will always be translators who accept such offers because they have to earn a living or are scared that they will not get any work.
If everybody sticks to their rates, this will cause an upward trend, no matter where the translation is made. Why is it that Chinese made in China is paid at Chinese (low) rates and Chinese made in Germany at the highest possible rate. Why is it that Japanese always commands a high rate, no matter where the translation is made.

Rates should not only be based upon language combination, but also upon the subject matter of the translation. A translation of the manual of a nuclear plant requires a greater expertise than an employee manual.

[Edited at 2008-08-31 13:15]


José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Local time: 01:09
English to Portuguese
+ ...
An offer-and-demand issue Aug 31, 2008

Translation is one of the few kinds of work that can - in most cases - be handled ubiquitously over the web. As the world is still getting globalized (sounds like an oxymoron), economic unevenness prevails. Some day in the future translation rates will be universal for each language pair around the world, but it will take some time to get there.

Low rates are determined by the translators who accept them, and by the outsourcers who don't care so much about getting the best value for their money; they just want to spend as little money as possible.

You want examples? I can give you two realistic ones.

A law firm in New York needs some Brazilian birth certificates translated into English; reasons are irrelevant here. They could get it done locally, it would cost, say, $ 160. They could get it done in Brazil for $ 100. But they outsource it to a translation agency in Argentina, a country where AFAIK too many translators complain that local rates are low, for $ 70. The agency outsources the job to a translator in Brazil. The same translator who would ask for $ 100 does it for $ 50, as that agency might keep him/her busy with a lot of work.

A German equipment manufacturer is exporting machines to Brazil, so they'll need the manuals in Portuguese. The manual is available in German and English. They compare translation rates. EN-to-PT is cheaper than DE-to-PT because of the larger offer. Furthermore, the manual in EN was made for the USA, so it's all in 60 Hz electrical power, like Brazil, and not 50 Hz like in Germany. They hire a translation agency in a nearby German town for EUR 5,000. As the dollar is cheap, this agency hires another one in the USA for USD 5,000. The PM there wants the agency to make a quick buck, so s/he outsources to an agency in the Far East for USD 3,000. That agency in the Far East posts the job for USD 2,500 on Proz. We see these ads every week here, with bids swarming in.

Some outsourcers won't compromise on quality, they want the best value from translation services, so they'll hire the cheapest among the best, if not just the best. Others simply want the job done, so they'll choose the best among the cheapest, if not just the cheapest for that language pair.


Paul Kachur
Local time: 06:09
German to English
+ ...
depends on the client, too Aug 31, 2008

Another matter is the client in question. If it is a public institution, a university for example, it generally has a limited budget. This applies even more so if you are working for a public service or charitable organization. I have little problem lowering my rates especially for the latter, I take it as providing an indirect contribution to their cause.

On the other hand, a commercial enterprise has more flexibility, and can be expected to pay more, especially if they are a highly profitable one.


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