What do you think the appropriate rate is for German-English medical translations?
Thread poster: lirka

Local time: 12:18
German to English
+ ...
May 22, 2009

Hi everyone!

I have a simple question: what do you think the appropriate rate is for German-English medical translations? No CAT tools. Medical degree. Several years of experience.

[Subject edited by staff or moderator 2009-05-22 14:42 GMT]


Steffen Walter  Identity Verified
Local time: 12:18
Member (2002)
English to German
+ ...
No reliable answer possible May 22, 2009

Hi lirka,

I believe your "simple question" is pretty much the equivalent of the proverbial "how long is a piece of string" question. Since there are so many market segments and players (even if CAT tools/agencies are excluded), it is virtually impossible to come up with a reliable answer.



3ADE shadab
Local time: 16:48
Hindi to English
+ ...
Agree with steffen May 23, 2009

I agree with Steffen, moreover what i believe is that every individual has his/her own technique of doing translation and hard work which he/she puts on translation, So i suggest charge according to your hard word.


[Edited at 2009-05-23 05:28 GMT]

[Edited at 2009-05-23 05:28 GMT]


Harvey Utech  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 06:18
German to English
Minimum 12 euros per 55-character line May 23, 2009

The "it depends" answers elsewhere in this thread are what the outsources want to hear. It leaves them in control of the bargaining process.

There are plenty of complaints about low pay in forums on ProZ. It is up to us to those of us with professional backgrounds to draw a line in the sand. Anyone with backgrounds like ours ought to be compensated fairly. If you accept work at anything less than that fair rate (see subject line for my suggestion as to what that should be), it hurts all of us.


KSL Berlin  Identity Verified
Local time: 11:18
Member (2003)
German to English
+ ...
Consider the consequences and costs of getting it wrong May 23, 2009

There's a lot of cut-rate translation in that field that utterly ignores the basic requirements of accuracy and safety. There are no standard rates for medical work, but I would say, based on my own experience, that it is no less challenging than legal work for the German courts, often quite a bit more challenging. So it might be enlightening to have a look at the standard compensation scale paid by the courts (JVEG).

My translation of the relevant section of the JVEG is among the samples on my profile (in case you want a look at the original German or information on charging other expenses). It is as follows:

Section 11 - Fee for translations
(1) The fee for a translation amounts to 1.25 euros for each 55 keystrokes or fraction thereof in the written text. If the translation is considerably more difficult, in particular due to the use of technical terms or due to poor legibility of the text, the fee increases to 1.85 euros; in the case of extraordinarily difficult texts it is 4 euros. The target language text is the standard for the number of keystrokes; if, however, Latin characters are used only in the source language, the number of keystrokes in the source language text is the standard. If counting the keystrokes is associated with excessive effort, their number is determined by taking into account the average number of keystrokes per line and counting the lines.
(2) For one or more translations which are part of the same order, the minimum fee is 15 euros.
(3) Insofar as the service of the translator consists of reviewing documents or telecommunication recordings for specific content without the need of preparing a written translation for these, the fee received will be that of an interpreter.

So for a translation with a significant use of technical terminology, you'd be looking in the neighborhood of 1.85 euros per line. Note that the JVEG created some controversy when it was introduced, because rates were higher before, and many do charge higher rates in their fields. A specialist in finance that I know charges somewhere between 2 and 3 euros per line, and I am sure there are enough other established professionals at a similar or higher range. Once again it depends on the market you are aiming for, but rest assured that most of the agencies with good processes will be charging at least the figures quoted above (which do not include review by a second qualified translator).

So it does indeed "depend". If you are a kid fresh out of college with a translating degree and a seminar in "medical terminology" under your belt, you might not be worth 50 cents per line, and anyone crazy enough to use your translations without extremely careful checking is just asking for trouble. If you are a medical doctor with good translation skills and good quality assurance methods for your work, then the work is worth a significant multiple of that 50 cent figure. And considering the cost of getting it "wrong" at times, that 12 euro per line figure that Harvey quotes isn't such a joke as many may think. Given his background in metallurgy, for example, if I had a critical translation that would affect the structural safety of a very dangerous piece of equipment, I would gladly pay him that much for an accurate translation and keep myself out of trouble. What's a medical translation worth if a life depends on its accuracy? Who is qualified to take the responsibility for such a translation?

Where do CAT scales fit in this equation? Mostly they don't, and it shouldn't matter what tools you use or don't use. The use of CAT/TEnT tools is to be recommended as a quality assurance measure that is a mark of professional translation work, not as a dumb-ass scheme for cutting costs by blind discounting of what often prove to be irrelevant or unusable "matches". If any kind of scale is appropriate I decide that after reviewing the material. Clients - particularly agencies - are often unqualified to do so. The more experience I have gathered with such things, the more this has become abundantly clear. The deceptive marketing practices of the industry leader for CAT tools has led to the frequent situation that "100% matches" are often not paid and not reviewed, and aside from the fact that these are almost never context-based matches, the error rates I have seen in such legacy material have caused me to reject the discount approach increasingly as a matter of basic professional standards to ensure accurate work for which I can take responsibility.


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