Quote for target or source word
Thread poster: Brannigan
Local time: 04:02
Italian to English
+ ...
Oct 26, 2009


There was a job posted in my language pair today (0.04 US cents a word). Once I'd double checked that amount in Euro (that could be another forum post I reckon), I began to think about the difference in paying for source word or target word.

I don't have any figures or statistics to hand, but generally documents I write in English are a lot shorter than the Italian. That doesn't take away from the fact that I have had to read every Italian word before thinking about an accurate transation in English.

I realise this may be an obvious point to make but ... except in certain cases (e.g. if I don't have an exact word count and the result doesn't vary a lot), I would be wary of being paid per target word.

Am I alone? Or indeed am I being shortsighted and there are cases where target word is better?

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Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 03:02
Member (2008)
Italian to English
I saw that too Oct 26, 2009

Hi Brannigan - I saw that job too. The amount offered per word was so ridiculously low that I didn't make an offer. Anyway in the Italian/English pair I would never ask to be paid on the basis of the word count in the target, because as we all know, the number of words in a good English translation from the Italian may be anything up to 20% fewer than its Italian equivalent - due to the inherent structure of both languages. But arriving at those fewer words in English requires great skill and knowledge - as you probably know !

I therefore assumed that this particular agency was trying not only to get a translation for a laughably (or painfully) low price, but was also hoping to get an even bigger reduction by paying not for the no. of words in the source but for the number of words in the target.

And (thought I....) since that seems to be their attitude, who knows what other tricks they might get up to?

(such as refusing to pay on the basis that there are "errors" in the translation - but once they have the translation in their possession!)

No - there are plenty of nice, honest, professional agencies who pay properly for a good job well done. I personally never bother replying to job offers like this one - and I seem to get them nearly every day.

The only way I could work for rates as low as that would be not to pay my taxes. Maybe these incredibly low-paid jobs keep coming because there are translators out there who don't pay their taxes. I certainly can't see any other way of doing such work for such a low rate and on the basis of the word count in the target.

[Edited at 2009-10-26 16:35 GMT]

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Local time: 22:02
Spanish to English
Source- but not necessarily for economic reasons Oct 26, 2009

I price per source word whenever possible, but not to increase my income. Rather, I do not want to be in the position of having an apparent economic interest in the number of words that comes out in the translation.
Working mostly from Spanish to English, there is usually about a 7% dropoff in word count in this direction, which may be even higher (10-15%) for confused NGOs where heavy triage is required.
One typical consistent problem is 'del' (of the) in Spanish; my decision as to whether to use "of the" or the abbreviated possessive ('s) depends solely on context and the surrounding text, and not on how much the final count will be. I have had to review numerous translations replete with "of the ... of the...of the...of the...." from translators either blindly following the original Spanish or trying to get the word count up.
Of course, with image files and others where it might be difficult to get an accurate source count, target count is used (at a differewnt rate, due to preprocessing or typoing expenses incurred).

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Rad Graban  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 03:02
English to Slovak
+ ...
Depends Oct 26, 2009

I always charge per source word except when I get scanned files (e.g. pdf or others). Slovak translation tends to be only a tiny bit (if at all) shorter though.

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James McVay  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 22:02
Russian to English
+ ...
Two different quotes Oct 26, 2009

I almost always give my customers the option of paying on the source word count or the target word count, but my rate for each differs. On the average, the English word count is about 20% greater than the original Russian, and I set my rates accordingly.

Interestingly, the character or line count is usually lower in English than in Russian -- it takes more words but less space to say the same thing in English -- so I like it when my customers prefer paying according to the source line or character count.

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Laurent KRAULAND  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:02
French to German
+ ...
German to French... Oct 29, 2009

is +33 % in word count as an average. So why do agencies ask for quoting in the SL for this combination? The exact opposite applies to combinations in which the word count in the TL is (usually) lower than in the SL.

[Edited at 2009-10-29 11:27 GMT]

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JaneTranslates  Identity Verified
Puerto Rico
Local time: 23:02
Member (2005)
Spanish to English
+ ...
I'm stuck with target. Oct 29, 2009

I live and work in Puerto Rico, and most of my clients are local. Long before I began translating, charging by target word was already the established practice here--probably because the majority of local translation work is English > Spanish. I, however, work in the opposite direction.

I'm very strict with myself about not padding word counts, and my clients see and appreciate that; most of them are bilingual.

I could probably have gone against the flow, but then it would be an issue with each new client. So I'm stuck. No problem--I just charge more per word!

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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:02
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
How long does it take to translate Oct 29, 2009

Brannigan wrote:
I began to think about the difference in paying for source word or target word. ... I don't have any figures or statistics to hand, but generally documents I write in English are a lot shorter than the Italian.

I pumped a random Wikipedia page of 5000 words into Google Translate and found that the Italian had 15% more words and 12% more characters than the English.

But statistics like these can be deceiving -- the real question is whether it takes you longer to translate it. I can imagine that some language combinations may be more difficult (and would take longer) in one direction than in the other direction, regardless of whether their word counts are similar or dissimilar. Even typing speed is not a determining factor because you spend only a small amount of translation time doing the typing (unless you translate word for word).

[Edited at 2009-10-29 18:02 GMT]

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