How much would you pay for a translation?
Thread poster: Vera Costea

Vera Costea  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 16:20
English to Romanian
+ ...
Jan 21, 2011

Hi everyone,

I've recently been confronted with a bit of a dilemma so I would like to see what everyone else thinks about this.

A few days ago I was contacted by a person asking me to translate a set of university course descriptions which he needed in order to get his university degree assessed and be accepted in a professional association in Ontario. The entire document containing all his course descriptions was 164 pages/41,189 words long. I know what I charge agencies and companies, I know what I charge people for small jobs such as a diploma or birth certificate, but in this case, either of those rates would just add up to an amount that I, personally, would find distressing if I were in this person's place. Therefore the question in the title of this post.... Given this situation, how much would you be willing to pay, if you were in this person's shoes? Because to me, the lowest price that I can come up with seams way, way too much for most people in this situation to be able (it's not even a matter of willing) to pay.
That same person would probably have no problem paying 25 dollars, for instance, for the translation of a 1 page birth certificate. But multiply that by 164 (pages), and things are quite different...

I'm looking forward to everyone's opinions.
Have a great weekend!


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JL01  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 16:20
English to French
+ ...
it depends Jan 21, 2011

Are you seriously asking this?? School transcripts are among the most tedious and underpayed documents I know, let alone the difficulty of translating course names and descriptions which may or may not have equivalents in the target language.

Whn was the last time a plumber, or a car repair shop, took pity on you because you MIGHT not have been willing to pay the money they would get by working for another customer?


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Johanna Timm, PhD  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 13:20
Member (2002)
English to German
+ ...
offer to translate extracts Jan 21, 2011

I regularly translate educational credentials and employment references for immigration lawyers and private clients. A large number of these clients (engineers, health care professionals) then submit their translated records to ICES for an accurate evaluation; ICES has clear guidelines that are published on their website: while certificates must be translated completely, translated excerpts of course outlines are acceptable.
In my experience, many clients are not aware of this option and appreciate the guidance! I sit down with them and discuss what sections of the syllabus/curriculum are relevant and then provide them with a reasonable (word count based) quote.

Quote from ICES, International Credential Evaluation Service:
“If any of your educational documents are not in English or French, they must be accompanied by a complete word-for-word (literal, not interpretive) English translation. If you are submitting your documents from outside Canada and cannot obtain a translation from a Canadian-certified translator, you may submit a translation from an official translator in your home country. This translation must also be completely accurate or ICES will require a new translation from a Canadian certified translator. […]
Items such as mark sheets, transcripts, diplomas, certificates, and grade books must be translated in entirety, including any information that appears on the reverse side of any document. For calendars, course outlines, and syllabuses, only those pages describing courses and other information specific to your credential need to be translated.
http://www.bcit.ca/ices/apply/requirements/index.shtml

Hope this helps!
johanna


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Vera Costea  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 16:20
English to Romanian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you, Johanna! Jan 22, 2011

Thanks, that is excellent advice. I'm not sure I can go with it in this particular case,
but it's definitely very useful information. I will have to call the organization my client is
applying to and ask them if they have a similar rule.


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Alexander Onishko  Identity Verified
Local time: 23:20
Russian to English
+ ...
* Jan 22, 2011

Vera Costea wrote:

Hi everyone,

I've recently been confronted with a bit of a dilemma so I would like to see what everyone else thinks about this.

A few days ago I was contacted by a person asking me to translate a set of university course descriptions which he needed in order to get his university degree assessed and be accepted in a professional association in Ontario. The entire document containing all his course descriptions was 164 pages/41,189 words long. I know what I charge agencies and companies, I know what I charge people for small jobs such as a diploma or birth certificate, but in this case, either of those rates would just add up to an amount that I, personally, would find distressing if I were in this person's place. Therefore the question in the title of this post.... Given this situation, how much would you be willing to pay, if you were in this person's shoes? Because to me, the lowest price that I can come up with seams way, way too much for most people in this situation to be able (it's not even a matter of willing) to pay.
That same person would probably have no problem paying 25 dollars, for instance, for the translation of a 1 page birth certificate. But multiply that by 164 (pages), and things are quite different...

I'm looking forward to everyone's opinions.
Have a great weekend!


If I were you, I would do this:

1. Calculate the cost using your standard rate
2. If you are feeling sympathetic to this person, offer 50% discount
3. If he/she agrees - fine, if no - then no.


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Noni Gilbert
Spain
Local time: 22:20
Spanish to English
+ ...
Contacting the institution Jan 22, 2011

I think this would be a very good idea Vera: it is often very difficult to establish exactly what documents an academic institution really needs to see.

I've been involved in guiding various students through their applications to UK unis over the last couple of years, and in each case it boiled down to negotiating directly with someone via e-mail, rather than following the UCAS (this is the central application system) instructions.

And I don't think that institutions are willingly insisting on documents which are going to cost in excess of 4000 dollars. But if they are doing so, it should at least be pointed out to them - that's a huge discrimination between applicants from English speaking countries and others!

If they accept non-sworn translations then they are leaving themselves open to very amateur attempts, because applicants are unlikely to pay the going rate for competent translations.

But I don't think you should consider discounting unless you do this kind of work very regularly. It may be large volume but it is very tricky work. Only it you have a good TM built up will it prove easier going.


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Sarah Swift  Identity Verified
Local time: 22:20
German to English
You asked for the client's perspective (so I'll pretend to be a client) Jan 22, 2011

If I were the client here, I would be looking at the translation as an investment in my future and asking myself the questions that usually apply to investments:

How high are the probable returns?
In other words, how lucrative is the career that the client will be in a position to pursue once his qualifications have been recognized?

How likely is it that I will see a return on my investment?
Does the client have near-cast iron certainty that his qualifications will be recognized once the necessary documentation has been submitted, or is it likely that there are further barriers to be surmounted and hoops to be jumped through, such as a requirement to take extra courses which themselves cost time and money? If the translation is the only major investment required before the client can pursue a lucrative career, then it should be worth paying for, even if the money has to be borrowed. Compared to the investment required to re-take university courses, the costs involved are probably very small beer.

Johanna has already been pointed out that it makes sense to minimize the volume involved. If you can identify which bits of the document really need to be translated, in consultation with the client and with the relevant professional bodies, then it is in the client's interest to pay for a partial translation (at the translator's normal rate) rather than haggling with you over a discount, getting the full document translated, and drawing the process out unnecessarily. The longer it all takes, the higher the opportunity costs for the customer (and if you do a large chunk of work at a substantial discount, your own opportunity costs will also be high.)

If I were in your position, I might offer a volume discount of 10% - 20%. If you feel really sorry for the customer, and if you can afford to be ridiculously generous, you could extend credit to him for so long that his final payment to you would come from his first professional earnings. It might be interesting to give him a choice between these two options: he only gets the volume discount if he pays promptly. If you feel sorry for him and give him a huge discount, you will end up working for a pittance AND you will also be reinforcing the perception that translators overcharge for a service that isn't really all that time-consuming to perform, leaving customers with the choice between haggling or looking for somebody else willing to do the job at half the price. If you don't want to lose the customer, and can't afford to be ridiculously generous, you could offer to do the job at a more substantial discount, but on the understanding that it might longer than usual to complete, because you will only work on it when you are not busy with more lucrative work. If you offer the customer some wiggle room, you will find out where his priorities lie soon enough, and then you can try to come to an arrangement that benefits both of you.


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Steven Capsuto  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 16:20
Spanish to English
+ ...
I wouldn't worry about it Jan 22, 2011

Johanna's suggestion makes sense: if the client can get by with having just parts of the documents translated, that's a wonderful solution and I've suggested that to clients on occasion. But if the evaluating agency needs the whole document, the translator should be fully compensated for his/her time and skills, unless this is a charity situation and the translator is feeling generous.

I figure my time is worth the same amount regardless of whether I'm translating academic credentials, a movie script or a business brand plan. This means some people can't afford my services. That's fine. Assuming you have a reasonably steady work flow, agreeing to discounted work means turning away full-price work, which doesn't make much sense from a business standpoint.


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Paula Gordon  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 16:20
Bosnian to English
+ ...
suggest he hire you to research what he really needs Jan 22, 2011

Vera Costea wrote:

The entire document containing all his course descriptions was 164 pages/41,189 words long.


Vera,
It may very well be that this person is hoping you'll be able to advise him about what needs and does not need to be translated.

You might offer to do some research for him -- make it a package -- you'll review his documents, contact the authority/school that requires the translation, come up with a summary of your findings and apply it to the documents in hand, give a quote for the translation. He can order the translation or not, but he would have to pay you for consulting services.

See what I'm getting at? Even if he does not hire you to translate, you've still provided him with valuable information that he can use when seeking other quotes for the translation.

Paula
Bosnian, Croatian, Serbian > English translation
English editing and proofreading


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Nikita Kobrin  Identity Verified
Lithuania
Local time: 23:20
English to Russian
+ ...
Apply your usual rate Jan 22, 2011

Vera Costea wrote:

A few days ago I was contacted by a person asking me to translate a set of university course descriptions which he needed in order to get his university degree assessed and be accepted in a professional association in Ontario. The entire document containing all his course descriptions was 164 pages/41,189 words long.


A set of university course descriptions 41,189 words long? Hm... Too long I'm afraid to be called 'description'.

You should apply your usual rate for a text of this domain and complexity. If it is too much for a guy he can simply shorten the document. That simple.

Nikita Kobrin

[Edited at 2011-01-22 18:54 GMT]


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Sandra& Kenneth  Identity Verified
Israel
Local time: 23:20
Member (2009)
French to English
+ ...
Tell the client... Jan 23, 2011

how much it would cost at your regular rate. He is probably not aware of translation rates and probably has not planned to pay or does not have a budget for the the entire project anyway.
Do not translate any part of it without consulting the client and agreeing very clearly what is to be translated. I don't see any reason to give any discounts. Your work does not decrease in value according to volume.
In the end, the project may shrink to several pages, but you will get paid for it.
HTH


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Vera Costea  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 16:20
English to Romanian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
PEO requirements Jan 23, 2011

Thank you all for your contributions. I have quoted my usual rates and offered a volume discount. I will also let the client know of the option to have only parts of the document translated, once I have called PEO to make sure that's ok with them. But I'm guessing it would, since their website says that "Course descriptions are brief paragraphs that clearly describe the material covered during the course". These things are anything but brief paragraphs (they are really detailed, 3-5 pages per course), so once the situation is explained to them they would probably agree to have only the essential parts translated.

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Vera Costea  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 16:20
English to Romanian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Volume discounts Jan 26, 2011

I just came across this and found it hilarious

http://mox.ingenierotraductor.com/2010/11/welcome-to-real-world.html


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Steven Capsuto  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 16:20
Spanish to English
+ ...
Contacting PEO Jan 26, 2011

Vera Costea wrote:

I will also let the client know of the option to have only parts of the document translated, once I have called PEO to make sure that's ok with them.




I think it's better to have the client do this and tell you exactly what needs to be done. Why? Because if you contact PEO and the person gives you wrong information or you misunderstand some subtlety of it, the client can hold you responsible. If the client gives you clear instructions and you follow them, then it's clearly not your fault if what you deliver is not what the client needs. (That said, I would check the PEO guidelines anyway, just to make sure, but I wouldn't tell the client I'm doing it unless you get conflicting instructions from PEO and the client.)


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Nicole Y. Adams, M.A.  Identity Verified
Australia
Local time: 07:20
Member (2006)
German to English
+ ...
... Jan 30, 2011

I think it's better to have the client do this and tell you exactly what needs to be done. Why? Because if you contact PEO and the person gives you wrong information or you misunderstand some subtlety of it, the client can hold you responsible. If the client gives you clear instructions and you follow them, then it's clearly not your fault if what you deliver is not what the client needs. (That said, I would check the PEO guidelines anyway, just to make sure, but I wouldn't tell the client I'm doing it unless you get conflicting instructions from PEO and the client.)


My thoughts exactly. Plus I don't think you need to do any extensive research like this and do all the legwork free of charge.


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