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Translators going into English are paid less
Thread poster: Maeva Cifuentes

Maeva Cifuentes  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 12:55
Member (2012)
French to English
+ ...
Jun 7, 2014

Hi everyone,
It's recently come to my attention that on average, translators working from English are paid 0.09-0.12 , while those going into English are paid, on average, 0.07-0.10.
Any ideas why this is the case? Is it because English is the lingua franca of the world? Why is it worth more to translate away from English?
How does globalization work into this situation?
Looking forward to this discussion!


 

Christophe Delaunay  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 12:55
Spanish to French
+ ...
Supply and demand 101 Jun 7, 2014

Hello Maeva,
Have you noticed a difference in prices if you take your holidays during the summer rather than during slow periods? If yes, then you got the answer to your questionicon_smile.gif
Hope my answer helps.


 

Dylan Jan Hartmann  Identity Verified
Australia
Member (2014)
Thai to English
+ ...

MODERATOR
Not in many asian languages Jun 7, 2014

Hi Maeva,

The rates for English to Thai tend to be about half the value of Thai to English.
I think the major reason is that there are simply not that many people native in English who are also fluent in Thai. Additionally, there is a great surplus of translators in the English to Thai pair (as every student in Thailand learns English) also factoring the cost of living in Thailand, which is significantly cheaper than in the West.

All these factors influence the rates that translators are willing to charge.

icon_biggrin.gif

DJH


 

writeaway  Identity Verified
French to English
+ ...
Only logical Jun 7, 2014

An overwhelming percentage of people on Proz claim they (can) translate into English.
Including lots of natives of non-Anglo countries who even claim (with the blessing of Proz) that they are also native English even though they clearly are not. Some go so far as to eliminate their real native language from the equation and claim to be native English speakers only. All of this is allowed without impunity. One can even get Proz certification for a bogus native language. No rules against telling porkies.
In addition, French-English is an extremely over-populated pair. So many people have taken a course or two in French at some point and French looks deceptively easy to translate. Consequently the pair is flooded with people who feel they are in with a chance. And with desperate times, people are happy to get a job at any price. If a client is out shopping for cheap instead of good, the low rates will win the day/job.
So with such a huge supply of people translating into English (the world's easiest language, right?), it's no surprise that the rates are low. Law of supply and demand.


 

Kirsten Bodart  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 12:55
Dutch to English
+ ...
Probably over-supply Jun 7, 2014

Certainly in certain pairs, whether it be from non-natives or natives. Purely on the native side, there are vast numbers of English speakers as opposed to comparatively small numbers of Thai speakers, and certainly those Thai speakers that can understand enough English to get contracts translated, for example.

You also have to see where people are: rates in the US, I'm told, are lower, even for English, than European rates. Certainly agencies don't hesitate to have people work for max. $0.10 per word. Probably below that.

Also think about where these people are. Even if they are natives, there are large numbers of UK English speakers in Spain, for example, where rates are typically also lower. If the cost of living is not too bad, they can get away with charging less. Certainly those living in non-European countries would, I imagine, be able to get more jobs if they charge less, which could in the end mean a bigger profit than if they charged more. And they would not feel that too much, because with an income of €2,000 in Thailand you live like a prince.

The advantage of globalisation is that translators in China, say, don't depend on the local pittances for translation, as they can direct their services at other more profitable areas, but it also means that agencies seeking to make a bigger profit can also go in search of people in low-wage countries who will then be happy with 3/4 of the regular translation rate in their home country.

Putting it all down to the non-natives, even if they deliver bad quality, is a sweeping generalisation.
It's just the urge of managers to maximise profits by maximising revenue and cutting costs (and we all try to do the same).


 

cranium
French to English
+ ...
How did it come to your attention? Jun 7, 2014

Were you told by a potential client? Not surprising, if they are looking to negotiateicon_smile.gif

Also what cents are you talking in? USD, CAD, EUR? (Your profile says you're based in London: GBP?)

You can check out the various compensation surveys available: ATA, SFT, etc. for a more objective view than a client looking for a bargain. HTH.


 

Maeva Cifuentes  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 12:55
Member (2012)
French to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
why less demand/more supply? Jun 7, 2014

Thanks for the great responses everyone!

I was also thinking it had to do with the fact that there are many non-native speakers of English using it as their target language. I may be wrong, but I might even recall that there are more non-native English speakers than native ones, and I have certainly run into a few non-native English speakers using it as their target language.


Is there just an extraordinary supply of into English translation, or less of a demand for it? (Or both?)

[Edited at 2014-06-07 13:25 GMT]


 

José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 08:55
English to Portuguese
+ ...
More amateurs translate into EN Jun 7, 2014

Maeva Cifuentes wrote:

Thanks for the great responses everyone!

I was also thinking it had to do with the fact that there are many non-native speakers of English using it as their target language. I may be wrong, but I might even recall that there are more non-native English speakers than native ones, and I have certainly run into a few non-native English speakers using it as their target language.

Is there just an extraordinary supply of into English translation, or less of a demand for it? (Or both?)


Different local phenomena may cause the same effect.

I'll give you the example of one of the possible causes in Brazil.

Personally, I 'grew up' as a translator under the misconception that a competent translator should be equally capable in doing it both ways. While for a few decades I didn't get any reverse-gear (viz. PT > EN) translation requests, I always made sure I was fully prepared to do it properly. Further evidence is that I deliberately gave up on translating professionally from IT & FR because I was conscious of how much additional study I'd need in each to translate into these. (Nowadays I see many people translating from EN with a lesser knowledge than I have of IT/FR.)

Sworn translation in Brazil is governed by law, and mandatory for any document in a foreign language to be acceptable for any legal/official purpose here.

My turning point was in 1999, when I passed the government exam, and was licensed as an EN < > PT sworn translator. According to the law, I cannot decline any such request, provided other conditions are met (e.g. statutory rates). In short, my government says that I MUST translate into English, when so required. So I gradually began to do it for other translations too, not only the sworn ones.

I happen to know several fellow translators, especially those who specialize in areas that require specialists (e.g. medicine, finance), who actually could translate into our not-technically-native English, yet they are not 'sworn', so they exercise their option not to do it. They consider their high-demand specialism more profitable. One of them particularly writes in such magnificently crafted English that he makes every native speaker envious. Yet he will not accept any translation assignment into English.

In other words, these specialists can claim higher rates translating into PT within their specialty area than if they translated merely general stuff into EN.

On the other hand, Brazil - like any other country - has its share of amateurs, wannabes, and otherwise less competent translators who do it so badly into PT (or whatever is the national language in other places), that their output into EN has no room to be much worse, so they work both ways. However their number and their obviously lower rates tend to push the average rate into English downwards.

Each country may have its peculiar causes, yet the outcome should be uniform: There should be more cheap, low-quality translators working into English than into any other language.


 

Kay Denney  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 12:55
Member (Apr 2018)
French to English
plenty of demand, far too much competition Jun 7, 2014

Anyone wanting to sell anything outside their own country is going to have to translate stuff into English first, other languages later so there's definitely plenty of demand.

And because they don't speak English they don't grasp the importance of using native speakers, nor do they realise they're being sold translations that sound terrible. And they often will feel more comfortable working with somebody who is a native speaker of their language, that person is more likely to know the best approach to sell their service, and often will undersell the native English speakers.

And our pair is oversubscribed simply because French is the most commonly taught foreign language in English-speaking countries...


 

Phil Hand  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 18:55
Chinese to English
Both Jun 7, 2014

Maeva Cifuentes wrote:

Is there just an extraordinary supply of into English translation, or less of a demand for it? (Or both?)


In general, you would expect there to be a need to translate out of English more, because many international documents are produced in English: academic work, documents in multinational bodies like the UN and EU, international trade documents, etc. Whenever these documents are needed for reference in non-English speaking countries, translation will be necessary.

And on supply, English is now the world's no. 1 second language, and many translators do work into second languages (whether we support it or not, it's true). So that makes for an oversupply into English. In addition, most English speaking countries are rich, so if the other language in the pair includes some poor countries, residents of those poor countries will likely be able to offer a price advantage.


 

Russell Jones  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 11:55
Italian to English
Misleading data Jun 7, 2014

I am sure that if your figures differentiated between rates paid to native and non-native speakers of English, you would find that the former are paid well above the average.

This is a supply and demand issue. Mainly because English has become a lingua franca, native English speakers are lazy and reluctant linguists (to the detriment of their own language - but that's another story).

In my own pair, native English speakers are quite rare and can command a premium (albeit not as high as in some other languages).

[Edited at 2014-06-07 19:50 GMT]


 

Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 12:55
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
Not according to ProZ.com's average reported rates Jun 7, 2014

Maeva Cifuentes wrote:
It's recently come to my attention that, on average, translators working from English are paid 0.09-0.12 while those going into English are paid, on average, 0.07-0.10.


I checked ProZ.com's average reported rates into English and from English and compared the two tables in Excel. It would appear that the opposite of what you're saying is true.

The languages for which the per-word rate is higher for from English than into English are:
* Esperanto (standard and minimum)
* Haitian Creole (standard and minimum)
* Dutch (standard)
* Moldavian (standard)
* Iloko (minimum)
* Lao (minimum)
* Malagasy (minimum)
* Swedish (minimum)
* Tajik (minimum)

The languages for which the per-word rate is lower for from English than into English, for both standard rates and minimum rates, are: * Aramaic * Armenian * Belarusian * Burmese * Bisayam * Estonian * Finnish * Galician * Gujarati * Ikbo * Kazakh * Kirgiz * Korean * Latvian * Lituanian * Romanian * Russian * Slovak * Tibetan.

For most of the rest of the languages, the rate is the same into English and from English.



[Edited at 2014-06-07 20:38 GMT]


 

jyuan_us  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 06:55
Member (2005)
English to Chinese
+ ...
In most other language pairs Jun 8, 2014

Maeva Cifuentes wrote:

Hi everyone,
It's recently come to my attention that on average, translators working from English are paid 0.09-0.12 , while those going into English are paid, on average, 0.07-0.10.
Any ideas why this is the case? Is it because English is the lingua franca of the world? Why is it worth more to translate away from English?
How does globalization work into this situation?
Looking forward to this discussion!


the situation could be just contrary to your statement. The one translate from Chinese to English earn almost double the figure than those working from English to Chinese, assuming they are at the same quality level.


 

Vladimir Pochinov  Identity Verified
Russian Federation
Local time: 12:55
Member (2002)
English to Russian
@DJ Hartmann - Where does QUALITY factor in here? Jun 8, 2014

DJ Hartmann wrote:

All these factors influence the rates that translators are willing to charge.

icon_biggrin.gif

DJH


Where does quality factor in here?

Sorry in advance for this arm-long (or even longer) posting, I am just venting off, as I am sick and tired of unprofessional "language professionals" (whether LSPs or individuals) making unsubstantiated claims.

Well, below are some excerpts from my Skype 'History' log. The counterparty is an Indian "LSP" - not a Thai one, and it might well be a "one (wo)man operation", for all I know, because I had to deal with one and the same person in both email and Skype communications. Also, I am not quite sure whether I was correct in trying to differentiate that person's first and last names, since the latter failed to confirm, despite my request to that effect...icon_smile.gif

============

BACKGROUND (based on the information available on the company's website)

We are highly experienced, India-based interpreting and translation agency. We have over 10-year track record of delivering face to face interpreting, telephone interpreting and translation services across the globe.

- Sensitive to cross cultural differences
- In-depth knowledge backed with dependable experience
- In house stringent quality control procedures

We work alongside top global companies on industry-shaping work. The rich experience of our language specialists helps to create an exceptional talent pool, and we are proud that our firm enjoys a reputation as a place for talented people to grow.

Quality is paramount to us and there is no substitute to it. To ensure world class quality GlobalTech Creations has put in place stringent audit process to quality check each document before it is delivered to the client.

We take care of the below three points and rest are taken care off in the process automatically.
- Error free work with highest standards
- Delivering as per the conformance to the customer's specifications
- Deadline

PRE-TEST COMMUNICATIONS

[26.05.14 16:22:10] VP: Hi, last June you (or your colleague ...) responded to my call for English-Russian and Russian-English translators quoting a rate of US$.xx per source word.

1. I would like to offer two paid legal tests:

RU-EN - xxx words
EN-RU - xxx words

Deadline: by 14:00 Moscow time (MSK) tomorrow, 27 May 2014.
Payment via PayPal within one (1) week.

2. I understand you provide DTP services as well. What is your per-hour charge for DTP work (if and when I need assistance with laying out a document)?

[26.05.14 16:24:16] LSP: yes sure we can take care of it
[26.05.14 16:24:35] LSP: our rates for DTP is $X/page (below 100 pgs)
[26.05.14 16:24:51] LSP: $X/page (if it is more then 100 pgs)
[26.05.14 16:30:36] VP: Please note that my quality expectations are on the high side. If the tests prove to be sub-standard in terms of quality, it will be the end of the story...icon_smile.gif
[26.05.14 16:30:51] LSP: sure
[26.05.14 16:31:55] VP: One more thing... Do you have translators who have experience with UN-related material, such as reports, etc. released by UNEP, UNICEF, UNIFEM, UNIDO, UNAIDS, etc.?
[26.05.14 16:32:57] LSP: yes
[26.05.14 16:33:31] VP: OK, let's try your legal translators first...
[26.05.14 16:55:42] VP: If you have any questions, contact me by email as indicated in my email message. Bye for now...
[27.05.14 19:32:17] VP: I am preparing a PO for you. I have received the test pieces, and will get back to you tomorrow with the results, following review by a lawyer-cum-translator.
[27.05.14 19:32:57] LSP: ok
[27.05.14 19:33:02] LSP: thank you.


THE OUTCOME

To make it short, there was no need to send the test pieces to a reviewer...

1. They did deliver early.

2. They have failed to comply with my request (in the Word file containing both tests) to use SDL Trados Studio and deliver target translations in SDLXLIFF format.

3. RU->EN: Despite my request for American English, the translator used the British date format, which could have catastrophic consequences (e.g. a high-profile litigation, with billions at stake, centered around a single date by which the "Conditions Precedent" were to be met under a share purchase agreement; or a criminal investigation, with a witness statement alleging that the suspect was seen on the crime on the relevant date).
Obviously, the test piece has never been reviewed by a second person - another translator or professional editor, let alone a lawyer.

4. EN->RU: The terminology, grammar, style clearly showed that the EN-RU translator has nothing to do with legal translation, other than showing off a couple of (successfully?) translated birth certificates under his or her belt. In fact, the same applied to the RU->EN piece, but to a lesser degree.

5. I paid about $14 for both tests (just a few sentences each), but I guess that's pretty cheap, all things considered...icon_biggrin.gif

I suggest that you watch a scene from the Robert De Niro's directional debut, "A Bronx Tale" (1993), with Lillo Brancato, Chazz Palminteri, Robert De Niro (surprise!), and a cameo appearance by Joe Pesci. Great movie, BTW, and one of my all-time favorites, together with "The Shawshank Redemption", "Forrest Gump", "The Green Mile", "The Godfather", "Pulp Fiction", "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest", etc. There were several concepts mentioned in this movie which had a huge impact on my subsequent professional and personal life. One of them is explained in the scene below.

20 bucks, from A Bronx Story (1993)


Thank you for your patience with me. I do feel better now

icon_smile.gif


P.S. It has taken me some time to come up with this "masterpiece"icon_smile.gif while the discussion seems to have been gaining pace. Resultantly, other mentioned some of my points have been made already. Guys and gals, honestly, I am not trying to steal thunder from any of you...icon_smile.gif


 

XXXphxxx (X)  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 11:55
Portuguese to English
+ ...
Depends on the market Jun 8, 2014

If you're talking about the bulk market where quality is not a factor, then you are probably right. This is where you will find translations done by non-native English speakers. However, English-speaking countries tend not to focus on foreign language learning in schools. There is a (false) perception that languages are not important so you will find very few going on to study any MFL at a higher level. The reality is that at the top level there is in fact a desperate shortage of English native speaking translators and the rates reflect that.

[Edited at 2014-06-08 08:52 GMT]


 
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