Fair rates for US and UK - when English is not one's mother tongue
Thread poster: Sorana_M.
Sorana_M.
Romania
Local time: 09:17
English to Romanian
+ ...
Mar 11, 2015

Hi, all!

I have had this dilemma for quite a while now. My mother tongue is Romanian. I estimate that 90% of all my translations so far have been from English into Romanian and from Romanian into English - most often, American English, but sometimes, British English as well.

In an attempt to expand my client base, I have sent several series of e-mails to various translation agencies in the US and UK, also dealing with Romanian. However, I have never known whether my rates were too low, too high, or acceptable.

So, how much would an agency in these two countries be willing to pay for translations from English into Romanian and still consider that the rate is competitive and acceptable? What about the reverse pair, from Romanian into English?

I am interested in an average rate, profitable for both the agency and me.

I have been a translator for 9 years now and my favorite projects deal with user's guides or manuals, IFU's, software localization, medical texts targeting the general public, sociology (facts, studies, reviews and so on). I have translated much more than these, though.

So, can anyone help me with some guidelines, ideas, pieces of advice?

Thank you.


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Fiona Grace Peterson  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 08:17
Member
Italian to English
ProZ community rates Mar 11, 2015

You can check out the ProZ community rates for your language pair, this will give you an idea of what others are charging. But there is no "magic wand". No-one can tell you what to charge, that depends on your cost of living, the amount you want to earn, overheads, how many hours a week you want to work, how many weeks holiday you want to have a year, the tools you need to buy for your business... lots of factors.

It may be that the rates you have quoted in the past to agencies were too high for them. But what then? Do you want to go down that slippery slope of charging less to get more work?

Whether a language is your mother tongue or not is neither here nor there. If your work is of a professional standard, then you should charge accordingly.

Best of luck!


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Sorana_M.
Romania
Local time: 09:17
English to Romanian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Rates and work Mar 11, 2015

Thank you, Fiona.

Actually, I have only had one US agency providing work, and not constantly. It also happened that our schedules did not meet, with me being engaged in other projects at that time.

But... I never got any reply to any of my other e-mails, so I am confused. I turned to rates as a possible "culprit" for that.


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 07:17
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Maybe the culprit is elsewhere Mar 11, 2015

Sorana_M. wrote:
My mother tongue is Romanian. I estimate that 90% of all my translations so far have been from English into Romanian and from Romanian into English - most often, American English, but sometimes, British English as well.

You don't mention it above, but I see your profile here also mentions RomanianFrench. I've no idea about your French, but your English is clearly very good.

But there are (roughly speaking) two types of agency, concentrating on different aspects of translation:-
Volume - they'll take anyone who's half-decent, as long as they are prepared to work for low rates and accept short deadlines; and
Quality - they're only interested in those who quote high enough rates to convince them that they are professionals, AND who only propose services that they excel in.

As a native British English speaker, I would never propose my services into American English as I don't specialise in that variant. Nor would I translate into French, that's my source language. I know that reverse pair translation is more common in your languages but maybe it has something to do with your problem. Maybe you're watering down your offer? It may not apply to you, but it's worth considering.

But none of us get a response from more than about a third of agencies when you mass email them; nor can you expect work from about a tenth. Many will just junk your email without even looking at it.


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Sorana_M.
Romania
Local time: 09:17
English to Romanian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Languages Mar 11, 2015

Sheila, my French used to be better than my English. However, the demand for French into Romanian or Romanian into French translations has deeply subsided for quite a while now, so I hardly ever get projects for these language combinations.

In my high-school years, where I had 9 classes of English per week, both literature and grammar, and in my college years, the teachers chose to get us accustomed to both variants of English. We even had a course on Irish English and Irish politics and culture!

I did think about what you wrote in the end of your message... A bitter truth, unfortunately.


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Balasubramaniam L.  Identity Verified
India
Local time: 11:47
Member (2006)
English to Hindi
+ ...
Have you tried FR<>EN Mar 13, 2015

Of course, you would know best whether you would be interested in these language combinations (French to English and English to French) or not, but that is one option you can consider. This is based on your comment that your French is even better than your English. Given that you write very good English, your French should indeed be excellent. Both French to English and English to French are vast markets, and it would be easier for someone to establish oneself in these markets than in the much more smaller markets of Romanian to English and vice versa.

Regarding the mother tongue issue, although technically it should not be a problem, there certainly is a bias among many agencies towards native speakers, which is misplaced in my opinion. May be you could clarify in your profile or in your communications to them how you happen to have such good command over English and French. The more enlightened agencies should be satisfied by your actual proficiency in these languages than with whether you are a native speaker of these languages or not.


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Sorana_M.
Romania
Local time: 09:17
English to Romanian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
EN-FR and FR-EN Mar 13, 2015

Mr. Balasubramaniam, actually, I did, an old acquaintance of mine asked me to and I agreed. However, it is difficult and, since neither of the two is a mother tongue to me (I cannot claim to be native), I won't ever be paid at the same level as my colleagues being actually qualified for these language pairs. And I also have a somehow "slippery" feeling.

You are right, a lot of agencies I've emailed specifically mention the "native" aspect or requirement.


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 07:17
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Translating between two foreign languages? Mar 13, 2015

Balasubramaniam L. wrote:
Of course, you would know best whether you would be interested in these language combinations (French to English and English to French) or not, but that is one option you can consider.

Whatever a client thinks about working out of the native language (and disregarding the debate about what they should or shouldn't think about it), how much credibility would a translator have translating between two languages, neither of which is the native one?

I know personally of three kids being brought up speaking three languages, those of the mother, father and country of residence. I suppose if they use the strict definition of "mother tongue" when they grow up then they might have a valid claim to being able to translate professionally between two "other" languages (should they continue as trilingual AND want to translate). But that doesn't appear to be the OP's case.

One only has to ask oneself a very simple question: with the vast numbers of native-speaking French and English translators offering their services, why on earth would any client choose a Romanian native speaker? Price would be the only possible USP.


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Balasubramaniam L.  Identity Verified
India
Local time: 11:47
Member (2006)
English to Hindi
+ ...
The credibility Mar 13, 2015

Sheila Wilson wrote:

Balasubramaniam L. wrote:
Of course, you would know best whether you would be interested in these language combinations (French to English and English to French) or not, but that is one option you can consider.

Whatever a client thinks about working out of the native language (and disregarding the debate about what they should or shouldn't think about it), how much credibility would a translator have translating between two languages, neither of which is the native one?

I know personally of three kids being brought up speaking three languages, those of the mother, father and country of residence. I suppose if they use the strict definition of "mother tongue" when they grow up then they might have a valid claim to being able to translate professionally between two "other" languages (should they continue as trilingual AND want to translate). But that doesn't appear to be the OP's case.

One only has to ask oneself a very simple question: with the vast numbers of native-speaking French and English translators offering their services, why on earth would any client choose a Romanian native speaker? Price would be the only possible USP.


The credibility would come from the quality of translation you are able, or not able, to provide in these languages. If we keep aside the generally held belief that only natives can produce quality translation, then a translator who believes that he/she has proficiency in languages that are not native to him/her, should go ahead and provide services in these languages, and allow himself/herself to be judged purely on the basis of the quality of his/her translation, rather than on the basis of prejudgements dictated by beliefs and contentions.

As for the USP, again, it will be the overall quality of one's services that would define it, and price can be an important component of it. The fact that there are many native translators in these languages does not disqualify anyone from trying to enter these markets. If that argument is followed, then no new translator, native or otherwise, can ever enter any translation market, because there would always be an army of previously established translators in all markets, and every new translator, native or otherwise, would somehow have to gatecrash in and carve out a career for himself/herself.

[Edited at 2015-03-13 14:09 GMT]


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Fair rates for US and UK - when English is not one's mother tongue

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