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Great chance to take the ATA survey on T&I rates
Thread poster: Sheila Wilson

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 04:35
Member (2007)
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Oct 12, 2015

The ATA (American Translators Association) is circulating a compensation survey to collect as much data as possible on current rates that translators and interpreters are charging. It has opened up the survey to all T&I professionals, not just ATA members, to make sure that the results are comprehensive. The last survey the ATA conducted (about 7 years ago) was widely cited in the industry, but it is now outdated. A lot of changes have occurred in our profession since then, so it’s good to see the ATA doing outreach to get fresh research data.

Here are links to the ATA webpages you’ll need:

background information on the survey:
http://www.atanet.org/newsbriefs/2015_september_30.php

survey sign-in page:
https://www.iisecure.com/ATA/login.asp

According to the background information, the deadline for completing the survey is Oct. 16 (just a few days away), so fill it out soon if you want to participate. The ATA says it will publish a summary of the results by the time of its Annual Conference in early November.

Since the ATA is inviting all translators and interpreters everywhere to take the survey, you can circulate the links to other T&I groups you know.


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Maria S. Loose, LL.M.  Identity Verified
Belgium
Local time: 05:35
German to English
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Hi Sheila Oct 12, 2015

Do you know whether it's possible for non-members of the ATA to buy the complete results in form of a publication (book or brochure etc.). This is what the German translators' association, BDÜ, does, which is also conducting a survey at the moment. They will publish their results by the end of the year in form of a book, which will cost about 15 EUR and be for sale to the general public.

[Edited at 2015-10-12 09:52 GMT]

[Edited at 2015-10-12 14:39 GMT]


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
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@ Maria Oct 12, 2015

Maria S. Loose, LL.M. wrote:
Do you know whether it's possible for non-members of the ATA to buy the complete results in form of a publication (book or brochure etc.). This is what the German translators' association, BDÜ, does, which is also conducting a survey at the moment. They will publish their results by the end of the year in form of a book, which will cost about 15 EUR and can be bought by anybody.

[Edited at 2015-10-12 09:52 GMT]

I thought about that German survey and your posts when I was putting this online, Maria. No, I don't know what form the results will be in, but I imagine that as they are asking for input from everyone then they will also be happy to share the results with everyone. I imagine there would be a lot of pressure on them to do so. We'll have to see what comes out of their Miami conference in early November.


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Teresa Borges
Portugal
Local time: 04:35
Member (2007)
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Done! Oct 12, 2015

...

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Michael Wetzel  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 05:35
German to English
Thanks Sheila Oct 12, 2015

Thanks for posting the link to this survey. The questions are generally reasonably well thought-out and the survey doesn't take much time.

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Shai Navé  Identity Verified
Israel
Local time: 06:35
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English to Hebrew
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Before participating, consider the following Oct 13, 2015

Before rushing to participate in this or any other survey about fees (NOT rates, translators charge FEES) -- or any other professional topic for that matter -- I urge everyone to stop for a moment and think about the the survey design and its validity.

The ATA survey is poorly designed. It doesn't follow any statistically valid sampling technique, which means the results will be meaningless and are easy to manipulate.

There is no statistically valid point in grouping different demographics into the same survey without making the distinction between them. What is the point of surveying agencies and individual translators together? What is the point in surveying individual translators from different countries, with different backgrounds, and different professional stature? And what is the point of opening the survey to just about anyone with an internet connection? All of this can only skew the results down, which in turn serves the agenda of the brokers who use this type of meaningless data as social-proof when they prey on inexperienced and impressionable so-called translators.

I'm sure the ATA (and others who conduct similar surveys) mean well, but why won't we start by doing what we preach: Drop the mean-well-but-clueless DIY approach in favor of hiring professional surveyors to design and conduct the survey. A good starting point, in my opinion, would be to conduct a survey to chart the different demographics within the so-called translation profession, which I'm sure will uncover vast differences and prove that translation is not an all-inclusive profession and not all of those calling themselves translators are indeed peers. It will also shed light on how inaccurate and questionable are the result of all those all-inclusive surveys.

Then we can continue to order various quantitative surveys to get more insights into each of these demographics.

[Edited at 2015-10-13 11:10 GMT]


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
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Valid comments, Shai Oct 13, 2015

Shai Navé wrote:
I'm sure the ATA (and others who conduct similar surveys) mean well, but why won't we start by doing what we preach: Drop the mean-well-but-clueless DIY approach in favor of hiring professional surveyors to design and conduct the survey.

I agree that it isn't perfect by a long way. As someone who's gearing down to retirement nowadays I wasn't happy at not having to give the number of hours worked, and then giving my annual income from translating. Anyway, what do part-time and full-time mean? I imagine the French 35-hour maximum is pretty much part-time for many people around the world. That area needed to be a lot tighter.

What is the point of surveying agencies and individual translators together?

I had assumed it was only aimed at translators. It included the possibility of limited company owner, but that's a route a freelancer is able to take.
what is the point of opening the survey to just about anyone with an internet connection? All of this can only skew the results down, which in turn serves the agenda of the brokers who use this type of meaningless data as social-proof when they prey on inexperienced and impressionable so-called translators.

Well, of course that's valid criticism. But on the other hand those 'have internet connection and second language' merchants DO act as translators. Without regulation in our profession, I don't see that they can be excluded. I don't have a degree nor am I a member of a professional body, but I do consider myself to be a professional freelance translator/editor. Where would you draw the line? They will be able to separate ATA members from non-members so maybe that will tell a story.


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Shai Navé  Identity Verified
Israel
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Scientific approach Oct 14, 2015

I had assumed it was only aimed at translators. It included the possibility of limited company owner, but that's a route a freelancer is able to take.

Translation agencies are allowed to be ATA members (actually they are calling all the shots there), and last I checked were allowed to participate in this survey.

Without regulation in our profession, I don't see that they can be excluded.

I'm not a big believer in external regulation. It helps, but doesn't really work without internal regulation (which can also work on its own), and here is where the associations (most of which are controlled by corporate agenda) and our entire so-called profession fail the most.
But on the other hand those 'have internet connection and second language' merchants DO act as translators.

I don't have a degree nor am I a member of a professional body, but I do consider myself to be a professional freelance translator/editor. Where would you draw the line? They will be able to separate ATA members from non-members so maybe that will tell a story.


It all depends on how one defines translators. A degree or membership in a professional association (which virtually anyone can join as long as they pay the membership fee) in and of themselves are not an indication to professionalism. If anything, many years of experience and proven track record are probably more of an indication to that than anything else.
"Translator", regardless of credentials, could mean anything from a fraud, through complete amateurs who moonlight a little on the side or like the work but practically treat this as a nice hobby while living on their spouse's income, to career translation professionals who devote their lives to this business. Yet, all of those are being considered peers and represented as such by the very same bodies who pretend to represent and promote the interests of their members (and this contributes that much more to the commoditization of our work that much more).

Therefore, the question is not where one draws the line -- the question is how you sample the population with all of its inherit diversity, and how you analyze and present the data. Polling everyone together is simply not a valid approach, and therefore won't yield any meaningful results. Getting a quantitative meaningful insight is similar to translation: it is part art and part science. The survey should be carefully design and follow scientific methodology for its sampling technique and data analysis.
Presenting a number as the average translation price not only further commoditizes our service, it is practically meaningless, but will serve as an anchor in the service of the price dumping propaganda.

A more meaningful representation would be presenting the average for multiple cross-sections, including years of experience; specialty fields; degree in translation/other degree/no degree; main source of income/other; etc. To put the numbers in context.
I'm not a statistician nor a survey expert, so I don't have all the answers for how to do that, but I do know that the current ATA survey design is populist and not scientifically valid one; and while they probably mean well, it will have just the opposite effect.


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Michael Wetzel  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 05:35
German to English
strengthes of the ATA survey Oct 14, 2015

While I think that there are some significant flaws in the survey, I think one of its strengths is actually its capacity to produce exactly the kind of analyses that you are talking about, Shai. I don't know what they'll actually do with their data, but the survey does enable them to correlate years of experience, formal qualifications, subject field, annual income, client base, etc. with fees or rates.

I also agree that averages do not provide very interesting information, however, there is nothing in the survey to prevent the ATA from displaying information in terms of fairly detailed distributions instead of crude averages.

Some of my criticisms:
The survey does not clearly outline how to deal with exchange rates (USD-EUR, for example, changed significantly last year).
Sheila has also pointed out that a freelancer in the US is likely to assume that full time includes about one week of paid public holidays and two to three weeks of paid vacation and possibly no paid sick leave. In Germany (and I think the numbers are similar in most European countries), full time includes around two weeks of paid public holidays and six weeks of paid vacation plus paid sick leave. Full time is not the same as full time, even with a 40-hour work week. Asking respondents to define "full time" might have produced very interesting results.
Questions like "How many words do you translate in an average day?" also invite translators to fool themselves and produce faulty data ... an average day over the period of a week? a month? a year? Most translators are likely to give a figure reflecting a day when they had more than enough to do and did no administrative work.

As far as I know, the ATA's corporate membership is a unique abnormality. This is certainly not the case among Germany's BDÜ, ADÜ Nord, VdÜ, etc.
And I thnk it is also generally very difficult to join professional associations if you did not study translation or seek some form of official certification. That leads to a significant negative selection in terms of specialist translators for a given field and I would rather look for quality translators here at ProZ than in the lists of professional organizations.

However, I do agree with your fundamental point, Shai, that the survey looks like it was largely the work of amateurs and it's a shame that it's not better (particularly because they seem to be conducted so rarely).


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Shai Navé  Identity Verified
Israel
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It takes more than just asking a question Oct 14, 2015

Surveys, by definition, extrapolate data to plot a trend or reach a conclusion. Therefore, the quality of the data is critical, and this is where the science behind sampling techniques plays a critical role.It is not enough just to ask a question, put everything in a worksheet, and plot a nice chart (assuming they will even bother to try and present some different segments).

It might be not politically correct to say this, but people lie in surveys, whether innocently because they want to look better or project their wishful thinking, or for other ulterior motives. This is where sampling techniques and careful design are again very important in filtering out "noise".
Inviting pretty much everyone to answer a couple of question just doesn't cut it, scientifically speaking, and therefore the results will be more in the realm of folklore than a valid professional insight.

Or in other words, to put it bluntly, this is a PR stunt (and revenue channel when they will sell the results) and nothing more. To have something to showcase at the upcoming ATA conference.

Sheila has also pointed out that a freelancer in the US is likely to assume that full time includes about one week of paid public holidays and two to three weeks of paid vacation and possibly no paid sick leave. In Germany (and I think the numbers are similar in most European countries), full time includes around two weeks of paid public holidays and six weeks of paid vacation plus paid sick leave. Full time is not the same as full time, even with a 40-hour work week.

The misuse of terminology in this survey (Compensation, Rates, Full time) is also a big issue and doesn't inspire much confidence in its quality.
Unless this survey polls data from in-house translators, asking about a full time or part time position is as misguided as it gets. Independent translators are not employees -- they are business owners (even if this business defers a little from the traditional definition of the term), and the professional strata runs a career.
One of the big problems in our so-called profession that business owners think and act like employees. This mindset is not in their best interest, but in the best interests of other players on the market.
How can survey by a professional association that claims to promote professional standards, and the profile of the profession, get all the terminology wrong? (By and for whom it was written? I think the terminology sheds some light on that. By the way, ATA is not the only association in which agencies and other players are allowed to join. Not in Germany, but have a look in the UK, and other countries in Europe).

The survey has many other flaws, for example: it asks about per word rate for translation and per minute rate for interpretation. Really? This so the formal position of a professional association is that this is how our service should be measured and priced? Like selling pieces in bulk?

Anyway, if one thinks this survey is worth participating in, very well. I was not trying to discourage people from participating (although, personally, I wouldn't recommend it), just to urge them to make better educated decisions. My point is that one should take a moment to look into the surveys and petitions that pop up all over social media and consider their goal and value before making an educated decision about participating. The current trend of rushing to sign something or disclose sensitive information just because something was promoted on social media is troubling and unwise, if you ask me.

[Edited at 2015-10-15 01:50 GMT]


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Michael Marcoux  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 23:35
Russian to English
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Has the new survey been released yet? Dec 3, 2015

A cursory search reveals nothing but the old 2008 study. I'd really like to take a look at the new one.

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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 04:35
Member (2007)
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All I know Dec 4, 2015

Michael Marcoux wrote:
A cursory search reveals nothing but the old 2008 study. I'd really like to take a look at the new one.

I know that it was going to be discussed at the conference in November, then a summary included in the ATA chronicle a few months later. A link to that discussion should be made available to all, but we clearly aren't at that point in time yet. The full contents will be made available for anyone who cares to pay, but I don't know when.


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Michael Marcoux  Identity Verified
United States
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They finally released it Feb 25, 2016

But you have to be a member to view it, of course. Guess who just signed up for his ATA membership?

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LegalTransform  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 23:35
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Spanish to English
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ATA Rates survey Feb 26, 2016

It will be interesting to compare the 2016 rates to those in 2007: http://translationjournal.net/journal/45compensation.htm

"The compensation surveys undertaken in the past 6 or so years by the ATA are in the opinion of this correspondent, one of the organization's more worthwhile achievements"

"the average income figure arrived at in the ATA's 2007 Compensation Survey..."

[Edited at 2016-02-26 00:50 GMT]


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Michael Marcoux  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 23:35
Russian to English
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not good news... Feb 27, 2016

LegalTransform wrote:

It will be interesting to compare the 2016 rates to those in 2007: http://translationjournal.net/journal/45compensation.htm

"The compensation surveys undertaken in the past 6 or so years by the ATA are in the opinion of this correspondent, one of the organization's more worthwhile achievements"

"the average income figure arrived at in the ATA's 2007 Compensation Survey..."

[Edited at 2016-02-26 00:50 GMT]


I just looked at the survey, and it seems like earnings have dropped by over $10,000 in the past 7 years. Not exactly encouraging. On the other hand, the survey wasn't done scientifically so I wouldn't jump to make any conclusions.


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