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There's an inflation crisis, and it's much worse than we thought!
Thread poster: Bryan Crumpler

Bryan Crumpler  Identity Verified
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Math Jul 12

Chris S wrote:

Bryan Crumpler wrote: I encourage you to brush up on your understanding of mathematics or statistics, before diving deeper into this discussion.


Your math:

8 + 56% = 17

And

8 + 400% = 17

Or did you mean

4 or 5 + 400% = 17

Either way, telling people who are making a living from translation that it is impossible to make a living from translation is a little silly.

The outlook for translators at the bottom end of the market is no doubt bleak, but that probably goes for the bottom end of all markets and doesn’t necessarily mean that the high end too is doomed.



THAT math is not at all what I suggested, and as a degree holder in this subject, I can't possibly imagine why you think that is remotely close to what I put forward. I don't appreciate my time being wasted.

[Edited at 2019-07-12 17:41 GMT]


 

Bryan Crumpler  Identity Verified
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For Maxi Schwarz Jul 12

I linked the ICJ website, but the specific report was compiled by Stephen Doherty.

He states:

"Analysts from the translation industry report that only a tiny amount of digital content, less than 0.1%, is currently being translated (DePalma et al., 2013). Indeed, the language services market as a whole has shown consistent year-on-year growth in recent years despite the global financial crisis, from US$23.50 billion in 2009 to US$34.78 in 2013—an annual growth rate of
... See more
I linked the ICJ website, but the specific report was compiled by Stephen Doherty.

He states:

"Analysts from the translation industry report that only a tiny amount of digital content, less than 0.1%, is currently being translated (DePalma et al., 2013). Indeed, the language services market as a whole has shown consistent year-on-year growth in recent years despite the global financial crisis, from US$23.50 billion in 2009 to US$34.78 in 2013—an annual growth rate of 5.13%. Translation prices per word, however, have continued to decrease by up to 50% since 2008, a diminution that analysts attribute to budgetary pressures and increased acceptance of translation technologies (DePalma
et al., 2013, pp. 8–9).
"

Direct links to his report:

https://ijoc.org/index.php/ijoc/article/viewFile/3499/1573&ved=2ahUKEwj51vqdqa7jAhVvU98KHUpcAycQFjABegQICRAC&usg=AOvVaw3NLCxUp-qt5kjZFuIN_eo6

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/284725157_The_impact_of_translation_technologies_on_the_process_and_product_of_translation

Also, we have been discussing these issues and trends here at Proz since (at least) 2008. There's a past forum about it where providers concluded the same. There wasn't nearly as much pushback then, so I don't know why there should be pushback on this hard data now that we have it.

https://www.proz.com/forum/money_matters/112457-average_salary_for_translators.html

Just to add, the following report from the McKinsey Global Institute may be of interest. It was cited by NPR.

https://www.mckinsey.com/featured-insights/future-of-work/the-future-of-work-in-america-people-and-places-today-and-tomorrow

Original NPR article here:

https://www.npr.org/2019/07/11/740219271/will-your-job-still-exist-in-2030?sc=tw

I hope this is enough information for people to wake up and realize what is actually happening in the US business economy.



[Edited at 2019-07-12 02:55 GMT]
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Mihai Badea
 

Maxi Schwarz  Identity Verified
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answering Bryan Jul 12

Bryan Crumpler wrote:

I linked the ICJ website, but the specific report was compiled by Stephen Doherty.

He states:

"Analysts from the translation industry report .... "

(snipped for brevity)


Again, we don't know who the analysts or whoever talked to, where they got their information etc. I suspect that it is unlikely that they go to individual professional freelance translators. More likely it will be companies, agencies, and perhaps also the creators and marketers of "tools" who have a rather sophisticated PR. I have seen reports and "information" about my profession by official sources over and over, which usually do not at all reflect the reality. Usually it's about translation as a whole rather than being restricted to one country, as you are doing here - I appreciate that. Sometimes it's about my country, and still does not reflect reality, or the whole reality. It these researchers are not talking to regular translators, then they are not getting the picture, and cannot reflect the picture.

You have made statements about this profession disappearing. That cannot happen for the reasons that I cited.

Btw, I do translate for clients in the US, and do translations destined for the US.

What makes me uneasy is that if we as a group keep getting told how low rates "are", what we should expect, how precarious things "are", then if colleagues get persuaded by this, they may timidly undercharge, or allow clients to dictate terms, conditions, and rates.


Josephine Cassar
Bernhard Sulzer
Vera Schoen
Teresa Borges
KateKaminski
 

Bernhard Sulzer  Identity Verified
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My take on the report on the ijoc website Jul 12

Thanks for linking and discussing the article.

Bryan Crumpler wrote:

https://ijoc.org/index.php/ijoc/article/viewFile/3499/1573&ved=2ahUKEwj51vqdqa7jAhVvU98KHUpcAycQFjABegQICRAC&usg=AOvVaw3NLCxUp-qt5kjZFuIN_eo6

I linked the ICJ website, but the specific report was compiled by Stephen Doherty.

He states:

"Analysts from the translation industry report that only a tiny amount of digital content, less than 0.1%, is currently being translated (DePalma et al., 2013). Indeed, the language services market as a whole has shown consistent year-on-year growth in recent years despite the global financial crisis, from US$23.50 billion in 2009 to US$34.78 in 2013—an annual growth rate of 5.13%."


That is very significant growth. No matter how many professional translators are working right now or how many will be joining us, the overall increasing need for translations is a good indicator for how important translations are. An overall point. Another important point is which languages are involved mostly and which languages are the ones translated from and into the most. The report you linked talks about it. Major economic powers that traditionally relied on translation into and from their languages are still important today, with a few more joining and probably many more joining this second. The report further shows that the "language services market" is an ever more complex system in which some people for example rely on automatic translations on Facebook and are happy with it, and fans are creating their own subtitle translations for films to name a few. Also covered in the article.

Bryan Crumpler wrote:

(continued from quoted report above:)
https://ijoc.org/index.php/ijoc/article/viewFile/3499/1573&ved=2ahUKEwj51vqdqa7jAhVvU98KHUpcAycQFjABegQICRAC&usg=AOvVaw3NLCxUp-qt5kjZFuIN_eo6


"... Translation prices per word, however, have continued to decrease by up to 50% since 2008, a diminution that analysts attribute to budgetary pressures and increased acceptance of translation technologies (DePalma et al., 2013, pp. 8–9)."


I wish the report would have looked at that point in more detail. While it is true, from my own experience of seeing what goes on around translation platforms and direct contacts, that there are certainly many clients today unaware or ignorant of adequate rates for accurate translations, mainly because services are being offered and accepted by many providers (agencies and translators) at very low prices, it is not a general fact for professionals. Professionals certainly do not lower their rates in general, and not at all at a rate of up to 50% since 2008 as cited above. This could only be true if they were forced to do so - as the report claims somewhere for translators (certainly not true for real professionals). Bryan you mention you only sporadically dip back into our market when the price is right and you have time for it. Many of us however have continued our job full-time and that for more than 10, 15 or even 20 years without giving in to lowering our rates (in general). Granted, we would all like to raise the rates and I am not saying this is easy or sometimes even possible in the current climate of extreme competition with providers who seem to offer the same quality for much less. Yet, we hold on to a standard of service and adequate remuneration. So far it has been possible for many of us, and in certain language pairs and/or specializations, translators do actually flourish.

What we should also mention is that despite the need or want to adapt and take on Cat-Tools or MT, it is paramount that the translator learns to use them in a way that improves his/her service, the translation and does not compromise his work overall. The article you quoted warns against all kinds of risks that have to do with simplification of language, blind trust in TMs, and the impression that the machine can actually replace the human translator. Here are a few pitfalls mentioned in the report that a professional knows/needs to avoid:

Examples from the report:
https://ijoc.org/index.php/ijoc/article/viewFile/3499/1573&ved=2ahUKEwj51vqdqa7jAhVvU98KHUpcAycQFjABegQICRAC&usg=AOvVaw3NLCxUp-qt5kjZFuIN_eo6

" Indeed, translators may even opt for deliberate lexical repetition to decrease the variance
in their expression and return more TM matches—a tactic known as “peep-hole translation” that poses a
great threat to translation quality (Heyn, 1998) and consistency (Moorkens, Doherty, Kenny, & O’Brien,
2014).
... Bowker (2005) points to a position of “blind faith” in TMs that has been
adopted by translators who assume that the previously used human translation in TM data is of high
quality and, as a result, are much less scrupulous in evaluating it than if they were translating from
scratch.
...lexical simplification in translation (e.g., Laviosa, 2002), explicitation (e.g., Klaudy, 1998), increased use of standard forms of language and the inescapable influence of the linguistic structure of the source text on translation choices (e.g., Toury, 1995).
...Although substantial improvements in the quality of commercial MT systems are clearly evident,
even the best contemporary MT systems frequently produce errors that require some degree of human
intervention. This method of fixing MT output, known as post-editing, has become significant in translation
research and throughout the industry on a global scale (DePalma, 2013).


Especially the last point above is significant - the human translator is indispensable because he/she alone can verify the accuracy of the translation as well as adapt the style and flow as required. This is true for many document applications (legal texts, marketing, literature etc.) With regard to technology and medicine, the human translator is paramount to allow safe use of medical and technical devices and to help prevent harm to clients, patients and users.

Another quote from the report:
https://ijoc.org/index.php/ijoc/article/viewFile/3499/1573&ved=2ahUKEwj51vqdqa7jAhVvU98KHUpcAycQFjABegQICRAC&usg=AOvVaw3NLCxUp-qt5kjZFuIN_eo6

Rates for post-editing tend to be even lower than translation with CAT tools, often by as much as
60% depending on the market and location (DePalma, 2013), yet the range of its applications is quite
diverse. It is often the case that different levels of post-editing (light and heavy) are required to reach a
designated level of quality: “gisting” (e.g., for comprehension of the main points of a text); medium
quality for internal communications, knowledge, and information sharing (e.g., corporate communications
across multiple sites, sharing drafts); and high-quality publishable content for direct public consumption.


Now, the above description is again somewhat misleading. Yes, there are probably many individuals who might accept such rate cuts because they are told or persuaded that it makes sense or because they accept anything once (or quite a few times). But anybody who does a good job of it will realize soon how ridiculous the rates are. They can't sustain you. Maybe they get disillusioned and leave the industry and the next newbie takes their place. But this isn't professional or smart behavior - newcomers should first read up about how to make translating a career not an "I might as well do that" kind of job. Plenty of information out there. Sure, if the service is great, the client will be happy. I remain unconvinced that that's the case. If you don't even know what you should charge to make a living, how can you find the time and resources to do a good job?!

Another quote from the report:
https://ijoc.org/index.php/ijoc/article/viewFile/3499/1573&ved=2ahUKEwj51vqdqa7jAhVvU98KHUpcAycQFjABegQICRAC&usg=AOvVaw3NLCxUp-qt5kjZFuIN_eo6

....TMs ...paved the way for state-of-the-art MT systems that use human translations to emulate the results of the translation process and deliver output in speeds and volumes that will never be achieved by human translators alone. MT, however, is not without its own risks to quality, misrepresentation, and misuse, and it presents another force that translators must contend with as the fixing of machine-translated output becomes the bread and butter of many professional translators.


Even if you use TMs and MT, if the goal is an accurate and stylistically and regionally well adapted translation, it will never be achieved by the TM's and MT's alone. It can't, unless you are translating the exact text again. Too many idiosyncrasies of every new text will prevent this. And simply relying on a non-translator/amateur who happens to speak or read the two languages isn't a guarantee for success either. Quite the opposite. You need to be able to entrust this task to someone who takes his work seriously, especially with regard to ethics/best practices. That remains true in many fields of expertise and for many documents.


And lastly:
https://ijoc.org/index.php/ijoc/article/viewFile/3499/1573&ved=2ahUKEwj51vqdqa7jAhVvU98KHUpcAycQFjABegQICRAC&usg=AOvVaw3NLCxUp-qt5kjZFuIN_eo6

"...With informed and effective use of TMs and MT, many of the known issues and shortcomings of these technologies can be overcome, especially in terms of translation quality, to somewhat mitigate the downward trend in pricing for translation services in line with tighter budgets and deadlines. Further empirical evidence of the effects that these tools have on productivity, consistency, and quality will add value to negotiations of fair and appropriate pricing and evidence-based best practices within the industry and academe—an agenda that is in need of much more collaborative attention."


This I wholeheartedly support. And it often falls to the translator to convince his/her client to accept a fair price, no matter what you call the task. I provide translations and I use technology. Technology is a tool and should be used to improve the quality of service. But it does not replace the translator, and no matter where you input that technology in the translation process, you need to clearly know its place, especially when calculating adequate remuneration.

So, I do believe our profession has a future in any country and (the need for) professional services will not fall by the wayside. We will have to adapt new forms of persuasion to reach and convince new clients such as using social media for marketing, but we'll be able to do that.



[Edited at 2019-07-12 06:03 GMT]


 

Bryan Crumpler  Identity Verified
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For the (still) skeptics Jul 12

The Doherty report is heavily sourced. Please read the cited documents if you want to dig deeper into the rabbit hole. Clearly some of you are skeptical because you have not followed the research.

The IJC is a peer reviewed journal with a rigorous editorial board, so I don't trust these scholars & researchers are just publishing loose, unsound data.

The analysts and their research (up thru 2018 now, I think) is at the Common Sense Advisory. If you want to read all the r
... See more
The Doherty report is heavily sourced. Please read the cited documents if you want to dig deeper into the rabbit hole. Clearly some of you are skeptical because you have not followed the research.

The IJC is a peer reviewed journal with a rigorous editorial board, so I don't trust these scholars & researchers are just publishing loose, unsound data.

The analysts and their research (up thru 2018 now, I think) is at the Common Sense Advisory. If you want to read all the reports, feel free. They're all here: https://insights.csa-research.com/reports?searchTerms=language%20services%20market&MatchAllWords=False

Also, lastly, no one is saying that the industry will disappear. We are saying *document translation* is becoming obsolete as a viable career path FOR AMERICANS (i.e. linguists living & working the US), because rate trends on the global market are inversely proportional to inflation for basic services Americans need but have the least discretion over in terms of pricing.

Sure, we can keep charging more and more to account for inflation, but after a certain point (which we have already breached) automation, AI, and the availability of cheaper alternatives (i.e. people living in countries with a far lower COL, or that already have universal healthcare, free education, robust public transport) are easily accessible over the Internet. So, the advisory is for US-based linguists to either move into alternative areas of the industry that aren't diluted by global competition or find another job. Does that make sense?
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Richard Purdom  Identity Verified
Portugal
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Changing patterns of work Jul 12

Bryan Crumpler wrote:



Inflation for hospital care is over 200%. Avg rent in New York City (where I live) is nearly $3000/month for a 200 sq ft 1 bedroom apartment.

The poverty line in San Francisco is $117,000 a year.

Tech gurus in Silicon Valley are paying $1200 a month for a bunkbed in shared / co-living spaces with 8 to 10 roommates and no privacy.

Who can do this long term if there is a salary requirement of 40 times the rent just to qualify to live someplace? Even I was in the hospital for merely 9 days back in 2013 and was charged $1200/day for the bed alone. Wiped out the entirety of my savings.



I can understand the problem of medical bills, but that seems to be a problem for anybody in the US, not just translators.
As for San Francisco.... why would any translator 'need' to live there? Same counts for New York, London, Paris, and a load of other over-inflated cities. There's no logic exercising a profession you can do anywhere and expecting to be subsidised to live in one of these places (I was born in London as it happens).

Another thing you've left out is how much easier (and cheaper) it is to translate for many these days, quite apart from MT plugins there are free resources like Linguee, IATE, Eur-Lex etc.

I can see that I'm relatively (extremely!) well paid in rural Portugal compared to you in NYC Bryan, even though we translate the same pair, but that's the obvious future. Who can work at a distance can take advantage of it.


Kay-Viktor Stegemann
IT>EN Legal
 

Kaspars Melkis  Identity Verified
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need more data Jul 12

Chris S wrote:
You’re right, I misread what you originally wrote. You’re actually claiming that translators needed to raise their rates from 8 cents to 17 cents over an 11-year period to counter inflation of 56 percent over a 20-year period, in other words more than double their rates to match inflation of around 30 percent. This is even more illogical.


I think something is missing here. The point of the article is that the official inflation (56% over 20 years) does not really cover your actual increase of costs. I don't know why they say that and it would help if Bryan explained this in more detail. But it appears that they mean that ability to receive healthcare and education is more important and essential than buying furniture and TVs. Maybe it's the proportion of these different things that are counted wrong and people actually need much more health care especially if they are getting older. And housing might not consider regional differences etc. Therefore you really have to increase your prices by 113% over 11 year period to be able to afford the same lifestyle. And that is not even counting the expectations to earn more as you become more experienced.

Another thing is that relying on personal experience doesn't help to understand this issue. One personally might be very well keeping it up with the inflation and beyond that. However, it might not be true for everyone. When one senior translator retires and another takes his place he might not charge the same rates. Maybe he started from much lower position, even 5 or 6 cents/word and while he considers his income increased considerably, he might never catch up. In this scenario even if everybody experienced equally raising prices, there would be a decrease of the average rates.


Chris S
 
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Bryan Crumpler  Identity Verified
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For Purdom Jul 12

As for San Francisco.... why would any translator 'need' to live there? Same counts for New York, London, Paris, and a load of other over-inflated cities


Family reasons; relationship reasons; diversity & inclusion reasons; political climate; issues of racism & discrimination; spouse/partner may be employed there; access to new, secondary, tertiary, quaternary job opportunities; high immigrant population with dense language diversity where there is local market demand... could be a whole host of reasons, but we can't all live in Cleveland. Mind you, I retired from translation before moving to New York, so that doesn't factor into the equation; but I can tell you that as soon as I arrived, employment opportunities seemingly started falling out of the sky. I was in Atlanta before and the bulk of my most well paid work came from the local embassy, the film industry, the ATA, and teaching music, but there wasn't much opportunity to do what I really wanted to do until I came to New York. Nonetheless, it took 14+ years to climb the ladder high enough that that would have been possible.


Another thing you've left out is how much easier (and cheaper) it is to translate for many these days, quite apart from MT plugins there are free resources like Linguee, IATE, Eur-Lex etc.


I don't think stating the obvious is useful. Nonetheless, please defer to the full Doherty report and Common Sense Advisories that cover assessments of this area.


 

Bryan Crumpler  Identity Verified
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For Kaspars Melkis Jul 12

Kaspars Melkis wrote:

Chris S wrote:
You’re right, I misread what you originally wrote. You’re actually claiming that translators needed to raise their rates from 8 cents to 17 cents over an 11-year period to counter inflation of 56 percent over a 20-year period, in other words more than double their rates to match inflation of around 30 percent. This is even more illogical.


I think something is missing here. The point of the article is that the official inflation (56% over 20 years) does not really cover your actual increase of costs. I don't know why they say that and it would help if Bryan explained this in more detail.


You are absolutely correct.

They say that because, as Xavior Antoine notes in his coverage of this issue on LinkedIn, the services like higher education & healthcare are things Americans have the least discretion over in terms of controlling the cost. The only way for healthcare costs to decrease is if there are, *for example*, fewer health risks, fewer malpractice suits, numerously more doctors, and more competition on the insurance market. 2020 Presidential candidate Marianne Williamson even addressed some of these root causes in the 1st democratic debates.

Also, just to note, the 56% is merely an average of these "selected" goods and services.
If you exclude items that weigh that average down (toys, TVs, etc), and chart rate trends along the same graph (separate from "average" wage trends), you see a much bigger gap. If you include every line item the BLS uses that contribute to the CPI data, that gap reduces to the reported rate of 2.15%. Just looking at the healthcare issue alone, we can see from the AEI chart that hospital care alone is 100X that.

So, for the sake of averages, the simple way to estimate rate increases to cover the gap in relationship to the AEI chart is reduce the window along the X axis to 2019, assume -50% as a baseline for whatever your current rates are (I gave 8 cents as an example) and then scan the domain (the Y axis) up to the 56% line drawn for the current inflation rate. That difference, based on these 2 data points, is 106% (or 56% minus negative 50%). The multiplier, thus, is ((0.56+0.5)+1) or 2.06.

2.06*[your old rate] = [your new rate]

Using 8 as an example of an old rate, we get about 16.49 cents.
I rounded up to 17 for simplicity and accounting for the number of significant digits when diving 16.48 by 97% (assuming an estimated 3% in transaction fees for services like PayPal, cross border payments, currency conversions NOT at interbank rates, among other things).

It's really that simple.

[Edited at 2019-07-12 17:58 GMT]


 

DZiW
Ukraine
English to Russian
+ ...
a nice black horsey Jul 12

Bryan, working with direct clients only, I also hear my British and American clients mention the stagnation worldwide. It's a bit alarming for they are big fish in the international business.
For what it's worth, no self-proclaimed rich minority can eternally prosper in clover at the expense of the poor vast majority!


However, we had no troubles and they can afford paying me $0.25-$0.50/word and $750+ for biz conferences, covering all extra costs. Of course, now I'm more a specialists in their field with decent foreign language skills, not a "pure" (theorist) translator, yet still...

An odd type, perhaps, but I welcome the time when there will be no "pure" some $0.05/w translators)

[Edited at 2019-07-12 17:11 GMT]


Liviu-Lee Roth
 

Bryan Crumpler  Identity Verified
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For DZiW Jul 12

DZiW wrote:

I welcome the time when there will be no "pure" some $0.05/w translators)


Finally, someone who gets it. This is the big major point I am getting at. Thank you.

Document translators living in the USA really can't compete on the online global marketplace when there are significant numbers of people on the internet willing to work for 4-5 cents a word for whatever reason (low cost of living, strapped for cash, trying to gain experience, passing off MT as HT, whatever). Automation, AI, and changing attitudes toward MT are just another driving force that drags against necessary rate increases to account for inflation in specific areas of basic need.

Thanks again for your input.


 

James Heppe-Smith  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 01:35
Member (2010)
German to English

Moderator of this forum
Keep it professional please... Jul 12

...and please remember debate is welcomed, personal remarks about fellow posters are not.

Thank you.

[Edited at 2019-07-12 17:40 GMT]


DZiW
 

Chris S  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Swedish to English
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Mystery partly solved Jul 12

OK, Bryan, now your sums are making more sense to me, but I still don’t get why you are starting at -50%. Do please explain.

 
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