Invitation to a discussion: Charging per line (German)
Thread poster: Woodstock

Woodstock  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 07:10
German to English
+ ...
Apr 20, 2006

Hi, everyone!

This post is to invite a discussion on the above topic, but especially to educate less experienced translators who might not be very familiar with this practice. While I realize this topic has come up now and again on the forum, I hadn't seen it recently and was inspired to write this by a job offer that quoted a fixed total price + the number of lines to be translated. It didn't look too bad, until I calculated the per line price: What a joke!

German-speaking countries often use a per line (usually target language) rate for translations, excepting those requiriing Trados - though I have come across a combination: using Trados and still charging per line, but it's rare, I would think.

The point here is that the above-mentioned job offer for a fixed fee worked out to something a little over EUR 0,30 per line.

That's a terrible rate, and no translator in his/her right mind should accept it, but some may just not know that a standard line is 55 characters, including spaces. Of course, the number of words per line can vary wildly, and I surmise that this calculation mode is standard practice in German-speaking countries because German words can be very, very long. Correct me if I'm wrong, though.

I've never worked out how many German words there are in a line on average, but I think some colleagues have done this. I just use a ball-park figure of 10 words per line, and the above-mentioned line rate then works out to 0,03 EUR per word, which is a lousy rate in any language.

Line rates vary, of course, just as word rates do, according to subject matter, difficulty, etc. However, I wanted to caution those unfamiliar with line rates not to accept a line rate that is an insult to our profession, just because the end price doesn't look too bad.

I hope that colleagues who work with line rates will offer some of their experiences here and tips for newbies on how to calculate line rates.

Thanks a lot in advance!

Woodstock


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Barbara Wiegel  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 07:10
English to German
+ ...
My own personal experience Apr 20, 2006

I regularly work for 2 German agencies. They pay average rates and if you compare their rates to each other (based on the assumption that one standard line contains indeed on average 10 words) they are pretty much on the same level.

Agency X wants me to charge based on the number of target (=German) text lines (55 characters incl. spaces), agency Y wants me to charge based on the number of source (=English) text words.

I cross-calculated the latest projects I did for both of them and here is what I found out:

Had I charged agency X based on English word count I would have earned between 12 and 40% less than I actually earned.
Had I, however, charged agency Y based on the German text line count I would have earned between 35 and 60% more.

The biggest discrepancy (60%) was for a legal text (contract) with approx. 5.600 words/700 lines of English source text. I received payment on the basis of the English word count. Had I charged based on the number of German words/lines (5.440 words/820 lines) I would have received 60% more money.

Well, that's my experience. I hope that the jobs from Agency X will keep coming to even out what I earn less from Agency Y's jobs...

Best,
Barbara


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Woodstock  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 07:10
German to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
I'm sure the German agencies are aware of what they're doing Apr 20, 2006

Barbara Wiegel wrote:

...snip

The biggest discrepancy (60%) was for a legal text (contract) with approx. 5.600 words/700 lines of English source text. I received payment on the basis of the English word count. Had I charged based on the number of German words/lines (5.440 words/820 lines) I would have received 60% more money.




I think it's well-known among the agencies that English translations are usually quite a bit shorter than the German originals: that is a very good point that you brought up.

One should try to negotiate rates based on the German text, always! (This is half-joking, of course, but the translators should try to get the best rate possible, which is only natural.)

[Edited at 2006-04-20 11:31]


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Ford Prefect  Identity Verified
Burkina Faso
Local time: 05:10
German to English
+ ...
Ten words a line? Apr 20, 2006

I tried to work out sensible line rates once from a total of 62 varied documents I translated over several years (all DE>EN). There was an average of 7.69 characters per word in the source texts including spaces, making an average of 7.15 German words per line of 55 characters. So I used this average to calculate a quote for the one agent who once wanted a line quote.

The target texts were on average 12.2% longer by word count, but almost 6% _shorter_ by character count. However, both these figures were very variable between documents, a few documents contracted on both counts, and some expanded on both.

If anyone else (DE>EN) has time to waste working out their figures, this could make for some interesting comparisons.


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Woodstock  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 07:10
German to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks Apr 20, 2006

Wow, you really did a thorough job! As I said, 10 was just a rough guess, but I suppose 8 would be more accurate. Any way you calculate, 0,30EUR per line is a terrible rate. the lowest I've come across so far is 0,65EUR per line, but that was based on the German source text (which is USUALLY longer). 0,70 - 0,85EUR per line of target text (which is English in my case) seems to be the normal range for AGENCIES, but I'm happy to hear from anyone with different ideas, opinions and/or experiences.

I'll look at your calculations more closely later (when I have more time), thanks a lot for the input! And it has happened that an English text turned out to be longer than the German original, but that is extremely rare in the type of documents I translate.

[Edited at 2006-04-20 11:25]

[Edited at 2006-04-20 11:26]


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Antje Harder  Identity Verified
Sweden
Local time: 07:10
Swedish to German
+ ...
Converting prices Apr 20, 2006

There are advantages and disadvantages with both systems (charging by the number of words or lines). Of course 0,30 EUR/line is a joke - but then it's up to the translator to turn down such jobs...

Anyway, this calculator might be useful for those who have to switch to another charging method for the first time:
http://www.amtrad.it/feewizardol.php

Of course the conversion factor can differ, mainly depending on the type of document and topic that you are dealing with. But it gives you a certain idea about what to charge.

Best regards from Sweden
Antje


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Woodstock  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 07:10
German to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you for the link Apr 20, 2006

Antje Harder wrote:

There are advantages and disadvantages with both systems (charging by the number of words or lines). Of course 0,30 EUR/line is a joke - but then it's up to the translator to turn down such jobs...

Anyway, this calculator might be useful for those who have to switch to another charging method for the first time:
http://www.amtrad.it/feewizardol.php

Of course the conversion factor can differ, mainly depending on the type of document and topic that you are dealing with. But it gives you a certain idea about what to charge.

Best regards from Sweden
Antje


1. I agree that it's up to the translator to turn down such jobs, but people not accustomed to working with line charges may not realize what a raw deal they're getting. The job I'm referring to had a number of bids, but maybe some of those were just to tell the agency that the rate was ludicrous (I hope). My gosh, people doing manual labor earn more than that here in Germany, and many of us have a higher education. This price issue really, really irks me.

2. Thanks for the link, I'm sure it will be helpful to many.

Cheers, Woodstock


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Invitation to a discussion: Charging per line (German)

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