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I would like some opinions on the practical relationship between rates and quality
Thread poster: Łukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz

Łukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 11:15
English to Polish
+ ...
Jul 11, 2015

This is mostly one for PMs, I guess, but I welcome opinions from anyone who's been in a position to evaluate the quality of a translation reliably while knowing how much was paid for it or how much the translator usually charged.

So, in your experience or judgement, does translation quality increase along with translation price? If yes, then what does the relationship look like? Is the return directly proportional or is it a diminishing or increasing proportion rather? Where's the optimum/maximum return at and why? Anything else interesting to add?


 

Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 10:15
Member (2008)
Italian to English
Quality Jul 11, 2015

Quality should never be variable. It should always be the best. If you can't deliver quality because the rate is too low, don't accept the job. There's no sliding scale of quality. The quality knob must always be at 100%. There are no circumstances in which anything less than the best would be acceptable.

[Edited at 2015-07-11 20:34 GMT]


 

Andrea Halbritter  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 11:15
Member (2014)
French to German
+ ...
Agree with Tom Jul 11, 2015

I agree with Tom in London. Quality always must be at a 100 %. If the rate is too low, just say it and don't accept the job.

 

Michael Beijer  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 10:15
Member (2009)
Dutch to English
+ ...
Disagree with Tom Jul 11, 2015

Not all clients want or need top quality. Sometimes they want to pay less and get a quick, OK translation. Not that I have any personal experience with this, as I can't seem to manage such a thing (due to my personality, I either do a great job or no job at all). But there is definitely a market for Less Than Excellent.

 

Łukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 11:15
English to Polish
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
I was asking about different translators Jul 11, 2015

I was asking about the perceived relationship between a translator's rate and quality, i.e. quality vs 0.03, 0.06, 0.10, 0.15, 0.30 etc. 'pay grades' as perceived by those who pay the prices (or at least those who know the prices and can assess the quality of the work).

[Edited at 2015-07-11 21:22 GMT]


 

Chris S  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Swedish to English
+ ...
Honestly... Jul 11, 2015

Tom in London wrote:

Quality should never be variable. It should always be the best. If you can't deliver quality because the rate is too low, don't accept the job. There's no sliding scale of quality. The quality knob must always be at 100%. There are no circumstances in which anything less than the best would be acceptable.

[Edited at 2015-07-11 20:34 GMT]


How could all translators possibly be equally best?!

I would say from our experience in Scandi to English that price and quality are correlated on average but definitely not in every case. Some very pricey translators are awful, no idea how they do it!!

But few good-but-cheap translators remain cheap for long...

Sadly the most economical solution is generally to have a good translator patch up a cheap translator's work.


 

Merab Dekano  Identity Verified
Spain
Member (2014)
English to Spanish
+ ...
What is quality? Jul 11, 2015

There is no such thing as “quality” of the translation. It means everything and therefore nothing.

There are variables that influence the overall fitness or acceptability of a translation. These are, basically:

- Mistranslations (red card)
- Inconsistency in the use of terminology (yellow card)
- Improper register (red card)
- Typos (oral warning)
- Unnatural language (red card)
- Poor style (red card)

Some of them are so fundamental and go so deep into human nature (unnatural language, poor style) that they cannot be fixed no matter what. Those “tranzloiters” ought to bow out the door of the profession, preferably with dignity. Nobody will pay them high rates. They are not aiming at high earnings either. They do, however, upset just about everyone. They are in the wrong place.

On the other hand, some very good translators do not know how to “market” their services and are sustainably putting up with low pay.

My understanding is that representatives of other professions (medical doctors, lawyers, engineers, scientists, musicians) who transitioned into our profession because they found that translation work satisfied them better than practicing their own professions, will find themselves at the “high end” of the rates after about 5-7 years of service as full time translators. There are two reasons for this:

1. They absolutely love languages and everything about them. Otherwise they would not have transitioned (it is clear that they made a mistake in choosing their first profession).

2. 5-7 years of practice brings them at most of the linguists’ level while retaining their subject matter expertise. They needn’t be great lawyers to produce a brilliant translation of a complex agreement. They simply need to have a first-hand understanding of all the concepts involved (which purely linguist translators do not have).


 

Phil Hand  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 17:15
Chinese to English
A probabilistic model Jul 12, 2015

Based on my own experience, and applicable to my own pair only:

Under ~10c, you have a 95%+ chance of getting rubbish. By this I mean serious misunderstandings of the source and dumb translatorese in the target.

Then there's a fairly steep transition, and above ~10c, there's a new equilibrium, with about a 70% chance of getting something good.

That 70% may be optimistic.


 

Teresa Borges
Portugal
Local time: 10:15
Member (2007)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Rates vs quality Jul 12, 2015

I do outsource work here and then. Over the years I managed to build a network of freelancers with whom I’m more than happy to work with. They all produce a good to excellent quality (otherwise I wouldn’t keep on working with them) and charge very similar rates (with only one exception), though working on different language pairs and subject matters. So, based on my experience, I would say that some 20 years ago, different translators living in different countries applied very different rates, but nowadays (thanks to internet?) rates are much alike.

These days, I do receive quite a lot of CVs and anyone claiming to translate millions of words per year for a peanuts rate, goes directly to the bin!


 

Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 10:15
Member (2008)
Italian to English
Not Jul 12, 2015

Merab Dekano wrote:

There is no such thing as “quality” of the translation. It means everything and therefore nothing.




Trust me. I know what "quality" means, and so do my clients.

[Edited at 2015-07-12 08:24 GMT]


 

Merab Dekano  Identity Verified
Spain
Member (2014)
English to Spanish
+ ...
I trust you, Tom Jul 12, 2015

Tom in London wrote:

Merab Dekano wrote:

There is no such thing as “quality” of the translation. It means everything and therefore nothing.




Trust me. I know what "quality" means, and so do my clients.

[Edited at 2015-07-12 08:24 GMT]


But that was not the point.


 

Vero Nika  Identity Verified
Czech Republic
Local time: 11:15
English to Czech
+ ...
What is a low rate in one country can be a very generous rate in another Jul 12, 2015

What Phil says might be true, but I'd just like to add that you'll never be able to set a universal rate that divides trash from quality and is valid for any country.

I live in a country where the basic sum you need for the whole month (renting an apartment with no flatmates, paying energy charges and internet, having enough good food) is about 500 dollars (if you don't live in the centre of the capital city). Yeah. Of course even here are the so called "translators" who accept 0,02 USD per word and then complain about their low earnings. But on the other hand, a translator working for 0,10 USD would earn more than 98% of the citizens. And 0,06 is the rate recommended by the leading professional organization.

It's just how prices are set here, and when it's beer o'clock, you can get a bottle of very good beer for less than one dollar.


 

Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 10:15
Member (2008)
Italian to English
The point Jul 12, 2015

Merab Dekano wrote:

But that was not the point.



The point is to offer suggestions in response to the original query

"I would like some opinions on the practical relationship between rates and quality"

- and that is what I am doing. If you want a philosophical discussion as to what the word "quality" means, we will very quickly wander off that point.

[Edited at 2015-07-12 09:53 GMT]


 

neilmac  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 11:15
Spanish to English
+ ...
Opinion Jul 12, 2015

My rates are average to low, so I must be an average to duff translator. QED.

 

LilianNekipelov  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 05:15
Russian to English
+ ...
I agree with Tom. Quality should always be top. Jul 12, 2015

Chris S wrote:

Tom in London wrote:

Quality should never be variable. It should always be the best. If you can't deliver quality because the rate is too low, don't accept the job. There's no sliding scale of quality. The quality knob must always be at 100%. There are no circumstances in which anything less than the best would be acceptable.

[Edited at 2015-07-11 20:34 GMT]


How could all translators possibly be equally best?!

I would say from our experience in Scandi to English that price and quality are correlated on average but definitely not in every case. Some very pricey translators are awful, no idea how they do it!!

But few good-but-cheap translators remain cheap for long...

Sadly the most economical solution is generally to have a good translator patch up a cheap translator's work.


And, the rates should make sense for the translator, after deducting taxes, especially. So, if a particular piece takes them the entire day, let's say 1,500 words, they still have to end up with something like $250 after taxes. So, the rate should really be about $0.20/word.

1,500 is an average, reasonable speed if you want hight quality, and also think about your health. One can do even 4,000 per day, occasionally, but not on an everyday basis.
As to Scandinavian, what did you mean by Scandinavian—there is no Scandinavian language, per se, just languages, the differences between them being too significant to qualify as a language, although some translators seem to ignore it.


 
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