Spanish/English translation rates
Thread poster: eedgar2

United States
Local time: 19:29
Spanish to English
+ ...
Dec 18, 2009


I need help, please! There's a possibility that I will work for a company as an English/Spanish translator of medical topics. I did a Minor in Spanish in college, and I'm very fluent in Spanish. However, I don't have any translator certification, and I have little translating experience. How much should I ask for my work, given my experience/inexperience and qualifications? Thank you.



Robert Forstag  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 19:29
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
First and foremost.... Dec 18, 2009 need to honestly consider whether you are truly qualified to do the job. It sounds like you have your doubts....

There really is no point accepting a position for which you are unqualified. So consider this seriously. It is surprising to me that the company in question has not subjected you to tests to establish your qualifications. It would not be a wonderful feeling to be called into the office after a few days and told by your grim-faced supervisor, "I'm so sorry, but this doesn't seem to be working out...."

It would also help prospective answerers to know if your job involves written translation or oral interpreting. If the former, then in what direction?

I hope this helps.

[Addendum: "Woodstock" makes a very important point as well; I would really wonder about the hiring practices of such a company; sometimes, it is possible to "catch a break" and be hired into a position for which one lacks formal credentials, even though he or she truly is capable of handling the necessary duties. But that is different from the kind of scenario you seem to be describing. Your reservations about your own abilities are the most important datum here and, as both Woodstock and I imply, this is not the kind of deficiency that can be remedied by reading a couple of books and memorizing a few pieces of information.......]

[Edited at 2009-12-18 16:59 GMT]


Woodstock  Identity Verified
Local time: 01:29
Member (2005)
German to English
+ ...
Just as relevant as translation experience Dec 18, 2009

would be if you have any knowledge of medicine, since the company in question is focused on that area, you say. Medical translation is a highly specialized field, and usually requires years of practice and often medical translators are doctors or have some other medical background. A mistake can mean life or death, in the worst case. If the company in question is willing to hire you for such a position even though you have little experience in translating, and possibly none in medicine (you don't say if you do or don't), I would be extremely cautious about working for such a company.




Grayson Morr (X)  Identity Verified
Local time: 01:29
Dutch to English
A third point to consider... Dec 18, 2009 whether your skill in your native language is sufficient for professional translating in the first place. You need to be excellent in English (I assume); well-read, large vocabulary, impeccable grammar, command of punctuation and accepted style (such as Chicago or Oxford).

I don't see your lack of formal accreditation as the main stumbling block; I don't have any, either, but I'm an excellent translator. I am passionate about language, and my native language in particular, and I read style books and dictionaries for fun.icon_smile.gif I'm not saying you have to be this way to be a good translator, but it sure helps, especially if you lack the formal training for it.

If you don't have much translating experience, then you're going to make mistakes in the beginning, until you develop a feel for it. Your first texts will be far too literal and stilted. You'll think everything must be clear from the text itself, and never ask your client to explain what they mean in an awkward or complicated section. You'll grossly underestimate how much time you need for a project. Only experience will help remedy all this.

That doesn't mean you can't take this job, but you might want to spend a lot of your free time in the beginning translating everything you can get your hands on: stories you like, web pages, newspaper articles, anything. An excellent turbocharged way to boost your feel is to pick something already translated--go with a famous Spanish book, translated well--and compare your version of, say, the first chapter with the existing translation. Ask yourself why that person chose a certain phrasing here, a particular word there.

As Woodstock points out, it seems to me crucial that you have experience in the medical field(s) in which the company needs translations. Especially in technical fields, you must be very wary of 'false friends', words in the source language that look like words in the target language but have a different meaning. Translation is 90% context and 10% dictionary; you will not be able to get by on looking up all the things you don't know, or trying to match word for word.

All that said, to answer your actual question: if you take the position, charge normal per-word rates (I don't know what these are in your language pair and country, but you can find that out). In the beginning, you will probably work twice as long as you expected to on a project, so you'll actually be making half as much as you thought you were charging on a per-hour basis; later, when you become more skilled and more efficient, you'll be worth that hourly rate.

My two eurocents, for what they're worth.icon_smile.gif

[Edited at 2009-12-18 19:55 GMT]


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