Why Do Translator Fees Vary Dramatically?

Translator Fees | Translation Fees | Spread The Word Blog

Individuals and business owners with little or no knowledge of the translation profession are frequently surprised at the vastly different fees translators charge. Uniformed translation clients have a difficult time understanding why some translators can translate for little as a couple of dollars while others charge in the hundreds for their translation services.

Why do translators fees vary so dramatically?

The short answer...Professional translators are few and expensive while non-professional translators are plenty and cheap.  

Skeptics may still not completely understand the enormous differences between translations that cost only a few hundred dollars and those that command thousands.  Simply put, professional translators are few and have spent hours upon hours honing their craft to near perfection.  They apply their years of experience, education, cultural knowledge, and writing techniques.  Their standards are high and their translations are publish-ready quality.

First, a client must understand the differences between a professional and a non-professional translator.  Why?  Because many people believe that anyone who can speak, read, and write two or more languages qualifies them to be a translator; and, since anyone who is bilingual can translate, what justification does a professional translator have to demand higher fees?  That reasoning is ill informed, I will try to explain.

Who are considered professional translators?

Certified Translators

A certified translator is professional translator who has a college or university degree in the field of translation; and/or a professional translator who is state or federally certified; and/or a professional who has been given a certificate by an association, school or other respected institution within the field of translation.

Qualified Translators

A qualified translators is a professional translator that has many years of work experience and knowledge in the field of translation; and/or a professional who has completed a college level training program within the field of translation.

Most of the time professional translators will live and work where the language into which they translate material is spoken. The a majority of professional translators translate into their mother tongue. They thoroughly comprehend the original material as well as the target language.

Who are considered non-professional translators?

Bilingual individuals who are not certified or qualified translators.

Why are professional translator fees high?

Professional translators charge high fees because this is their profession, their business, not a hobby or side job.  As a business owner they charge like any other professional business would.  More than just being bilingual they are certified or qualified to translate in a professional capacity.  They are committed to quality, honesty, and professionalism.

Translators who specialize in overall quality, a few areas of expertise, and professionalism are vastly different from high-volume translators or translation agencies.  You will have to pay more for professional translators, but your translation will be properly translated.

Why are so-called translators (non-professional) fees so low?

The bilingual individual who calls himself a translator and is not certified or qualified can charge cheap because they are not professional.

Should you decide to have a non-professional translator translate your material, remember that you get what you pay for.  Translation companies that specialize in cheap translations cannot afford to spend a lot of money paying professional translators.  Their business model relies on volume.  The more material they translate, the more money they make.  Therefore, human translated and/or publish-ready translations is normally minimal.

What do professional translators consider before providing a quote?

Apart from their resume and business expenses, a professional translator takes in consideration several factors that affect the cost of a translation project.

Here are just a few things a translator takes in consideration before arriving at a quote, because ultimately, each translation project and client needs are unique:
  • Formating
  • Style
  • Subject matter
  • Expertise
  • Informational translation
  • Publish-ready translation
  • Localization
  • Transcreation
  • Editing
  • Proofreading
  • Intended audience/reader
  • Purpose
  • Source language (regional variation)
  • Target language (regional variation)
  • Flexible deadline
  • Tight deadline
  • Volume of text
  • Typography
  • Graphs
  • Tables
  • Converting numbers and dates
  • Research
  • Reference material
  • Time it will take to translate
  • Website translation
  • Document translation
As you can see a professional translator is more than just a person knowing more than one language.  The amount of education, experience, credentials, knowledge, expertise, specialization, and prep work performed is what justifies the fee of a professional translation job.  All these factors together are what distinguishes the final quality of a professional translation.

In Other words, You Get What You pay For

Close inspection of translations that have been translated by inexpensive translation businesses generally reveals machine translations, errors, mistranslations, additions, and/or omissions.  Machine translations may translate the main idea but not the details.  A translator who is swamped with work because he charges so low might not have the time to thoroughly do a job well done.

Now, should you want a publish-ready translation than the one just described, and most people and businesses do, this will, of course, cost you more.  The price of quality and professional service is high.  Inexpensive translation companies are forced to use machine translations, bad business practices, and/or unqualified translators.  Quality is limited to how good the machine translation is or what their definition is of a translator.

Why do translator fees vary dramatically? | Spread The Word Blog by www.elingual.net

What is the Professional Translation Process?

The Translation Process Explained In 5 Steps

Step 1: The translator receives the original text from the client.

A professional translator communicates directly with the client.  Together, the client and the translator can correctly assess the project.   Once the professional translator gives the client a quote, it is natural for the client to want to compare fees from other translators; but remember, you get what you pay for.  Once the client decides on the translator, together they will work as a team to get the job done right and on time.

Step 2: The translator analyzes the original text carefully.

Generally speaking, before translation can even begin, translators carefully read and research the original text.  During this pre-translation process, the professional translator thoroughly checks all text for accuracy and correct language usage. Translators work as a team with their clients, so good cooperation is the key. Together they explore solutions to tough translation problems.

Step 3:  The translator prepares to begin translation and translates.

Translators consider not just words but groups of words. They weigh their real meaning and intent, constantly reminding themselves of the target audience.  They make sure each expression is natural, understandable, and appealing, this helps convey the real meaning of the original text.  If there are any concerns with the original text the translator will communicate with the client to get any clarification, ask questions or discuss any concerns.

How do (some) translators translate?

First, the translator reads the original to get the feel of the material and to discern its basic structure, style, and the target audience.  The translator makes sure they understand the material to insure they translate conveying the same style as the original.  Then, the translator types a paragraph in the target language.  They check that no ideas have been omitted or added.  They also look for naturalness, proper spelling, and correct grammar.

Computers still cannot replace human translators but some professional translators use translation tools that help to streamline their work.  A computer aided tool, commonly known as CAT, is a type of dictionary in which commonly used terms and phrases are accumulated or a database with everything that has already been translated by the professional and see previous creative solutions to his translation challenges.

Step 4: The translator proofreads the translation.

The translator's goal is for the reader to feel as if the material were originally written in his mother tongue. It should not read as a translation. The language used should feel natural, clear, faithful to the original text, and grammatically correct.

Step 5: The translator does a final proofreading, and then the translated text is sent to the client.

A translator may read each translated paragraph or page aloud several times. If he or she stumbles when reading, they make notes, highlighting problems that need to be fixed.  This ensures that the intended reader may understand the text the very first time they read it.

Often times the translator may read the material again the next day with a fresh mind or have a fellow translator read it for a fresh set of eyes.  After the final adjustments are made the translation is given to the client.

Finding a certified or qualified professional translator with a reputable track record should not be too difficult.  Online and offline word of mouth recommendations are generally reliable.  If an individual or business has recently had a translation, ask how he or she feels about the quality of service.

Why do translator fees vary dramatically? | Spread The Word Blog by www.elingual.net

What is the cost of a professional translation?

Only the professional translator knows what their services are worth, what their experience, education, credentials, and time is worth.  They know the amount of time and work involved pre, during, and post translation stages.  As a business owner, they know their business expenses including the cost of computer programs, reference materials, dictionaries, computer aided tools, glossaries, thesaurus, and continued education.  In other words, the cost of a quality translation is not cheap.

Feel free to connect or email me, Carmen Arismendy.  I'm a professional Spanish interpreter-translator and founder of eLingual.Net.  I started the eLingual Network because I could not find a fair, no middleman, no job bidding, ethical, and transparent meeting place for translators, interpreters, and clients online.  The website is in beta phase and by no means perfect but it's a step in the right direction.


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