Monday, February 14, 2011

I wonder how much they can pay translators, if they charge that rate

Just received this offer from a so-called “translation company” from abroad:

We are service providers to global translation and publishing companies, […]

The three-step TEP (Translation Edit Proof) procedure: Your document is first translated (Translation) by a bilingual specialist; it is then reviewed (Edit) for accuracy by a second translator who is familiar with the characteristics of your target audience and it is finally proofread (Proof) by the original translator or a third translator who approves eventual changes made and checks for flow.

We […] build relevant translation memories to help you achieve highest quality and homogeneity possible at minimum cost. We also help you create glossaries for your projects should you not have one to ensure consistency throughout the difference phases of the translation process.


                  FRENCH, GERMAN, SPANISH AND ITALIAN <> ENGLISH                     

=> EUR 0,075 / per word

Texts are edited, revised, proofread and spell-checked before delivery.

Now, if they charge their customers Euro 0.075/word for T+E+P, and even if the margin they keep for themselves is a paper-thin 20%, how much can they afford to pay their translators, editors and proofreaders?

A quick estimate gives me the following:

Eur 0.075 – 20% = Eur 0.06 (available to pay for work outsourced)

if we divide this half for translation, 30% for editing and 20% for proofing, we get the following rates:

Translation, Eur 0.03/word

Editing, Eur 0.018/word

Proofreading, Eur 0.012/word

That’s in Euro. at today’s exchange rate, in dollars the above rates are:

USD 0.10 – 20% = USD 0.08 (available to pay for work outsourced)

Translation, USD 0.04/word

Editing, USD 0.024/word

Proofreading, 0.016/word

Do you think that is enough to pay for good “bilingual specialists”?

Me neither.

The sad thing is that these guys are from the UK. You’d think they should know better.


  1. I got the same e-mail and was asking myself the same question!
    Do you think they actually use MT and then just hire a proofreader to fix the mess? Even if they did that... Not sure what to think.


  2. They may be from the UK but they appear not to have used the "three-step procedure" on their own marketing blurb! Oops

  3. I think you are not considering the possibility that the proofreading and editing is done in-house; this would eliminate the 50% you calculate for E+P steps ... although it is true that you cannot have proofreaders and editors for all languages in your in-house team.
    And, more importantly - do you really assume this company adheres to their "TEP"-policy in practice?
    I don´t. I would say 95% of translation agencies use these terms and processes to attract customers, without ever actually implementing these steps.

  4. Even if all the work is done in house (including translation), things don't change much - they still have to spend time on the different tasks. Let's say "they" is in fact a partnership of three translators. If they accept a project at those rates, they are paying themselves Euro 0.0375 for translation, 0.0225 for editing and 0.015 for proofreading.

  5. BTW, I'm not touching your argoment that 95% of translation agencies do not actually implment the various steps, because I have no proof these guys actually skip these steps. I'm more optimistic than you in this: according to my experience most (if not all) agencies do in fact provide both translation and editing (but perhaps I'm just dealing with a better kind of agencies).

  6. ..and that is why I try to obtain CV's of the "qualified translators" that these agencies use for their 3 step processes. I also randomly request that they send back the edited file with track changes on. If they have a problem providing this, then that is a red flag indicator...

  7. Would somebody be able to explain what exactly is to be understood by "editing"? I find it hard to grasp the concept ... let´s assume you receive a Word document with mainly text, a few graphics and some tables. Translate it - ok. Proofread it - ok. But where or what is the "edit" step?

  8. This is the definition I use in my company's marketing documentation. It is very similar to the definition given by ASTM:

    Editing: revision of the translation with correction of mistranslations, omissions/additions, as well as language errors in the target language. Done by comparing the target text to the source text.

    Proofreading: revision of the translation to correct typos and similar errors in the target language. Normally performed without reference to the source language.

  9. Well, you get what you pay for. Unfortunately the client is often unaware of how much work (and knowledge) goes into a proper translation and settles for the cheapest. Very disturbing.

  10. Dear brother,
    Greetings in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ!
    I have been going through the studies at your web site, and I am deeply inspired with all of the teachings and studies thereon. This is such a wonderful studies and sermons you have arranged for all the nations, in the long run of your service for the nations of the all the world.
    I am from Islamic Republic of Pakistan where it is difficult to have Radio and TV channel for preaching purposes. They would not allow us to do that here; the Satan has real strong hold over everything. I often say that we are living in the land of the enemy.

    Brother, we humbly request you to expand your outreach your program in Urdu Saraiki andPunjabi language. Urdu is the language spoken and understood by more than one sixth of thetotal population of the world. Urdu is spoken in Pakistan , India , Nepal , Afghanistan and also in Indonesia , Malaysia , Iran and others.
    I would ask you to pray and share it among the brethrens at your ministry. I am a professional translator. I would offer my services for being translator, recorder and distribution/sales. I pray that your consideration will have His mark over your decision. As a translator I will take the expenses that will be spending just for the Word.
    May God bless you abundantly! May His perfect will be done!
    Grace and Peace be with you, all brethrens.
    Yours brother in Christ,
    Name = Moon Emmanuel

    Address = Darshan abad Christian colony

    Makhdum pur pahoran

    Tesil & Ditt = khanewal

    Punjab pakistan

    Post code = 58170 Email =


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