Going rate for technical document translation?
November 18, 2004 11:43 PM   Subscribe

What would be considered a reasonable 'going rate' for technical document translation from one language to another? Do these things tend to be per page, or time and materials, or what?

I realize there might well be wide variations in what's considered 'the going rate', but any data points would be most welcome.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken to Work & Money (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Almost certainly by the word (perhaps by the page).

Depends on the rarity of the language as well and the difficulty of the material. But I would say not less than 16 cents per word for something technical; likely more like 20-25.

I've done translations for 10 cents a word, but that was video games, so it required nowhere near as much specialized knowledge.
posted by Jeanne at 3:37 AM on November 19, 2004

From French to English, the going rate does seem to be about 10-15 cents a word. But this is a very common language pair. Less common pairs tend to pay more.

Some links that might help are Translators Café, particularly their translation rates page and Proz.com.
posted by hazyjane at 4:03 AM on November 19, 2004

You can get a quote here.
disclaimer - I work for this company.
posted by chill at 5:01 AM on November 19, 2004

I've known a few translators, though am not one myself. Payment is always on a per-word basis. Ballpark for English to French I've seen is around 15-25¢/word (Cdn), based on the following factors:

1. The expertise/education of the translator. Certified translators can charge more than someone with just a translation degree, and I've seen unqualified if not uneducated people who happened to be bilingual do it for just a few cents a word (caveat emptor).

2. How fast the translation needs to be done. Obviously you can charge more for an urgent/rush job.

3. The subject matter -- the more specialized and technical the material, the fewer people out there who are capable of translating it, I guess.

Of course that's just from observing a few friends' translation work; I might be misremembering or misunderstanding the details.
posted by mcwetboy at 5:04 AM on November 19, 2004


I'm guessing you'd be translating K to E? That's a pretty rare language combination, and will probably command a good rate, if you are good. I translate J-E, which also gets a good rate compared with European language pairs.

Most US-based translators charge by the output word, or some variation on that theme, many UK-based translators charge by the 1000 keystrokes, and many Japan-based translators charge by the "page", where a page is some fixed number of words (200-250) or characters. I know a few translators who charge by the source document length. I don't know anyone who charges by the hour. I go by what my clients are comfortable with--words, pages, whatever.

Rates: At risk of bringing the DoJ on my head, most J-E translation goes for US$.10 and up--the sky's the limit. The recent appearance of J-E translators in China and India results in rates as low as US$.05; some of this is good (damn good for the price) some is bad. The best I've ever gotten is JPY10,000 per page, but very little of that. Most of it falls more in the range of US$.15-.22 per word.

It's also worth looking at how productive you are on a job, as well as your word rate. If you can comfortably plow through 2000 words/day on a job that earns $.15/word, you're better off than you would be grinding away to produce 1000 words/day on a job at $.20/word, even though you can brag to your translator friends about the rate.

Other notes: In the USA, at least, there's no such thing as a certified translator (except for court-certified interpreters, I think, and that's different). The American Translators Association does offer accreditation, but that's different, and I've never heard of accreditation making a difference in the rates you can get.

Feel free to contact me offline if you want to discuss this more.
posted by adamrice at 7:41 AM on November 19, 2004

Thanks for asking this, stav -- I probably would have got around to it sooner or later, and now I can just check this thread.
posted by languagehat at 9:21 AM on November 19, 2004

Thanks, all. It's actually for my wife, who'll be doing some Korean/Japanese translation work.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 5:22 PM on November 19, 2004

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