How Much Is Too Little?

07/11/2013 20:28



Although this title might look like an oxymoron, it is not! As an interpreter and/or a translator, you are as well an artist that enables “the other side” to understand and – you have to make your living from it. We took a closer look at how to do it at one of the most significant events of this academic year. The Days of Jerome are a celebration of our work, and this time the event brought together several experienced interpreters, translators and agencies who discussed current issues connected with translation and interpreting. One of the panel discussions was focused on the question of rates, as young interpreters/translators often hesitate about how much to demand for an hour of interpreting or translating a standard page.


The organizer of the event Pavol Šveda hosted four speakers in this round: Martin Djovčoš, an interpreter and university teacher, Ivana Krekáňová and Milan Hudeček, both translators, and František Vaško, a representative of the Translata agency. Based on Mr Djovčoš’s research, the crucial problem lies in the difference between the translator’s service and the client’s expectations: “Very few of our customers see a linkage between the price and quality.” Especially young translators/interpreters tend to keep the prices low in order to jump start their career. However, a translator is mostly self-employed and therefore needs to pay taxes, health and social insurance. Mr Šveda provided us with some figures on the translator’s working time and salary, which gave us an idea about how to keep the translator’s life balanced. A translator with a 70% working time works 1221 hours per year. If he wants to earn a gross income of €1,000 (which means only €500 in net income), he needs to earn €10 per hour. If his gross income is to be €2,500 (€1,250€ in net income), he needs to earn €25 per hour. Currently, there are 7% of translators who work for less than €7 per standard page, 44% work for €7–10, 11% earn €15–20 and only 4% earn more than €20 per standard page.


You’re probably asking yourselves what is wrong with the market. Who is pushing the prices down? The problem is that we don’t value our work. Most of us are people with university degrees, several specializations and our work is highly professional… why not be paid properly? Mrs Krekáňová and Mr Hudeček said that they couldn’t complain about not being paid sufficiently, but they consider the behavior of some translators unfair. Hoping to get a contract, they undersell their work, often of lower quality. But who needs a low quality translation? Of course, students shouldn’t charge as much as experienced translators, but their price may be higher if they have someone proofread their work. The other issue that lowers the quality of translations is a lack of time. Clients rarely realize that if they need the translator to do the work in half of the standard time, it will have a negative impact on the result. “They need to realize that a medical doctor will never be pushed to do a surgery in a shorter time or for less money.”


Translation and interpreting agencies are usually referred to as a common enemy. Meeting Mr Vaško, we were relieved to find out that this really is not the case. His appearance at the event proves that he, or rather the agency that he’s representing, has a clear conscience. Agencies are businesses that work with two partners – clients and interpreters/ translators. They need to create good conditions for both sides and are a perfect opportunity to get some experience in the field (especially because they check translations, too). “If the client asks for a specific translator (because he was content with his/her work done), we always give the job to him/her.” However, you should be careful about the unfair agencies that either underpay their translators or try to prevent cooperation between the translator and the client even though the client asks for a specific person because of his/her previous work.


Despite all the “pitfalls” of a translator’s/interpreter’s job, it seems that once your work is of a good quality, you won’t struggle to get a job. “I don’t have to call anybody anymore to get a contract. Clients call me when they need something to be translated and it is hard to find some days off for me,” said Mrs Krekáňová. Sitting next to her in a suit, Mr Hudeček is a proof of having enough work as well: “Sorry I came late… I was interpreting just before I got here. But seriously, I’m rather a translator.” So it looks that if we, as (future) translators and interpreters, do not accept lower standard prices and teach our clients that they have to pay more for a high-quality translation, we might live happily ever after.


                                                                                                                                    Jana Hulová

Jana Černičková


Date: 31/01/2014

By: Standa

Subject: Agencies vs. Agencies

As a professional translator since 2001, I've learned that there are basically two types of agencies:
1. Ones that add value to the translation (e.g. review translations, perform DTP tasks, work closely with clients (be it a direct client or a foreign translation agency) to develop terminology and style guides etc.), and
2. Ones that receive their commission and care about nothing, so called "file pushers" or "postman agencies".
I was talking about this with Martin Djovčoš recently when we met in Zlín: the main problem are not young translators who enter the market. On the other hand, other translators gradually retire. It's happening all the time, in all industries and in all professions.
The main problem is the latter type of agencies who often sponge on the excessively long supply chain. It is the length of the supply chain that creates an ironic situation where the client pays €0.18 or more per source word, while the translator's slice on this is somewhere between €0.3 and €0.6 per source word. The rest are commissions paid just to push files.
If the situation is to improve, we need to eliminate the superfluous and wasteful elements from the supply chain. That would be a win-win model for everyone.
Just as a food for thought...

Date: 08/12/2013

By: entevellaOrek

Subject: UQMNAekr34

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