technical / legal / business / financial translations, technical manuals, interpreting


Let’s talk about prices

One of the biggest issues in our industry is prices: cut-throat competition – especially in the current recession – creates serious problems for a translation agency that refuses to compromise on quality.

The cost of a translation depends on many factors, the most important of which are:

  1. language combination: a translation into Turkish costs more than the same translation into French because there are fewer Turkish professionals available
  2. subject: the more complex and specific the terminology of the source text, the higher the cost
  3. format: if the source text requires complex graphics and/or formatting, this will affect the cost
  4. urgency: a professional translator normally translates 6 - 8 pages a day (depending, of course, on the subject and complexity of the source text). A text of average complexity that exceeds this standard is considered urgent, and this affects the price.

In addition, translation costs are influenced by relations with the individual customer, i.e., the knowledge acquired from previous translations of the customer’s documents, the amount of work that customer can assure, and, last but not least, the customer’s willingness to help, support, explain, and collaborate while his/her document is being translated.

But we also have to face the facts: these days, most customers put price before quality.

In most cases, the translation service is highly undervalued and almost always comes last. For example, it is usually requested when the customer’s deadline for creating and supplying a Use and Maintenance Manual to the buyer has already expired or is about to expire.

We very often have to deal with poorly written source texts: apart from spelling errors, most documents are written by and for specialists, and often disregard grammar, syntax, and at times even consistency and intelligibility.

All of these factors make it very difficult (if not impossible) to provide a correct, understandable, consistent translation conforming to the customer’s specific and constantly evolving terminological requirements quickly and at a discount!

It’s about time that everyone understood that translating is a complex profession that demands:

  • excellent knowledge of one’s native (target) language as well as of the foreign (source) language
  • knowledge, time, willingness, and tools to learn about a wide variety of subjects and their development
  • the ability to understand the writer’s train of thought, express it in the target language, highlight its main points and, when necessary, explain its explicit and/or implicit message
  • constant updating of expensive Computer-Assisted Translation tools
  • on-time delivery.

So if we put a professional translator’s expertise and preparation on a scale pan and the price of his/her services on the other, the pointer would always tip toward expertise and preparation: a translator’s work is always underestimated, even when its price seems excessive.

Another crucial step in the process is proofreading and revision by a second translator, optimizing the first translator’s work and eliminating any inaccuracies and/or misunderstandings. This step is always performed, and demands equivalent expertise and concentration.

Unfortunately, all of this becomes less important when you have to deal with the harsh reality of the market.

When a company (or an individual) needs a translation, it naturally looks for the lowest possible price. Therefore, it very often chooses whomever offers the lowest rates.

Regrettably, Italy has no professional register or code of ethics for translators. Therefore, alleged “translators” are destroying the market with excessively low rates, and as a result the translations of websites are often impossible to understand. Even worse, many instruction booklets for home appliances are badly translated and contain errors that may create risk for consumers.

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