Everyone, myself included, wants the best quality for the lowest price. Your challenge is to determine the lowest priced translation for the quality you want. Unfortunately, it is not like wine. A five dollar bottle of wine tastes like it, a twenty-five dollar bottle of wine tastes like it, and an eighty dollar bottle of wine tastes like it . If it were only so easy with translation.
Since translation comes in the form of digital words, there is a tendency to throw it in with “word-related” products you can get on the internet. If I can spend $2.95 on a smartphone app, why should I spend $300 on a translation?
If I could sell your translation to 2,000 other customers, or perhaps add some advertising along the bottom margin, then I could bring the price down considerably.
As it is, your translation is like a finely tailored suit, it is made just for you.
To get a good idea of what a translation costs, consider the skill set you need: fluent in two languages, knowledgeable in your profession, a good writer, with computer skills, and can wear all the other business hats so you don’t have to keep them as an employee. To this skill set, add that translation is mentally exhausting (Remember translating for your language classes in school? It seems translation knows how to bring a special brand of pain to your brain.).
If you can make a fair determination for the per-hour wage of this hypothetical person, considering that 2,500 words a day is the average output, if you have a 5,000 word document, it will take two days (16 hours) to produce the translation. Then add 5 hours for the proofreading (at an average of 1K words per hour), and you get an idea of the cost (Your hourly estimate X 21 = cost for translation/proofreading). Now add the overhead and profit for the translation agency. Compared to a download of the latest Google app, it costs a lot.
In order to keep your costs down, you have a number of options:
You can have a bilingual member of your staff do the translation. If you get the same type of documents in the same language all the time, this may be the best answer. Otherwise, consider the amount of time this employee is away from their principal work. Also consider that being bilingual does not automatically turn a person into a translator.
The lowest possible external cost would be to use Google translate or Microsoft translator. If you only need a general idea of the meaning, are not concerned with confidentiality, and don’t mind awkward text and some errors, this is the way to go. If you expect a more specialized machine translation (MT) engine to give you a translation comparable to a human translation, think again. Arabic and MT are not a good match. The languages are so distinct that the results are normally of little value, as these samples show. I don’t provide post-editing of Arabic – English machine translation, since so many changes would need to be made that it would nullify any cost savings. (For more, see FAQ).
If you need to have each sentence accurately translated and easy to read, either for your urgent need or because the translation will reflect on your organization, then you can go to an agency.
You may be able to find an agency that still upholds the standards of the industry, but this is not a sure thing. The nature of the industry allows a lack of transparency, so that too many agencies tell you they use the very best translators, then hunt for the lowest priced translator available. They make a nice margin, while you are left with painful reading.
You can demand a lower price, but consider the cost.
The satisfaction of a low-cost translation will be long forgotten as you live with the consequences of a bad translation. If you want a low rate, there will be plenty of agencies and translators who will agree to your price. The barrier to entry is very low; anybody with a few language classes, a dictionary, a computer, and an internet connection can hang their shingle. However, you can expect the translator to make up the low rate with volume. This means:
- Instead of looking up a new term in the dictionary, he will wing it.
- For any tough spots in the translations, she will plow through with a guess instead of doing the necessary research to think through the correct translation.
- Expect a literal translation; it is much easier and faster to mindlessly exchange a word for a word than to examine a sentence, a complete thought, and reformulate it as a native English speaker would express it, without semantic loss. It takes much more talent, time, confidence, and effort to do it right, so expect it to be done wrong. Here is an example of a literal translation from a job I was asked to edit: “. . . in the concept of the application of the provisions of Clause 1 of Article 110 of the Law . . .“, or in other words, ” . . . in applying paragraph 1 of Article 110 of the Law . . .” See more examples in the FAQ and Case Studies in Arabic Translation.
In short, your document is just an impediment to getting on to the next job.
You have another option – come to me.
you need a translation for an important business decision . . .
you have an important legal case at stake . . .
you want one less thing to think about . . .
then pay the smart price – enough to ensure the job is done right, and not one penny more.
I will do the translation myself and give it the attention and care it deserves. If I am occupied but can provide the proof, I will get your permission to assign the translation. I can also assemble a team for large volume jobs. I can handle about 10,000 words a day by editing a three-man team. In all cases, I perform the final check before delivery.
At the end of the day, experience counts. I have been involved with Arabic since 1985 and a full-time professional translator since 2002, and am ready to be your “go-to guy.”