How much would you pay to understand one another?

I love the comedian Louis CK.

Louis is a brilliant New York stand-up comedian who has created a marvelous TV show in which he stars and portrays himself, with a healthy dose of self-humor and sarcastic observations on the urban surroundings in which he lives and works.

In one of the previous seasons, he falls in love with a Hungarian girl that unfortunately doesn’t speak a word of English. While his knowledge of Hungarian is non-existent, he expresses his frustration in such an American way: “I’d pay a million dollars to understand what you’re saying right now.”

As the manager of a translation agency, I get great pleasure in knowing that the need for translation can be so critical that someone would be willing to lay out that sort of money just to understand one sentence, which, judging from the story line, doesn’t even express anything hopeful.

It’s true that we at Lichi deal mainly with business clients and not in translations for couples in love (though perhaps it’s time to think of a new niche…), but, even in the business world, it is not uncommon for a CEO to find himself in a situation in which he would give his right arm to understand what his Japanese customer is whispering to the guy sitting beside him at the negotiating table.

So how do we price translation? Here are some guidelines for giving a quote for translation work:

Interpreting – 

When we send an interpreter to do oral translation, the job is priced per hours or days, usually with a minimum of 4 hours, to cover the time that the interpreter cannot do other jobs. Naturally, we also charge extra for travel expenses, parking and meals. Believe it or not, some clients expect our interpreters to bring/buy their own refreshments, but fortunately, most of our clients understand that a hungry interpreter is less effective.

Pricing is always done according to word count – 

Written translation is priced according to the volume of work i.e. pages of translation in units of 250 words in the target language. It makes no difference to us whether it’s an operating manual with lots of illustrations or a detailed contract – the calculation is always made according to the volume of translated words.

Some languages require more words than others. For example, when translating from Hebrew to English the number of words is sometimes doubled, e.g., the phrase in English ‘when I will go’ is only one word in Hebrew (keshe’elech).

We generally count the words in the target language, aside from cases such as Chinese or Japanese, in which the symbols complicate the calculation, so that we base the word count on the English.

“I need it ready for …yesterday!” –

Urgent (and they are usually desperately urgent) jobs require special payment. We are sometimes asked to drop all of our other projects in order to meet a tight deadline, as well as pay extra to a translator for working overtime, or refer the work to a more expensive translator if unavoidable.

Editing and graphic layout cost money – 

We are sometimes asked to work on the file’s graphic layout to improve its appearance, for example, matching the fonts, arranging the text using bullets, moving it from one side to the other and so on. This would also require working on graphic software such as Indesign or photoshop, In cases such as these, we charge extra.

So what do we not charge extra for? –

The management of the project is already included in the price, as is submission of translation samples to the client so that the client can select the most suitable translator. In large projects, the glossary of professional terms that we work with is also included – on the house.

From my experience, price is not necessarily the most important thing for the client. A client gives priority to the quality of the translation, the ability to meet deadlines and the security that the translation company guarantees.

You can always get a cheaper quote, but if you are looking for a Mercedes you won’t compromise on a Nissan with a stick shift, just because they both get you from Point A to Point B.

Just look at Louis – even he is willing to pay a million dollars to understand one and a half words in Hungarian.

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פוסט זה זמין גם ב: Hebrew

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