How much should I charge for French-English translation?

I’ve been contacted by a French magazine to translate part of their website into English (totaling, maybe, 150 pages of articles). I have no background in translation, so I’m wondering how much I should charge. Do I charge by the word? How much?

Sorry, I have no idea what the going rates are, and I hope some other posters can help there. But I would love to know: If you have no background in translation, how and why did that magazine contact you? What makes them think you’re the person for this job?

(I occasionally dabble in Hebrew-to-English translation, mostly for personal purposes, and would love to know how to break into the business and get paid for it.)

A French friend of mine here in Taiwan called me up the other day and said he had gotten an email on some mailing list about a magazine looking for someone to translate their site from French to English. He sent them my email address and explained that I was a writer who spoke/read fluently in French. They then contacted me. It’s still not final, as there has been no talk about $$$$ (I can’t type Euro signs).

I just got lucky. I didn’t actually do anything to find the job. Though, there are agencies that can get you jobs doing this, I assume. My girlfriend is translating a French book on child psychology into Chinese, a job which she got through an agency.

Thanx, and good luck!

I’m a translator by trade, though I don’t have my professional certification yet (it’s on its way); I charge between 16 and 19 cents CDN a word, depending on what the market will bear.

BTW, translation is a skill; it’s not just reading and writing. You may find yourself in for more than you bargained for. I started cold too, but it was a sharp learning curve, and I’ve just completed three years of professional school in translation.

Here is one data point: http://www.nvtc.gov/paychart/index.html

Follow up to the homepage of the site for more info about that employer. Might be useful for any Doper with translation skillz & interests.

I have no idea about the money, but may I offer some advice to a newbie?
Translation is HARD work. Seriously.
I’m no professsional–but I sometimes translate letters and short documents for business cohorts. It takes me about an hour per typewritten page.

IT can be difficult to avoid dry translation, and to get the connotations right.

Example: a document says in its original language, “the product didn’t match the needed accuracy requirements we demanded in our contract”.
That makes sense in the original (and also in my brain, since I’m thinking in the same language)
So I have to stare at that sentence for a full minute before I decide that in English it needs to be re-phrased as " the product failed to deliver the degree of accuracy which we specified in our contract".
Result–I put in 60 seconds of work, and all I got was one sentence. (Mutliply by 150 pages…)
If you are not initimately familiar with the subject matter, things get much, much tougher. Simple concepts that are obvious to the original author may be foreign to you.
(for example: my quote above is from a short document I translated for an engineering firm which discussed defective “prototypes” and “design models”. I had no idea what the difference is between the 2 concepts. I had to read the entire document twice–another hour’s work–before I could even begin to translate it. Because I had to figure out from context whether “design model” was the thing they made before the prototype, or vice versa. )
I’m no pro – I’m just an average guy who happens to speak two languages pretty well, so people in the office turn to me for help. If you’re like me, think carefully—it’s harder and much, much more time consuming than you think it will be when somebody casually says “hey, help me translate this”

And good luck.

Sorry I wasn’t replying. I wasn’t getting any of the email updates (why does that happen so often?).

In any case, I know translation is difficult. My girlfriend’s been translating a French psychology book into Chinese for the last two and half months. She’s hardly left the house. Her knowledge of psychology is very limited, so she’s had to do a lot of extra research in order to figure out exactly how to say “dissociation automatico-voluntaire” in Chinese or how to talk about dyslexia (a term that is quite different in a Chinese context, which the straightdope has touched on before).

The good thing about what I’ll (hopefully) be doing is that the articles, though numerous, are all short (no more than a page), and if I’m hired I’ll be doing it for good (from what I understand). It will be difficult at first, but this the perfect time for me to bust my ass and do it.

The articles also aren’t very technical. It’s for a French luxury magazine, so it’s all about travel and shopping.

I’ve no experience of this other than translating articles when I was studying French in school but have you timed yourself in translating one of the articles? Find out on average how long it is going to take you to do the work and that should give you some indication of how much to charge. Ctrl + Alt + 4 = € btw

I work for a translation company-- rates can be all over the map depending on the type of translation and the level of skill. We do translations from foreign languages into English so rarely that I can’t quote off the top of my head, but from English into either European or Canadian French is 15-18 cents a word (USD). Don’t forget to also bill for the inevitable review time.

I do the page layouts for our documents. I’ll get an english file with 1000 words and have to make 1300 in, say, French, (or 500 is Japanese) fit and look good on the same page. With a tightly laid out item like a magazine, you will make your clients very happy if you can keep your word count as close as possible to the original. Too far over or under and it will cause a lot of layout problems someone has to fix on the other end.

Missed the edit window.

Also: My other duty as the office token-native-English-speaker is to decode slang, idioms, and creative phrasing for my coworkers. Consumer media translation can be very difficult because of the tone and degree of creative writing used. If you have a native French speaker (preferably a current or recent resident of France) to ask for help, you will find that invaluable.

My wife is a professional translator, French to English. She has been doing it for 25 years. Depending on the client she charges C$ 22-25 cents per word. Museums have the most interesting work and she charges them the least. Commercial customers are a quarter. One customer asked her why she counts, say, l’homme, as two words since every knows that l’ means the. Except it often doesn’t, she explained, and French and English use articles in such a different way that they often give her the most trouble. When the Quebec government sends around badly translated notices in English, the real clunkers are often the articles.

As someone said, good translation is hard work and worth paying for. To ask a novice to translate a web site, presumably to attract customers or something, is penny-wise and dollar foolish. My wife studied translation in eight courses over a three year period and then worked at a commercial translation company for several years before passing the certification exam and going free-lance. Her price includes, incidentally, revision. Once upon a time, she and another translator revised each other, but she stopped that a number of years ago. She will also do straight revision of another translation at an hourly rate of $75.

Since the answer to this is going to vary quite a bit depending on circumstances, I think it will do best in IMHO.

Colibri
General Questions Moderator

I’m just going to reiterate what others have said: translation is an art, and takes a lot more work than one might suppose.

I’ve done some translation of Spanish to English, and worked with translators who have translated my books and articles from English to Spanish. Often translation requires an outright re-writing of the sentence to convey the meaning accurately. All too often, it is painfully obvious which language was the original, and which the translation. Although the translation may be 100% grammatically correct, a direct translation often results in phrasing that is awkward in the second language or stated in a way a native speaker would never use.

I’m not a translator, but as a technical writer, I worked with many of them. All of them had the qualifications of your wife, Hari Seldon, and IMHO, they were extremely skilled and able.

I tried to make things as easy as possible for the translators I worked with: I avoided complicated and lengthy sentences, English idioms, and other bugaboos (whoops, there’s an idiom) that would cause the translator trouble. But that was me; I can’t imagine what problems would be posed by an author who did not know how to (or did not plan to) write for translation, especially if the translation was to be done by somebody who was not as qualified as Hari’s wife.

Gitfiddle, I doubt that you have time to pick up those kind of qualifications, but is there a night course or something you can take right now that will at least introduce you to the translation field and let you see just what it involves? As for rates, could you just call around and see what the going rate is for your locality? The translators I worked with were listed in the phone book and in professional directories; they weren’t hard to find.