Language professionals translate legal and other documents from one language to another. Any type of document can be translated, including birth certificates, citizenship and immigration forms, marketing documents, business contracts, and other written forms. Many professionals offer translation, summarization, editing, proofreading and other language services in Portuguese, Korean, Russian, Japanese, Spanish, German, French, Arabic, Mandarin and just about any other language. Professional translators are competent in translating a variety of texts from legal to medical, financial to scientific. Translators often specialize in a particular type of document, as well as particular languages.
Translation of the written word is different than interpretation, which is for the spoken word and often needed in settings such as courtrooms or hospitals. The U.S. Department of Labor says that although there is no universal certification for translators, certification is available through respected organizations such as the American Translators Association. Several factors affect the cost of hiring a professional translator.
Many translators charge by the word for their translation services. According to the American Translators Association, translators in the U.S. should receive a minimum of 12 cents per word to reflect the years of training and certifications they have. Costs for translation are higher depending on the geographic region and the translator’s experience and area of expertise. Jennifer Rasigade-Marchand of Word for Word Language Services in Louisville, Kentucky, charges an hourly rate for supplementary services, such as formatting, terminology mining (creation of a proprietary terminology database in the form of a Translation Memory file) and the creation of term bases for computer-assisted translation (CAT) tools. Word for Word Language Services charges 17 cents per word (for languages other than French). Some legal and literary translators do not use CAT tools, in which case, the flat per-word rate can go from .05 cents a word to .30 cents a word. It depends on the language pair and the difficulty of the translation, says Rasigade-Marchand with Word for Word Language Services.
Many translators use CAT tools such as Trados, Wordfast, MemoQ, Across and Lilt. When using this software, translators enter terminology and create a "term base" or lexicon they can use for future documents. Once a word is translated, it is forever in the term base. Because of this, says Rasigade-Marchand with Word for Word Language Services, translators can translate three times as fast as doing it the old-fashioned way. Using CAT tools, most translators can translate about 1,500–6,000 words a day, depending on the level of difficulty. When translators enter a document into the software, there are matches from the data already input into the program. For repetitions, translators typically are not paid or are paid a small fee.
- For 100 percent matches, translators are paid a small fee, such as 2 cents per word.
- For 99 percent to 95 percent matches: 3 cents per word
- For 94 percent to 85 percent matches: 5 cents per word
- For 84 percent to75 percent matches: 7 cents per word
- For 74 percent to 65 percent matches: 10 cents per word
- For 64 percent or fewer matches: 13 cents per word
Some translators charge set rates for certain standard documents and forms that they can reasonably approximate the time and resources needed. Carolina Sanchez-Hervas of CSH Translation in Miami, Florida, charges a starting rate of $40 per for most official documents. Some of the more common document requests she receives include birth certificates, marriage certificates, police records, academic records and other certifications.
Interpreting is the act of verbally translating from one language to another. Interpreting is often confused with translation, although they are two distinct services with different pricing. Many companies that provide translation services also provide interpretation. Rasigade-Marchand from Word for Word Language Services says the cost for telephone interpreting varies depending on the project and the client, while her company’s starting fees for in-person interpreting services begin at $70 per hour, depending on the language pairs available. Interpreters charge by the hour, usually for a minimum of two hours, Rasigade-Marchand says, and it is customary to pay for travel time and mileage to cover interpreters’ transportation expenses to areas greater than 30 miles.
Translation can vary from the translation of a single document to ongoing projects that span considerable time. Rasigade-Marchand of Word for Word Language Services has been translating interviews conducted in a foreign country for a book project, working with a team of monolingual English transcribers, Arabic transcribers, and Arabic to English translators. To date, Word for Word Language Services has billed over $8,000 for the project because of its scope. Sanchez-Hervas of CSH Translation translated vaccine records from Russian to English to enable her client’s sons to be enrolled in school on time. This job entailed translating the different vaccines as well as certifying and notarizing the documents so they could be used officially for school records. This job was completed in less than 24 hours.