Colleagues and clients in other parts of the world have some problems with these data. First of all, they are published in German only, and other than my small translated excerpts I do not believe that they are easily accessible to those without competence in that language. This is too bad, because the publication also contains data for the translation of some languages beside German to and from English, since German clients sometimes use English as the "gateway" language for large, multilingual projects. But another problem that is claimed with regard to the German data is that they are alleged not reflect the market in other western countries. Anecdotal evidence from qualified translators I know who live elsewhere often does not support this assertion, but it is heard often enough from members of the poverty cult and erstwhile bottomfeeding resellers of language services or those without the competence or confidence to package their services at sustainable rates.
Thus I welcomed the news that the Chartered Institute of Linguists (CIoL) and Institute of Translation and Interpreting (ITI) in the UK had published a new survey of rates and salaries for translators and interpreters. This 56 page document offers an excellent overview of the current demographics and economics of the markets in which members of those organizations are active. It also includes valuable information on business practices regarding job cancellation, rush work and more.
Altogether 1750 translators and interpreters responded to the survey conducted in 2011, providing an excellent statistical basis for the report. Over 80% of all respondents (male and female) were freelancers, with an average age of 46 years. The age distribution is normal, so the median age (not reported) is around the average. Fifty-four percent reported English as their native tongue or language of habitual use (I like that term!). Seventy-three percent of respondents were UK residents with the rest distributed in Continental Europe and the rest of the world. The median years of experience for freelance and salaried full-time translators was the same (13 years), with slight differences for interpreters (10 and 7 years respectively). One percent of respondents listed "no qualifications", the rest having some sort of relevant degree or certificate/exams.
The median gross income for translation and interpreting, a shockingly low GBP 22,000, was distributed fairly evenly over the range from less than GBP 5,000 per year (pin money for part-timing spouses) to GBP 75,000, with a sharp drop above that and only about 1% reporting a six-figure income. The names of these individuals are a closely guarded secret, and there is probably no truth to rumors that members of the Occupy movement will be setting up camp in their front gardens shortly. A strong majority (80%) reported incomes to be the same as last year or higher, contradicting general mutterings of "plunging rates". Apparently there is indeed a demand for quality despite the reluctance of some talking heads in the MT subsector to admit that such a concept applies to language services.
Over 80% of respondents work for translation brokers, with just under 50% setting their own rates and about 70% arriving at rates by negotiation. So much for the "powerlessness" that is so often cited by the poverty cult when discussing compensation for services.
The report contains a further wealth of data on business practices, CAT tool usage and discounts, voice recognition technology, output and specialties as well as a wealth of information on salaried positions, which might be very valuable for assessing one's own status or reasonable terms for working with others.
The section with translation data for the various language pairs is not as granular as the BDÜ report, which has five client categories. Here the data are simply divided into "direct" and "agency" clients. Comparing the data to those with which I am familiar from the BDÜ survey I note that at the present rates of exchange between the euro and the British pound, the figures are lower than I can usually accept, but they are not nearly as grim as many claim. If the pound rises again, some of these rates could look quite reasonable to those living elsewhere. In interpreting the data for planning in other markets, I might use a different theoretical rate for GBP as I now do for the Australian dollar, which has risen sharply in recent times.
In each category. the highest, lowest and most frequent rates are reported along with the number of respondents, the maximum and the median.
Members of the ITI and CIoL received confidential copies of this report a few weeks ago, and private translators forums have been abuzz with the discussion of its implications. There is indeed much to think about, and the modest price asked by the organizations for a copy is well worth the investment. Non-members can purchase the report for GBP 20.00 by telephoning the ITI office at +44 1908 325250 - payment can be made by debit or credit card over the phone. (Please note that credit cards and non-UK debit cards are subject to a 5% processing fee.)