How much do translators make? That is both a curious topic as well as an important piece of information that becomes a reference point for those trying to start translation for the first time. So today, we will be looking into the average charge for translation (“rate per word”, to be more specific) through statistics from ProZ and TranslatorsCafe for the language pair of Korean and English as an example. For those of you who have different language pair, you can conduct similar analysis yourself by looking up your language pair’s statistics if you are a paying member of these sites.
How to Look up Translation Rates Statistics from ProZ
First, let’s take a look at the statistics from ProZ.
If you look at the picture above, you can see that the average rate per word is 13 cents for English to Korean translation. Of course, as is also written above the chart, this is just the general rate and the actual rate you receive depends on the field of the source document, format of the source document, project deadline, etc., but I think this can still be an important reference point. Another notable part of the chart is the sample size, and from this you can see that there are 1,074 translators in this area (English to Korean) in ProZ alone.
The above picture shows the average rate for the opposite language pair (in other words, for Korean to English translation), and that is 14 cents. Something that you should pay attention to when looking at these kinds of statistics is that this is the rate per word. As I’ve told you in a previous post, the rate per word in Korean to English translation doesn’t really have much meaning. Even I use rate per character instead of rate per word, but that statistic isn’t readily available on ProZ. Other things that you can take a look at are that the average and minimum rate per hour is slightly higher than English to Korean translation that we looked at first, and that the sample size is approximately 30% smaller. To find out what that means, read Comparison of the Markets of English to Korean translation and Korean to English translation.
How to Look up Translation Rates Statistics from TranslatorsCafe
Now, let’s take a look at some data from TranslatorsCafe, which provides a different form of statistics.
The above material has value in that it doesn’t simply show the average but also the distribution. The first chart shows the rate per word, and you can see that most translators are distributed between 6 cents to 16 cents. The highest is 34 cents. If you think about this for a minute, it’s actually astonishing. This means that two people can translate the same word and one will receive 6 cents for it, while the other receives 34 cents for it. 6 times the price… the translation market is indeed a very interesting place.
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The second chart shows the rate per hour and although it doesn’t really have much meaning since translators rarely get into hourly contracts, you can see that rates are distributed between 12 dollars to 51 dollars. In my opinion, however, the more skilled a translator is, the less he/she prefers this kind of hourly contract, although there is no other way for some specific kind of tasks.
The above data presents the difference in rates for translators by country for English to Korean translation. France holds the highest record in both rate per word and rate per hour, and Korea holds the lowest record along with translators in China (Why on earth do translators in Korea receive such a low rate? The Internet has no borders…) Another thing to make note of is the sample size per country, and interestingly, you can see that the number of English to Korean translators in the U.S. is larger than the number in Korea.
This data is based on Korean to English translator. As I’ve told you before, the rate per word doesn’t have much meaning and is likely to have been distorted, so you don’t need to look at it. However, if you compare the sample size of this chart to the sample size in the English to Korean translators’ data, you will see an interesting contrast. While there is not much difference between the number of Korean to English translators and the number of English to Korean translators in the U.S., there is a large difference between the number of Korean to English translators and the number of English to Korean translators in Korea. I think this is probably because there are many 2nd generation Koreans in the U.S. whose first languages are English.
Because everybody’s current situation is different and the strategy they approach the market with is different, how much other translators are earning can’t become an absolute standard. On top of that, in a many-to-many market where there are a lot of suppliers and providers, your translation rate is simply what you want it to be. I hope the above materials and analysis will be helpful in allowing you to get a complex estimate of your current status and establish your future strategy.