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Translation fees (Japanese to English)

Lothor

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A Japanese friend of mine is negotiating her first largish translation job from Japanese to English and is unsure how to much to charge the client. Are there any societies for Japanese translators that give guidelines on how to charge clients for work (e.g., per character, per hour) and how much to charge? Any comments/links (Japanese is fine) would be very helpful.
 

Majestic

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20 yen per character. The cost should be higher for specialized content (technical, historical, calligraphic content, etc.). There is constant downward pressure on translation rates as machine translation improves. Also, the large translation houses beat rates down because they can manage huge volumes better than an individual. A large translation firm will charge anywhere from 10 yen per character up to 20 yen per character, but this is brutal gruntwork ("I need 500 pages translated over the weekend, can you do it?"). The large firms have a large pool of students and other people who they will use to complete huge batches like this, so the quality is poor, and the consistency of the work is atrocious.

20 yen per Japanese character is a very basic rate.

Just to be clear お願いします is six characters, so 120 yen.

For text that is often repeated (i.e., where you can make use of "machine-assisted translation") you have room to negotiate downward.
 

Majestic

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For a large job where it is impractical to get a word count, you can estimate the job based on how many days it will take, and how much you think your time is worth. Say, for example, a job will take an entire year - then it is easy to come up with a cost, because you know yourself how much a year of your time is worth. Everything less than a year is just a question of division. How much is a month of your life worth? A week?
 
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Majestic

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Don't overlook things like proofreading, editing, or re-writing. If your friend is a native English speaker, he/she might be able to manage this him/herself. (Or, the customer might be happy with just the raw Japanese-to-English translation, even if there are mistakes in it). The more complete the work, the higher the rate. A work that is cheap but needs extensive rewriting, ends up being not cheap at all. Better to have paid an excellent translator a higher wage to begin with. This is why I say 20 yen is a base rate. If your friend is a perfectionist who can produce a rock-solid translation which is in need of no rewriting, then your friend may be worth more than 20 yen a word.
 
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Majestic

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To anyone who says, "20 yen per character?? I can chuck it into Google translate for free!" My advice is...try it. You won't like the results.

HOWEVER, Google translate is getting better day by day. I imagine in ten years it might be quite useable.
 

thomas

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I often use Google Translate and cross-check with Yandex and DeepL. More often than not, the latter provides the best results between the three.
 
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Lothor

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Majestic - thanks very much for the precise and very helpful reply! That was exactly what I wanted to know.
 

mdchachi

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There are lot of people translating on fiverr. You can also look there for reference. For example this Level 1 seller charges $5 for 250 words.
 

bentenmusume

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For what it's worth, I started my own translation firm two years ago (after working in-house for over a decade) and I charge anywhere from 16 yen/character (pretty much my minimum, for stuff that like Majestic says can be at least partially automated, or for "friendly discounts" to people I know for non-urgent) to as much as 30 yen/character for more specialized or high-priority (quick turnaround) jobs.

I'd also agree with Majestic that 20 yen/character is a good base rate to start negotiating from, though I would add a caveat that it's going to depend a degree on the industry and what sort of reputation/track record your friend has. I've been pretty successful in not having to undersell myself (or undercut my competitors), but that's in part because people in my primary field know me and they know they're paying for quality work rather than just a glorified machine translation.

Majestic said:
HOWEVER, Google translate is getting better day by day. I imagine in ten years it might be quite useable.

Maybe I'm being too much of an optimist, but at least in my field (which is more on the creative/literary side), I haven't seen anything to suggest that machine translation will become viable any time soon. Google Translate and DeepL have improved quite a bit in recent years, and they can do a decent job (still requiring a heavy native edit, of course) with dry technical documents, PowerPoint presentations consisting of mostly business terms and short phrases, etc., but they still don't even come close with colloquial or archaic dialogue, stylized speech patterns, translating puns/jokes/wordplay, etc.

To Lothor:

Anyhow, as a fellow translator, I wish your friend the best of luck in her new career (and if she's ever available to take on a side job here or there, you can even put her in touch with me if you'd like ;))

mdchachi said:
There are lot of people translating on fiverr. You can also look there for reference. For example this Level 1 seller charges $5 for 250 words.

No offense, but anyone who is translating on fiverr for such an insultingly cheap rate is almost certainly not a professional translator and could very well just be plugging things into Google and sending them off to people who don't know better. No self-respecting translator should be looking to compete with these people and their rates any more than, say, a professional musician should be looking to compete with a person who plunks around on the piano in their spare time.

(edited for formatting)
 
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mdchachi

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No offense, but anyone who is translating on fiverr for such an insultingly cheap rate is almost certainly not a professional translator and could very well just be plugging things into Google and sending them off to people who don't know better. No self-respecting translator should be looking to compete with these people and their rates any more than, say, a professional musician should be looking to compete with a person who plunks around on the piano in their spare time.
Or how about this. Find some good ones, get the work done there and charge your professional rates on top, all while you're sitting on a beach. :)

This guy's very expensive, about twice that last one.
My name is Hiroshi, a native Japanese translator. I have more than 30 years of experience in translating from English to Japanese at the business and corporate level. I guarantee all translations will be done manually. You will get your English text professionally translated into Japanese.
Native Japanese translator, born and raised in Japan, with more than 30 years of experience in translation services (English, Spanish, Japanese) at the business and corporate level. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me.


Actually I'm tempted to try some of these myself, paying out of my own pocket. The amount of time I spend on translations these days even though I'm not a translator is unreal. It's a real drag on my productivity.
 

Davey

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I have never translated things for money but wonder if a basic ¥20 per character is a good price for a first job as it's more important to gain experience and clients and then raise the price with the next new clients or following year.
 
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Lothor

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Thanks for all the comments.

Davey - Part of the fee for the job will be paid to an experienced editor/proofreader with lots of experience at polishing translations from Japanese to English by non-native English speakers, who will iron out any problems (can you guess who? :) ) so the client will be getting value for money at 20 yen per character and the translator will be getting less than that. If such jobs become regular, then I definitely recommend that the translator raises her prices.

Bentenmusume - Although there undoubtedly will be charlatans on those sites, the situation is a bit more complex. First, there are able professionals in developing countries who are willing to work for lower rates because of the relatively low salaries and cost of living in their countries. Second, from the discussions I've seen on proofreading/editing forums, sites like Upwork and Fiverr are quite popular ways of testing the water and getting confidence, experience, and references at the start of a career, so there are some quite ambitious people highly motivated to do a good job at a lower than market price.
 
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