Translation is one of those industries that doesn’t make an impact on your life (at least one you register consciously) unless you must deal with it directly. And, for most people, the first encounter with the industry comes a bit as a surprise.
We say this because, as translators, we receive all sorts of weird questions, such as:
- Isn’t translation free?
- Is the translation industry still standing with services like Google Translate?
- Really? Are there people who translate things for a living?
- What is the cost of translation and why do I need your assistance?
Put in plain terms, anyone who looks up a word in another language in the dictionary can say they did a translation. Furthermore, if you use Google Translate or other similar apps to get by in a foreign country, read materials in other languages, or do your homework, you are translating.
But the same goes for anyone who can press two keys on a piano keyboard. They are making music, it’s just not anything anyone would want to pay for.
Translation Industry Facts
To give you an idea of the importance and magnitude of the translation industry, here are some numbers and estimates:
- The industry is estimated to reach over 4,401 million US dollars in 2019
- According to the Bureau of Labour Statistics, the employment of interpreters and translators is expected to grow 18% from 2016 to 2026, at a rate much faster than the average for all occupations
- There are tens of thousands of businesses offering translation all over the world
- There are hundreds of thousands of professional translators at a global scale
As you can see, translation is a serious business. But, to give you more of an in-depth view, we decided to compare it with a different industry that’s more popular but somewhat similar: music.
How does Translation compare to Music?
Even though the music industry is huge, there are still people who don’t expect to pay for enjoying it. True, there are ways to listen to music for free (YouTube for instance), but there’s still something you need to offer in return. Whether we’re talking about time spent on ads or your personal data, you’re still paying for listening to the latest hits.
The translation industry is more straight forward as work conditions and payment methods are clearly defined. However, the people who would rather use a free online app instead of a professional service will pay with the quality of their translation.
Let’s be honest here! Would you buy a song composed by someone who just meshed a few notes together (without any consideration towards rhythm and musical harmony)? Then why do the same for a translation?
Free translation apps just mesh words together without caring about sense, original intent, meaning, style, and other elements that are crucial in creating an accurate representation of the original work.
Setting the Price
When you don’t understand the processes that happen behind the final result it’s easy to think that you’re paying too much for a service. And this happens a lot in the world of professional translations!
We often get remarks regarding prices. Things like “It’s just a Birth Certificate, so it shouldn’t cost too much, right?” are more common than we’d like to recognize.
To understand the costs for translation (any translation), think about music again. When a song is created, you have a team working on the music and a team working on the words. But each team must hire highly-trained specialists that understand the type of music they want to create. As such, each team could have 1 to 50+ members, depending on the complexity of the song. Not to mention that there may be the need for external collaborations such as literacy specialists, and so on.
The same happens with a translation project. For instance, a business translation project can be compared to a string quartet. There is someone who does the translation, someone who reviews it, someone who proofreads it, and someone who manages everything.
But if there are many languages and lots of documents, the string quartet becomes an orchestra. The translation will cost more, but it will sound amazing to anyone reading or listening to it.
So, when you’re wondering about the cost of a translation, make sure you understand the type of expectations you have.
If it’s a casual translation without much importance, then feel free to use a free service. Still, the result will sound like the musicians you hear at the subway.
On the other hand, if it’s something you need to use in a business meeting or in relation with official institutions, do hire a professional service such as Translations123! The result will sound like that band/musician you’d pay heavy money to hear in concert!