About Translators, Interpreters, and Language Services Providers
Translator vs Interpreter (linguists)
Translators work with written materials while interpreters deal with the spoken language.
Independent (freelance) translators and interpreters
Most of our members work for themselves as freelancers and are hired either directly by clients or language service providers to work on specific projects. Some of our members are also fully or partially employed by companies or organizations as a translator and/or interpreter, including area courts, medical facilities or with the United Nations.
Language Service Providers (LSP)
Once known as translation agencies, these companies are now known as language service providers in recognition of the larger scope of their services. LSPs can help manage your multilingual projects and provide translation, interpretation, editing, and other services such as desktop publishing software and website localization, terminology management, or even simultaneous-interpreting equipment rental. They work with linguists either in-house or freelancers with whom they contract. Though some clients like to work directly with a linguist, which can be more economical and offer the ability to build long-term working relationships, for larger projects or projects covering multiple languages, LSPs may offer a fuller suite of services.
For Clients in Need of a Translator or Interpreter
Hiring a linguist
The United States has no examinations for certified or sworn translators. To ensure that you are dealing with a competent professional, look for indicators such as years of experience, formal education in translation, and accreditation from organizations such as the American Translators Association (ATA). Court interpreters for certain languages can be certified by taking examinations available at the federal, or in some areas, state level.
The ATA website offers resources to help you find a trusted and competent professional. You can also search The New York Circle of Translators membership directory on the home page, searchable by various filters.
Costs and rates
Rates are set by the freelancer or LSP and vary depending upon the type of service(s) requested. Translators mostly charge by the word (source or target), but there are instances where they might charge by the page or by the hour. Services such as extensive formatting, desktop publishing, or editing usually incur additional charges, sometimes at hourly or flat rates.
Interpreters charge by the hour or by the day. Rates are usually higher for conference and simultaneous interpreting. The total price may include reimbursement for travel, parking, and other expenses. Inquire in each case.
Freelancers and LSPs are usually willing to provide free estimates.
In the United States, a certified translation consists of a statement signed by the translator and notarized by a notary public, attesting that the translator believes the translation to be accurate and complete. This should be attached to the original document and translation. Sometimes this statement is called a “Certificate of Accuracy.”
For Translators and Interpreters
Becoming a translator or interpreter
The ATA offers a booklet entitled Getting Started: A Newcomer’s Guide to Translation and Interpretation. This compilation of articles from ATA publications is a straightforward guide for newcomers to these professions. It is available for $25 from the ATA website. Just click on the Publications link under the Resources tab.
In addition, Corinne McKay’s book How to Succeed as a Freelance Translator gives a great overview of starting your translation business. It includes sections on finding your first clients and training programs for translators and interpreters. Click here for a list of ATA-recognized translation and interpretation programs.
Becoming a “certified” translator
The ATA runs a certification program consisting of written examinations in more than 20 language pairs. To learn more about the certification program, visit the ATA website. A free webinar about the ATA Certification Exam is available here.
The ATA website lists the full exam schedule, but if you have questions about upcoming sittings, please email the Circle Administrator at firstname.lastname@example.org.
NYCT does not provide information on setting rates. What you charge is negotiated between you and your client. Do research and adjust your rates over time based on your workload and experience. The more in demand you are, the more you should charge. Freelancers’ profiles in databases such as www.proz.com and www.translatorscafe.com often display rates. You can also speak informally with colleagues in your language pair(s) and subject area(s) about their range of per-word and hourly rates for specific services.
The ATA provides a free spreadsheet that allows you to calculate a per-word rate based on your target income and business expenses. You can download it here.
Before starting a job, you should sign some type of a contract with your client. Whether it is a formally prepared contract, a company purchase order or a letter of commitment, it should set out the terms of your agreement including services agreed upon, delivery date, delivery mode, price and payment terms, and a method for resolving any conflicts. For a sample service agreement, click here.