Declining translation rates in Canada

In the last month, I have been meeting with many translators residing in the National Capital region. Almost all of them are my “competitors” who compete for government business. They usually translate from English into French (Quebec) and most of them are suppliers for the Translation Bureau.

A number of them have chatted with me about the declining rates of translations in the last ten years. According to Angele Rondeau, an ATIO (Association of Translators and Interpreters of Ontario) certified translator, ten years ago, translators earned an average 10% more in per word rates. Assuming inflation is at 2.5%, ten years means rates have gone down by 25% if rates did not change. With a 10% of decline in per word rates, that is a shocking 35% reduction in inflation-adjusted earnings for translators.

It was food for thought for me since I cannot stop myself from trying to figure out why. Is it the productivity gain translators obtained from using computer assisted translation tools? Is it outsourcing to overseas low cost locales?

What surprises me is that the decline is happening to the English into Canadian French language pair. It is very difficult to have a translator in lower cost countries such as Morocco and Cameroon to translate and maintain the Canadian style. So I assume very little of the French translation actually goes overseas. The Translation Bureau also has a 80% Canadian content rule whereas 80% of the bid amount has to be spent in Canada.

So what factors are contributing to the rate decline? Your thoughts?

Huiping Zhang

Huiping Zhang is the founder and president of wintranslation. She founded the company in June 1998 as a home-based, one-woman operation and built it into a thriving, award-winning business that works with multi-national companies, governments, and not-for-profit organizations worldwide. She is a Certified Localization Professional and Terminology Manager. Huiping is a member of the Entrepreneurs’ Organization and serves as a board member for the Ottawa chapter.