Misquotations of German translators’ association BDÜ in press

I think it’s standard practice for professional associations not to recommend prices, as this is in restraint of trade. I recall the American Translators Association were investigated many years ago by the FTC and have been very cautious since then.

At all events, a newspaper article has been syndicated to various papers all over Germany in which the BDÜ is wrongly stated to have recommended a price per line to charge. I wasn’t going to blog it, but it refuses to die. Here’s one of the articles.

There has also been an article in the fortnightly German computer magazine c’t, about how expensive German versions of software are, because of the costs of localization. That appeared in the 12th January issue and is not online. c’t is an excellent, serious magazine. It has a few past articles translated into English, but I’ve never looked at them. This article referred to a figure of 1 euro per line ‘as quoted by the BDÜ’. I can’t find anyone who knows where the c’t writer got this from.

The former article has been refuted, the latter I’m not sure. Robin Stocks had an entry in Carob (scroll down to 17th January, ‘Odd price data from BDÜ’ – with links). And Richard Schneider’s Nachrichtenportal has even more, on January 14th (in German).

One of the statements credited to Norbert Koschyk of the BDÜ is that almost one in every nine translators is a freelance – of course, it’s about the other way round. He is also wrongly said to have said that an average of 1 euro is earned per line of 55 characters (including spaces!) He did not say this, and he did tell the journalist he spoke to that the BDÜ is not allowed to state prices. Perhaps the figure of 1 euro ‘quoted’ in the c’t article is taken from here.

4 thoughts on “Misquotations of German translators’ association BDÜ in press

  1. Unions set wages and rates for their members. Professional associations, therefore, should be allowed to do the same.

    The Austrian association, Universitas, for example, recommends that its members charge EUR1.45 per standard line (55 characters).

    ATA, in that case over 10 years ago, was intimidated by scare tactics (probably triggered by someone or a group that was not happy with the rates they were charged by translators).

    Still, ATA regularly issues a rates survey, as do Canadian associations, which serves as a recommendation “through the back door”, and I am all for it.

    Our profession, more than any other, is worthy of special protection. There are so many people that hang out their shingles from one day to the next, without actually being qualified to work as translators. We therefore need to take measures to shield our profession against those quacks and wannabes, who regularly work for 1 or 2 cents a word, even if they are located in a supposedly rich and expensive country such as Germany or the US.

    There are really only 2 ways of going about it:

    1. Stop that nonsense of “open access” and limit the translation profession to graduates of recognized and accredited schools of translators (www.ciuti.org) who have passed a “bar exam”, or accreditation/certification exam. Once implemented, there will be no more need to set or recommend rates, because those (LEGIT) members of the profession would then charge reasonable and professional rates.

    2. Forget about 1., but in return allow associations to set and publicize translation rates.

  2. Hmmm – I don’t think I’d like translation to be a restricted profession. Who is competent to decide who can do it, and what exam or other selection method is reliable? However, there are certainly people in the BDÜ who would like a Verkammerung.

    I am surprised that Austria would permit a line price to be quoted.

  3. Dear colleagues,
    as Secretary-General of the Austrian Translators and Interpreters Association UNIVERSITAS I would like to state that UNIVERSITAS provides its membership with price ranges per line that seem to reflect the market practice in Austria. It goes without saying that it is up to each professional translator to charge the line rate s/he finds adequate.

    Kind regards,
    Ingrid Haussteiner

  4. Dear Ingrid,

    But that’s exactly what “recommendations” are: you give your members some guidelines, but they remain free to do as they please. Those prices are not set in stone, but merely “RECOMMENDATIONS”.

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