Posted by: patenttranslator | January 21, 2014

The Menace to Translation Rates from Translation Agencies in Chindia

The recent attacks on translation rates, rates that would make it possible to live a normal life in a developed country as opposed to barely being able to survive, with starvation rates being offered and accepted at blind translation auction sites such as Proz and TranslatorsCafe, are combined among other menaces, (MT, NDA’s that are an unconditional declaration of acceptance of slavery, words-stealing CATs), also with what could be called the Chindian menace.

Here is an example illustrating a typical offer of work from a translation agency in China or India (a new virtual subcontinent looking for subservient subcontractors called by translators Chindia) posted recently on TranslatorsCafe:


“Translation In India” is looking for Portuguese to English translators for a 40,000 words project

If you are a native and have experience in translating then kindly send your CV and BEST rate.

This is a Low budget project, so kindly quote accordingly

Kindly mention your best rate per word in the subject line

Thanks & BRgds


From what I see on blogs and social media, the rates offered to translators by translation agencies in Chindia seem to range from 2 to 7 cents per word. A rate enabling economic survival in United States, Western Europe, Australia, Japan, etc., is at least double the maximum Chindian rate.

It is hard to blame nimble operators in India and China for trying to squeeze a little bit of profit also for themselves from the bounty of profits created by the miracle of globalism for a few at the expense of the majority of people. If we were in their shoes, we might be doing the same thing to survive, although perhaps less unscrupulously.

These operators are in fact so nimble that they don’t have any qualms about stealing to save time and money. After all, they are in China or India, so nobody can do anything to them anyway. Some people in China, for example, simply copied the design and some of the content of my website. They simply stole it and put it on their own website as I wrote in this post more than 3 years ago …. and then they sent me an e-mail later requesting a price quote for translating patents for them.

I bet they don’t remember anymore what they have stolen from whom. (It’s hard to keep track of all of these details, OK?)

So should translators try to protect themselves from these types of translation agencies operating from Chindia?

Or should they simply try to integrate the Chindian menace into their own business model? Perhaps it could be then called the Chindian challenge, or even the Chindian advantage instead. After all, 7 cents a word (a nice rate if you can get it from Chindia) is better than nothing, and as long as the translation agencies in China and India continue to offer rock-bottom rates on mammoth projects, they should be pretty busy.

Well, I think that it all depends on how badly you need work at 7 cents a word, and a few other factors, such as where you live.

If you live in Thailand, the Philippines, Indonesia, or Brazil, 7 cents per word is probably nothing to sneezed be at (if you can get it from the tight Chindians, of course, which is a big if).

If you live in an advanced country where living expenses are high and so are taxes, even the top rate that agencies located in this part world will pay is quite laughable.

But wherever we happen to live, we should probably keep in mind that the total population of China is more than 1.3 billion people, and in the case of India it is more than 1.2 billion people. That is 2.5 billion of people, or more than a third out of the total population of about 7 billion people on this planet.

Among the 1.3 billion people in China, there must be at least tens of thousands people who are smart enough to learn in addition to their own language also English and Japanese, although they may have more problems with English than with Japanese since they already know Japanese characters, which would take a non-Chinese “gaijin” (foreigner) about a decade to learn. The advantage that educated speakers of Chinese have is that it is much easier for them to learn Japanese and Korean thanks to the heritage of Chinese characters that has very strong roots in both of these languages. Being able to translate at the same time from all of these languages to English (provided that you are fluent in English) is a formidable language combination at this point in human history if you are for example a patent translator.

And among the 1.2 billion people in India, there must be again tens of thousands of people smart enough to learn languages that are very much in demand for certain types of translations, such as Japanese, Chinese, Korean or German, as many of them already know English quite well, sometime at the level of an educated native speaker of English.

A logical conclusion is that many of these people are already translating Japanese and German patents into English at a much lower rate than what this mad patent translator is charging.

And for every translator living in China or India able and willing to learn Japanese or German, there must be at least 10 people able and willing to start a translation agency …. because you don’t really need to know anything about anything to start a translation agency.

I have also read on blogs and social media that a new kind of relationship has been established between large translation agencies in Europe and the United states and translation agencies in the virtual subcontinent that translators call Chindia.

It works like this: a translation agency based in New York or London farms out a certain translation job, let’s say a dozen patents in Japanese to be translated into English, to an agency in China, the agency in China does all the work that a translation agency normally needs to do and the translations are then sent pronto from China or India with a modest invoice to New York or London.

It is a very simple setup, very profitable to the Western agency because the rates paid by Chindians to translators, wherever they may be located, are quite low, and so are the rates charged by translation agencies in Chindia to their Western partners.This is probably happening quite frequently because I often receive e-mails from translation agencies in China or India eager to establish this kind of an arrangement with me. The term that they use to describe what they call “collaboration” is “a backdoor office”, which must mean that the client is absolutely not supposed to know about this arrangement.

I am not likely to accept any of these offers because short-term profit is less important to me than the actual ability to work with top-notch translators. That, I believe, is the most important condition for long term viability of my business.

But let’s come back to the main issue of this post: What should translators do about these types of translation agencies operating from Chindia?

Personally, I think that it may make sense to work for translation agencies offering low rates if you are a beginner, or really, really desperate for work, whether the translation agency is located in Chindia or Virginia.

After all, given how little the stingy translation agencies in Chindia are paying, just about anybody should be able to get work from them.

But I think it makes much more sense for translators, even the beginning ones, to have a strategy for establishing themselves as experts in a given translation field (financial translation, technical translation, patent translation, etc.) and work mostly for direct clients, or for direct clients and smaller, specialized translation agencies willing to pay good money for good work.


  1. Hello there.

    I can see you are frustrated over other people working cheaper than you and not leaving much for you. This is a problem that a lot of freelancers deal with. People and companies in India, China and the Philipines will always work cheaper than anyone because of the level of living there. But you must remember one thing, they won’t yield the quality that a veteran translator can dish out. Sadly, companies that need translation are focused more on the price being low than on the quality of the translations.

    So you can’t really do anything but keep doing a good job to keep your current clients. A translator with a lot of experience that has very good feedback should never ask for lower rates because of other people willing to work cheaper. If a company needs quality, they will pay whatever needed, and most need quality.

    I know what I’m saying because I work for a language services provider that focuses on quality, so our rates are pretty high and we pay our suppliers good rates.


  2. I am not frustrated, Global Lingo, and there is plenty of work for me (at least most of the time) because I don’t work for translation, agencies with a few notable exceptions.

    I am just trying to identify in my blog current trends in the so called translation business to get a discussion started, and Chindia is one of them.


    • I see, my mistake then. As far as trends go, I already gave my opinion, cheap services. Every company is looking to save wherever possible, thus turning to cheaper options.


  3. […] Chindia is thus another factor that is effectively pushing down rates paid to translators. […]


  4. […] The recent attacks on translation rates, rates that would make it possible to live a normal life in a developed country as opposed to barely being able to survive, with starvation rates bein…  […]


  5. Do you feel that a flat rate of $17.50 is fair for translating abstracts from J-toE? How much does the end customer usually pay for abstracts? I find these rates absolutely disgusting considering the high standards that we are expected to follow.


  6. 1. No. Such a rate is an outrage. In a Western country, it is nothing, after taxes, less then nothing.

    2. Then don’t work for this rate. Eventually, low quality from Chindia will be the undoing of agencies who use this option.


  7. I just came across your article.
    The same goes for such agencies from Pakistan and Bangladesh… They are time wasters and offer outrageous rates, some as low as 1-2 cents per word.
    However, I work with several bedding mechanisms such as Upwork, Elance and the somewhat primitive Translators’ Café and Pub, and am sorry to say that the very idea of a bidding mechanism often hurts the translators. I see freelancers willing to do translation work for very little. I sometime hire translators through these websites and refuse to hire agencies, only individuals, and not those who are willing to work for chicken feed. Being a translator myself, I have no respect for people who “break the market”, but unfortunately this is where the trend is heading…
    Translation work is just not for making money. I struggle to survive just doing translations. I used to work for the high-tech industry and left in order to do my own thing, but with today’s reality I think it will prove extremely difficult very soon…
    I’d like to finish on an optimistic note, but I’m afraid Chindia is taking over.


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