Italian Translator Survey Reveals Income, Translation Rates, Productivity Tools, MT Use

Italian language industry body AITI (Italian Association of Translation and Interpreting) has released results from its survey on the state of the local language market. The survey is the first the AITI has conducted in five years.

The online survey was opened for responses in January 2018 and remained live for two months. The results from the 543 translators and interpreters who took part were published in September 2018. The majority of participants were translators (70.7%), a few were interpreters (6.1%), while some said they were both translators and interpreters (23.2%).

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Most (86.6%) but not all respondents were based in Italy, although no one other country was represented in any significant manner. The sample size varied from question to question since respondents were not obligated to answer questions.

Translation Rates and Income

The survey asked respondents to indicate the range of their annual translation income for 2017 (invoiced revenue excl. VAT). 387 participants responded to the question. Two thirds of respondents (66.5%) earned between EUR 10,000 and 50,000. A tenth of all respondents said they earned between EUR 50,000 and 100,000 and just 1.3% earned above EUR 100,000. A number of respondents had other sources of income.


The average translation income for 2017 was EUR 29,108, an increase on both 2016 (EUR 27,538) and 2015 (EUR 26,432). From a sample size of 492 respondents, 42.7% said the outlook for 2018 was “better” than 2017 while 45.5% said it was “the same” and 11.8% said it was “worse.”

The average translation income for 2017 was EUR 29,108, an increase on both 2016 (EUR 27,538) and 2015 (EUR 26,432).

On average, respondents earned 60% of their translation income from language service providers (LSPs), 35% from direct clients and 15% from peers.

95 respondents provided information about their rates for English into Italian, 17% of respondents charged 8 cents per word and 15% charged 7 cents per word. On the higher end, 0.5% charged 16 cents, just under 2% charged 15 cents and 1% charged 14 cents and 4% charged 13 cents. On the lower end, over 8% charged 5 cents, 15% charged 6 cents, 8% charged 9 cents and 14% charged 10 cents.

279 respondents provided information about their rates for Italian into English, 15% of respondents charged 10 cents per word and 14% of respondents charged 12 cents per word. On the higher end, 1% charged as much as 20 cents a word, and 1% charged 17% per word. 14% charged 13, 14 or 15 cents per word (combined). On the lower end, 10% charged 5 cents, 6% charged 6 cents and 11% charged 7 cents.

Translators also applied a surcharge in certain scenarios. In rush scenarios, for example, most applied a 20% or 30% surcharge (31.5% and 23.4% respectively), although just under a third (30.8%) applied no rush fee. Most (63.8%) tended not to apply a surcharge for formatting (e.g. of Excel or PowerPoint files). When working with PDFs, most would not apply a premium rate (47.8%) or would apply a 20% uplift (28.3%).

Interpreting Income and Rates

The survey asked respondents to indicate the range of their annual interpretation income for 2017 (invoiced revenue excl. VAT). 109 participants responded to the question.

43.1% of respondents said they earned less than EUR 5,000 from interpreting income in 2017. The second highest earning range was from EUR 5,000 to EUR 10,000 (around 12%) while the third highest earning range was over EUR 50,000 (9.2%). The earnings distribution is consistent with the fact that many of the survey participants who said they were working as interpreters were also working as translators (23.2% of 543 participants), while only a few uniquely provide interpreting (6.1% of 543 participants).

The average interpretation income for 2017 was EUR 18,716, an increase on both 2016 (EUR 17,018) and 2015 (EUR 17,311).

The average interpretation income for 2017 was EUR 18,716, an increase on both 2016 (EUR 17,018) and 2015 (EUR 17,311). From a sample size of 149 respondents, 32.9% said the outlook for 2018 was “better” than 2017 while 46.3% said it was “the same” and 20.8% said it was “worse.”

For LSP customers, interpreters tended to charge between EUR 300 and EUR 400 per day (39.7%) or between EUR 400 and EUR 500 per day (29.8%). A few (5.3%) charged under EUR 100 per day and others (11.5%) more than EUR 500. The rest charged between EUR 100 and EUR 200 (1.5%), or between EUR 200 and EUR 300 (12.2%) for a day’s work.

For direct customers, interpreters tended to charge between EUR 400 and EUR 500 (43.6%). The same percentage charged between EUR 300 and EUR 400 (20.7%) as charged over EUR 500. The remainder charged less than EUR 100 (3.5%), between EUR 200 and EUR 300 (8.6%), or between EUR 100 and EUR 200 (2.9%).

Output and Productivity Tools

About a third of respondents (32.7%) said they produced between 1,500 and 2,000 words per day, with another approx. 50% saying their output was slightly lower (between 1,000 and 1,500) or slightly higher (between 2,000 and 2,500 or between 2,500 and 3,000). Around 5% said their daily output was over 4,000 words.

About a third of respondents (32.7%) said they produced between 1,500 and 2,000 words per day, with another approx. 50% saying their output was slightly lower (between 1,000 and 1,500) or slightly higher (between 2,000 and 2,500 or between 2,500 and 3,000).

85.8% of respondents said that they used a translation productivity (CAT) tool, while 14.2% said they did not. Translators also used a variety of other tools including online invoicing, speech recognition, time management, data protection / encryption.

Of the translators using productivity tools, 42.3% said they used SDL Trados, while the next most widely used tool, MemoQ, was used by 16.8% of respondents. The other tools used by translators were Wordfast, “other”, Star Transit, Across, MateCat, Omega T, POedit, Cafetran and Systran, in that order of preference. AITI said that this list had not changed much from the 2013 survey with the exception of MemoQ’s rise in popularity.

86.6% of respondents said that they had seen gains from using a productivity tool.

86.6% of respondents said that they had seen gains from using a productivity tool. Of these, a significant portion (42.2%) said their output had increased between 21% and 40% from working with productivity tools. A similar number saw an increase of up to 20% in productivity (20.1%) as observed a 41% to 60% improvement (26.0%). 11.8% of respondents said that they had achieved gains of over 60% by using productivity tools. Just of half of translators are passing on discounts for translation memory matches to their customers.

Machine Translation Use and Sentiment

In AITI’s 2013 survey, 24% of respondents said that they had used machine translation in their work, and the 2018 survey shows that this number has climbed, with roughly one third (33.1%) of translators saying that they had worked with MT.

The two thirds of respondents (66.9%) who had never tried machine translation gave a variety of reasons as to why, with some (37.8%) saying “It’s not necessary in my market” and others (34.2%) saying “I’m not impressed.” 19.7% said they had not worked with machine translation because the rates offered are too low, while 8.4% cited “other reasons.”

Of those who had worked with machine translation, some (48.9%) said they had used one or multiple engines integrated into a CAT tool and others (30.4%) said they had tried free online solutions. A smaller percentage (15.7%) said they had worked with standalone MT tools (e.g. on-premise, API- or cloud-based).

Opinions were divided on how well machine translation is working in practice, with similar numbers saying they were “not at all” satisfied (8.8%) as saying they were “very” satisfied (7.0%). Most respondents fell somewhere in between, with 27.5% saying “not very”, 21.1% saying “neutral”, and 35.7%  saying “reasonably”.

Opinions were divided on how well machine translation is working in practice, with similar numbers saying they were “not at all” satisfied (8.8%) as saying they were “very” satisfied (7.0%).

54.8% of respondents said they had performed post-editing of machine translation (PEMT).  Of those who had performed PEMT, 51.7% said that they had been offered an hourly rate for the task, while 21.8% had been offered a flat rate and 26.4% had been paid using “other” metrics. Many (59.7%) felt that it was more appropriate to charge an hourly or flat rate for PEMT than to apply more traditional (e.g. word or page) metrics. A large percentage (68.9%) said that they were offered lower rates for post editing than for traditional translation, while 31.1% said the rates were the same.

With post editing, many translators (43.0%) said that they were able to process between 500 and 1,000 words per hour. Some (26.3%) said their output was up to 500 words per hour while others (12.3%) said it was between 1,000 and 1,500 words per hour. 18.4% said they were able to post-edit at a rate of over 1,500 words per hour.

Read up on the first ever Belgian translation and interpreting market study from the CBTI-BKVT.

Editor’s note: hat tip to UEPO for alerting us to the AITI survey results.

Esther Bond

Research Analyst at Slator. Localization enthusiast, linguist and inquisitor. London native.