The value of having an interpreter for international business meetings, training sessions, conferences, events, legal proceedings , medical appointments and intergovernmental dialogue cannot be questioned. More than that ,in some instances it’s critical.
However, it comes at a cost and can be expensive. In this article, we’ll examine the various elements that affect cost and hopefully provide insight into how technology can make a difference to the bottom line.
The total cost of an interpreting service includes the following elements:
- The interpreters – the professionals that are actually executing the interpreting service
- The infrastructure – depending on the type of service, infrastructure/equipment is needed for its delivery. For example, If you need an interpreter for a Zoom video conference you won't need anything other than the interpreter. On the other hand if it's an in-person conference in a hall you'll need either to install equipment or use an RSI platform for delivering the simultaneous interpretation to delegates.
- The travelling – if the interpreters need to be on-site, their travelling and accommodation costs need to be added to the total.
- The project management – depending on the nature of the event, some project management activities might be required in order to organise, coordinate and manage the execution of the service.
Interpreters are in most cases freelancers, and are available on call. You can either find and hire interpreters yourself or do it through interpreting agencies.
If you wish to hire them by yourself, interpreters can be found in different ways.
First, It's worth pointing out that there is no legal “stamp” that certifies the capacity of an interpreter, as in other professions like lawyers, engineers, doctors. However, there are reputable Interpreters Associations like AIIC whose members are accepted after an accreditation process. Their lists of associate members are publicly available.
There are websites, like Proz, which provide lists of interpreters, searchable through different filters, who are not certified but feedback and ratings are provided by previous clients.
Alternatively, you can find them through organic searches on Google or Linkedin.
In this case you will need to verify their capability yourself.
If you hire them through an agency, it'll cost you more, since the agency will have to add their own margins to the interpreter fees, but it'll save you from the time consuming exercise of looking for the interpreters and handling all the single engagement contracts, billings, information exchanges etc.
Remember also that agencies are responsible for the evaluation and vetting of the interpreters that you specify for your assignment.
Price depends upon many factors:
- the kind of interpretation (consecutive or simultaneous). Simultaneous interpreting usually requires a higher ability, cognitive effort and professionalism, so it does cost more than an interpreter operating in consecutive mode (see different kinds of interpreting modes here).
- The language combination and the location of the interpreter. Interpreters in some language combinations might be more difficult to find, they have busy schedules and therefore more expensive (e.g. Japanese). Interpreters that live in some regions or cities where the cost of living is higher have higher fees (e.g. living in New York, Singapore or Seoul costs more than living in a small city in Europe or South America).
- The level of expertise. A simultaneous interpreter for a medical conference costs more than an interpreter that does consecutive interpretation in a B-to-B meeting at an exhibition.
- The duration of the interpretation assignment.. Many interpreters only agree to be hired at a full day rate , despite the actual duration of the service delivery (especially if it's an on-site assignment), or sometimes half-day rate. But a number of them agree to work on an hourly rate, with a minimum engagement time of two hours. Telephone interpreting services are usually priced at a per-minute rate for the actual service.
So, there is no real reference point for pricing an interpretation service, but here are some prices that might give you guidance. These prices are agency prices taken from a wide number of agencies across the globe.
For a Simultaneous interpreter, with good experience, speaking the more common language combinations like English-Spanish/French/Italian/Portuguese etc.
- Hourly rate: US$130 -200 (minimum 2 hours)
- Half-day rate: US 400-650
- Full day rate: US$700-1200
For a simultaneous interpreter, with good experience, speaking rarer language combinations like English-Japanese/Korean etc.
- Add up to 25% to the above common combination rates
And for a simultaneous interpreter, with experience in specific, complex topics, like medical, technical engineering etc or requiring ability in multiple language combinations.
- Add up to 30% to the above common combination rates
Now for a consecutive interpreter, with good experience:
- Hourly rate: US$100 -140 (minimum 2 hours)
- Half-day rate: US$300-550
- Full day rate: US$600-800
- Remote or telephone interpreting: US$2-4 per minute
And for a consecutive interpreter, with little experience
- Up to 30% less than those quoted above for those with experience
Consider also these factors:
- The prices quoted are agency prices: if you contract the interpreter directly, these fees could be 20% less. Also bear in mind that agencies' margins may vary from between 10% and 40%.
- The interpretation task is quite demanding, therefore for simultaneous interpreting engagements that last more than an hour , you will need two interpreters for each language combination, who alternate themselves during the session.
- In calculating how long you will need interpreters, you need to consider the total engagement time, which will include the initial time for sound and technical check, rehearsals, and breaks.
- Above and beyond the fees quoted above, include the preparation of the interpreter for the specific topic of your session. So, send them preliminary materials for their preparation, like scripts of the speakers, slides, glossaries etc. The more you provide the better they will perform.
You might be able to get interpreters or agencies offering lower rates, but be aware that below the quoted rates we have provided , you may get interpreters with insufficient quality. Unfortunately, we have little knowledge of professional interpreters that will operate at lower rates.
As mentioned, depending on the type of event, some sort of infrastructure might be needed:
- For simultaneous interpreting in in-person and hybrid events you either need to use a hardware-based simultaneous interpreting equipment or an RSI platform (see the difference between these options in this article). Hardware based equipment is rented out by specialised companies providing a full service which includes the rental and installation costs, the cost for on-site operators, whose fees roughly vary between US$ 10 to $40 per attendee, based on a one day event. RSI platforms' prices vary instead from US$2 to $15 per attendee, with the hourly cost of the operator between US$ 60 to $100 which is not linked to the number of attendees.
- For simultaneous interpreting in video conferences or virtual events there might be a cost of an RSI platform or if you rely upon the features embedded into the video conference platform itself there will be no cost.
- For remote or telephone interpreting, the service is usually handled through a communication platform which includes the interpreter, at prices varying from US$2 to $5 per minute.
- Obviously you don't have infrastructure costs for sessions where the interpreter has to operate on-site in consecutive mode.
Nowadays more and more services are handled by interpreters operating remotely. This has the advantage of being able to select from a wider range of interpreters, since they can be anywhere, and there won’t be travelling costs, leaving just the cost of the interpreter fee.
If you do require the interpreter to be present on-site, you need to add the travelling and accommodation costs, reimbursed on the production of receipts.
In this case it's obviously important to engage interpreters that live near to the event location in order to reduce travelling costs and avoid the need for accommodation since they will return home at the end of the day/meeting.
You also have to consider that if an interpreter spends one day travelling to the event location and then returning home, it's one day where he/she are not able to take another engagement, so that time lost will be reflected in the fee.
Project management costs
These depend on the nature of the request. If handled through an agency, project management activities might be required , which could vary from simple requests for a couple of interpreters for a video conference to complex projects requiring multiple language combinations, identification and validation of a number of interpreters or rare language combinations . Overall addition to the cost could be as much as a 20% increase.
If you read this article, you probably are budget savvy.
In order to stay within budget, the first thing is not to squeeze the cost of the interpreters because below certain fees you'll get poor quality.
Instead, use solutions where interpreters operate by remote, like affordable RSI platforms for simultaneous interpreting or telephone/videoconferencing interpreting for consecutive interpreting needs.
In this way you get rid of travelling costs and dramatically reduce the infrastructure costs.
Find a reliable and reputable agency and work together with them to identify the most effective and convenient solution. Be active in taking ownership of some project management tasks in order to further reduce the total cost of your service.
Understanding the factors influencing the cost of interpreting services is essential for making informed decisions and achieving effective communication in multilingual settings. From the type of interpreting to the language combination and the experience of the interpreter, each element contributes to the overall expense. By considering these factors and seeking competitive pricing, you can ensure a successful and fruitful interpreting experience.
At the links below, you can view the pricing structure that we offer at Ablio, and you can schedule a call with our experts who will help you to get the best solution at the most affordable price.