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|HomeArticlesThe Numbers Game Played by Translation Brokers|
(Posted April 16, 2011)
The only publicly traded translation company in Japan is reported in the Toyo Keizai's Shikiho (Second 2011 edition) as having approximately 4000 "registered" translators. Their projected sales for the fiscal year ending in March 2011 were around 4.6 billion JPY. If an average translator can translate 1500 words per day 250 work days per year (many can produce much more) and the average sales price for translation is 25 yen per word, that means that they use the equivalent of approximately 490 translators. This is only 12.3% of the total they claim as "registered" translators, and is a small figure even considering that not all translators can handle all assignments.
For readers not in the translation business, the take-away from this calculation is that translation brokers claim huge numbers of registered translators, but that usually means nothing more than that they know the contact information of that many translators, not that they use—or even intend to use—more than a tiny fraction of the number of translators they claim to have.
Since many freelance translators seeking work from brokers allow themselves to be "registered" with multiple agencies, there is a great probability that the total number of purportedly registered translators claimed by numerous translation brokers exceeds the actual number of translators by many times.
One method translation brokers use to artificially pump up their apparent cast of thousands of translators is to actively solicit resumes from translators, either by a shotgunning people they believe to be freelancers willing to work with them or by getting translators to send their contact information in response to a purported specific assignment (the existence of which is, of course, unverifiable by the applicants). Having been told "sorry, we are using someone else this time, but will keep your information in our files for subsequent work," unsuspecting freelance translators will often come away from the encounter pleased that they are somehow being "registered" with the agency and that they might actually get work. In reality, they are most likely just another name in a list of names of translators that the broker can use in advertising to amazingly credulous potential clients who are unaware of what is really going on.