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Please note that the question is 'how', not 'how much'.

Is it by assignment, day, hour, minute, something else?

In order to get specific answers, please indicate:

  1. which type of interpreting you're talking about
  2. what geographical markets you're referring to
  3. whether that charging scheme is common for that type of interpreting on that geographical market
  4. whether you as a professional have any say on that charging scheme

asked 31 Mar '12, 06:39

Vincent%20Buck's gravatar image

Vincent Buck ♦♦

edited 31 Mar '12, 08:47

Type: conference interpreting
Market: Germany
Intermediation: Consultant interpreters

In Germany, most professional Conference interpreters charge a lump sum or "flatrate" for simultaneous and consecutive interpreting which is often perceived and declared as a "full-day honorarium". At first sight, clients sometimes misunderstand this amount as an amount which is applicable to a working time of 6-8 hours including breaks. However, the honorarium covers or should cover all the time and overhead which can be allocated to a specific assignment, e.g. research, preparation time, travel time within the city of the venue, actual presence at the conference venue before the conference begins, etc. The honorarium should also cover the so-called "opportunity cost" of the total time dedicated to an interpreting assignment, i.e. the amount an interpreter could normally earn with another activity or another assignment.

Thus, a "daily rate" for a conference assignment can differ considerably, depending on the type of conference or interpreting assignment, the subject of the event and the special skills required. While a basic honorarium covering opportunity costs might be adequate for a short discussion of a general subject lasting approx. 2-3 hours, the honorarium for highly technical or medical conferences, TV live broadcasts, depositions etc. has to include additional charges for special qualifications, additional preparation time, research etc. So it is absolutely possible that the honorarium for a 3-hour medical assignment or a 10-minute TV interview is higher than the honorarium for a 6-hour discussion on a rather general subject - at least if the honorarium includes all the real input cost associated with it.

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answered 03 Apr '12, 10:37

Angie's gravatar image


edited 03 Apr '12, 11:17

Vincent%20Buck's gravatar image

Vincent Buck ♦♦

I can only but support what Angie said. A honorarium for an assignment should always take into account all the time we invest into preparation, travel and working times/activities. Saying this, I assume that all cost/expenses directly linked to the assignment (travel expenses, hotel, etc.) are covered separately by the client. Our work, i.e. the "billable" assignment days must cover our entire cost of living, i.e. what we need for a decent life. This does not only include our rent, phone, clothes, food but also - very important! - provisions for old age, illness, insurances, crises (low work load over a significant period), etc.

With regard to what is charged for an assignment day, we should take into account that even a short assignment (e.g. 2 hours) will normally need the time input of a whole working day because travel time, presence on the spot, briefing, preparation time beforehand will easily sum up to 8 hours or more. Logically, a longer assignment (e.g. 6 hours microphone time in a team of 2 interpreters (2-person booth)) will often require the time input of 2-3 working days. And this should be taken into consideration when establishing a honorarium.

In addition, this time input can be used for establishing the "opportunity costs" that Angie mentions. So, the honorarium should be at least as high as what I could earn with other decently paid activities carried out over that time period (i.e. sometimes 2-3 days for one assignment day). A second aspect that should be taken into account with respect to opportunity costs in the context of interpreting, is the fact that I might have to turn down an offer for another assignment day or even an assignment of several days once I've accepted a contract for a given day...

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answered 12 Apr '12, 17:22

Angelika's gravatar image


edited 12 Apr '12, 17:23

As this is the usual way in Germany, I and most of the (consulting) colleagues I know charge by the day, for sim there are two colleagues per booth, for difficult conferences (medical) or when there are few breaks and days are long, there are three colleagues per booth (which makes a lot of sense since, like in the Swiss market, we almost always work retour on the private market, which means no extra time to breathe). Travelling time to the conference venue on the day before is compensated (by the equivalent of up to half a day's rate according to my experience). My language pair is German(A)-English(B), and I am mainly talking about rates among interpreter colleagues/consultant colleagues.

Rates for these difficult conferences are also somewhat higher (approx. 20%) but, unfortuanately, this "extra" never truly compensates for the added time you put in for a very technical conference.

Therefore, there were two or three occasions where I started to ask for (and get) paid preparation time, incidentally also in cases where it is known from the start, that preparation documents do not arrive until the day before the conference, which means that you are more or less "booked" for an additional half or full day, because you cannot do anything else that day.

So far I have heard from two people/colleagues that they have also asked for paid preparation time, one very recently (not from Germany) and one many years ago in one of the first online translator/interpreter forums the name of which I have forgotten.

I would therefore be interested to know whether this used to be normal practice (because I am thinking of the nineteen seventies or eighties, when it must have been an even bigger difference to interpret for politicians with information readily accessible (or based on ad hoc developments anyway) as opposed to technical conferences (medicine, architecture, etc.), where colleagues must have spent days on end in expert libraries. Were our colleagues paid for this extra time they spent studying?

I would like to agree with the other postings in that we should not lower our rate for "shorter"/"easier" assignments, instead we should think about sensible ways and means to increase our rates for the more difficult/technical assignments which require a considerably higher time input than the odd press conference.

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answered 14 Apr '12, 16:17

Julia's gravatar image


Please consider removing the penultimate para from your answer and asking a separate question: 'do you charge for preparation time?'

(14 Apr '12, 16:31) Vincent Buck ♦♦

Type: conference interpreting
Market: Spain
Intermediation: Groups or individual consultant-interpreters

My group (and all the interpreters we work with) charges by the day - this includes preparation time - and our daily fee is not fractionable (for this very reason). A half-day meeting on dental implants may require far more preparation than a general assembly lasting a full day, so actual interpreting time is almost irrelevant. However since some clients do not understand this rational, we sometimes grant a 20% discount for short general meetings (under 3 hours).

If the interpreter works outside his domicile, he also gets:

  • a per-diem to cover his hotel, meals, taxis and incidentals;
  • reimbursement of his transport expenses;
  • compensation for travelling time, if he has to give up work to travel to the venue.

We have heard that other interpreters routinely accept different rates depending on the actual duration of the meeting (1 hour, 2 hours, 4 hours, 7 hours) but this system, which is usually imposed by agencies, is not deemed very satisfactory by these colleagues.

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answered 09 Apr '12, 09:17

Danielle's gravatar image


edited 09 Apr '12, 10:13

Vincent%20Buck's gravatar image

Vincent Buck ♦♦

Type: conference interpreting
Market: Argentina
Intermediation: consultant interpreters

In Argentina, a large number of RFQs are for simultaneous interpretation during 3-4 days of work from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. with a one-hour to 1 1/2 hours lunch break. We quote daily fees based on the number of hours of work as per the agenda, minus the lunch interval (but not the coffee breaks). Fees are gradually higher for sessions lasting over 6 hours, for it may be necessary to provide for a second team of interpreters to ensure even quality throughout the full session. For that reason, rates cannot be offset when one work day is shorter than, say, the previous day.

It is extremely important to ask clients to provide the consultant interpreter with the agenda (rather than just the dates and hours of session planned), even if it is a preliminary version liable to change, since it will give us details such as the number of speakers in X or Y languages, the degree of technical difficulty that will be involved, all of which will help determine which team of interpreters is best suited for that particular assignment. Other details such as the number of attendants are almost irrelevant, since the amount of preparation prior to the conference and effort during the conference will be the same regardless of the size of the audience.

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answered 01 Apr '12, 16:40

Laura's gravatar image


edited 01 Apr '12, 16:50

Vincent%20Buck's gravatar image

Vincent Buck ♦♦

Thanks for the answer! I've added a structured summary at the beginning to make it easier to distinguish between interpreting types, markets and intermediaries. I suggest anyone else replying should do the same to make all contributions easier to scan.

(01 Apr '12, 16:54) Vincent Buck ♦♦

It looks great. Thank you for adding the summary!

(01 Apr '12, 18:07) Laura

Just to piggy-back on Laura's excellent answer, you'll find that in many Latin American markets conference interpreters working in the simultaneous or consecutive mode charge full-day rates (up to 7 hours on the clock) and half-day rates (up to 4 hours on the clock). Charging by the hour for conference work is very unusual and is not considered good professional practice. Charging by less than that (minute/second) might work for telephone interpreting, but is not really feasible in the conference setting.

(02 Apr '12, 00:02) KattyK
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question asked: 31 Mar '12, 06:39

question was seen: 28,799 times

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