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Often clients ask me why some translators charge them more than others.
Most people have never done a translation job and so they have difficulty understanding that apparently similar translations might have a very different life.
There are many reasons behind the cost of translation. This post will help you understand what you should take into consideration when purchasing a translation job.
You will learn:
- how you can save money
- how to ensure the quality of the translations
Click here if you want to skip the explanation and jump to the Calculator!
What is the standard cost of translation services?
This is a tricky question since there is no standard price. A lot depends on where you purchase, from whom you purchase, and what technologies you or the translators are using.
The tables or estimates you generally find online are examples that don’t take into consideration many different factors and often are not accurate or trustworthy.
- What impacts translation costs?
- How can you calculate the translation pricing?
- What can you do to improve quality and reduce translation costs?
Why does the translation pricing vary?
There are many reasons behind the costs of a translation. Some are related to the language, others to the type of text or media, and others depend on your requirements.
Don’t forget to take them all into consideration—and if you are a translator, don’t forget to explain all of this to your client!
Not all texts are the same. Translating a commercial brochure, a financial statement, a binding contract or a very niche medical study requires different skills and knowledge. This, of course, impacts the translation cost.
Although we can probably divide the level of complexity into 4 macro sets, consider that every translation vendor has its own “metric” and offer.
- Technical & Commercial: Think of brochures, commercial documents, simple user manuals, etc.
- Requires a domain of knowledge: Consider scientific documents, financial statements, etc.
- Requires a high-level education: Documents that require the help of a translator that is specialized in that specific area. Examples could be legal documents, judicial translations, medical papers, and other publications in which it is absolutely imperative that the translation service providers be experienced.
- Literary: Translating a book or poetry is probably the hardest thing. Not only does the translator have to convert the text into another language, but they must also maintain the rhythm, the style, and the soul of the writer.
Type of media
Different media hides different difficulties, and this translate into different translation pricing.
Localizing a website or an app, for example, in addition to translators may require the help of a programmer.
Translating a document from a desktop publishing software like InDesign presents other challenges compared to a file from a word processor like MS Word. You need to have an understanding of how the software works, fix the graphic so that the file looks the way the designer intended it to be, and deal with amendments. In fact, edits and revisions often force the translator to do the entire translation from scratch or require lots of manual edits.
When your translation is urgent be prepared to spend more.
In some special cases (especially with immigration), there is the need for a signed statement from the translator attesting the accuracy of the translation. This statement has to be signed by a notary public. The added cost depends mainly on the country of provenance.
Business is business. High competition in the language combination results in lower pricing.
The location matters both for the competition but also for the translator’s cost of living.
Structure of the translators’ team
If your project is as big as it requires someone to manage it, then this will translate into more costs.
Technology is also disrupting the translation world. From the almost futuristic Machine Translations (check this report if you want to change your perspective about MTs) to the more common Translation Memories, translators and businesses now have tools that can help them to speed up their process, improve the quality of translation, and drastically reduce costs.
Some translators proofread their document by default. Although this will translate into an added cost, proofreading is required if you care about quality.
Translators might use discounts on volume to improve their customer retention.
We often forget that any time when purchasing a service or product we are dealing with people. Creating a long-term relationship with a client or a supplier based on trust and respect is often a win-win situation and the perfect start to creating a quality/cost balance.
How to calculate the cost of translation?
Different pricing models are used to calculate the translation costs. It’s not unusual to receive an estimate structured in a completely different way from one translator or another. If you are in Italy, you might have an estimate based in “Cartelle” (25 lines of 50/55 characters). In Brazil, it might be based in “Lauda” (I found a lot of controversy on how much a Lauda is). Meanwhile, other standards are followed by the majority of the translators around the rest of the world:
Translation costs per word
This is the most common way of estimating translation costs for languages written using the Latin alphabet. The range varies widely based on the conditions we saw above and varies from US$0.08/word to US$0.25/word. For a better idea of what might be the right cost, check out our calculator.
Translation costs per character
For symbol/character-based languages such as Chinese, Japanese, Korean, etc., cost is based on the number of characters since the equivalent number of words in a Latin-alphabet based language cannot be easily calculated. Again, check our calculator to gain a better understanding of the rates.
Translation costs per line
This practice is common in German-speaking countries. A line is supposed to be 55 characters including spaces.
Translation costs per hour
With websites, apps or big projects, you might want to consider agreeing on an hourly basis contract. Of course, in this case, the pricing might vary based on your location.
Translation costs per page or minimum fee
Calculate translation costs per word or characters
The translation pricing calculator uses data gathered online; therefore, you shouldn’t trust it completely since conditions can change. However, this is a nice tool to understand what costs you should expect.
How can you reduce your translation costs?
Planning your content upfront and introducing technology into your workflow can drastically reduce your translation costs and at the same time improve the quality of your translations and decrease the turnaround time.
Work on your content
The first step is to plan your content upfront:
- Simplify the text: When possible write sentences that are short, easy to translate and that are NOT dependent on context.
- Reuse text as much as possible: Imagine having 10 similar products, and you are going to create 1 brochure for each product. Your goal should be to use the same text for all the common parts/information (more about this in “Discover Translation Memories”).
- Simplify the file format: Avoid PDFs, images or file formats that are complex to handle. Often translators ask you to provide them a Word file only because that file format is very simple to handle.
- Extract text from images: Having images with text multiplies the number of files you need to translate and increases the project’s complexity. Especially on DTP works, you should consider using labels or figure legends.
Leveraging Translation Memories
A Translation Memory (TM) is a database in which translations are stored for later reuse. This means that once you’ve translated a piece of content, you won’t need to translate it from scratch again but only check if that old translation still applies to the new content.
If you hire a translator, chances are that they are already using this technology. Many vendors charge a lower fee for translations coming from a TM, so reusing the same text as much as possible among your documents will drive down your translation costs.
You can also consider adding to your workflow a tool that allows you to use a Translation Memory yourself. Having control over your own TMs can be very powerful in order to reduce the translation effort and cut down on costs.
Use Machine Translation
In recent years, AI has improved tremendously and services like Google, Deepl, IBM Cloud, and many others are becoming better and better by the day and are truly challenging human translators.
Currently, the level of Machine Translation is not good enough to be blindly trusted, but it offers a great opportunity if used in combination with humans.
By combining two of the best Machine Translation services available at the moment, they recorded:
- 70% achieved perfect translation– These are translations that don’t require any human intervention!
- Around 5% of the translations required very minor intervention by a human.
The recorded reduction in costs is incredible: 0.2% compared with the human translation price!
Translation Memories + Machine Translation
Now, imagine using the Translation Memories on the text that was previously translated in other documents, and on the new segments with the suggestions coming from Machine Translation.
We’ve seen how our clients that use Translation Memories reduce the number of translations they have to do by 50% (sometimes even more).
With the remaining 50%, you can use Machine Translation. In that case, the translator receives a suggestion from the AI and he can simply click on it—this can reduce the translation time of a sentence to almost immediate.
From our clients, we recorded data that is similar to the analysis made by Intento. The suggestions coming from AI (for the major languages) is so good that almost half of the segments can be translated directly using text coming from the AI.
That means, combining TMs with MT can reduce the amount of text that a professional translator has to focus on down to less than 25%.
In fact, we’ve been told by many of our clients that since the amount of content they have to translate decreased drastically using this type of technology and getting the translation done became so fast, they decided to start doing the translations internally (using native speakers inside the organization, partners, resellers).
If you have never considered using Machine Translation, and your company works on InDesign, you might want to test our own Redokun with its 14-day free trial and see directly in your documents how this technology could work for you.