You’ve probably wondered at some point how the price of a translation is determined, or at least you may have wondered how much it costs to translate a particular document.
Well, you’ve come to the right place, because this blog article describes the logic behind translation prices and how you can influence them.
The price of a document
Let’s take a look at an example inspired by this blog’s title. How much does it cost to translate a one-page document (about 250 words)? A rough estimate is 30-70 euros. Depending on the case, it could be even more.
What about a 5,000-word document, such as an e-book or a manual? It’s hard to say. What would be the price for a document of 20,000 to 50,000 words, such as an annual report or the translation of a website? It’s impossible to evaluate. Is there a standard price for a long manual of 100,000 words? Not with this information alone.
The same pricing logic applies to translations as to, say, painters or car mechanics. A painter cannot give an accurate price estimate for painting a house without first getting acquainted with the property in question. A mechanic will not be able to determine the cost of maintenance without first doing some troubleshooting. Using this logic, the price of a translation cannot be stated until the document has been analyzed and all the factors affecting the final price have been clarified.
What is reflected in the cost of a translation?
The price of a translation project consists of five different elements, the weighting of which will vary from project to project. There are other elements that affect the price, but we will return to them shortly. The main elements are wordcount, language pair, specialization, desktop publishing, and deadline. Let's take a closer look at these.
The translation’s language pair, i.e. the source and the target language, provides an initial indication of the price, but does not in itself help to form a precise idea of the final cost.
Each language pair is assigned a per-word price, which depends on the prevalence of the language and the availability of translators. For example, German to French translators are plentiful and per-word prices are clearly cheaper in this language combination than when translating from German into Croatian. In the event of a translation from Croatian into Danish, the price is likely to be higher still because there are not so many Danish-speaking Croatian translators available.
Language prevalence plays a significant role in determining the language pair pricing. It is quite natural for a translation between two European languages to have a higher per-word price than a translation from English into Chinese.
The language pair alone is not enough to set the price. You also need the document wordcount, i.e. how many words need to be translated as part of the translation project. In the translation world, the wordcount is practically always calculated based on the source language text, because it is impossible to estimate the wordcount of the target language before the translation has been completed. In other words, the price is determined by how much text needs to be translated.
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The third element that affects the price of a translation is the translator's specialization. Not all translations require the translator to be specialized in a specific field, but in some projects this is mandatory. For example, in medical publications, the translator will be required to have an in-depth knowledge and understanding of the field. Often, legal texts also require specific knowledge both of the type of text and of local legislation.
In some cases, official translations, i.e. translations by an authorized translator, may be required. These include, for example, government documents such as birth certificates. For this reason, a one-page official translation will clearly be more expensive than a one-page newsletter.
In some cases, translations requiring specialist skills may be charged a higher per-word price. Of course, the number of specialists per language pair may vary, and this also affects the price per word.
It should not be forgotten that a higher price is a guarantee that the translator will produce a translation that takes into account the specific requirements of the industry or the type of document in question.
Desktop publishing relates to translation projects where the document content cannot be translated directly. The most typical example of this is a PDF file, where the text must be extracted into an editable form. Desktop publishing includes a large number of variables, and their effects on the cost of the project are difficult to predict.
If, in the case of a 100-page manual, all you need to do is have the text translated, then text recognition or OCR software can be used to make the test editable and quickly ready for translation. However, in the case of a 100-page product catalog layout file, if the translation needs to be delivered in a ready-to-publish format, this will be reflected in the final price. After being translated, the texts will need to be fitted back into the catalog and then be rechecked by the translator to ensure they have been imported correctly and look good linguistically. You can read more about DTP in our previous article.
Desktop publishing is practically always performed manually and, as a rule, it is invoiced on an hourly basis. There is no need to blindly start the project, as most translation providers, such as Acolad, will always provide an estimate of how long the extra work will take and how it will be reflected in the price of the translation project.
Tip: One of the easiest ways to save on the cost of a translation project is to deliver the material to be translated in an editable format. This tip also applies to urgent translations - when the text is in an editable format, the translator can process it more quickly.
The fifth element influencing the price of a translation is the deadline, i.e. how urgent it is. As a rule, translations can be performed very flexibly through a comprehensive network of translators. Often, material delivered in the morning can be returned translated in the afternoon of the same day.
Sometimes translations may be required very urgently, and the translator may have to work overnight or at the weekend. In this case, an express delivery surcharge may be charged for the translation project.
If the translation project is urgent and the document to be translated is at least 10,000 words long, the translation may be shared among several translators so as to meet even the tightest delivery deadline. The average translation speed of a translator is about 2000 words per day. By dividing the work among several translators, the processing time becomes more flexible and express delivery surcharges are likely to be avoided.
In general, the translation deadline is rarely reflected in the price of the translation.
How can the price of a translation be affected?
Having examined the above elements, it is worth considering how the translation price can be lowered. There is no need to compromise on the number of words or on language pairs. There are technologies that can significantly reduce the cost of translations.
Translation memories are among the most effective technologies to reduce translation costs. The advantages of a translation memory are savings, efficiency, and consistency. The savings arise from the fact that previously translated units (often sentence strings) can be used in subsequent translation projects. This reduces the number of words to be translated, which increases efficiency and reduces translation time.
Depending on the type of text and the size of the translation memory, the cost savings from using this technology can range from a few percent to a significant percentage of the total price of a translation order.
The biggest benefits of using a translation memory are obtained when the texts to be translated are similar. For example, if you are translating a company’s 30,000-word annual report, it is likely to be very similar to the previous year’s document. With a translation memory, you will not need to have the entire report retranslated. When the software is updated, the translation of the new document will leverage previously accumulated translations.
Indeed, the use of a translation memory is one of the main reasons why it is difficult to price a document for translation without analyzing it first. For example, if a document contains 50,000 words and the translation memory allows you to translate just 40,000 words, then the impact on the final price will be significant.
Read more about translation memories here.
If, as a result of a tender, a company has concentrated its translation orders with a particular supplier, this may mean cheaper per-word prices for the agreed language pairs. It may also be possible to regulate the application of minimum charges (the amount charged for translations that are shorter than the minimum 250-word length).
Placing the majority of your translation orders with a single supplier is also worthwhile in terms of gaining the most leverage from translation memories.
Machine translation may not be the most appropriate solution for important translation projects. It may be more appropriate when a company's need for translations is extensive and continuous, and when translations do not need to be stylistically perfect. Machine translation is most suitable when translating basic product information and technical documentation for internal use.
Once an agreement has been reached on the use of machine translation, the translation of individual documents will be priced as agreed. In this case, the translation of a multi-page document can be completed in a few minutes and there is no additional charge for the translation service.
Alongside straight machine translation, there is also the possibility of post-editing the output of a machine translator. In this case, a human translator proofreads the raw machine translation output in order to guarantee a good quality, accurately translated text.
Read more about our machine translation service here.
Translation prices depend on many factors
Unfortunately, no one can tell you the cost of a translation without analyzing the document first. Every translation project is unique: the number of words is never the same, the language pair will change, sometimes a specialist translator may be required, and occasionally an urgent weekend delivery may be necessary. Based on these variables, the client will always be provided with the lowest possible translation quote.