A Look at the Many Factors That Determine Translation Cost
How much does a translation cost? This is a nearly universal question posed to us by startups looking to extend their reach into new international markets. Unfortunately, we cannot give cookie-cutter answers. There are a lot of factors that go into translation costs.
What Practical Factors Affect Translation Cost?
Ongoing projects and high-volume jobs typically warrant discounted rates. You might be able to get a volume discount from your translation service when you have a big project. How big is big? High-volume projects are generally over 100 pages or about 25,000 words.
Keep in mind that not all translators provide discounts for volume. It typically depends on whether they use translation memory systems. TMSs allow translators to translate repetitive word sequences faster, thus making the job easier.
Just about every program has its own file formats. For our everyday needs, most of us use Excel, PowerPoint, or Word. These are common file types when translating documents. Yet, when it comes to technical work, there are numerous other file formats. For example, designers use Photoshop, CorelDraw, and other tools in their day-to-day work.
Each of these programs uses a relatively obscure file format. And, since each file format must be handled differently, there may be additional charges to format the material in such a way that allows for easier translation.
The last practical matter in determining translation cost is perhaps the most obvious. The more popular the language combination (i.e., English to Spanish), the more translators there are to work on the material. And thus, you can usually get a lower rate for common language combinations.
This is not always the case, but it is a fairly reliable rule of thumb. If you are unsure if your language combination is obscure and thus expensive, check out this sample pricing sheet from ProZ.
Higher Quality and Speed Require Higher Translation Cost
Translating the text from a travel blog is nowhere near as difficult as translating an M&A contract, a tender for building a bridge, or the user manual for a brand-new piece of surgical equipment. Translators must have special knowledge and skills to translate industry-specific materials.
Therefore, remember that translation of medical, technical, legal, and other industry-specific texts will usually cost you more than translating general subject content.
Translated text may need to go through different processing stages based on the target audience. For example, translation rates for in-house correspondence or documents that do not require a high level of accuracy or quality are less expensive.
On the other hand, expect higher translation rates if you want an article translated for inclusion in a foreign magazine. For translations of this quality, you will often pay more to adapt the material to a specific audience, for quality control, and to review the terminology, tone of voice, and style.
You can expect to pay a premium if you need your project completed in a hurry. Yet, there are always exceptions to the rules. If you commission a large language service provider, they may not charge you extra when they have a large enough team to complete the project on time during normal work hours.
Depending on the agency’s policy, you can count on better pricing when your translation is not urgent. This is why it is important to develop a relationship with a professional translation agency early on as you prepare to expand internationally.
How to Calculate Translation Cost
Simon Akhrameev recently created a video detailing how to calculate translation costs. It gives the basics on how to figure out your word count and how to use it to get the overall cost for your project. It’s a bit simplistic, but it serves as an okay starting point for someone who is new to translation services:
What Are the Right Translation Rates?
It is tough to give a one-size-fits-all answer to what translation rates and prices can be considered adequate universally for every project since there is a broad array of price formation factors.
In a recent study by Slator.com in which they surveyed U.S. translation agencies to determine their average rates, researchers found the average translation rate in America is about 21 cents per word.
You must remember that the aforementioned factors can cause this average translation rate to vary drastically. And, since companies typically have larger overheads (and provide more services that lead to greater accuracy), their rates tend to be higher than those for freelancers.
Now that you have a crash course on all of the different factors that go into the translations costs, you can get a good idea of how much your project will be. Additionally, you can tell if a provider offers fair, excessive, or undercut translation prices.
Of course, the best way to get an accurate estimate of how much your translation project will be is to shop around for quotes. Just pay special attention to what is included in the quote. And don’t forget to check our checklist for buying translation services, it’ll surely help you make an informed decision.