You want the good translation and of course you need to save the money…
FOR EXAMPLE, you need to translate your website or ad brochure. The translator gives you the estimation and you are not satisfied – WHY is so expensive?? It’s just a translation…and the proofreading…and localization…and DTP.. Don’t you think that quality content must be paid for accordingly?
So, why the translator charges for each service separately?
First of all, let’s take a look at pricing models. They can be
• Per word
This is the most common unit you will encounter, since many translators and companies charge for their services per word.
Per-word pricing tends to be the most fair for all parties involved. The reason behind this is that the actual effort involved in translating a document may vary from translator to translator.
For example, a blog article that contains 2,000 words may take one translator 8 hours to translate, while another can do it in 6 hours.
Paying per word helps you keep project costs in control as opposed to paying per hour.
Another thing to look for in per-word pricing is whether you are being charged based on the source or target word count. For example, if the source word count is 2,000 words and you are charged $0.25/word, the total cost will come out to $500.
But let’s say your document is being translated from English into Spanish, and the target word count will increase by roughly 20% in the Spanish version due to expansion.
In other words, 2,000 English words all of the sudden become 2,400 Spanish words after translation is completed and your bill comes out to $600.
The difference between paying per source as opposed to per target word could have a significant impact on your translation budget, so be aware of that.
Finally, sometimes you will see quotes from companies quoting “per thou”, or per thousand words. This is common for projects that are over 1,000 words in volume.
In the example above you would be paying $250 per thou (or $0.25/word).
• Per page
Some persons or companies will charge to translate your content based on the number of pages your document contains.
Per-page pricing works well for documents where an electronic word count cannot be obtained. A good example of this would be any documents that were scanned to a PDF file, such as medical records, court documents and IEPs.
Per-page price is determined by an estimate number of words on a single page.
Let’s say you have 50 pages of medical records you need translated. We can assume there are roughly 500 words of content on each page.
The content may be typed and include handwriting as well, since many medical records have progress notes on them. Your language services company quotes you $100 per page.
The total project price you will be paying is $5,000.
This sounds expensive and there is a chance that you could probably pay less, since not all pages have 500 words of content. The way to do that is to ask for per-word pricing.
However, in order for per-word pricing to be accurate, you should provide the language services company with editable files whenever possible and avoid scanned PDFs.
• Per hour
It’s not very often you will find companies charging for translation services by the hour.
As I’ve previously noted in the per-word pricing, it’s hard to estimate the amount of effort each translation project will take.
You will encounter per-hour pricing for editing and updating content that’s already been translated.
For example, that 2,000 page document you had translated into Spanish is now due for an update. You update a few paragraphs in the English version and send it along to your language services company, so they can update the Spanish version accordingly.
Sometimes it doesn’t make economic sense for the language services company to charge for such updates per word.
Instead, they may quote you to complete the updates on an hourly basis. And this usually works in your favor anyway.
One thing to keep in mind is that if you make many revisions, your source content may suddenly yield a whole new document. In such cases it might be more cost effective for you to translate the content from scratch, rather than having it revised.
Just be sure the Translation Memory the company is maintaining for you is updated as well.
• Flat fee
When per-word, -page or -hour pricing just doesn’t make sense; you may see a flat fee estimate for your translation project.
I can only think of a few examples that I’ve encountered over the years that required flat-fee pricing.
One such example included content in Traditional Chinese that needed to be translated into English.
Per-word and per-page pricing didn’t make sense for this project since the contents were actually JPG files with Chinese characters.
Per-hour pricing would’ve worked in this case, but we decided to keep things simple and quote it as a flat fee. Our client was satisfied with this approach and approved the project.
Perhaps the biggest downside to flat-fee pricing is that you don’t get the fine details of what you are actually paying for.
If you are okay with this, flat-fee pricing may work great for you. You just won’t see how your language services company arrived at the price you are paying.
Factors that Determine the Price
1. Number of words to be translated
Do you have a one page document with a few hundred words or a series of manuals with over 50,000 words?
The price you pay will largely be driven by the number of words you need translated.
Generally, the more words you translate, the lower the price per word will be.
2. Complexity of the subject matter
How complex is the subject matter of your content?
If you have highly technical content that requires a scientific level of expertise, be prepared to pay for such expert services.
Be cautious of companies that provide you with the same pricing regardless of the subject matter. If it’s quality that you are after, you need to budget for it accordingly.
3. Language combination
Some languages are more common than others.
At NWI Global, Spanish is by far our most frequently requested language. This applies for both English into Spanish and Spanish into English translation.
As a result, we’re able to offer competitive pricing for those language combinations. Same can be said for other language services companies as well, since all companies will have a specific language combination that’s more in demand than any other language combination that they service.
When you have a rare language such as Chuukese or Marshallese, a competitive price similar to Spanish is tough to achieve.
This is a simple supply and demand issue. There are very few translators that specialize in rare language combinations and there is simply not enough demand for those language combinations.
So, when you need something translated into a rare language, be prepared to pay a premium.
4. Turnaround time
How quickly are you looking to have your content translated?
A good baseline to use for realistic turnaround times is 2,000 words per day. On average, a translator can translate about 2,000 words per day.
You should note that this is for translation only. It doesn’t include editing and proofreading by additional translators.
Can a project like this be completed in less than 24 hours?
But you’d probably be looking at paying rush fees since you are pressing for a quicker turnaround time.
Ideally, you should expect a 2 to 3 day turnaround for a 2,000 word translation that also includes editing and proofreading.
5. Volume of work
Are you looking to form a solid partnership with a language services company or have only one piece of content you need translated and be done with it?
The company is more likely to give you preferential pricing if you are willing to make a volume commitment.
Customers translating 200-page user manuals every quarter will definitely see more volume discount than those translating a one-time birth certificate.
Be upfront about the volume of work you anticipate and let your language services company know about it.
They should give you a discounted price for your ongoing commitment.
So now you have an idea about price models and its structure. The question left – WHY SHOULD YOU PAY for each of services separately.
Proofreading is a separate service in the language industry for the same reason that auditing is a separate service in the financial industry.
The process is a vital part of our quality assurance process. While the initial service provided by the translator will be of outstanding quality, the task of the proofreader is distinct. The process of review by a second, independent native-tongue linguist will eliminate the small errors that can slip through the net when just one person works on the same job for a long time.
The service is recommended in every instance, but when the text is particularly complex, technical, or creative, the collaboration and scrutiny of a second opinion will make the product as sharply focused as can be. In particular, when your text is to be published or otherwise disseminated to a wide readership, a proofread translation is invaluable to you.
Formatting & DTP requirements
All I’ve mentioned so far really focuses on the translation part of the process, with perhaps some editing and proofreading thrown in as well.
In reality, your content may not be a simple MS Word document. You may have charts, graphs, tables, graphics and other visual content.
Your document may even be laid out in Adobe InDesign or one of many other popular content creation tools.
You’ve now taken a simple translation project and added an extra level of complexity to it. Advanced formatting and DTP (desktop publishing) layout services are usually billed as a separate line item.
Keep that in mind as you create those wonderful brochures in Adobe Illustrator or Microsoft Publisher.
You will have to budget to have them typeset.
Formatting & DTP services are generally billed for on a per hour basis.
Let’s return to our example – you need to translate the website. However, for your website to resonate properly with your international audience, it is not enough just to translate the words from source to target language. You must also attune other aesthetic features of your website, such as layout, date format, currencies, image, humour, and cultural references that will likely miss the mark if left alone.
This process is known as localization, and we have a trusted network of highly-skilled specialists who understand what is required.
In the interests of avoiding technical issues, please be aware that by far the easiest way to conduct a website translation is for you to provide us with the original XML files. These contain the coding of your webpage. Once we have these, the translated text can be directly ‘flowed’ onto your webpage, avoiding the need for laborious re-coding.
Hope now it is clearer for you to understand why human translation costs not so cheap as you expect.
The polished end product you receive is the result of a many layered collaboration between highly — trained experts or a hard work of high level professional whose work cannot be of a low cost.