Your guide to translation pricing

Want to know exactly what document translation costs? How document translation pricing is calculated, and how you can save money on translation services? If you’ve ever had any questions around translation pricing, read on...

What is the cost of document translation?

When you have a prospective translation project, chances are you’ll probably want to get a quote from at least three different translation companies. So, when those quotes land in your inbox, what are the factors that affect the variation in pricing? The main one is language combination, but the translator’s experience, subject matter and document formatting can all affect translation price.

On a basic level, document translation costs are normally worked out on a price-per-word basis, and most translators and translation companies work to industry-standard rates.

Generally, document translation prices range from £0.10 to £0.16 per word. So, if you have a 1,000-word document, it will cost between £100 and £160 for translation. The cost of this is expected to lower over time as translation technology, such as neural machine translation improves.

Why the variation in cost per word?

In a nutshell, when it comes to translation, some languages cost more than others. Languages that are spoken by large numbers of people across the globe, like Mandarin Chinese, Spanish and English, tend to cost less per word. Less widely-spoken languages, such as Icelandic, Nepalese and Maori, are generally more expensive.

What are the factors that affect the price of translation?

Sometimes the supply of translators outweighs the demand. When this happens the per-word rate is pushed down, as translators have to compete for work. At the same time, if the cost of living is low in a country, translators will charge lower rates too.

This is why Chinese is one of the least expensive translation languages. And why Norwegian, Icelandic and other Nordic languages are some of the most expensive. (In these countries, the cost of living is high, the demand for translation is high, but the number of translators is low).

So, your 10,000-word document translation from English into Chinese might cost £1,000, but the same document translated into Icelandic might cost £1,600.

How do you know if you’re paying a fair price for translation?

It’s sometimes hard to tell if the price you’ve been quoted is fair for the service you’re receiving. There are a few things to think about to make sure you’re getting a fair price.

Firstly, be sure to check the quoted price against the industry standard rates. This will give you an indication as to whether your quote is fair and reasonable.

Secondly, think about the document you need translating: is it a highly technical document, packed with niche terminology that only a specialist would understand? Or is it a glossy marketing brochure that needs creative artwork, translation and localisation for a specific market?

Or maybe it’s a high-volume document packed with floral language and literary devices. If the answer to any of the above scenarios is yes, then the cost of your translation may be higher as you’ll need a specialist translator to tackle the project.

Equally, when you have a simple low word-count document, such as a short email, the translation should be relatively simple. As such, the cost should be kept to a minimum too.

What about quality? Does this affect the cost of translation?

The short answer is yes, it does.

Some translation companies choose to offer an inexpensive, basic translation service. By this they normally mean a cheap machine translation service with basic proofreading and editing on top, or by using cheap and inexperienced translators.

Machine translation is improving, and some AI-powered translation companies are starting to compete for certain content types. They’re still some way from human-level quality though. Machine translation is ok when you don’t need to worry about the translation quality. But if you’re looking to accurately communicate with your customers, promote your brand and products or sell to an overseas market, you will need a high-quality translation service.

Don’t be tempted to save some budget and plug the content into Google Translate without any review or editing! This news story  is living proof that you shouldn’t use Google Translate for your important translation projects, as Wrexham council discovered too late.

How can you be assured of translation quality?

You can get a better understanding of the professionalism and expertise of your translator or translation company by asking to see the following:

  1. Professional certification, credentials and any accreditation from official bodies, such as the ITI
  2. Testimonials from other clients
  3.  Examples of their work

How can you be assured of translation quality?

There are a few simple things you can do to cut document translation costs:

  • Group together documents with low word counts to avoid minimum charges
  • High-volume projects may be suitable for a discount – think documents or groups of documents with more than 10,000 words
  • If your document is highly repetitive (i.e. terminology and phrases are regularly repeated), your translator or translation company may be able to offer you a discount due to specialist translation technology memory that calculates repetitions. Read more on this here

Do you need professional translation for your business, charity or NGO? Get a quote for your project from the Sure Languages team. 

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