Cost of Translation Services

Translation pricing can be confusing to many first-time buyers because there are numerous factors at play. In this article, we outline the key elements that impact translation costs and provide you with tips to help ensure projects stay within budget.

per-word translation pricing

Per-word pricing is the most common model Language Service Providers (LSPs) use for translation work. It allows LSPs to offer straightforward, upfront quotes based on the word count of the text.

Rates can vary significantly from one language to the next, with “rare” languages often costing more than commonly spoken languages. Geography also has a large impact on rates. A translator who lives in the area they are translating for is best suited to craft text that flows naturally and to handle any cultural adaptation that may be required. Therefore, cost-of-living differentials from country to country impact the cost a translator charges for their work.

The per-word rate for each language is also influenced by factors such as subject matter, volume, and turnaround.

subject matter

Subject matter can impact the translation cost when the nature of the content requires an individual with a high level of expertise to perform the translation. The list below includes some of the content types that are best handled by translators with a high degree of specialized training:

  • Financial, legal, medical, or pharmaceutical materials
  • Science, history, or art museum exhibition didactics
  • Documentation used to describe critical, complex, or specialized procedures
  • Content with terminology not understood by the public at large
  • Translation for industries subject to strict regulation

As a result, the cost of highly specialized or technical content is typically higher than non-technical content.

translation memory

The use of translation memory (TM) impacts translation pricing by enabling an LSP to offer discounts. A TM is a database that stores text as it’s translated. If the same combination of words appears more than once in a text, the software alerts the translator so they can use the same translation. The TM is then leveraged against future projects to ensure quality and maintain consistency in terminology, phrasing, and style.

A TM is not ideal for all types of work, but it is fitting for repetitive or technical content. It is especially beneficial for large projects that require multiple translators because it ensures everyone will be using the same language. When a TM is appropriate, a translation provider can offer discounts on repeated segments. Discounting typically is based on the following tiers:

  • The full per-word rate is applied to new phrases that have never been translated and are not in the translation memory.
  • A percentage discount is applied to fuzzy matches, which are segments of text that partially match previously translated text (85%-99% match).
  • A larger discount is applied to 100% matches or repetitions—phrases and/or sentences that repeat in full within and across files. Because these segments have already been translated, the linguist can opt to use the same translation that appeared previously in the text.

additional services

More complex projects often require a unique approach and the cost is customized accordingly. Services such as web, e-learning, and multimedia localization have many variables and are quoted on a per-project basis. Below we’ve listed a few examples of additional services that may be quoted on an hourly or per-project basis.

Typesetting entails placing and formatting translated text into a graphic or design program such as InDesign. Each language has particular rules and factors that need to be addressed for it to read naturally. In order for layouts to look as though they were created in the target language, typesetting must be handled by a professional with an in-depth understanding of a particular language and its challenges. Typesetting is typically quoted on an hourly basis, based on an analysis of your files.

Quality Testing is often used to ensure multimedia components such as apps or e-learning modules function as expected in different languages. Linguists make sure that translated text functions appropriately within the component and adhere to the developer’s specifications. Linguists look for functionality issues, such as a button not working or a sequence gap. If the language doesn’t work as expected in context, alternate text may be recommended. If voiceover work is featured, linguists will ensure the dialogue is articulated correctly with the appropriate intonation. Quoted on an hourly basis, quality testing is an important final step that ensures everything is working properly and reads well in each language.

Transcreation is the process of fully adapting content for a specific culture. It is most commonly used for marketing, advertising, and artistic purposes, such as websites, ads, art installations, and other creative concepts that do not always translate directly from one culture to another. Transcreation sometimes requires making substantial changes to the original content, while maintaining its intent, style, and voice. The result is often a combination of newly developed content, translated content, and content that has been recreated. Transcreation is performed by multilingual copywriters who have experience writing creative copy for marketing purposes and are experts in the subject matter. This is a specialized service that is quoted on a per-project basis, after our client services team has had a chance to review your requirements.

factors that can help keep your translation within budget

  • Bring your language service provider into the process as early as possible so they can help you establish appropriate timelines.
  • Give your LSP completed content to avoid changes after translation has begun.
  • Provide editable files along with linked graphics.
  • Give your LSP any applicable reference material to provide context for the translators, reducing ambiguities and follow-up questions.
  • If you’re writing content intended for translation, it’s ok to repeat words throughout your text. This keeps things clear for the translators and helps you receive the greatest benefits from translation memory.

contact us to quote your next translation project

Get in touch to learn more about Eriksen’s cost-effective, professional translation services. Upload your files via our request-a-quote form, and we will be in touch shortly with a quote. Or contact us to initiate a conversation with a member of our client services team.

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