How much does a translation cost?
It depends. Like all services, there is no standard price for translation. Therefore, this question has no universal answer. In this blog post, I explain which factors will affect translation cost.
Translation is a creative process: it is not a simple matter of transposing hollow words from one language into another, but conveying the content and meaning of the original text. This means that a translator will need certain information before they can calculate the effort needed to translate your text. If you want to have a text translated and are asking for a quote, be sure to provide your potential translator with the following information:
- Language direction (English–German, German–English, etc.)
- Text amount (number of pages, font size, or number of words)
- Level of difficulty (general or specialized text, area of specialization)
- File format (Word, PDF, Excel, InDesign, XML, etc.)
- Target audience and purpose of the translation (internal communication, publication, etc.)
- Urgency (when do you need the translation?)
These details will help your translator to get a rough picture of the work involved and give you a price range. To provide a definite quote, however, a professional translator will need to see the text to be translated. You can find details on my price ranges below.
Content determines translation cost
Many people think that an English–German translation means replacing English words with German ones. That’s not the case because the two languages do not correspond exactly. It is not the volume of text but rather the content that determines how much effort is needed for a translation. Content does not only refer to the subject and specialist area of the text, but also to the quality. Is the text well structured? Are the statements formulated in a clear and comprehensible manner? Was the document created in compliance with the text type? These questions are important for user manual translation, for instance, and can only be answered after the text has been carefully examined. This is a prerequisite for providing a definite quote for a translation and the research involved.
How to reduce the effort
As a client, you want a translation that fits well into your existing corporate documents. Please help your translator to speak your language! Each company has its own terminology and spelling preferences. If you have terminology lists, abbreviation lists or existing translations, please give them to your translator. This will help reduce research effort and costs. The reference documents you provide will convey how you want your messages to be formulated. And they will help your translator use your corporate language. With technical texts, terminology plays a special role. For more information, see my blog post: Technical translation and terminology.
Comparing translation costs
Comparing prices is not always easy. In Germany, translations are commonly charged by standard line or sometimes by word. If you receive a line-based quote, pay special attention to the number of characters that is specified per standard line. Standard lines are not uniquely defined. According to the Bundesverband der Dolmetscher und Übersetzer (BDÜ, Federal Association of Translators and Interpreters), one standard line contains 50–55 characters, including spaces. With line-based charging, it’s common to invoice the number of standard lines in the target text (the translation). In this case, the cost is estimated based on the source text.
In Anglo-American countries, translations have always been charged by word. This has been introduced in Germany in recent decades and is used in particular for technical translations. When the word-based charging method is used, the number of source words is billed.
There are certain translation services and additional efforts for which the above-mentioned charging models are not suitable. These include the translation of AdWords campaigns or keyword research within the framework of SEO translation. These services are usually charged by the hour.
Criteria for translation assignments
Which quote will you opt for as a client? The lowest price? Which criteria are important to you? If you are looking for a language provider who can also advise on documentation or support you with terminology, you should choose a professional. Professional translators are members of associations such as the BDÜ. For more information on qualified translators, see my blog post: What characterizes a professional translator?
In Germany, translations are commonly charged by the number of standard lines in the target text. This charging method is largely unknown in non-German-speaking countries, so I charge my non-German clients by the number of words. My price range is from 0.19 to 0.25 euros per source word.