Translation Rates – The Ultimate Guide
How Translation Services Are Priced
The 13 Things You Must Know About the Cost of Translation Services.
Last review: 03/05/2023.
Find a Reputable Translation Agency. Before considering prices, make sure you are buying from a reputable company. Is your vendor a member of the American Translators Association? How many positive Google reviews do they have? Check here if a translation company is a member in good standing of the American Translators Association.
Understand How Translation Services Are Priced. How to know if your translation supplier is charging you a fair price? This is the challenge we tackle here. This article helps you understand the factors vendors consider to price a translation project. Know these factors to negotiate the best translation prices and save thousands of dollars.
Translation Services Rates Vary Wildly. You see prices that go from outrageous to too good to be true. While the highest price doesn’t guarantee the best quality, going with the lowest translation rates will often result in botched projects. Unfortunately, there is plenty of fly-by-night companies in the translation market. Outside of the United States, the chances of being scammed are even higher since vendors are beyond the reach of our legal system. Pick a translation agency based in the US charging average translation rates.
Let’s now see how translation rates are calculated and what price range is acceptable!
1. Translation Services Rates: Per-Word Rates Rule!
Per-word rate is the most common measurement for pricing in the translation industry. Translation services rates in 2023 range from $0.09 to $0.40 per word in the United States. These rates vary due to factors such as choice of language, volume, turnaround, and subject matter.
Average Cost of Translation Services Reference Sheet. these are the average translation services rate per word in 2023 for the 20 most translated languages in 2022.
Read and download the Average Cost of Translation Services for the 37 Most Translated Languages below in PDF format.
Translation Services Rates per Word: per-word rates are usually based on the number of words in the source document. However, for documents in Japanese, Chinese, Hebrew, and Arabic, you may be charged based on the actually translated words due to difficulty in counting the original document’s words. Clarify this with your translation vendor to avoid surprises. This becomes significant when the target language (language you are translating into) is prone to have a higher number of words. Spanish and Portuguese, for example, use way more words than English to convey the same idea.
Other things you see in the translation rate sheet above:
(1) EDT/PRF rate: this is how much a company would charge for editing and proofreading a translation done by someone else.
(2) Reps: represent a discounted rate for repeated text in your documents. See repetition savings in paragraph 9.
(3) Minimum Job Fee: most companies will charge a minimum fee even if you translate a single paragraph, for instance.
Translation Services Rates Per Hour: Less Common. Adopting a cost of translation services per hour is ideal for assignments such as proofreading, where the translator will not need to type the entire document. It is also a good arrangement for projects where the translator will spend time handling graphics or checking the finalized document for issues before it is printed.
Ideal for Time-Based Assignments: The hourly rate for translation services is also applied to assignments such as desktop publishing (DTP) and interpretation services (meaning “oral translation”). Translator hourly rates in the United States in 2023 range in average from $30 to $70 per hour depending on language combination, volume, turnaround, and subject matter.
Translation Services Rates Per Page: Rarely Used! Although rare, some translation vendors will charge based on the number of pages in a document. Translation cost per page can be tricky since the number of words on a page may vary wildly. Per page rates in the United States in 2023 range from $30 to $100 per page depending on language pair, subject matter, turnaround, and file type (MS Word, PDF, InDesign, etc.) Some rare types of translation (e.g., sworn translations in Brazil) use exclusively such per-page translation rates.
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2. Some Languages Are More Expensive.
Offer & Demand. the average price for translation services varies primarily due to language offer and demand. Languages with many people qualified to translate are cheaper (think Spanish). The opposite is also true. Languages with few qualified translators result in higher translation services prices (think Norwegian).
Cost of Living. Cost-of-living impacts translation fees too! For example, most developed European countries have high costs of living. Not surprisingly, languages spoken in such countries are expensive to translate. On the other hand, countries with low cost of living, such as China and Mexico have languages that are affordable to translate.
Language Examples. Chinese and Spanish are among the most affordable languages for translation. There is a large number of speakers of these languages, resulting in many people working as translators. Such translators come from low-cost-of-living countries. Per-word translation rates for these languages are traditionally at the lower end of the spectrum: $0.09 to $0.12. Norwegian, an expensive language for translation, will have a per-word translation rate in the higher end: $0.30 to $0.40.
When Ordering Unusual Languages. Translation agencies typically staff translators for only the most sought-after languages: English, Spanish, Chinese, Portuguese, French, German, Italian, and Russian. Languages such as Afrikan, Egyptian, and Persian, for example, are rarely ordered, so translation agencies will usually assign such translations to outside freelancers. Consequently, translation agencies may charge you more when translating such languages.
3. The More Technical the Subject, The More Expensive!
Specialty-Level Prices. Translation rates also vary according to the content subject matter. The more specialized the field, the higher the translation cost will be. The translation cost for a simple conversational letter is lower because it does not require a specialist translator. Even an online service such as Google Translate could be enough.
On the other hand, documents like technical manuals (think aircraft manuals) require field-specific technical knowledge resulting in higher translation fees. This applies to manufacturing, automotive, medical, legal, engineering, and other industries. Fees for translating specialized content can cost 50-100% more than non-specialized translation projects.
4. Be Picky About What to Translate.
Allocate Time to Select What to Translate. It is tempting to translate documents entirely, so you don’t need to think and decide what actually needs to be translated. However, given the costs of professional translation services, it’s wise to allocate time to determine which documents or parts of documents are critical for translation. Meet with company stakeholders to identify which information is necessary rather than blindly translating documents in total. Large documents may include a lot of padding, long lists of in-house departments who have worked on the project, and other information that end-users will not even read.
Savings over 70%. You certainly don’t want to pay for pages of documents to be translated that no one will ever read! Consider this example: One French company had an engineer spending a few hours trimming a technical manual down to 190 pages (from 500!), eliminating sections that simply didn’t apply to foreign clients. Such an approach saved time and money, and the final translated document was more beneficial to clients.
5. How Concerned Should I be About Quality?
For Information vs. For Publication Translations. A translation is usually either for information or for publication. Generally, accurate yet unpolished translations are designated for information, which can be produced more quickly and less expensive than for-publication translation documents. However, there is a trade-off to consider. If your documents for translation will be used to sell or persuade, or if you want to give off a more professional image, a flawed translation (even slightly!) can affect your corporate image. Further, for-information translations may not appropriately cover legal liabilities for technical documents. It would be best to consider (1) how many people might read the translation and (2) what the consequences are if a mistranslation slips through.
For small-scale, low-stakes documents, services like Google Translate may be a reasonable alternative to paid translation services, providing an overall grasp of the document’s content. However, with free, mechanized translation services, you will sacrifice professionalism and quality of translation. According to the Wall Street Journal’s test of two free online automatic translation services, “These services are passable for travelers or for those wanting to translate a letter… I definitely wouldn’t use them for business or anything that remotely requires accuracy.”
Translation Only vs. Translation + Editing + Proofreading. TEP is an abbreviation for the three main steps of a translation project:
(1) Translation (translation of the text)
(2) Editing (editing of text)
(3) Proofreading (final review).
The “TEP steps” are essential for high-quality translation results and, therefore a cornerstone of most translation agencies’ typical workflow. Translation clients may not be familiar with this acronym, but they certainly want to contract with translation agencies who follow the workflow.
Some agencies offer only one step—translation—which provides a less expensive service but a lower-quality end product. In some situations, agencies may offer two services: either translation and editing, offering a product that is slightly better than translation-only, or translation and proofreading, in which the translation product is not directly compared to the source text, leaving doubt as to whether the translated text is true to the source document. A complete TEP sequence ensures superior quality and is ideal for corporate and enterprise translation services.
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6. What is “Desktop Publishing”?
Desktop Publishing (DTP) is the process of designing pages using a combination of text and images. A final translation project may range from a single-page poster to a thousand-page book or document, with different content that may include various images, infographics, or illustrations. A desktop publisher, also known as a graphic designer by laypeople, works behind the scenes to ensure the translations are placed in the right spots of the final documents.
Magazines can consist of high-quality full-color images, while newsletters may be printed in a single color or black and white. Because of the variation in work and complexity of graphics, it’s challenging to pre-define an average or typical publishing rate per page for DTP. Consequently, DTP work is typically contracted based on an hourly rate, ranging from $40/hour to $100/hour depending on complexity, turnaround rate, professional seniority, and vendor markup.
7. When do I need “Certified Translations”?
Certified Translations are translations vouched by the provider through a specific procedure. In a certified translation, the translator or language service provider (LSP) issues a signed statement certifying that the translation is a true and accurate representation of the source document. Certified translations are often required for legal documents like marriage certificates, death certificates, adoption agreements, immigration documents, court transcripts, service agreements, and business contracts to be used in court or a government procedure. When such legal documents aren’t written in the country’s official language of submission, certified translations are often necessary.
One important distinction: there is a big difference between a certified translator and a certified translation. A certified translator has passed an exam by the American Translators Association or other professional organizations. On the other hand, certified translations do not necessarily have to be performed by a certified translator; instead, they must be completed by a qualified LSP and certified to be true and accurate representations of the source document through a signed affidavit added to the document.
8. What Difference Do ISO Certifications Make?
Quality standards such as ISO mean an increased probability of you receiving quality translations. Translation buyers who value superior quality over a bargain price should seek translation services that at least follow one of the following ISO standards:
ISO 9001. ISO 9001 certifies well-documented processes through a Quality Management System (QMS). This certification demonstrates and monitors effective planning, operation, and control of a company’s processes and the implementation and continual improvement of a QMS. It focuses on consumer needs, providing a quality policy, manual, documented procedures, organization, application, and record keeping.
ISO 17100. ISO 17100 is an international standard that guarantees the conformity of translation services in the international market. These might include specifications of the translation client, the translation service provider, industry codes or standards, best-practice guides, and legislation.
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9. What Do I Get from Translation Memory and Computer-Assisted Translations?
Human translators are still a must despite a plethora of software available to automate parts of the translation process. Serious translation companies still have the translation done by Humans beings. What they end up using as technology are translation memories and computer-assistant software – something ancillary to support the human craft.
Translation Memory in Plain Words. If your company frequently requires similar documents to be translated, ask your translation supplier about translation memory. Translation memory contains a database of translation terms, phrases, sentences, headings, and other text segments. Such a database can recall and reuse translation memory later for services translating documents with similar content (for example, contracts) into the same languages regularly. This saves you from the need to pay for a translation of the same sentence or phrase multiple times, thus substantially reducing translation costs and turnaround times.
Computer-Assisted Translations (CAT Tools). Professional translation companies use CAT tools to recognize and recall previously translated segments of similar documents (the so-called “translation memory”). In this process, portions of text that have been translated previously can be stored and reused for future translation projects. CAT has the additional benefit of ensuring more consistency and accuracy across contracted translation assignments and allowing multiple translators to work simultaneously on the same translation project while accessing the same assets such as a glossary, translation memory, source, and target documents.
10. Those in a Hurry Will Pay More.
Turnaround Impacts on Price. The turnaround can be a major factor in the pricing of translation services. Our advice: plan ahead! Even as your organization begins to turn its eye towards markets abroad, begin the process of looking for a reputable and reasonable translation company to give translators a maximum amount of lead time. Longer turnaround times allow lower rates and the benefit of a more consistent quality assurance process. Rush turnarounds require a premium payment and may lead translation companies to skip processes that assure the highest quality. Turnaround calculations can be based on various factors, including the number of words, the complexity of content, file type, and procedures like desktop publishing or additional edits, or proofreading.
Rush Rates. Projects and documents with a short turnaround time and tight deadlines typically incur translation rush rates. These projects often require translators and project managers to work after hours, including evenings, weekends, and sometimes an excessive number of hours per day to meet the deadline. In an ideal translation situation, a single translator works on each piece of content, ensuring consistency in writing style and terminology and knowledge of the big picture. This tends to reduce the need for project management.
Translation services sometimes need to obtain additional translators for rush projects, creating additional recruiting and management costs while risking decreasing consistency. Rush translation assignments sometimes require multiple translators to work simultaneously within one document, requiring shared glossaries and resources. The increased project management involved in rush translation is just one of the reasons for the higher translation fees associated with translation rush projects.
11. Payment Options: Cash Today is Better than Tomorrow.
NET30 as a standard for corporate translation projects. Most translation companies offer NET30 days accounts to corporate clients, meaning the company is invoiced and expected to pay within 30 days after the translated files are delivered. You can obtain discounts from your translation service providers by paying upfront. Consider asking your translation vendor if they will offer better translation services rates (a 5% discount for example) if your organization pays in full before services.
Translation service providers are usually cash-poor because of the time gap between when they provide their services and when they finally receive payment from clients. Because of that, most vendors will agree to reduce their translation service rates in exchange for an upfront payment. Often the discount is worth it, even if the upfront payment must be placed on a credit card, which the client can pay later, usually after services are received. The technique of paying upfront can yield more than monetary savings—it can improve and strengthen your company’s relationship with the translation vendor, which may result in further discounts, superior services, and other relationship-based perks.
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12. If It Is Too Cheap To Be True…
Be realistic. When considering how much translation services cost, be realistic. How many pages can a translator, even an expert, reasonably produce in an hour? How much time do you want your translation service to spend crafting critical text for your company’s business, image, or reputation? How much time did your team spend crafting the original document—isn’t it worth translating with integrity?
When choosing a translation service provider, consider the time you’ve contributed to developing products, services, and company reputation at home and abroad. The cost of professional translation services must be factored into your plans. If you feel you can’t afford it, perhaps your organization is not yet ready to tackle the global markets. A professional translation company’s value—from translator selection, project management, and quality control to file conversions, standardized presentation, and quality assurance—comes with a price tag, yes. Still, it can open the doors to new markets and increase your company’s revenues.
Consider your audience and the purpose of your translation. It’s not one-size-fits-all! For in-house memos and documents with a small circulation or low stakes, a less polished (and less expensive) translation option may work well. However, it makes sense to purchase premium translation services for advertisements, important sales or legal documents, and field-specific guides or manuals.
13. So, How Should I Choose My Translation Vendor?
Create a shortlist. The cost of translation services doesn’t always align with the quality of the translation you get, so it’s wise to interview several translation vendors before making this critical decision. Ask prospective vendors for samples and references—not just client names but actual texts they’ve produced and sold—from clients, then follow through and review them.
Run these samples by a trusted, language-sensitive native speaker of the translated language (your organization’s existing foreign clients and partners may be willing to help) for an opinion. Beware of translation providers who can’t provide high-quality work samples, especially if they’ve been in business for several years, as there’s little guarantee what they produce for you will be superior in quality. Finally, know that you will pay a reasonable amount for quality work, just as for any professional service.
Cost of Translation Services Infographic – Summary the Above Info in a 3-Minute Read.
Need a translation quote for “yesterday”? How can you get the best rates for professional translation services? Find in this infographic all you need to know to negotiate with translation vendors and get the best deal possible. After learning how the cost of translation services works, don’t forget to check our additional tips to save on the cost of translation services. These tips apply to all types of translation services.
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