How much will my translation cost?

stack of ianguage dictionaries

Shopping with my mother when I was a child, she taught me a firm (though not always helpful) lesson.  If it doesn’t have the price on it, we can’t afford it.

While that might have been somewhat shaky financial education, it does make a point.  Before we buy – whether a product or service – we want, and need, to know what something costs.

All professional translators should give you a clear quotation for their work before you commission them to translate your documents, but how do you know what to expect and whether their price is fair?

Here’s my short guide to how translation pricing works:


1. HOW TRANSLATION IS PRICED

Translators use various models for pricing their work:

  • Per word – This is currently the most usual pricing model for European languages. You’ll pay a price per word of your original document.
  • Per line/per page/per character – for some languages, translations are often priced per ‘standard line’, per ‘standard page’ or per character of the original document (eg. when the original document is in German – which generally has longer words than English).
  • Per hour – sometimes a translator will give you a ‘per hour’ price with an estimate of the number of hours required. This can be a fair way of pricing when a lot of additional research is required.
  • Per project – on occasion a ‘per project’ price may be more appropriate for you and your translator, for example if you need a combination of translation and design.

2. FACTORS THAT IMPACT PRICING

various language dictionaries

The Language

Don’t be surprised to discover that there are different prices for translating different languages. For example, English into Japanese translation will generally cost more than French into English translation. Factors influencing these price variations include the availability/scarcity of translators and the particular challenges involved in translating certain language combinations.

I translate French into English and Esperanto, and English in and out of Esperanto. If you need another combination contact me and I’ll put you in touch with one of my trusted colleagues who will be able to help.

The translator

Qualifications

Quality costs. As in most fields, you’ll pay more for a properly qualified and accredited translator. But can your business really afford for you to settle for less? Useful questions to consider are:

  • Is your translator qualified, not just in the languages they speak, but in translation itself?
  • Do they belong to a professional association (such as the Chartered Institute of Linguists or the Institute of Translation and Interpreting) and adhere to their codes of practice?
  • Does your translator do regular Continuing Professional Development activities to keep their language, translation and business skills up-to-date?
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Location

Translators who live in countries where the cost of living is low will often be able to charge less for a translation. If you’re tempted by this, make sure that you check a couple of things. Is the translator qualified/experienced enough to be entrusted with your business document? Are they bound by a code of conduct? Do they have correct confidentiality policies and data protection in place? And if they don’t live in a country where the language they’re translating into is spoken, what are they doing to make sure that their language and business skills are up to date?

The Document

Length

The longer the document, the more it will usually cost. Sometimes translators will be able to give slightly discounted rates for some types of longer documents.

Terminology

As we translate, we’re checking and verifying terminology as we go along.  Even when a translator is working in their specialist fields, they are constantly checking and verifying their use of words.  Sometimes if your document has particularly specialised terminology, the translator will have to spend more time on research and often this means that they will need to charge a slightly higher rate. This is why I’ll ask to see a sample of the document before giving you a quotation, to make sure that it is accurate and fair for us both.

Format

If your document is in an unusual format, or has lots of images or complicated layout, the work may take longer and the cost may be higher.  

Deadline

Very tight deadlines that mean a translator has to work outside of their normal working hours will often incur a higher rate.


3. MY GUIDE PRICES

When you ask me to quote for a translation, I like to give you clear information, so that you can make an informed decision about whether I’m the right translator for you. I’ll look carefully at every text that you need translated and give you a detailed quotation showing cost and deadline.

Translations that you commission from me will almost always be priced according to the number of words in your document.  French to English specialist business translations start at £0.12 per word of your original document.  (So if you have a 1,000-word document, you’ll pay from £120 for a French to English translation.)  I also translate from French to Esperanto and from Esperanto in and out of English at the same price.

If you need specialist business proofreading, prices start at £35 per hour and I will always give you an accurate estimate and maximum price before starting work.


READY TO TALK?

Hopefully that’s given you some background information about how translators will price your project. You’ll find that qualified translators who follow professional codes of practice will always be happy to answer all your questions when you’re wondering whether to place work with them. Don’t be afraid to ask!

Have a question or want to discuss a project?  Let’s talk.

Why I’m not a conlanger

Conlang word clous
Do you speak Klingon?

Standing in the lunch queue, a colleague caught sight of the flags on my conference badge. “Hmm, Heather Eason” he read, “French and…” he hesitated, “is that Esperanto?!”

Even for a gathering of professional linguists, I was impressed.

“So”, he continued, “are you a Conlanger then? Ha, ha, do you speak Klingon too?”

I tried hard to keep the sudden uncalled-for frostiness out of my voice.

“No, no,” I said brightly, “Not a Conlanger.” And changed the subject.


Conlangs

I first came across the term ‘conlang’ (constructed language) about a decade ago (although OED puts its first usage way back in 1991).

Constructed languages can be a priori (all or most features not based on an existing language) or a posteriori (elements based on or borrowed from existing languages). Within these two categories fall various types of constructed language: those created for artistic purposes (such as Klingon or Dothraki); philosophical or experimental languages (such as Toki Pona or Loglan/Lojban); international auxiliary languages (such as VolapükInterlinguaEsperanto and its ‘offspring’) to name just a few.


An Accidental Conlanger

My parents simply did what many parents of bilingual children do. They spoke a different language at home from the dominant language around us, and I picked it up along the way. It just so happened that our home language was Esperanto (how and why is a story for another day…)

Clearly in the sense that one of the languages I speak is ‘constructed’, I’m a Conlanger. And there’s nothing wrong with speaking a constructed language – to rehash a well-worn phrase, “Many of my best friends are Conlangers”. So why don’t I think of myself that way? After a lot of pondering, I think that maybe it’s simply because Esperanto is as integrated into my daily life and work as the other so-called ‘natural’ languages I speak. As a child it was simply the language of my home; as a young adult I used it to travel; in these globally-connected days I use it to chat with friends on Skype, to ask for computer help on Twitter, to exchange all kinds of ideas about all kinds of things with people in all kinds of places.


Language is Language

As a translator, my work life largely consists of transferring meaning from one language to another. During the past few months, I’ve translated documents about property, business strategy, social partnership, and more, from French to English. I’ve also translated a language company’s website from English to Esperanto, articles for an academic degree from Esperanto to English and worked on the Esperanto portion of a multilingual language app. And although all language combinations have their particular challenges and quirks, generally it’s pretty much the same task. The puzzle of playing with vocabulary, sentence structure, meaning, intention to transmit messages to others.

So no, I’m not a Conlanger – but I am a Lang-er. And I’ll be happy to chat to you about it in the lunch queue.


Useful links

Constructed Language – Wikipedia

In the Land of Invented Languages: Arika Okrent 

Complete Esperanto: Judith Meyer and Tim Owen