There are a variety factors that can affect translation rates. Thankfully, there are plenty of things you can do to get a good idea of how much your translation should cost before you even contact anyone. To clarify, I will be discussing human translation, not machine translation. There will be other blogs about the few advantages and many risks of machine translation.
The first thing to consider when looking for a translation rate of a particular document is the intent of translating it. For example, it could be a birth certificate or medical records for immigration, or it could be transcripts for a university application. It could also be a users’ manual to a tool that your company is going to introduce to a new market. It could be anything! If you know what your translation is for, then you can decide whether you need a certified translator or not, or if you need someone who knows specialized terminology, such as legal or medical terminology. As a result, medical and legal translations have higher rates.
Generally, certified translators will only translate into their ‘mother tongue.’ Here’s an example: a person that grows up in Germany, but knows English from going to school in New York, should only translate from English to German, but not from German to English. This ensures that the document does not contain any hidden meanings that would be unknown to a foreign speaker.
The next thing that impacts translation fees is the word count (be sure to download our Translation Costs Pricing Guide). Translators charge per word, not per page, or per project, although you can get discounts for big projects. Generally, more words equals a higher rate. Of course, cost per word can vary greatly depending on the language combination. An English to Spanish translation could be fairly inexpensive, while a Dutch to Japanese translation could be quite a bit more expensive. I often get asked, “Why is Vietnamese so much more expensive than Spanish?” It’s a really good question, and it’s a complicated answer. On one side, there is a greater linguistic difference between English and Vietnamese than there is between English and Spanish. The other side is simple supply and demand. There are much fewer translators that work with Vietnamese than Spanish. That’s just one example, but it’s something to consider when trying to figure out a translation rate for your project.
If you are not sure where to begin to find a qualified translator, or if you don’t have time to vet translators’ qualifications, it may be a good idea to work with an agency, or language service provider (LSP). There are translation firms all over the world offering different language combinations and prices. Rates and value varies widely, though, so be careful!
If a deal looks too good to be true, it probably is! For peace of mind, you may want to choose a domestic agency, rather than a foreign one. The last thing you want is to get scammed by a ‘translation agency’ that really just put’s your document in Google Translate and takes your money. When choosing a translator, or an agency, reputation is like gold. A good agency will have been in business a few years, and should be able to provide references and resumes of their translators. If you see that a translator or agency has worked for major corporations, you can rest assured that they can deliver on quality standards demanded by those corporations.
To help you better understand translation rates and fees, we’ve created a download that has standard per word pricing for both common and rare languages. This is a great place to start when looking trying to determine translation rates and fees.