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Translation services are often priced differently by different translation agencies, or language service providers – LSPs, as we usually like to refer to ourselves in the translation/localisation industry.

Per word ?

Per page ?

Per hour ?

The common methods of pricing you will come across are by the number of words, or number of pages. Some agencies like to charge by the number of hours spent on the translation. The hourly charge is a more common practice in Europe and not so much in Asia.

The thing about hourly charges is that whilst it sounds like a fair remuneration of the translator’s time, it also “penalises” the efficient translator who is a fast-worker and hence bills for a shorter amount of time. But on the other hand, it also makes conscientious and steady linguists who take their time to slowly ponder and address the challenging terms and parts in the translation process more expensive to the agency or end client. Some agencies deal with this by indicating an expected number of words they expect a linguist to translator or proofread per hour, to have better control and management of the cost.

It is also important to note that whilst most agencies that charge per word rates usually mean per word in the source text (i.e. the number of words in the document you need translated), there are some translation agencies that go by a per word rate in the target text (i.e. the number of words in the completed translation, meaning that you won’t know how much the translation costs until it has been completed).

One thing that people may not always be aware of is that when we translate a document into another language, the word count can vary quite a lot. This is because every language is different, and the difference is especially big between languages in different language families. Let’s take English and Chinese for example. For the same content in these two languages, the number of words in English would be about between 60 to 70 per cent of the Chinese version. So, a 650-word English document will translate to about 1000 characters in Chinese. This is why the pricing of translation may vary slightly for the same language pair in different directions.

English >> Japanese ?

Japanese >> English ?

 

How to count the number of words in a document?

If you are using Microsoft Word for word processing, the number of words is automatically counted for you and shown at the bottom left of the opened file.

For PowerPoint files, the word count can be easily found under Info>Properties. Note that the word count includes words in the presentation slides as well as words in the Notes section (i.e. not part of the slides). One thing that people may miss out are words that are in the images in the presentations. Do you need then translated too? If so, this needs to be communicated to the agency so that you can get an accurate word count for your translation assignment.

For non-editable files like PDF, you can convert the file to an editable format such as MS Word and count the words there. As mentioned earlier, some agencies charge by per page, which is common particularly in the case of non-editable files like PDFs, that may have been scanned from a hard copy. As long as the number of words per page falls within a certain number (maybe 250 or 300 words, depending on the language), a fixed per page rate is charged.

Translation agencies also use computer-assisted translation (CAT) tools that analyses files (including non-editable files like PDFs) and counts the number of words. This may differ slightly from MS Word, but they are not too far off.

There are word counter tools online, and they vary in accuracy. AI tools like Chat GPT have also been used for word counting, but it is not too accurate at this point in time. This will change as the tech for word counts becomes more sophisticated.

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So do your research and be clear on what you need and what you are paying for.

And if you are unsure of what you need, feel free to reach out to us for a quick discussion. With more than 13 years of experience in the translation industry, we can help you gain clarity on what we can assist with regards to translation.

At Wei.Trans.Create, we generally charge a per word rate, with different rates for different language pairs. The per word rate is for translation alone and is not inclusive of formatting, design or layout. We also have a per-page rate for certificates (i.e. birth certs, death certs, education certs, marriage certs etc.), which involves a bit of formatting. There is a minimum fee of SGD 50 for small volume jobs.

If you have any text documents to translate and would like to get a quote for it, drop us an email at wei@weitranscreate.com. Or visit our website and follow us on social media.

Wei Tsinn Lau

I work with words. Through recreating my clients’ content in Chinese and other languages, I help to facilitate cross-border communication and transactions.

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