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Oftentimes when we don’t see the effort that goes into something, we wonder why it should cost so much money. For example, why does this video editing software cost $26,954.95? This is common with all kinds of knowledge work.

In particular with translation, most of us know some people who know two languages, and they can translate brief passages almost without thinking. It seems to us that translation should be nearly free. However, in reality, translation requires professional people with years of experience and mortgages to pay.

What you need to know about the price of translations

Translators are Professionals

First, translators are professionals.

  • Unlike the average bilingual factory worker or taxi driver, they speak and write with polished and grammatical prose. Would you hire a taxi driver to be your son’s college English writing professor? No? Then you can’t hire the average taxi driver to be your translator.
  • Translators translate . . . and proofread. If you are doing it right, you are not just getting your projects translated by one person. You are also paying another person to proofread the first person’s work to make sure everything is correct. That’s only common sense. It’s also an extra expense.
  • Professional translators know how to use professional tools. A computer assisted translation (CAT) tool helps the translator work more quickly, efficiently, and consistently. I won’t explain what this is in this article, but it is a vital tool in the translation industry. You can find more information about translators’ professional tools in this article: 5 Reasons You Should Work with an LSP .
  • Translators have knowledge in specialized topics. Imagine if I asked you to summarize this article: Concurrency model and Event Loop. Can you do it? Unless you are a web or software developer, you won’t be able to summarize it accurately. So you can’t translate it either unless you know about development. This goes for medicine, law, construction, engineering, and so on. Each discipline requires knowledgeable translators.

Translators Have to Make a Living

Second, translators have to make a living.

  • The price of translation depends on many factors including how rare the language is, but perhaps the main factor is simply how high the living costs are for translators, freelance or otherwise. says that the average translator in America makes $46,978 a year. Other countries have other living costs. On a good day, a translator can translate 3,000 words. That means the translator would have to charge a certain amount per word in order to make it profitable.
  • The above bullet point seems to imply that translators are always translating. They aren’t. They translate, deal with formatting, deal with invoices, network, advertise for more opportunities, communicate with clients about current projects, and keep busy with other things while hoping for more translation requests. So when they do get jobs, the price will have to reflect the reality that they are not just translating 40 hours a week.
  • Translators have other expenses as alluded to above. They have to purchase or pay for a subscription for a CAT tool. As well as pay for advertising, web hosting, and other marketing tools. They may have to pay for financial tools or money transfer costs. Having a home office entails numerous costs which must be reflected in the cost per word translation rate.

Since good translations require professional linguists that need to make a living, the price of translations will always seem a bit expensive to the average middle-class consumer. In reality, though, for companies who value their content and care about their foreign language customers’ needs, they will always be willing to invest what is necessary for high-quality translations. They know that excellent content in whatever language will always increase sales and customer satisfaction.

How Companies Can Still Save Money

So quality translations are expensive, right?
Actually, a language service provider (LSP) like IVANNOVATION can help clients find ways to save money.
Are translations expensive?

1) Prepare Software Code for Localization

First, with software localization, an LSP can instruct the client on the best way to prepare the software for localization.
They can help the client understand how to design the user interface to accommodate languages with longer words like German. That way they will avoid having the words wrap awkwardly or run off the screen. They can tell clients what coding practices to avoid so they don’t have to rewrite parts of the code when it’s time to translate.
Clearly, the best time for a developer to get in touch with an LSP is at the beginning of the development process long before it’s time to translate.

2) Prepare Materials for Translation

Second, with all kinds of translation projects, there are a number of factors that influence the price, including the format of the materials to be translated. An LSP can help the client prepare the materials so as to lower project management costs.
For example, translating an image of an English brochure is taxing for a translator. Translating the image may require first transcribing the English. Otherwise it would require looking back and forth from screen to screen and zooming in and out.
Finally, the client would have to redesign the brochure with the new text. Of course, an English-speaking designer is likely to introduce errors into the foreign language text.
However, an LSP can help the client avoid all these problems and expenses by advising them to submit the source files from InDesign or Publisher for translation.
Get a free quote

3) Use Previous Translations

Third, the LSP can help the client make use of previous translations to save money on the current project.
For example, one of our clients sent a large online manual to three translation companies for quotes. We asked them for the previous version of the document as well as its translation.
Then we hired a software engineer to match the English sentences in the old version with their foreign language translations, and we entered the sentence pairs into a translation memory database. Finally, we used this database to pretranslate all the sentences in the new online manual that had been translated in the past.
None of the competing language translation companies bothered to do this legwork, so we won the bid with a quote that was $30,000 less than the closest competitor.
So, yes, the price of translations may seem a little high to some. However, an LSP like IVANNOVATION can find ways to help their clients reduce costs on their translation projects.
Contact us about your translation project today.

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