How much does translation cost?

06/02/2019 | Rebecca Twose

The most asked question here at Language Insight is ‘how much does translation cost?’ and as a professional service, it’s actually the most difficult question to answer. Why? Because language translation isn’t as straight forward as you might think! There are lots of factors that come into play from cost-per-word to specialist language combinations, and niche market sectors. Let us give you an insight into the real cost of a translation and why cheaper isn’t always necessarily better

How do translation providers work out their costs?

The cost of any translation is usually calculated on a ‘per-word’ basis. Industry standards range from around £100 to £140 for 1000 words for a basic translation; depending on the language combination. Established providers will often charge slightly more than this but only because they will include further steps in their translation process, such as TEP (translation, editing and proofreading), which guarantees you the best quality translation. Some providers will still provide this but it will be for an optional additional fee rather than building it into the overall cost, which can work out more expensive than a provider who includes TEP automatically.

Why do per-word rates vary between languages?

There are a couple of reasons why per-word rates may vary between different languages…

  1. Supply and Demand – Like any industry, costs are dependent on supply and demand. If the supply of translators is greater than the demand for translation in that language then the cost of translation will be kept lower, where as if the demand for translation in that language is greater than the supply of translators then the costs for translation in that language will rise.
  2. Economic environment in different countries – In countries where the cost of living is low, translators in that country will keep their prices lower too, but if the cost of living is high then the cost of translation will also be higher. A good example of this is China where the cost of living is low so the price for Chinese translation is also lower however in Japan the cost of living is higher therefore Japanese translation is often one of the most expensive as there is also an increase in demand for it.

Can cheap translation be good quality?

Everyone loves a good deal and getting the best price they can, but, to what extent should price be a priority for those who are looking for a translation provider? With translation, the price is usually representative of the quality of work and we advise that you put quality before cost; especially when seeking out translation services for professional use as it is your business’ reputation that will be affected if a poor translation is sent out to potential foreign clients.

If a translation provider is offering their services below the average market rate then there is probably a good reason for this. It could be that they are not using native, experienced translators and the translation isn’t proofread before it is given back to the client. If this is the case and the translation hasn’t been proofread then cheaper translation agencies often charge a separate fee for the proofreading service which means the cost of the completed, proofread translation has actually cost more than it would have if a more expensive provider was used who offer proofreading as part of their translation service.

When opting for translation it is important to remember that cost is not the only important factor. Cheap translation may seem appealing at first but it could, and does, lead to disastrous results if the translation is poor quality. What’s more, you may have to re-translate the whole content again with a higher quality provider, meaning you pay more in the end.

At Language Insight we like the saying “you buy cheap, you pay twice”. Professional human translation is a paid-for service using Native translators with expertise in their chosen field, unlike free online engines or cheap agencies where the quality of work is put at a major risk.

Have you had a bad experience by using cheap translation providers or even Google Translate? Let us know, we’d love to hear from you!

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