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We’re going back to basics and addressing an always relevant topic – especially for those with a tight grip on the company purse strings – the cost of language translation.

So without further ado…

What does language translation cost?

Translation projects are charged per word. Roughly speaking, it can range from three to five cents per word, if we’re translating duplicate words, to 11-28 cents per word or more for new-word translation.

Cost differs by language, too. English into Chinese-Simplified might run you 10 cents per word, while English into Japanese might be closer to 26 cents per word. There are a variety of reasons for this: high demand of linguists in a particular area and language; low population and therefore fewer linguists to provide translations; and even global economies or rarity of the linguist’s subspecialty.

For the most accurate idea of language translation cost, we need to know all – and we mean ALL – that’s relevant to your project.

Do the costs of translation and localization differ?

Most of the time companies and clients use translation and localization synonymously, though they do actually have different meanings. Translation is the process of translating words or text from one language into another. Localization is the adaptation of a product or service to meet the needs of a particular language, culture or desired population’s “look-and-feel.”

Literally speaking, a “straight translation” will typically cost less, however, it is rare that we perform straight translations and even rarer that we suggest it. For your content to hit the mark, localization is a must.

There are many elements that affect the cost of language translation and localization and they differ greatly. These differences can be industry related, with regard to Life Sciences and stringent quality regulations. Or differ due to variety in file type, for instance, audiovisual translation work will always cost more than a simple Word document. And even content type will matter – e.g. “transcreation” is recommended for most marketing content but is generally more costly than traditional localization.

For example, since transcreation is a more in-depth procedure, it does expand translation timelines and may initially cost more than a basic translate-edit-proof service, yet companies may choose to adopt this process if they want to transform their creative message for a new target audience. Transcreation is also beneficial for companies that wish to test out their marketing within a new country without having to hire an entire marketing team to develop their marketing strategy.

Why are translations so expensive?

The cost of language translation is unique simply because the company, content, needs and goals are vastly different from one client to the next. There are a variety of factors that will influence how much your translations will cost, including:

  • Target languages
  • Volume
  • Translation memory
  • Machine translation
  • Timeline
  • Centralization

We encourage you to think of it less like a translation cost and more of a translation investment instead. A study by Common Sense Advisory showed that Fortune 500 companies that translated more content were 2.5 times more likely to increase profits and 1.8 times more likely to see revenue growth.

Why do some companies cost less?

At Sajan, we hold ourselves to a very high-quality standard when it comes to translation and localization. But we do so with you in mind. We know the frustrations that come with getting a project back that’s full of errors. Not only does it cause headaches and delayed timelines to allow for rework, it usually ends up costing more in the long run.

Companies who only offer a technology solution but no support, or cheaper rates but a barely-there quality process, generally prove to be more trouble than they’re worth – and it’s going to show in your end result. We want to ensure that the deliverable is, well, deliverable. We aim to hit a home run every time.

Plus we do have many ways to bring costs down – just keep reading for a few suggestions!

How much to plan for in my annual budget?

This will vary greatly on the size and scope of your global reach, current needs and goals. Remember when we said each company is unique? We truly meant it – so offering a hard number here is difficult. That being said, there are a few questions to ask yourself when budget planning:

What did you accomplish? First, take stock of which initiatives you completed over the previous 12 months. Keep in mind how it all fits into your organization’s overall localization plan.

What was your total spend? Of course, this is a vital question to ask since it gives you a good idea of where your organization sits with regard to language translation expenses.

What growth patterns did you see? Knowing precisely where your company is seeing growth—or even a slow-down, as the case may be—will help you figure out which initiatives do or do not require additional spend when it comes to formulating a localization budget plan.

What cost savings did you realize? This one’s a biggie. Knowing how much of your translation memory you leveraged, and the cost savings you realized as a result, lets you know where you stand financially.

What were your average per-word rates? In general, when taking advantage of translation memory reuse, a company can save up to 18 cents per word after the translation memory is applied. Knowing what the average translated word ended up costing for each of your target languages in the past reveals your total language translation cost savings and even your return on investment.

What was your average project cycle time? As you know, faster turnaround times mean quicker time to market—which equates to revenue in the door more quickly. Plus, you can squeeze in more completed projects for the year.

How well were your quality standards met? When deciding how much to budget for translations, first determine how consistently your quality standards are being met.

Added bonus – we can help provide answers to some of these questions if you’ve worked with us! Our tech has in-depth reporting tools built in to help you save money. We’d be happy to help you scope forecasted projects so that you can be ready to hit the ground running come next year.

What can I do to bring the costs down?

While it’s known that there are a variety of factors that will inevitably affect the cost of language translation work, you can actually make this work to your benefit.

Volume: Submitting higher volume word counts may seem counter-productive, but in fact, it will ensure that you receive the best per-word rate and aren’t paying project minimum fees.

Translation memory: Using duplicate, exact and fuzzy matches from your translation memory can drastically cut the cost of language translation.

Enterprise terminology management: Having an enterprise terminology management program in place allows for greater efficiencies during the translation process and removes the chance of costly rework.

Machine translation: While including machine translation as a workflow step does require an initial setup fee, it can save you a lot of money if your content volumes are very high.

Timeline: Keep in mind that rush projects do entail extra rush fees.

Centralization: The more departments and divisions that centralize translation efforts, the more cost savings the whole organization sees over time.

Did we answer your questions about the cost of language translation?

Hopefully, we’ve supplied some insight into the cost of language translation. If we missed a question you have, include it in the comments below!

To discuss how Sajan’s solutions can be leveraged for a winning – and cost effective – translation and localization program, connect with us today!