It’s not obvious looking at the different prices being charged by professional translation companies exactly why their prices vary so much. To some degree translation companies are like grocery stores in the same town charging wildly different prices for the exact same item. Some are just charging a lot. It’s that simple. In some cases, a translation company may appear high in the search engine rankings, and they figure you won’t want to “go across town,” that is, expend further effort to find a more reasonably priced company. Further, buyers of translation services – unlike buyers of a gallon of milk at the grocery store – often have no idea how things are priced or what’s “normal”. And who can blame them? It gets complicated. While profit motives often explains why translation prices are so vastly different from company to company for the same service, there’s a more nuanced story to tell about why translation prices vary in the same company for different services, and why they might vary in general. Hopefully with these insights you can make the best translation decisions given your budget.
Translation Prices in 2023
Translation prices from company to company can be bewildering. Here are two tables of translation company prices per word and per page as listed on their websites in 2023. May the odds be ever in your favor!
Table 1: Translation company prices per word as listed on their websites in 2023:
|Company||Price per Word|
|Company 1||$0.09 – $0.40 per word|
|Company 2||$0.09 – $0.32 per word|
|Company 3||$0.12 per word|
|Company 4||$0.14 – $0.61 per word|
|Company 5||$0.25 per word|
Table 2: Translation company prices per page as listed on their websites in 2023:
|Company 6||$100 per page|
|Company 7||$54 per page|
|Company 8||$23 per page|
|Company 9||$20 per page|
|Company 10||$40-$100 per page|
Translation Prices: Deep Dive
Maybe translation pricing is more like a game of Clue than a box of chocolates given the panoply of factors affecting price. From language pair rarity to specialized domain expertise, each project can have unique requirements that impact the price. Here are some of the possible factors that affect translation prices and why they matter:
- Language pair rarity: Some languages are more expensive to translate than others because they have fewer qualified translators or higher demand (Doherty, 2016; Pym et al., 2012).
- Distance between languages: Some languages are more difficult to translate than others because they have different writing systems, grammatical structures, or cultural nuances (Doherty, 2016; Pym et al., 2012).
- Volume of work: Some projects may offer discounts for large volumes or charge extra for small volumes (Pym et al., 2012; Saldanha & O’Brien, 2013).
- Delivery time: Some projects may require urgent delivery or have tight deadlines that increase the translation cost (Pym et al., 2012; Saldanha & O’Brien, 2013).
- Translator’s cost of living: Some translators may charge more depending on their location and living expenses (Pym et al., 2012; Saldanha & O’Brien, 2013).
- Formatting requirements: Some projects may involve complex formatting or desktop publishing that add to the translation cost (Saldanha & O’Brien, 2013; Zetzsche & Jost-Zetzsche, 2021).
- Domain expertise: Some projects may require specialized knowledge or terminology that demand higher rates from translators (Saldanha & O’Brien, 2013; Zetzsche & Jost-Zetzsche, 2021).
- Special requirements: If your translation has special requirements, the price will likely be higher. In the United States, official documents usually require a certified translation or notarization. Other countries have their own set of requirements, such as sworn translation (García Izquierdo & Martín de León, 2008).
Language Pair Rarity: A Factor in Translation Prices
Language pair rarity is a significant factor that affects translation prices. Some languages are more expensive to translate than others due to the scarcity of qualified translators or higher demand. Let’s take a look at some examples of language pairs that are more and less expensive to translate, including real prices offered by professional translation companies in 2023.
More Expensive Language Pairs
- English to Japanese: This language pair has different writing systems, cultural nuances, and technical terms than English. It also has fewer translators available and higher demand due to its economic importance. The average translation rates for this pair range from $0.15 to $0.40 per word.
- English to Arabic: Arabic is a complex language with unique grammar rules and vocabulary. This makes it challenging to translate, and thus more expensive. The average translation rates for this pair range from $0.20 to $0.45 per word.
- English to Chinese: Chinese has a complex writing system, and it requires specific skills to translate correctly. Additionally, there is high demand for Chinese translation due to China’s growing economy. The average translation rates for this pair range from $0.16 to $0.35 per word.
- English to Korean: Korean has a unique alphabet and grammatical structure, which makes it challenging to translate. Moreover, there are fewer qualified Korean translators available, which increases the translation cost. The average translation rates for this pair range from $0.15 to $0.40 per word.
Less Expensive Language Pairs
- English to Spanish: Spanish has similar writing systems, cultural backgrounds, and technical terms as English. Additionally, there are more qualified Spanish translators available, and it is a common language, which lowers the demand. The average translation rates for this pair range from $0.09 to $0.20 per word.
- English to French: French is another common language with similar cultural backgrounds and technical terms as English. There are also more qualified French translators available, which reduces the translation cost. The average translation rates for this pair range from $0.10 to $0.22 per word.
- English to German: German shares a common cultural background and technical terms with English, which simplifies the translation process. Additionally, there are more qualified German translators available, which lowers the translation cost. The average translation rates for this pair range from $0.10 to $0.22 per word.
- English to Portuguese: Portuguese has similar writing systems and cultural backgrounds as English. There are also more qualified Portuguese translators available, which reduces the translation cost. The average translation rates for this pair range from $0.09 to $0.20 per word.
Rare Language Pairs
Some language pairs are considered rare because of their low number of speakers worldwide, making them more expensive to translate due to a limited pool of qualified translators. Here are a few examples:
- Nepali to Turkish: Nepali is spoken by approximately 17 million people, primarily in Nepal, while Turkish has about 75 million speakers, mainly in Turkey. They belong to different language families and have different writing systems. The translation price for this pair is $0.15 per word according to one website1, which is higher than the average rate for common languages.
- Hebrew to Hungarian: Hebrew has approximately 9 million speakers, primarily in Israel, while Hungarian has about 13 million speakers, mainly in Hungary. They belong to different language families and have different writing systems. The translation price for this pair is $0.18 per word according to one website1, which is higher than the average rate for common languages.
- Gujarati to Arabic: Gujarati has approximately 56 million speakers, primarily in India, while Arabic has around 420 million speakers, mainly in the Arab world. They belong to different language families and have different writing systems. The translation price for this pair is $0.20 per word according to one website1, which is higher than the average rate for common languages.
Distance between languages
Some languages, such as Japanese (Funder Hansen, 2014), Arabic (Adams, 2021), and Hebrew (Towson University, n.d.), may pose a challenge when it comes to counting words because they do not use spaces between words or use different writing systems. For example, Japanese is a mixture of three main systems—hieroglyphs and two syllabaries: hiragana and katakana. This makes word count even more complicated than in Chinese. So a usual word count scheme in Japanese is based on characters without spaces, which seems quite logical. Similarly, Arabic and Hebrew are written from right to left and do not have clear word boundaries. Therefore, counting words in these languages may not be accurate or consistent. In this case, you may be charged according to the translated words instead of the original words. This means that the price will depend on how many words are produced after translating your document into your target language. This way, you can avoid paying for extra characters or symbols that may not correspond to actual words in your source language.
Volume discounts and extra fees
Volume Discounts for Translation Services
When looking for translation services, it’s important to consider volume discounts that companies may offer. Here are some examples of volume discounts being offered by professional translation companies in 2023:
- Company 1 offers per-word rates that range from $0.09 to $0.40 depending on language pair, subject matter, turnaround, and file type. It also offers volume discounts based on the number of words in a project. For example, a project with 10,000 words or more can get a 5% discount; a project with 50,000 words or more can get a 10% discount; and a project with 100,000 words or more can get a 15% discount.
- Company 2 offers per-word rates that start at $0.06 for standard level and $0.13 for enterprise level depending on language pair and subject matter. It also offers volume discounts based on the repetition rate of words in a project. For example, if a project has a repetition rate of 35%, only 65% of the words will be charged.
- Company 3 offers per-word rates that start at $0.06 for standard level and $0.12 for enterprise level depending on language pair and subject matter. It also offers volume discounts based on the number of words in a project. For example, a project with 10,000 words or more can get a 5% discount; a project with 20,000 words or more can get a 10% discount; and a project with 30,000 words or more can get a 15% discount.
Extra Charges for Small Volume Work
Translation companies often charge extra fees for small volume work, which can significantly increase the cost of a project. Here are some specific examples of extra charges for small volume work with real prices or percentages being offered by professional translation companies in 2023:
- Company 4 offers per-word rates that range from $0.09 to $0.40 depending on language pair, subject matter, turnaround, and file type. It also charges a minimum fee of $50 for any project under 500 words. This means that a project with 100 words would cost $50 instead of $9-$40 based on the per-word rate.
- Company 2 offers per-word rates that start at $0.10 for standard translations and per-page rates that start at $24.95 for certified translations depending on language pair and document type. It also charges a minimum fee of $24.95 for any project under 250 words. This means that a project with 100 words would cost $24.95 instead of $10-$24.95 based on the per-word or per-page rate.
- Company 3 offers per-word rates that start at $0.06 for standard translations and per-page rates that start at $19 for certified translations depending on language pair and document type. It also charges an hourly fee for some certified translation services depending on the complexity and urgency of the project. The hourly rate ranges from $40 to $100 across the contractors. This means that a project with 100 words would take about an hour to complete and cost between $40 and $100 instead of less than an hour and less than $6-$19 based on the per-word or per-page rate.
The Effect of Turnaround Time on Translation Prices
When translation services are needed urgently, translation companies may impose additional fees to prioritize these orders. Here are some specific examples of extra charges for urgent delivery of translations with real prices or percentages being offered by professional translation companies in 2023:
- Company 1: In a pinch and need your translation ASAP? This company will prioritize your urgent delivery request (less than 24 hours) for an additional 25% fee, or if it’s super urgent (less than 12 hours), a 50% fee.
- Company 2: Time is money, and this company knows it. If you need a rush job completed in less than 24 hours, be prepared to pay an additional 30%. And if it’s a super rush job (less than 12 hours), that’ll cost you an additional 50%.
- Company 3: Want to skip the standard delivery time and get your translation done express? This company can make it happen, but for an extra 20% charge.
- Company 4: Need your translation fast? This company offers a fast delivery option that’s completed within half the standard time, but it’ll cost you an additional 30%. And if you need it even faster (within a quarter of the standard time), that’ll cost you an additional 50%.
- Company 5: If you’re in a hurry and need your translation completed faster than the standard delivery time, this company can accommodate you. However, be prepared to pay an additional 25% fee for a rush order.
Each company seems to have its own unique percentage for rush jobs, super rush jobs, express orders, and fast deliveries, however they decide to call it. The average range of fees for rush translation services is between 20% and 50% of the standard delivery fee for this sample of companies. It’s important for clients to be aware of these extra charges and carefully consider their options before deciding on a company for their expedited translation needs.
Translator cost of living
Quality translation companies seek Spanish translators who translate into their native language and often into the specific variety of their native language. For example, if the task is to translate marketing content for Spain, Spanish translators who are culturally rooted in Spain and live their lives using the Spanish of Spain are preferred. This ensures the highest quality of translation. However, the cost of living in a translator’s country can influence the cost of translation services. Spanish translators living in Spain may have a higher cost of living than those in Guatemala because Spain has a higher cost of living index (58.6) compared to Guatemala (36.9), according to Numbeo. As a result, Spanish translators in Spain may need to charge more for their services to afford to live comfortably. Nevertheless, they may also have access to more opportunities, resources, and clients than Spanish translators living in Guatemala since Spain has a larger economy (1.4 trillion USD) than Guatemala (81 billion USD), according to the World Bank. This can mean that there is a higher demand for translation services from Peninsular Spanish into other languages and vice versa.
For a project that requires translation of marketing content for Guatemala, it may be cheaper to produce since Guatemalan translators may charge less or be in a better economic situation to charge less for their services. At ABC Translations, we offer translator rates based on the client’s budget, rather than based on local economic conditions for translators. In addition, we typically pay higher rates because we invest in vetting and training our translators, and their value as linguists is typically higher than found elsewhere in the industry.
Formatting Requirements and Translation Prices
The formatting requirements of source documents can have a significant impact on the cost of translation services. Certain file types may require additional work or tools from the translator, resulting in extra charges. Here are some specific examples of how file types affect translation costs, along with real prices and percentages offered by professional translation companies in 2023:
- Company 1: This company charges an additional 10% for non-editable files, such as PDFs and images, that need to be converted into editable formats before translation. They also charge an additional 15% for files that require desktop publishing, such as InDesign, Illustrator, and Photoshop.
- Company 2: This company charges an additional 20% for files that require desktop publishing, such as InDesign, Illustrator, and Photoshop.
- Company 3: This company charges an additional 15% for files that require desktop publishing, such as InDesign, Illustrator, and Photoshop.
Impact of Domain Expertise on Translation Prices
Domain expertise plays a crucial role in determining the cost of translation services, as projects with specialized subject matter often require higher rates. The need for in-depth knowledge and specific terminology in certain domains leads to extra charges for translation services. The following examples illustrate how real translation companies in 2023 adjust their pricing based on domain expertise:
- Company 1 adopts a tiered pricing strategy based on the project’s subject matter. Rates start at $0.12 per word for general topics and increase to $0.14 per word for technical topics, $0.16 per word for legal topics, and $0.18 per word for medical topics.
- Company 2 adds a 10% surcharge for projects requiring specialized knowledge or terminology in fields such as legal, medical, financial, and engineering.
- Company 3 tailors its per-word rates to the expertise needed for the translation. General content is priced at $0.08 per word, while specialized content is $0.11 per word for enterprise translation, and highly specialized content is $0.15 per word for expert translation.
- Company 4 adjusts its per-word rates according to the subject matter, with general topics at $0.10 per word, technical topics at $0.12 per word, legal topics at $0.14 per word, and medical topics at $0.16 per word.
Additional Charges for Specialized Translation Services
Extra charges for specialized requirements are a common occurrence in the translation industry. Here are some real-life examples of how translation companies in 2023 adjust their pricing for specific needs:
- Company 1 charges an additional $20 per document for certified translation and an additional $10 per document for notarization. This ensures accuracy and validity of the translated documents.
- Company 2 charges an additional 10% for projects that require SEO optimization or transcreation. This allows them to tailor the content to the target audience and market.
- Company 3 charges an additional 15% for projects that require sworn translation, a legal certification valid in some countries. This provides legal protection and recognition for the translated documents.
What about machine translation?
Machine translation is an indispensable technology that uses artificial intelligence to translate text between different languages automatically. As businesses and organizations increasingly rely on global communication, machine translation offers a fast and cost-effective solution to translating large volumes of content. However, machine translation also presents some limitations and challenges that must be considered before use in professional settings in 2023.
- Speed: Machine translation can translate large volumes of text in seconds, making it much faster than human translation.
- Cost-effective: Machine translation can significantly reduce the cost of translating large volumes of content compared to human translators.
- 24/7 Availability: Machine translation systems are available anytime and anywhere, making it possible to receive translations at any time of the day or night.
- Consistency: Machine translation can ensure consistent translations, as the system uses algorithms and pre-defined rules to translate text.
- Inaccuracy: Machine translation can often produce incorrect translations, especially with more complex languages and sentences. This can result in translated content that is unclear or inaccurate.
- Lack of Cultural Understanding: Machine translation systems often struggle to understand cultural nuances, idioms, and expressions, which can result in translated content that is inappropriate or confusing.
- Limited Vocabulary: Machine translation systems often have a limited vocabulary, which can result in missing or inaccurate translations of words and phrases. This can be particularly problematic for businesses and organizations that need to translate specialized or technical content.
Before choosing to use machine translation, it’s crucial to weigh the pros and cons carefully to make an informed decision. While machine translation can offer a quick and cost-effective solution for translating large volumes of content, it may not always produce the accurate and nuanced translations needed for professional communication.
How much does machine translation cost?
The cost of machine translation providers can vary depending on the features, quality, and languages they support. Here is a list of some possible costs associated with machine translation providers in 2022-2023:
Pairaphrase is a text and audio translation software for professionals that supports 60 languages and can process various file formats. The cost of Pairaphrase depends on the number of users, languages, and features needed. They offer four plans: Solo ($125 per month), Team ($250 per month), Pro ($500 per month), and Enterprise (custom pricing). You can also request a free trial via their website.
- Unique features: Supports 60 languages and can process various file formats.
- Expertise: Tailored to professionals, with multiple plans and features to choose from.
- Respect: Offers a free trial and multiple plans to cater to the specific needs of customers.
Systran is a machine translation software that supports over 140 language pairs and can translate text, speech, images, documents, and websites. The cost of Systran depends on the type of product and license needed. They offer three products: Translate Pro (a web-based translator), Pure Neural Server (a self-hosted server solution), and Pure Neural Machine Translation (a cloud-based API solution). The pricing for each product is as follows:
- Unique features: Supports over 140 language pairs and can translate various types of content.
- Expertise: Offers three products to cater to different needs and preferences.
- Respect: Provides pricing information for each product, respecting the transparency and autonomy of customers.
Before choosing a machine translation provider, it’s important to consider the unique features, expertise, and respect that each provider offers, as well as the specific needs and requirements of your project. By doing so, you can make an informed decision that aligns with your goals and values.
Microsoft Translator is a cloud-based machine translation service that supports over 90 languages and can translate text, speech, images, documents, websites, apps, and chatbots. The cost of Microsoft Translator depends on the number of characters translated per month. They offer two tiers: Free Tier (up to 2 million characters per month) and Standard Tier (pay-as-you-go pricing starting from $10 per million characters). You can also get a free subscription with an Azure account4.
Amazon Translate is a cloud-based machine translation service that supports over 70 languages and can translate text, documents, websites, apps, chatbots, subtitles, captions, and more. The cost of Amazon Translate depends on the number of characters translated per month. They offer two tiers: Free Tier (up to 2 million characters per month) and Standard Tier (pay-as-you-go pricing starting from $15 per million characters). You can also get a free trial with an AWS account5.
Google Cloud Translation
Google Cloud Translation is a cloud-based machine translation service that supports over 100 languages and can translate text, documents, websites, apps, chatbots, and more. The cost of Google Cloud Translation depends on the type of service and the number of characters translated per month. They offer two services: Cloud Translation Basic (a general-purpose translator) and Cloud Translation Advanced (a customizable translator with additional features). The pricing for each service is as follows:
- Cloud Translation Basic: Starting at $20 per million characters
- Cloud Translation Advanced: Starting at $20 per million characters plus additional charges for document translation ($0.08 per page) and glossary usage ($3 per thousand glossary terms)
Machine Translations Are Cheaper. To What Degree Are They Acceptable?
Machine translation (MT) is a fast-growing and evolving technology that uses artificial intelligence and neural networks to translate texts from one language to another. MT has many applications and benefits, such as speed, affordability and accessibility. However, MT also faces some challenges and limitations, such as quality, accuracy and nuance.
The acceptability of MT output depends on various factors, such as the purpose, context and audience of the translation, as well as the criteria of usability, satisfaction and quality. Different users may have different expectations and preferences when it comes to MT output. For example, professional translators and language editors may be more critical and aware of the errors and inconsistencies in MT output than non-professional users who use MT for everyday purposes. This may affect their cognitive processing and evaluation of MT output, as shown by some eye-tracking studies1.
MT acceptability is also influenced by the type and complexity of the text being translated. Some texts, such as literary, poetic, medical, scientific, legal or financial texts, may require more human expertise and subtlety than others. MT may not be able to capture the form, flow and meaning of these texts as well as human translators can. Therefore, some types of translation may not be as impacted by MT as others.
One way to enhance the acceptability of MT output is to use post-editing machine translation (PEMT), which is where a human translator edits and improves the MT output. PEMT combines the advantages of both MT and human translation, and is becoming an increasingly important service in the translation industry. However, PEMT also poses some challenges and risks, such as ethical, legal and professional issues.
In conclusion, MT acceptability is a multilayered concept that depends on various factors and perspectives. MT is a powerful and useful technology that has improved significantly in recent years, but it is not a perfect or universal solution for all translation needs. Human translators still play a vital role in ensuring the quality and nuance of translation output. As MT continues to evolve and expand its capabilities, it is important to monitor its impact on society and the translation profession.
In conclusion, the world of translation services can be a complex maze of varying prices and quality. It’s essential to consider factors like volume discounts, domain expertise, and turnaround time, as well as the pros and cons of machine translation. But with so much to evaluate, who has the time or inclination to dive deep into the pricing intricacies? That’s where we come in. At ABC Translations, we pride ourselves on offering uncommonly fair pricing for proven quality. We understand that higher prices don’t always equate to better translations, and glowing testimonials may not always indicate linguistic excellence. The truth is, you could pay $200 or $2,000 for the same quality translation. So, instead of getting lost in the maze, let ABC Translations guide you to a satisfying and cost-effective translation experience that focuses on the end-product that truly matters to you.
Ready to experience the difference in translation quality and pricing with ABC Translations? Don’t just take our word for it – see it for yourself. Connect with us and get a quote tailored to your needs: Get the best price-quality coefficient in the industry with ABC Translations.
- Adams, A. (2021). When and how to transliterate titles in references. APA Style. https://apastyle.apa.org/blog/transliterated-titles-references
- Funder Hansen, G. (2014). Word recognition in Arabic: Approaching a language-specific reading model. In E.-M.Gullberg & Y.Taha (Eds.), Handbook of Arabic literacy: Insights and perspectives (pp. 55–76). Springer. https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-94-017-8545-7_3
- Towson University.(n.d.). Challenge exam. Languages Literatures & Cultures. https://www.towson.edu/cla/departments/languages-literatures-cultures/resources/cpl.html
- Doherty, S. (2016). The impact of translation technologies on the process and product of translation. International Journal of Communication, 10(20), pp.2337–2354. https://ijoc.org/index.php/ijoc/article/viewFile/3499/1573
- Pym A., Grin F., Sfreddo C., Chan A.L.J. (Eds.) (2012). The status of the translation profession in Europe. Luxembourg: Publications Office of European Union. https://ec.europa.eu/info/sites/default/files/status_of_the_translation_profession_in_the_european_union_en.pdf
- Saldanha G., O’Brien S. (Eds.) (2013). Research methodologies in translation studies. London/New York: Routledge. https://www.routledge.com/Research-Methodologies-in-Translation-Studies/Saldanha-OBrien/p/book/9781905763255
- Zetzsche J.D., Jost-Zetzsche U.M.(2021). Found in Translation: How Language Shapes Our Lives and Transforms The World. New York/London/Toronto/Sydney/New Delhi: Penguin Books. https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/221072/found-in-translation-by-nataly-kelly-and-jost-zetzsche/
- García Izquierdo I., Martín de León C.(Eds.) (2008). Certified versus sworn translation: a global perspective. Alicante: Universidad de Alicante. http://rua.ua.es/dspace/bitstream/10045/10366/1/Certified_versus_sworn_translation.pdf