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How much does a translation cost?

How much can a translation cost, how exactly is the price calculated, and what services are included in the price when you contract a professional language services provider? This article will help you achieve a realistic estimate of your translation costs.

How the price of a translation is calculated

The price of a translation is usually calculated based on volume. The parameters used in the language services industry are either word count, standard lines or standard pages.

One standard line consists of 55 characters including spaces. The number of characters per standard line may vary depending on the provider, but it is usually between 50 and 60. A standard page contains 30 standard lines, which amounts to between 1,500 and 1,800 characters including spaces.

Most translation tools have a counting function that precisely calculates the number of characters, lines or pages; Word also has a built-in “word count” function. This enables customers to make their own estimate of the exact costs to be expected. Other formats are somewhat more difficult to calculate, so it makes sense to request a quote in advance.

Prices, flat rates, and surcharges

Translation rates in Switzerland usually range between CHF 2.20 and CHF 4.50 per standard line, although low-cost providers sometimes offer lower prices. Some providers may also charge a substantially higher price per line for certain specialist areas and niche languages.

The actual cost of a translation will vary depending on the delivery deadline and any specialised requirements, if applicable (legal texts, medical texts, etc.). At SwissGlobal, however, we offer the same rates for all specialist areas and language pairs

Of course, the standard of quality also has an influence on the price. Language services providers that only employ trained language experts and make investing in quality management, secure infrastructure and technology a top priority will naturally charge accordingly. Nevertheless, the higher price is reflected in the quality.

ISO certifications are an indication of a language services provider’s quality standards. Pay attention to the industry-relevant standards:

  • ISO 17100:2015 (Translation services)
  • ISO 18587:2017 (Post-editing)
  • ISO 20771:2020 (Legal translation)
  • ISO 9001:2015 (Quality management)
  • ISO 27001:2017 (Information security management)

Minimum flat rates usually apply for small orders and correspond to an hourly rate. Surcharges of between 50% and 100% are often charged for express and weekend jobs. 

What does all of this mean in concrete terms? This blog post has 1154 words, or 7,751 characters, which amounts to 140.93 standard lines, or 4.7 standard pages. The text is easy to understand and requires no specialised expertise.

Language pairFour-eyes principleSix-eyes principle
140.93 standard lines atCHF 3.40CHF 4.50
English > GermanCHF 479.15CHF 634.20

Please note: This calculation applies exclusively to the sample text in question.

What you (should) get for your money

Project management. The project manager of the translation company you have contracted will look at your text, obtain additional information if necessary, and then assign the order to the translator who is best suited in terms of language and subject matter. Project management is also responsible for checking if the order contains already translated text segments, terminology or translation memories.

A qualified translator then translates the text into their mother tongue. Depending on the subject matter, the translator should also possess the necessary background knowledge and expertise.

The project manager reviews the entire order before the translation is delivered to the customer. This review is a way of discovering whether the translation contains inconsistencies or typos. It is also known as the four-eyes principle and is an indispensable element of a professional translation company’s project management. After all, even an experienced translator can make a mistake now and then.

Providers who are certified according to ISO 17100 must apply the six-eyes principle to all of their translations. This involves an extra step: translation + revision by a mother-tongue language professional + internal quality check. The six-eyes principle is thus a standard requirement for ISO-certified language services providers such as SwissGlobal, and the four-eyes principle is more of an exception (such as in cases where the customer explicitly declines a revision).

How to save on translation costs

At first glance, the prices for a standard line do not seem high. However, longer texts and multiple language combinations can drive up the costs quite a bit.

Volume discounts Every translation involves administrative work and research. This means that volume discounts should be an option for longer texts and frequent translation orders from the same area of expertise.

Orders that are placed well in advance also reduce the administrative workload, especially for project management, so many translation agencies offer early-bird discounts.

Translation memories and CAT tools identify parts of the text that have already been translated in previous projects and are repeated or have only been changed slightly. The existing translation is then suggested automatically to the translator. Lower rates apply for such matches, so making long-term collaboration with a translation company is definitely worth your while.

Machine translation with post-editing. Although machines still cannot rival human translators from a quality point of view, they are now a valid alternative for certain types of text and uses. This is especially true when machine translation is combined with post-editing,

which also creates a significant potential for savings. Read more about this in our blog post entitled “Neural translation: learning by doing”.

Establish a clear framework

As you can see, many small details play a decisive role in determining the cost of translations. If you order translations on a regular basis, it’s worth entering into a long-term partnership with a suitable language services provider.

The ideal solution is to outline your collaboration within a framework agreement to define in greater detail the scope of services, rights and obligations as well as prices and conditions. This establishes the specific requirements and agreements of both parties.

Important tip: If you are planning a larger project, ask for quotes and compare them carefully. You can read about everything that needs to be included when you are obtaining quotes in our blog post “How to find the perfect language services provider” ((link tbd)).

When it comes to translations, you should not only pay attention to the price, but also to quality standards and customer service. This will help you to save money in the long run, even with higher rates. SwissGlobal is more than just a translation company. It has mastered the interplay between content, technology and resources to create reliable, secure language solutions that put you and your unique requirements first. Please contact us, we would be happy to help.

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