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How to read a translation price quote

comparing prices for translation services

Whether you need car insurance, a new boiler or a phone contract, the first thing you’ll probably do is shop around and get quotes from several suppliers. The situation is the same when you need a translation. The difference is that, whereas trade quotes are usually broken down into easily understandable terms like ‘parts’ and ‘labour’, the same is not always true of translation quotes.

Here are a few simple steps to help you make sense of your translation price quote like a pro.

Step 1: Don’t compare apples with oranges

Quotes provided by translation agencies can vary wildly in price and the descriptions they give of services. This makes comparing several different quotes very complicated. Why? Because as a customer, you may unknowingly end up comparing apples with oranges.

If you have two quotes that use the same expressions, you may naturally be tempted to go for the cheaper one, but make sure you know exactly what the price includes. A higher price can mean additional services or benefits.

Step 2: Know the lingo

Have you ever read or heard something that just felt like a jungle of gibberish? We get you! It’s particularly challenging to make sense of a subject matter you’re unfamiliar with. Deciding on a translation provider is easier said than done. There are a range of different services and unfortunately some differences in how these services are referred to.  

When reviewing your translation quotes, watch out for vague terms such as:

– Post-correction

– Control/Proof

– Quality check

– Check

These terms are ambiguous and unclear. They’re generally not used in the industry by professional language service providers. Instead, stick to the clear terms explained in the following chart: 

TranslationThis just involves translating from the source language into the target language(s), with no further steps involved. For a more detailed description of translation, see here.
ProofreadingThis involves checking that the spelling, grammar and punctuation of the document are correct, to ensure that it is free from language errors.
EditingEditing examines the style and, readability and tone of the text, as well as correcting any spelling or grammatical errors. This is a more in-depth service that can optimise your writing for its intended purpose and audience, while preserving your distinctive tone of voice. More information on proofreading and editing is available here.
Desktop publishing (DTP)DTP is the process of making the final document visually polished and appropriate for the target market. Text may need to be shortened or rearranged to fit onto the page, and some images may send the wrong message in the target culture and will thus need to be changed. You can find out more about DTP here.
Two-eyes principleThe translator will review and check over their own work before delivery.
Four-eyes principleThe translation is carried out by one person and then checked and approved by another, giving an added level of guarantee that it will be accurate.
Six-eyes principleFor even greater peace of mind, a third person will check both the first reviewer’s and the original translator’s work for completeness, suitability and accuracy.

 A few additional things to watch out for:

  1. Be specific with the language combination. Some agencies charge the same price for all languages. Others charge a higher price for rare or so called ‘niche’ languages, so it might make a price difference depending on whether you request a translation into French from Canada, France or Switzerland.
  2. Keep in mind that some agencies quote per number of words and others per line. At SwissGlobal we consider a standard line to consist of 55 characters including spaces. This may also vary slightly from company to company.
  3. Some providers charge extra for the conversion or formatting of trickier formats. If the source document is not editable, there might be extra costs, as the translators or project managers have to export and import your texts manually.    

Step 3: ask a detailed question, get a detailed answer

As touched on above, it is important to provide as much information as possible when asking for a translation quote. The price may vary depending on how technical the text is, the turnaround time, the target language(s) involved and other factors. Applying a surcharge for urgent translations is common industry practice. Conversely, a discount may sometimes be awarded if this is your first time working with the agency or the volume of your translation is particularly large. It is always better to give too much information than too little. Likewise, if the quote you get back is sparse on the details, don’t hesitate to ask the agency what is and is not included.

How to choose wisely

Choosing a translation service provider based on a translation price quote can be a complex and frequently opaque business. As the client, you are entitled to have all the information at your disposal that will allow you to make a decision that takes all the relevant factors into account. In other words, you should be able to tell from each price quote exactly which services are included, how much those services cost and whether there are any discounts or surcharges. Transparency in quoting for a translation is usually a sign of professionalism in an agency. This is why we at SwissGlobal believe in breaking down every translation quote into the individual services we can provide and explaining exactly what each service means. That way, you can make an informed decision and get the translation that’s right for you.