The cost of a translation is an issue that a professional agency like ours has to deal with dozens of times every day. It is often difficult to make our clients understand how much work goes into this service, so we have decided to explain what factors influence cost variations, examining them on the basis of our various areas of expertise.
In a nutshell, we can say that the cost of a translation is determined by the following factors:
- language combination;
- length of text;
- delivery time;
- type of text.
By “type of text” we mean the sector it belongs to. Translating a financial statement, for example, is very different from translating an e-commerce website or a package insert.
To better illustrate the factors that affect the cost of translation in different sectors, we will examine them one by one starting with our core business: the financial sector.
Financial sector translations
When we talk about translations for the financial sector we mean the translation of documents such as financial statements, financial analyst comments, business plans, prospectuses and any other texts of a financial nature.
There are three factors that can help brings costs down.
The first is the length of the text: for obvious reasons of economies of scale, the longer the text, the more likely we are able to apply a discount on the cost of translation.
The second concerns the language into which the text is translated. For the most widely spoken languages, such as English, there are more specialist mother-tongue translators available, which helps reduce the cost of translation.
The third element that impacts on the possibility of applying discounts to the cost of translations is the availability of previous documents of a similar nature. Financial documents, such as financial statements for example, often contain large sections of text that remain the same, or almost the same, from one edition or year to the next, so having the previous documents available in both the original and translated language can have a major impact on the volume of words that actually need to be translated, and therefore on the cost.
On the other hand, it is also important to consider other factors that contribute to the increase in translation costs.
Financial translations belong to a highly regulated sector necessitating the involvement of specialist professionals with expertise not only in languages but also the financial area. That’s why the team of translators, revisers and proofreaders selected by Way2Global have often had careers and previous experiences in the financial world which help to strengthen their specialist profile.
It is also important to remember that costs often vary depending on the delivery time. We often receive requests for translations that are so urgent that we have to create a team of translators who work simultaneously – also outside of regular office hours and in the evenings or at night – and include additional review and control phases in the work cycle to ensure the stylistic and terminological uniformity of the final text.
Depending on the combination of all these elements, the cost of translations for the financial sector can be more or less onerous although they generally tend to fall into a higher price bracket.
Legal translation costs
Translations for the legal sector fall into another category of highly regulated sectors, and are therefore usually associated with higher costs.
Why is this? Because of the specific way the aforementioned factors apply to this particular sector.
Unlike in the financial sector, where English is the language par excellence, in the legal sector it is more common to receive requests for translations from or into less widely spoken languages, so the cost of translations is subject to increase.
Another aspect that sets it apart from the financial sector is the length of the texts. Legal documents are not generally as long as consolidated financial statements so the possibility of applying discounts is reduced.
The direct relationship between delivery times and costs remains unchanged.
In addition to these elements, in the vertical market of legal translation it is also important to remember that in addition to translations in the strictest sense of the term, it may often be necessary to provide accessory services.
Sworn translation, legalisation and consularisation services are often requested by our clients to certify their translated documents for use abroad or have their legal validity recognised in other countries. In these cases, revenue stamps (one for every five pages in the case of sworn translations), or consular stamps in the case of consularisation, will contribute to increasing the cost of this service. Often it is not even possible for us to provide an accurate ex ante cost estimate as fees and costs vary according to the Court or Consulate involved.
Let’s move away from the highly regulated sectors now to look at the cost of translations in the technical sector.
Translations for the technical sector
The technical sector does not have the same critical characteristics as the sectors analysed so far, and for this reason translation costs are generally lower.
The large volumes of manuals translated in this sector may justify the application of lower rates but there is also another factor to consider.
It is precisely these characteristics that have facilitated the spread of Machine Translation (MT) systems in this vertical market and this has contributed to increasing productivity and, as a result, reducing the costs of technical translations compared to financial or legal ones.
Nevertheless, it is important to stress that the skills required of technical translators are certainly not inferior to those of professionals working in regulated sectors.
In fact, the use of MT does not mean that the translation is carried out solely by a machine. Machine Translation is a simple tool in the hands of professionals who use it to accelerate their work and productivity, but one that requires considerable skill and expertise if it is to be used as a real lever for maximising the quality of their work.
Therefore, even when technology is used more widely it must continue to be supervised by an expert translator, i.e. a professional who has received specific training in both translation and the technical area of competence, who has consolidated experience and is constantly updated on the use of new technologies for the Language Industry.
The leisure sector suffers from the same basic misunderstanding as the technical sector. Here, too, clients often tend to underestimate the complexity of this type of translation due to their lack of knowledge of the work cycle and the complex range of skills that go into every translated text.
Unlike in the technical sector, where texts are mostly targeted at experts in the field, in the leisure sector we often have to manage advertising and marketing content that requires specific translation work, better defined as transcreation.
The goal of this type of content is to expand the client’s business into another market but to achieve this you need to communicate in the same language and use the same cultural references as your target audience. It is a genuine art in which the work of the transcreator can be equated to that of a copywriter because of the creative talent required to skilfully adapt the style and tone of voice of the translation so that it evokes emotions in a target audience that speaks another language.
Although the texts a transcreator works on are usually much shorter than financial or legal documents, it is the complexity of the transcreation service that pushes up the cost of this type of translation.
Another element that can contribute to raising the final price in this niche sector is the language combination. Involving texts such as catalogues, magazines, websites or e-commerce sites, it is more common to receive requests for translations into languages that are less widely spoken than English.
Medical and scientific translations
Unlike the above types of translation, the intrinsic value of medical-scientific translations tends to give them a more immediate impact. It goes without saying that in this area ensuring the quality and appropriateness of translations is essential because of their effects on people’s health.
An inaccurately translated package insert may lead a patient to take a medicine incorrectly, with possible negative repercussions on their health. The same rationale applies to other types of medical and scientific documents, such as clinical trials or manuals for the use of medical devices.
Because this is such a sensitive area, clients are more willing to prioritise translation quality over cost-cutting requirements. In any case, there is a complex and highly structured work cycle behind every translation in this sector. At Way2Global, for example, after accepting a job and putting together a quote based on a thorough feasibility study, the Project Manager forms a select team of experts to carry out the assignment.
These teams consist of specialist mother-tongue translators, revisers and proofreaders, as well as Subject Matter Experts, i.e. professionals from the medical-scientific sector who assess the accuracy of the translation from a technical and content point of view.
Once again, the volume of words to be translated, the working languages and the delivery times are all factors that affect the cost.
In conclusion, we can therefore say that, regardless of sector, the cost of a translation depends on a series of complex and interrelated aspects. But don’t forget one key thing: using a professional translation service represents an investment for companies.
By communicating using quality content, translated with respect for the cultural context of the target audience and capable of achieving the objective of business growth, companies convey their professionalism, reliability and honesty to their stakeholders, enjoying a reputational return on investment that far exceeds the costs they have incurred.
Investing in quality translations always guarantees incredible growth opportunities for your business.
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