How much does a language translation actually cost?

Last Updated March 16, 2020

A professional language translation agency has specific costs but you need to consider many other  factors to arrive at the best price.

Business history is replete with instances where language translation blunders have caused great conflict or long drawn court battles. Companies have paid a heavy price for getting the translation wrong. The price paid is not always monetary. It has taken the form of loss of reputation, a drop in the brand image, missed opportunities and more. It is very important that the language translation service offers quality, accuracy, and affordability in an integrated, uncompromising manner.

The market of language translation is complex and the rates for  translation fall in a wide range from high-end to pocket-friendly. Usually, the most popular language with higher demand and more translators  has lower translation rates while high demand and low supply of the service/fewer translators will result in high translation costs. However, this general rule doesn’t always stand true as there are other factors responsible for the cost.

Some of the key factors that influence professional translation pricing include:

  • Volume or Word Count: The basic unit of pricing in the translation industry is based on the number of words in a document and agencies charge a “per word” cost. Higher the volume of words, the higher the total costing gets.  Language service providers offer discounts and special “per word cost” on large volume projects. But this practice is largely restricted to non-technical content. Technical content requires technical/domain specialist translators and hence command a higher price per word for the same language. 
  • Services beyond translation: Basic translation is not enough to achieve 95-100% quality, translated file that comes from a NATIVE translator needs to be proofread, edited, quality-checked and formatted as per the source content to bring the translated content upto the mark to ensure the quality of translated content is unparalleled. Basic translation cost is calculated on a per word basis, but  most projects also come with additional needs. They include Editing, Proofreading, Desktop Publishing, Software Engineering, Quality Assurance and many more. These add-on services are charged separately as they require different teams’ efforts.
  • Tools and technologies used: Language translation tools are not restricted to just machine translation technologies such as “Google Translate”. It also includes translation memory tools, translation management systems ( that automate the translation process), multilingual CMS, translation APIs and many more. Additionally, there is always a regular set of standard tools such as Excel, PowerPoint, PDF, CorelDraw, and Photoshop that are used to translate and create the entire project. If your project requires advanced tools, the language translation cost will surely be higher. 
  • TAT (Time to execute): The faster the turnaround time ( TAT) required, the higher the cost. Translators and agencies could charge a “Rush fees” for an expedited TAT, as they might have to work extra long hours or through holidays and weekends to complete a “Rush job”. . Sometimes large language translation agencies with a well-knit network of translators may waive off the extra charges and the cost may remain the same as projects with regular TATs
  • Project management: To achieve cost effectiveness, especially in large projects, many people are required. Native translators, smart and efficient project managers, localization expert experts, QA experts and client servicing professionals. Managing multiple translators and multiple languages, in various time zones requires skilled project management . This is part of the project cost and it would be money well-spent by clients, as it would save them a huge amount of communication and coordination effort.
  • Specialization or complexity of content: Industry-specific translation requires subject matter experts (SMEs). For eg., documents of medical, technical or legal fields would require translation of certain jargon and contexts resulting in a higher cost.

Because the factors are numerous, the exact cost for language translation is difficult to determine. The cost of translating Hindi text to English could be as low as INR 2.5-3 per word while translation in other languages such as Spanish to English can cost INR 3-4 per word, Chinese to English INR 3-4 per character, etc.

So what’s the best price for translation?

At Summa Linguae, we consider all the factors before rolling out a custom price. No two projects are the same. The level of complexity and resources required for each are different. That’s why at Summa Linguae we believe in treating every project differently, catering to its unique needs.

This price will vary with the factors involved as mentioned above and also whether the work is done by a professional language translation agency or freelance translators.

Take into account all the factors to get the best work done. But remember, the price of high-quality language translation is always lower than the cost of inaccurate translation.

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