The Main Factors Affecting Translation Costs

Many more companies require translation services today than in previous years; globalization, the internet, easier import/export processes, and enhanced logistics, have all influenced the success of the translation industry.

However, with more companies than ever needing the services of a quality translation provider, there comes an increase in business costs for the clients using this service.

For those companies, and individuals, who are unfamiliar with what is involved when budgeting for and pricing translation services, the following information will be useful when considering potential costs:


  1. Language Pairs

Understanding how language pairs will affect the price of your translation might help you appreciate which pairs are more costly, and why.

Language pairs consist of a source language (the original) and a target language (the final translation). Some of these pairs are more common than others, for instance, English to Arabic is in more demand than English to Italian.

In general, the more demand there is for a language pair, the cheaper your translation is likely to be. This is due to factors such as, the number of translators available specialising in these languages and additional existing resources (translation dictionaries, glossaries and translation memory).

If your translation is considered to be an unusual, or rare pairing, then you are likely to pay more.

Knowing how language pairs affect the cost of translation can aid you in early decision making, planning, and budgeting.

The top ten language pairs according to Common Sense Advisory research are:

English – Spanish

English – Chinese

English – French

English – German

English – Russian

English – Portuguese

English – Japanese

English – Arabic

English – Italian

Spanish – Portuguese



  1. Difference in Language Pairs

It is not only the rarity of a language pair which is likely to affect the cost of your translation, but also the difference between the source and target languages.

For example, languages with dramatically different grammar, sentence structure, punctuation, language direction, or cultural context, are likely to cost more than those which are similar.

In this way, you can see that an English to French translation is usually cheaper than say an English to Russian translation.

When working with unusual language pairs it might be necessary for a translator to use a go-between language. This means that they would first translate your source into another language (usually something that is considered a common language such as, English) before then translating this into your target language.

For instance, if translating from Arabic to Croatian it might be necessary to translate into English first as this would pair more easily with both languages.

This go-between language essentially means your work would require two translations, and the price would rise accordingly.


  1. Industry Specific and Specialist Translations

Many translations do not require specialist knowledge for a specific industry or sector, however, there are times when this is essential, and accuracy is often vital.

Medical, legal, engineering, aerospace, government, pharmaceutical and information technology industries are sectors which often require a high level of accuracy, alongside industry specific terminology, and these factors can affect the price of translation.

Specialist translation services should be provided by translators who have experience in these fields in conjunction with their translation skills.

If you require specialist knowledge, be sure to check that your translation provider can offer this additional feature.


  1. Size of Translation

The size of your translation task will obviously have a bearing on cost – especially when considering many translation agencies and freelance translators charge per word.

In some instances, if you have a large volume of work which requires translation, and it also needs specialist industry knowledge, your translation provider may need to hire additional translators to help with the work. This additional cost gets passed onto the client.

Likewise, if you require your translation in a rush, there may be an additional charge made.


  1. Formatting Translations

Depending in the purpose of your finished translation, it may require some unique formatting.

For instance, if you are producing copy for an overseas website, legal documents with tight guidelines, or have any unusual formatting requests, this is likely to affect the cost of your translation.


Translation providers vary in their abilities to offer a comprehensive range of specialist industry knowledge, unique and valued language pairs, and extensive formatting capabilities.

Be sure to thoroughly check the credentials of translation providers if you require any of these additional features within your translations. Early planning, budgeting and good communication with your translation team is also vital to ensuring you are adequately prepared for the costs involved.


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