Translation Cost, Quality and Time – The Three Variables

Translation projects are often complex – they might involve the use of highly technical, industry-specific terminology, require expert legal knowledge, or involve multilingual options with localised websites – however, the three factors they will all have in common, is that they will take time, cost money, and be of a certain quality (be it high, low, or middling).

These three factors; cost, time and quality, are the three variables of every translation project – even if you’re using the same language services provider each time.

We would all love to have the best quality translation, for the lowest price, completed in super-fast time, but often something has to be sacrificed.

For instance, if you are looking for a really quick turnaround on your translation project this will likely come at an extra cost, or will mean there is a lower than usual quality as editing checks may have skipped to save on time.

As far as translation is concerned, there are no ways to cut corners on time and cost, without cutting quality.

However, it is possible to evaluate each of these aspects individually, assess which are most important for your specific project and then tailor your translation round your priorities.

The following information will help you decide which aspect is most important to your translation project, ensuring you get the best quality translation, for the right cost and within the time frame required.



Translation Time

On average, a professional translator can translate around 2,000 words per day. This can alter depending upon technical content, linguistic skill, contextual and cultural knowledge of your chosen translator, and so on.

If you have a project that requires the translation of 40,000 words, you can expect it to take a least 20 working days for the first draft of the translation to be completed. Then you’ll need to add time for editing, proof reading and other checks.

It is most likely that if a translation provider tells you they can offer you a faster turnaround time than the above example, they will have to cut corners on quality, or engage multiple linguists to work on the project which will add to the cost.

If you know that you have a specific deadline to which your translation project must be completed, it is worth factoring this into your proposed budget (if you are operating on a tight schedule) as this will often incur additional costs for the translation provider.



Translation Quality

Quality is the most subjective element of the three variables.

There are those clients who require a highly technical and accurate translation (especially those in sectors such as, law or medicine) which must be as precise as possible, with quality being the main criterion and time and cost the secondary and third.

However, there are others who want a high-quality translation (without the need for technical content or contextual precision) but have a set budget and require a fast turnaround time. In this instance, clients can often offset some of the quality against the cost and speed of translation, so they still receive the quality they require (and expected), but the project is not as involved as the first example so it can be performed faster.

The quality of a translation project can be improved through the use of additional checks, such as:

• Using an ISO accredited translation provider who will have rigorous checks in their project management processes

Proof Readers/Editors/Translators who can each check and double check the work completed at the previous stage.

• Industry/Linguistic experts should be used whenever high-quality standards are required. Linguists should be native speaking, with work experience in the specific sector so that terminology is fully comprehended and accurately translated.

• Use back translation as this will show any flaws in the translated text once it has been translated back into the original, or source, language.

• Ensure you have given as much information to the translation team as possible. Use glossaries, style guides, technical information, diagrams, and so on, to ensure a consistent and thorough translation each time.


Translation Cost

If you have a limited budget, and this is the driving factor you consider when choosing a translation provider, then you will need to look at ways you can save money on your project without it affecting the quality too much.

Here are a few tips that can help when it comes to saving money on your translation project:

• Machine Translation – while we wouldn’t usually recommend this due to the higher risk of mistranslations and errors, it might be worth doing for some of your project. Consider which words and phrases would be most commonly translated and use these as your base. Run thorough checks where possible and ask a native speaker to edit and proof read the final translation.

• Preparation – is vital for any translation but if you are trying to cut costs then advance planning is a must. If you know in advance what you require then consider getting the translation project completed in stages so you can spread the cost over a longer time period. Also, consider using an individual translator (instead of an international company) or ask at local universities if there are any language students who would like to offer their services in exchange for a reference and real work experience. Remember to get the translated documents independently checked for accuracy before using.

• Bi-lingual Employees – or friends, can often help with a small translation project and may be willing to do this in exchange for additional time off, or a nice meal. Native speakers are the best linguists to use on any translation project as the grammar, punctuation and flow of the translation will be more natural and accurate, but if you must save on cost, then quality often comes as a secondary consideration.


At Creative Word, we only use native-speaking translators, who are also industry experts, on all our translation projects.

Quality is the driving factor of every translation project we perform and our ISO accredited services reflect this, but we also aim to deliver a timely and cost-effective translation every time.

If you would like to know how we can help you with your translation project, please contact us.

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