For those outside the industry, a quotation for translation services can be a tricky business.

I can well remember my first week on the job here at STAR. I went home mentally exhausted every night from the sheer scale of new things I needed to learn. One of which was the lingo.

Fuzzy match, internal repetition, translation import: my head was spinning from the new information.

Years later, these terms are now a part of my personal lexicon. It’s easy to forget that I didn’t always understand exactly what they meant.

So, today’s blog will take an in-depth look at quotations for translation services. That way you, a potential translation purchaser, can be sure that you know what you are buying. Also more importantly, that you are getting what you asked for and what you needed.

How do quotations get priced?

It’s not unheard of to receive a quotation for translation services that breaks its prices down per page. Even sometimes a flat fee per project. However, the industry standard is to calculate prices on a per-word basis.

Just to catch you out, these can be listed as a per-word price, such as 0.25GBP or as a price per thousand words, such as 250 GBP. Both mean exactly the same thing. It largely comes down to personal preference on dealing with zeros or decimal delimiters.

The quotation for translation services will work on the number of source words, i.e. the number of words in your document before it is translated.

There’s a simple reason for this: transparency.

A quotation for translation services bases its costs on the word price because this is the most transparent way of calculating the cost of a document.

The translation services supplier can use the word count to estimate how much time the project will take to complete. This way you will know the cost of the translation before it is started.

It is for this reason that the translation supplier will ask you to provide an editable file.

Although it is possible to estimate word counts, in PDF format for example, it can only ever be an estimate, not a fixed quotation.

In this case, your supplier may suggest that your quotation for translation services be based on target words, i.e. the amount of words in your document after translation. Again, they will be able to provide an estimated cost for the project, but not the exact number.

confused face

What are the different categories listed?

Although every translation supplier will treat quotations and word breakdowns in different ways, there are four main categories of “word types” that you might see on a quotation for translation services.

Before I go into the explanations of each category, I need to add that translation memory software analyses text in sense units, usually sentences. This means that each sentence will be categorised and the word count will be created based on how many words appear in the sentences in each category.

New words: sentences that the supplier has never translated for you before.

Fuzzy words: sentences that are similar to something the supplier has translated for you before.

Internal repetitions: sentences that appear multiple times within the document for translation. (The first occurrence of these sentences is counted as either new or fuzzy).

Pretranslated words: sentences that the supplier has already translated for you in a previous project.

For a first translation request to a new supplier, you will not receive any fuzzy matches, because the supplier has no reference material to use for your quotation for translation services.

Over time, particularly if you send similar material for each request, you should see your quotations for translation services rapidly decrease as the amount of translation memory leveraged increases.

How long might it take to complete the translation?

Again, every translation supplier will come up with a slightly different answer to this question. Broadly speaking however, it is possible for a translation supplier to suggest an accurate turnaround time when they send you the quotation for translation services.

Some companies will suggest a specific delivery date, some will suggest a turnaround time given in working days.

At STAR, we fall into the latter camp. We know that your translation project might not be ready to start immediately, so by giving you an estimated turnaround in working days, you can be sure that this will still be valid in two days, two weeks, or even two months.

We base our turnaround times on two factors. The time required to complete the project, and when our best translators can start working on the project.

For every translation project, you want to be sure that the translator working on the project has experience with the subject matter and ideally, with the customer’s previous projects. It is not always possible for the supplier to start on your project straight away, and we factor this in to our quotation for translation services.

For this reason, we might not always be the fastest, but we believe that if a job is worth doing, it should be done right.

waiting for a translation delivery

But what if you need it by a certain time?

If you need your translations delivered by a certain time or on a certain day, please let the translation supplier know in advance.

We can factor this into our quotation for translation services, and will plan accordingly. Equally, please tell us if the project is less urgent. (We love it when you say that). But seriously, we want the best people to work on your texts and sometimes a day or two extra makes all the difference.

Why are different languages more expensive?

There are a few factors that can influence your quotation for translation services. Language combination is one of them.

Put simply, it comes down to supply and demand.

Certain languages have greater numbers of speakers. This means that there are greater numbers of translators (often there’s also a greater demand for translations into those languages).

Translations between Western European languages, usually with English in the pair, are far cheaper than translations into Asian languages.

Another factor to consider is the cost of living in the country where your supplier is. Translations into Scandinavian languages are usually more expensive. This is because the cost of living there is so much higher than in the UK.

Both of these things can affect the price listed on your quotation for translation services.

additional charges

Why are there extra charges?

Extra charges and how to avoid them appearing on your quotation for translation services is definitely the topic of another blog post, as I’ve got lots to say on the matter. But for now, I’ll restrict myself to looking at what sort of charges might appear and why.

The most likely charge to see on a quotation for translation services is for DTP (Desktop Publishing). In plain English, it’s work on the formatting and design of the document.

If you are unable to provide an editable version of your file, the translation supplier might add an additional charge to recreate the formatting so that your translation exactly matches the original text.

Additionally, if your document has a very complicated layout and the target language will take up a lot more space than the source language (expansion), you might see a charge on your quotation for translation services to work on the formatting after translation.

For identity documents, certificates and in certain legal contexts, you might see additional charges for legalisation. We recently looked at legalisation following new advice from the ATC, essentially, it provides a sworn statement that the translation is a true and accurate version of the original and ensures that it will be accepted by official bodies around the world.

The final additional charge to mention is the rush or express charge. These are admittedly pretty rare, but not unheard of. If you require a longer translation to be done by the next day or over the weekend, some translation suppliers will charge a rush fee (usually a percentage levy).

A bit more clarity?

Hopefully by the end of this blog on understanding your quotation for translation services, you feel a little bit like me at the end of a couple of weeks at STAR…

Like the mists are clearing and that all this jargon is not quite so impossible after all.

Hopefully… Maybe?

If you’ve still got questions, you can always contact one of our team – they’re happy to help and can discuss your potential translation projects in greater depth.