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An international standard for word counts
Thread poster: John Fossey

John Fossey  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 20:54
Member (2008)
French to English
Mar 29, 2009

There are now international standards for Translation Memories (TMX files) and for the process of translation (EN-15038). But one of the main points of the relationship between translators and their clients is the word count, and there seems to be as many different ways to count the words for translation as there are tools to count them with.

Considering how important word counts are - that's how we're paid - I wonder what the feeling is to developing an international standard, by a recognized body such as ISO, CEN or ANSI, to standardize the method of determining word counts for translation in a document. Then the different software applications would have to conform to the standard and, in theory, should all produce the same results.

Has any work on this subject already been done? If you know of any work that has been done towards standardizing word counts for translation, or have any thoughts about the subject, why not bring them together here.


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Daina Jauntirans  Identity Verified
Local time: 19:54
German to English
+ ...
Have not heard of an effort to this end Mar 29, 2009

I doubt anyone will agree on an international standard. Most of my clients don't pay by words in any case - they pay by standard line (for Germany anyway) of 55 characters including spaces.

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Didier Briel  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 02:54
Member (2007)
English to French
+ ...
Lisa has made some effort Mar 29, 2009

John Fossey wrote:

Has any work on this subject already been done? If you know of any work that has been done towards standardizing word counts for translation, or have any thoughts about the subject, why not bring them together here.


Lisa has made a significant effort in this direction, with
Global information management Metrics eXchange - Volume (GMX-V)

Didier


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bohy  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 02:54
English to French
+ ...
There is not even agreement on contractions... Mar 29, 2009

Excellent subject, John ! I was going to post something, one of these days, after discovering the root cause of discrepancies in word counts performed by SDLX and Trados.
Being surprised about a difference of nearly 5% in Word counts, I discussed with the PM and discovered that she had been counting with SDLX, while I was using Trados. She sent me the log file, and as some of the files were short, I decided to count them manually.... until I stumbled into some contractions! Eureka. Trados counts a contraction as 2 words, while SDLX counts them as one word.
For instance, SDLX counts "that's how we're paid" as 4 words only, while Trados counts 6 words.
How is it that two software products sold by the same company can't agree on their counts? Mystery.
I also checked with Microsoft Word (and I often use its word count for small files): Word counts contractions as one word.
In my opinion, any standardization work is useless if this basic aspect is not taken into account and agreed upon by major actors. And I do hope that Word doesn't simply dictate the standard, as - in my opinion - a contraction is two words anyway.


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J Chae  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 20:54
English to Korean
+ ...
How's that?? Mar 30, 2009

bohy wrote:
For instance, SDLX counts "that's how we're paid" as 4 words only, while Trados counts 6 words.

What... Really???


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Riccardo Schiaffino  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 18:54
Member (2003)
English to Italian
+ ...
Mystery easily solved Mar 30, 2009

bohy wrote:

How is it that two software products sold by the same company can't agree on their counts? Mystery.


The mystery is easily solved: the two products may be sold by the same company now, but were developed by two different companies, hence different programmers and different algorithms.


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Parrot  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 02:54
Member (2002)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Wondering if there will be Mar 30, 2009

as far as ISO is concerned, anyway.

ISO is represented locally by its affiliated organizations and I happen to have worked for two of them. On the whole, there seems to be a reluctance to deal globally with any issue involving rates (as "not part of quality"? According to one view, anyway), all the while that there was a discrepancy between the rates one accepted and the rates that the other wanted (yes, I was asked for a discount...)

That said, freelancers are not audited, or only involved in such audits to a limited extent (see EN 13058, on qualifications, for instance). Audits focus on the quality procedures of the applicant company. As such, they are pretty much indifferent to the counting standards of one program as against another (which, from a certain point of view, involves making judgment calls on competing products).

I am not ruling out that a time may come in which they finally address the issue, but (methinks) they'd have to get over those sticky problems first.


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Daina Jauntirans  Identity Verified
Local time: 19:54
German to English
+ ...
Interesting, Didier! Mar 31, 2009

Thanks for posting that. Those count categories could have interesting implications.

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