Pages in topic:   [1 2] >
Which language for word count?
Thread poster: Nathaniel Knight
Nathaniel Knight
Local time: 06:23
Russian to English
Aug 3, 2011

Sorry for a question that may be obvious to most of you, but I can't seem to find an answer elsewhere. When you bill clients based on a word count do you use the original document or the finished translation in the target language? The problem is that depending on the structure of the language, the word counts can vary a great deal. I do Russian/English, and I tend to find that the English count is usually about 20-30% higher than the Russian. It's been a while since I've done much professional translating, but when I was more involved, I seem to recall always billing based on the word count of the final English text. Then again, back in those days, I usually worked from a hard copy of the original, so the Russian word count was not readily available. Now when both texts are in electronic form, I'm not sure what to use for billing. Any advice would be much appreciated.

Direct link Reply with quote
 

Paul Malone  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 12:23
Member (2004)
French to English
+ ...
The source language word count Aug 3, 2011

I always use the source language word count. That makes it clear for both the client and the translator from the outset what the cost of the translation will be and how much the translator will be paid.

I work with two different source languages, French and German, and the number of words varies between these languages, since German has far fewer words than French. The way I compensate for this is by using a different rate per word for each language pair.


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Valeria Monti
Italy
Local time: 12:23
Member (2011)
English to Italian
+ ...
source language word count Aug 3, 2011

I use the source language word count because it's easier for the client and the translator. But you're right, different languages have different word count. In my case, for example, English sentences are usually 20-30% shorter that the Italian or Spanish ones.

Direct link Reply with quote
 
JL01  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 06:23
English to French
+ ...
To e agreed with customer Aug 3, 2011

This is a question to be resolved between you and your customer, BEFORE starting to work on the project.

Direct link Reply with quote
 

Jack Doughty  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 11:23
Member (2000)
Russian to English
+ ...
source count usually required these days. Aug 3, 2011

I think Nathaniel has it about right for the Russian/English word difference. I have been freelancing since 1965, and always used target word count, but from about 10-12 years ago, agencies started requiring source count, for the reasons already mentioned. So now I either accept source count if that's what they specify, or if nothing is specified, offer an option, with of course a higher rate for source count.

[Edited at 2011-08-04 08:17 GMT]


Direct link Reply with quote
 

JaneTranslates  Identity Verified
Puerto Rico
Local time: 07:23
Member (2005)
Spanish to English
+ ...
I use target language count... Aug 3, 2011

...because most of my work comes from local sources, and that's what clients here in Puerto Rico are accustomed to. I can see the advantage of using the source language, though--no surprises for the client when the invoice arrives!

Valeria Monti wrote:

I use the source language word count because it's easier for the client and the translator. But you're right, different languages have different word count. In my case, for example, English sentences are usually 20-30% shorter that the Italian or Spanish ones.


I've been analyzing my work recently (Spanish > English) and found something interesting: While my translation usually takes up less space on the page, it is usually 5-10% higher in word count that the original. Does anyone else find that English uses more, but shorter, words?

In addition, my final word count is higher because I often need to add explanations to terms and cultural references, and identifications of people, that are well known to readers of the original text. Also, my clients have an unfortunate tendency to fail to identify the source of quotations or other intellectual property; my word count increases when I include proper credits.

When I give a quote, I take the source-language word count and add 10%, then multiply by the rate I am using for that job. The process is clearly stated on the quote. I also state that the invoice will reflect the actual word count of the final translation. My clients are happy, because I almost never go over that amount and usually come in noticeably lower.

If a problem arises that will greatly increase the word count, enough that I will exceed the estimate, I contact the client ahead of time and explain. I haven't had any complaints yet.

Jane


Direct link Reply with quote
 

José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 09:23
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Whatever you and the client agree upon Aug 3, 2011

Sometimes it's a poorly scanned non-OCRable PDF, otherwise it may be an AV recording, or even a handwritten document. The important thing is the total sum the client will have to pay the translator on completion.

Brazilan law on sworn translations determines rates to be applied on the "lauda" of finished translation. If look it up in the PT dictionary, a "lauda" means "a printed page". So it's as accurate a measurement unit as "one bottle"... if you don't mention how many ml or fl.oz. it contains, it means nothing. State regulations (rates are statewide) for Brazilian sworn translations vary from one state to another, for instance, just to quote a few:
  • in Sao Paulo, one lauda is 1,000 chars not counting spaces
  • in Minas Gerais it's 25 llines
  • in Rio Grande do Sul it's 1,250 chars including spaces


Yet if you go to most Brazilian book publishers, one "lauda" for them is 2,100 chars including spaces.

And this is the local law. Now you are talking about a private agreement between translators and their clients.

The fact is that if you use the source count the risk is yours, if the text "swells" in the direction you are about to translate. Conversely, if you use the target count, the risk will be the client's. After all, it's just a matter of unitizing to calculate how much the entire translation will cost.


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 12:23
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Source language Aug 4, 2011

Since it is the only way of agreeing a total firm price before the translation starts.

Direct link Reply with quote
 

Rolf Kern  Identity Verified
Switzerland
Local time: 12:23
English to German
+ ...
Source language Aug 4, 2011

Forget about word counts because of the differences of word length and number of words in the different languages. I ask for the source file, count the characters including spaces with a professional counting program (Word's word count is not dependable) and quote a fixed lump sum price calculated per 1000 characters including spaces.

Direct link Reply with quote
 

Alexandra Lindqvist
Local time: 13:23
English to Swedish
+ ...
Source language Aug 4, 2011

but I understand your point here that if En has more words you should be payed more. However perhaps this is only due to the structure of the langue. I don't know russian but for examlpel in English compound word are not always written together. ”University library” is written as ”univrsitetsbibliotek” in Swedish. As I translate from English to Swedish my texts almost always have less words, however the sometimes end up longer than the original anyway.
But if you don’t feel comfortable with the per word-thing perhaps you could propose character count instead?


Direct link Reply with quote
 
Nathaniel Knight
Local time: 06:23
Russian to English
TOPIC STARTER
thanks Aug 5, 2011

Thanks for the very helpful comments. What I gather from this is that source language for better or for worse has become the common standard, and that translators need to set their rates accordingly depending on the characteristics of their particular language pair. Still, I wonder how accommodating agencies are toward these kinds of adjustments.

Moving to a character count is an intriguing option, but I'm not sure how much this would help at least for Russian where the problem is not just long compound words but more basic grammatical structures--lack of articles, fewer prepositions and auxiliary verbs, participles that take 5-6 words to render into English, etc. I'd be interested to hear if anyone working from Russian into English has used a character count and found it helpful.


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Neil Coffey  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 11:23
French to English
+ ...
Practicalities... Aug 5, 2011

Nathaniel Knight wrote:
Thanks for the very helpful comments. What I gather from this is that source language for better or for worse has become the common standard, and that translators need to set their rates accordingly depending on the characteristics of their particular language pair. Still, I wonder how accommodating agencies are toward these kinds of adjustments.


Agencies should be more or less cognisant of the fact that there is a typical "inflation rate" (or deflation rate) between particular language pairs.

You could argue yourself into a black hole deciding that either source or target word count is the more logical one to choose ("it should be target word count because the target words are the ones I produce", "it should be source word count because the source words are the ones that constitute the actual 'job' to be translated" etc etc). The source word count has the illusion of being a figure that is "known from the outset" which is probably why, bar a reason for it not being available (non-electronic format of material) it is the most common count to use.

But remember that these counts aren't really anything precise or based on any "God-given" uncontroversial definition of "word": you're not trying to calculate to the nearest femtosecond but simply get a *rough* idea of the amount of work involved. If you're going to the retentive measure of counting individual characters (in an alphabetic writing system), then bear this in mind...

[Edited at 2011-08-05 05:42 GMT]


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Hannele Marttila  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 11:23
Member (2011)
Finnish to English
+ ...
Finnish to English translation Sep 30, 2011

Usually +50% more words in English. I sometimes quote on source word therefore as it is easier to get a good rate.

Direct link Reply with quote
 

Alex Lago  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 12:23
Member (2009)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Source except when not possible Oct 1, 2011

Normally a client likes to have an idea of what they are going to pay before they will commit to a job, the only practical way to do this is to give them a rate per source word, then you tell them how many words there are in the document they want translating and give them the total cost.

At times this may not be possible, say because the document is a PDF and you can't count the words, in this case you will have to do it based on target word count and you will only be able to give your client an estimate of the cost. In this case and depending on your language pair you may have to also use a different rate to take into consideration the increase or drop in amount of words due to your language pair.

Example if you charge .10 per source word and you translate 1000 words you will get paid 100.
If your language pair loses a lot of words in translation and your 1000 translated word equate 800 target words then if you charge .10 you will only get 80, so you need to adjust your rate to cover that difference.


Direct link Reply with quote
 
gad
United States
Local time: 06:23
Member
French to English
This should be agreed upon up front Oct 1, 2011

But I agree with others who say the source word count, UNLESS it's a pdf or other uneditable format, then the target word count can be used (unless you have another way to actually count the source word count).

Also, I think it's been pointed out here that with certain language pairs, the target word count might be more lucrative for the translator.

Either way, this should be agreed upon with the client, up front. Some clients give you the word count, in that case it's wise to double check to make sure that it is reasonably correct (I only had one client who gave word counts less than what I came up with, but the rate was higher so it evened out in the end).

Everything about payment - rate, word count, method of payment and terms, etc. - should be agreed upon with the client, up front, before starting the job. It only takes a few extra minutes to do so, even with a new client. And of course, once you have worked with a client for awhile then you may have a standard minimum rate they already know.


Direct link Reply with quote
 
Pages in topic:   [1 2] >


To report site rules violations or get help, contact a site moderator:


You can also contact site staff by submitting a support request »

Which language for word count?

Advanced search







CafeTran Espresso
You've never met a CAT tool this clever!

Translate faster & easier, using a sophisticated CAT tool built by a translator / developer. Accept jobs from clients who use SDL Trados, MemoQ, Wordfast & major CAT tools. Download and start using CafeTran Espresso -- for free

More info »
WordFinder
The words you want Anywhere, Anytime

WordFinder is the market's fastest and easiest way of finding the right word, term, translation or synonym in one or more dictionaries. In our assortment you can choose among more than 120 dictionaries in 15 languages from leading publishers.

More info »



Forums
  • All of ProZ.com
  • Term search
  • Jobs
  • Forums
  • Multiple search