Translating from Chinese: Do you include punctuation in the final character count?
Thread poster: Mariana Stojanovic

Mariana Stojanovic
China
Chinese to English
Feb 1

Question for people translating from Chinese: do you include punctuation in your final word/character count?
And what do you think of the clients/agencies that don't include punctuation that's in the source (Chinese) text in the final billable word count? I've recently had an issue with one agency related to this and I'm not sure what to think.


 

lbone  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 19:23
Member (2006)
English to Chinese
+ ...
Included Feb 2

Punctuation is usually included when doing word count for both directions, involving or not involving Chinese.

In China's domestic market, word count is typically made by counting the number of all characters (not including spaces) of the Chinese version (so "Characters (no spaces)" / "字符数(不计空格)" in Microsoft Word), both when you translate from or into Chinese. This is suggested by China's national standard on translation Specification for translation ser
... See more
Punctuation is usually included when doing word count for both directions, involving or not involving Chinese.

In China's domestic market, word count is typically made by counting the number of all characters (not including spaces) of the Chinese version (so "Characters (no spaces)" / "字符数(不计空格)" in Microsoft Word), both when you translate from or into Chinese. This is suggested by China's national standard on translation Specification for translation service - Part 1: Translation (GB/T 19363.1-2008).

Check: http://www.tac-online.org.cn/index.php?m=content&c=ask&a=detail&id=16

In the international market, word count is usually done by counting the number of words (so "Words" / "字数" in Microsoft Word) of the source document. In the pair Chinese to English, this means counting the number of words of the Chinese source document - though this is often called "number of Chinese characters".

There are also agencies who would like to count the words of the final English document either as a preference or when it is difficult to get the precise source word count in advance.

In all cases, punctuation is included, because punctuation marks are among the basic elements that build up sentences.

[Edited at 2020-02-02 06:15 GMT]
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Mariela DONVITO
David Shen
 

Mariana Stojanovic
China
Chinese to English
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks for the info Feb 2

Exactly, thanks for explaining.
I never had this issue before until one agency deducted 3,000 characters from the original (billable) character count claiming their CAT tool (MemoQ) doesn't take punctuation in consideration, and that's 'industry standard'.

I'm wondering if other people had this issue with the clients/agencies.


 

Laurent Mercky
France
Local time: 13:23
Member (2019)
Chinese to French
+ ...
not a problem Feb 2

Mariana Stojanovic wrote:

Exactly, thanks for explaining.
I never had this issue before until one agency deducted 3,000 characters from the original (billable) character count claiming their CAT tool (MemoQ) doesn't take punctuation in consideration, and that's 'industry standard'.

I'm wondering if other people had this issue with the clients/agencies.



Hi
Do you translate punctuation ?
No ?
Problem solved.


 

Mariana Stojanovic
China
Chinese to English
TOPIC STARTER
debatable Feb 2

Laurent Mercky wrote:

Mariana Stojanovic wrote:

Exactly, thanks for explaining.
I never had this issue before until one agency deducted 3,000 characters from the original (billable) character count claiming their CAT tool (MemoQ) doesn't take punctuation in consideration, and that's 'industry standard'.

I'm wondering if other people had this issue with the clients/agencies.



Hi
Do you translate punctuation ?
No ?
Problem solved.


Of course I do - as long as I deliver translation with punctuation, it is definitely part of the translation process.


 

Laurent Mercky
France
Local time: 13:23
Member (2019)
Chinese to French
+ ...
it depends Feb 2

and these agencies do not consider the punctation signs as translatable characters, so what do you do ?
But you are true on one thing: more and more Chinese agencies are relying on online translation platforms like MemQ or even AB Translation Platform.
Hope you can find an agreement point


 

LIZ LI
China
Local time: 19:23
Member (2008)
French to Chinese
+ ...
Not really Feb 3

Mariana Stojanovic wrote:

Laurent Mercky wrote:

Mariana Stojanovic wrote:

Exactly, thanks for explaining.
I never had this issue before until one agency deducted 3,000 characters from the original (billable) character count claiming their CAT tool (MemoQ) doesn't take punctuation in consideration, and that's 'industry standard'.

I'm wondering if other people had this issue with the clients/agencies.



Hi
Do you translate punctuation ?
No ?
Problem solved.


Of course I do - as long as I deliver translation with punctuation, it is definitely part of the translation process.


Actually, we do translate puntuations.
Just one exemple, “顿号” in Chinese sources is usually replaced by a comma in other languages.
Again, unlike translations between romanized languages, the strucutre of one sentense in Chinese source may be significantly different from its translation, and vice versa.

If I were Mariana, I'll quote some sentences in the translation to justify such opinion.
However, if you've already agreed on such terms before you started to work on it, I am not sure there's anything you can do.


David Shen
Rita Pang
David Lin
Mariana Stojanovic
 

Laurent Mercky
France
Local time: 13:23
Member (2019)
Chinese to French
+ ...
true Feb 3

you mean "。" is a translation for "." ?
Indeed you may say it.
but as French people say, "c'est tiré par les cheveux" LOL


 

Mina Chen
United States
Local time: 07:23
Member (2019)
English to Chinese
+ ...
@Mariana/ not all languages are equal! Feb 3

Hi Mariana, you raised a very good question.

I translate predominantly from English to Chinese and for the few small Chinese to English jobs that I did, the agreed upon word count is what Microsoft Word gives us. And it didn't occur to me to check if punctuation is included or not!

I ran a small experiment with Word and Memoq, and it turns out, for a Chinese text, word count includes punctuation. For English, however, punctuation is not included, in both programs!
... See more
Hi Mariana, you raised a very good question.

I translate predominantly from English to Chinese and for the few small Chinese to English jobs that I did, the agreed upon word count is what Microsoft Word gives us. And it didn't occur to me to check if punctuation is included or not!

I ran a small experiment with Word and Memoq, and it turns out, for a Chinese text, word count includes punctuation. For English, however, punctuation is not included, in both programs!

This is very curious but definitely a good thing for Zh>EN translators. And I agree with Liz, Chinese uses a different set of punctuation and the translator is translating the punctuation as well.

So now the question is, how does the agency count Chinese characters? I wonder if you can change the word count setting to not include punctuation in memoq. Because the default setting, based on my experiment, definitely includes that.

I hope some tech savvy translators out there can shed some light on this.
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Mariana Stojanovic
lbone
David Lin
 

Mariana Stojanovic
China
Chinese to English
TOPIC STARTER
problematic Feb 5

I translate from Chinese, and I find this very problematic for more than one reason:

First, I found that some agencies out there will not include the punctuation and will not even tell you this unless you don't ask and check how did they arrive at the billable character count (and even when I asked, they didn't want to give a clear answer, or they kept saying "CAT tools don't include punctuation and that's universal", or "it's an industry standard").

Second, it's clear
... See more
I translate from Chinese, and I find this very problematic for more than one reason:

First, I found that some agencies out there will not include the punctuation and will not even tell you this unless you don't ask and check how did they arrive at the billable character count (and even when I asked, they didn't want to give a clear answer, or they kept saying "CAT tools don't include punctuation and that's universal", or "it's an industry standard").

Second, it's clear what's their logic behind this - "we don't translate the punctuation". Does this mean I'm also allowed to send back the translation without the punctuation, because "we're not translating it"? Most of the people I've asked so far refuse to work with the clients who penny-pinch on punctuation, but it's also obvious that the importance of punctuation is left open to interpretation, so while the agencies cut their costs, we still deliver translations with correct punctuation (without which the target text wouldn't be understandable).
And also, I think we all agree on one thing - wrong punctuation in the translation equals to a wrong translation (and the client would definitely come back complaining about misplaced or wrong punctuation).
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David Lin  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 12:23
Member (2013)
English to Chinese
+ ...

Moderator of this forum
Chinese Punctuations counted in DejaVu X3 Feb 5

Hi Mariana,

Thanks for your good question. I can tell that DejaVu X3 (which I use) counts punctuations in as one character. As an example, in “我是一個小男孩。她是一個小女孩。” there are 16 words (14 characters plus two Chinese full stops) that I would be paid for.

I don't use other CAT tools, so other users might advice, but most of my clients just rely on the MS WORD number of words shown on the bottom of the document where the cursor falls, which
... See more
Hi Mariana,

Thanks for your good question. I can tell that DejaVu X3 (which I use) counts punctuations in as one character. As an example, in “我是一個小男孩。她是一個小女孩。” there are 16 words (14 characters plus two Chinese full stops) that I would be paid for.

I don't use other CAT tools, so other users might advice, but most of my clients just rely on the MS WORD number of words shown on the bottom of the document where the cursor falls, which clearly counts in Chinese punctuation as one character like DejaVu. Easy for all i.e. PM, me, proofreaders and end clients.

On the negotiation part to be required for your fees, I would suggest that before you agreed with your PM on the rate for a job, you ought to specify that you rely on the WORD document's counting which is an easy way for all.

In addition, without the punctuation when translating it you will not be able to read the Chinese meaning properly, the same for the English text hence time spent in the job which is supposed to be paid for with your rate. It is a reasonable claim that you must uphold and be firm about it when negotiating.

I doubt it is the industry standard to not count in punctuations as claimed by your agency, because it just violates linguistic rules. You often have to translate Chinese punctuations into appropriate English-style punctuations in the course of finishing the job properly. Not only the most common types such as commas "," into ",“ , full stops from "." into "。” but also the different types of Chinese dashes, hyphens, quotation marks "《 》“ and "「 『" etc. It is part of your knowledge you gained when learning Chinese language and you'll use to complete your English text jobs properly.

You mentioned about deducting the 3,000 punctuations as part of the characters in the number of words. I can smell some kind of "short change" here. The PM tried to use CAT tool as an excuse to discount your time spent hence lower their final payment to you. You've all the good reasoning to say politely you don't agree it is an industry standard.

If you know an agency that has this bad habit of deducting, try to raise your fee to the level that will include those deductions as a part of your fees.

Worse to worse, drop that client if they insist. There are actually many other clients around the world who are reasonable and treat their translators properly.

On a broader level, try build a strong client base and keep it in your operation system. This will give you peace of mind without having to argue too much with the parties who tend to short-change their translators (mis-)using CAT tools.

Hope you find this comment helpful.

David
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Mariana Stojanovic
Mina Chen
 

Mariana Stojanovic
China
Chinese to English
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you! Feb 6

David Lin wrote:

Hi Mariana,

Thanks for your good question. I can tell that DejaVu X3 (which I use) counts punctuations in as one character. As an example, in “我是一個小男孩。她是一個小女孩。” there are 16 words (14 characters plus two Chinese full stops) that I would be paid for.

I don't use other CAT tools, so other users might advice, but most of my clients just rely on the MS WORD number of words shown on the bottom of the document where the cursor falls, which clearly counts in Chinese punctuation as one character like DejaVu. Easy for all i.e. PM, me, proofreaders and end clients.

On the negotiation part to be required for your fees, I would suggest that before you agreed with your PM on the rate for a job, you ought to specify that you rely on the WORD document's counting which is an easy way for all.

In addition, without the punctuation when translating it you will not be able to read the Chinese meaning properly, the same for the English text hence time spent in the job which is supposed to be paid for with your rate. It is a reasonable claim that you must uphold and be firm about it when negotiating.

I doubt it is the industry standard to not count in punctuations as claimed by your agency, because it just violates linguistic rules. You often have to translate Chinese punctuations into appropriate English-style punctuations in the course of finishing the job properly. Not only the most common types such as commas "," into ",“ , full stops from "." into "。” but also the different types of Chinese dashes, hyphens, quotation marks "《 》“ and "「 『" etc. It is part of your knowledge you gained when learning Chinese language and you'll use to complete your English text jobs properly.

You mentioned about deducting the 3,000 punctuations as part of the characters in the number of words. I can smell some kind of "short change" here. The PM tried to use CAT tool as an excuse to discount your time spent hence lower their final payment to you. You've all the good reasoning to say politely you don't agree it is an industry standard.

If you know an agency that has this bad habit of deducting, try to raise your fee to the level that will include those deductions as a part of your fees.

Worse to worse, drop that client if they insist. There are actually many other clients around the world who are reasonable and treat their translators properly.

On a broader level, try build a strong client base and keep it in your operation system. This will give you peace of mind without having to argue too much with the parties who tend to short-change their translators (mis-)using CAT tools.

Hope you find this comment helpful.

David

Thanks a lot for the comment!


 


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