Word count when source language is Korean, Chinese, Japanese, Arabic
Thread poster: fiomaravilha

Local time: 15:48
Jul 20, 2012

hi all,
i have a fundamental doubt that i would like to share here.

today, when you have to translate from English (or any other latin language) to another language, the vendor runs the document to be translated through their leveraging software, getting the number of words in the source language (English), and multiplies that number by their price per word for the target language. For example, to translate "I am ignorant" from English to Japanese, the vendor would charge 3 words x 0.20 USD= 0.60 USD

so far, it's clear to me how this works.

BUT, when the source language is one where one character might be, depending on the context, either one or many words (case of Chinese, Korean, Japanese) or one where multiple words are connected (case of Arabic):

- how does the leveraging software (Trados, et cetera) count the "words" in the source language?

- How does the vendor calculate the cost of the translation from one of these languages into English or another latin language?

thanks in advance to all for sharing your thoughts


Local time: 15:48
found some info here at proz Jul 20, 2012

i've found this other thread:

where comments indicate that vendors base their quotes on the number of characters in the chinese/japanese/korean source materials, since it's impossible to accurately count the number of words.

how about arabic? how do you guys count the number of words?


Local time: 00:48
English to Spanish
+ ...
... Jul 21, 2012

What about charging by target wordcount?


Russian to English
+ ...
per target word Jul 22, 2012

When translating from Japanese, I always charge per target word. Usually the Japanese text is far shorter than the translation turns out. This is the case for Russian, as well as English as a target language.


Local time: 15:48
what if you must provide a quote before doing any translation work? Jul 23, 2012

Svetlana_Hikari wrote:

When translating from Japanese, I always charge per target word. Usually the Japanese text is far shorter than the translation turns out. This is the case for Russian, as well as English as a target language.

Svetlana, what if the client asks for a quote *before* giving you the job?

charging by target word only seems possible if you have a relationship with the client that guarantees they are going to pay whatever price comes up after the translation.

my question, therefore, would now be: how do you quote translations from japanese/chinese/korean when you must provide a quote before performing any translations?
From the other thread I linked above, it seems to be the norm to use number of characters rather than number of words.


Katalin Horváth McClure  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 18:48
Member (2002)
English to Hungarian
+ ...
See previous threads on this topic Jul 25, 2012



These threads contain further links to even more discussion and explanation.


Aisha Maniar  Identity Verified
Local time: 23:48
Member (2003)
Arabic to English
+ ...
Arabic Jul 25, 2012

This is not definitive and merely reflects my own experience as an Arabic-English translator. I cannot comment on how this might affect or work with CAT tools and I do not outsource.

Where there is uncertainty (usually depending on the format of the document, e.g. PDF) or a client is new, the general rule seems to be to pay per source word, not splitting up the word unit into separate words (by this, I mean "سمعوه" "they heard him" is three words in English but looks like one unit in Arabic and is taken as "one word" for the purpose of the word count). I assume this difference and the inflation in AR-EN translation (around 20-25% in the fields I usually work in) is compensated by the rate demanded by the translator.

Where my client and I are more familiar with each other, sometimes the count is done on target words or on an estimate that can be later adjusted (e.g. I initially say I reckon there 12,000 words which is then adjusted up or down later).

Finally, a couple of my direct clients - who use this method for all the languages they work with - use the character method, so that 4 characters, for example, constitute a word for their purposes, so that a word with 12 characters is then 3 words. However, with Arabic, this is not ideal, in my opinion, as the words tend to be quite short.

In short, I reckon working with the number of source words is probably the way to deal with it, however where this may be problematic - handwritten text, unusual font, poor copy, etc. - I'm sure this can be negotiated and will be raised as an issue in any case by the translator.

I hope this is of some help, Aisha


Maxime Bujakov  Identity Verified
Local time: 00:48
French to English
+ ...
actual word/character count between Japanese, English and Russian Mar 25, 2013

reposting here from my blog

Ever wondered how a Japanese volume translates into English and into Russian?

Here is statistics of Japanese source and its English and Russian target translations.

The topic is use of cosmetic (beauty) products.

Total source words : 5713, including
Asian characters (Japanese): 5503
Non-Asian words: 210

English: 2167, or 38% of the Japanese source 'word' count (including occasional western words in the source); Source is 264%.
Russian: 2012, or 35% of the same; Source is 284%.

Assuming a prevailing rate of USD 0.20 per target word,
our Japanese source rate is:
USD 0.076 per kanji/kana (Jp - En),
USD 0.070 per kanji/kana (Jp - Ru).


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Word count when source language is Korean, Chinese, Japanese, Arabic

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