How many signs of a translation are a "word" on Proz?
Thread poster: Małgorzata Gardocka

Małgorzata Gardocka  Identity Verified
Poland
Member (2010)
Polish to German
+ ...
Feb 15, 2011

Hi guys!

I have a question concerning rates, which are calculated on Proz with the help of a unit called "word".
I admit that I find this way of calculation unusual, because words can be of a different lenght.
Aditionally, in Poland where I'm living rates are defined with the help of "pages". One page encompasses 1800 signs, regardless if this is a letter, a punctuation mark or a space.
When it comes to counting in "words", I'm clueless. I hope you can help me.


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Erik Freitag  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 07:37
Member (2006)
Dutch to German
+ ...
A word is a word. Feb 15, 2011

Dear Małgorzata,

The simple answer is: One word is one word.

There is of course a correlation between the number of characters and the word count, but this will be a lot different between various languages, and it will also depend from the kind of text etc.

Just choose some texts you consider representative for the kind of work you're doing (the larger, the better). Then count the number of words and the number of characters (both can easily be done in Word), do the math, and there you go.

Kind regards,
Erik


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Erik Freitag  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 07:37
Member (2006)
Dutch to German
+ ...
double post Feb 15, 2011

Deleted: double post.

[Bearbeitet am 2011-02-15 14:35 GMT]


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Dr. Matthias Schauen  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 07:37
Member
English to German
More threads on this Feb 15, 2011

Erik said it all while I was searching for links to some of the past discussions on this here. There will probably be many more to find:
http://www.proz.com/forum/translation_theory_and_practice/8343-rates_per_character.html
http://www.proz.com/forum/translation_theory_and_practice/20055-calculating_translations_rates.html
http://www.proz.com/forum/translation_theory_and_practice/35054-how_many_strokes_characters_comprise_a_word.html
http://www.proz.com/forum/translation_theory_and_practice/71296-no_of_words_in_standard_page.html

Matthias

P.S.: In Germany, we used to calculate per line or page of target text. Nowadays, calculation per word of source text is also used. And none of the two methods makes more sense than the other: While German has 10-30% more characters than an equivalent English text, I don't think that you need 10-30% more time to translate it into English than you would need to translate the English text into German. Everyone has to calculate their personal word/page factor.

[Edited at 2011-02-15 14:48 GMT]


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ATIL KAYHAN  Identity Verified
Turkey
Local time: 08:37
Member (2007)
Turkish to English
+ ...
Words as Unit Feb 15, 2011

Correct, each word can be of a different length. However, this variation in length does not have a bearing on translation, the meaning of the word does. In other words, a word has a certain meaning regardless of its length. It is this meaning that a translator is concerned with. The number of words is a pretty good indicator of how long a translation is going to take. Therefore, the number of words is used as a unit of measurement in translation.

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Erik Freitag  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 07:37
Member (2006)
Dutch to German
+ ...
The work of a translators is represented better by the number of words Feb 15, 2011

ATIL KAYHAN wrote:

Correct, each word can be of a different length. However, this variation in length does not have a bearing on translation, the meaning of the word does. In other words, a word has a certain meaning regardless of its length. It is this meaning that a translator is concerned with. The number of words is a pretty good indicator of how long a translation is going to take. Therefore, the number of words is used as a unit of measurement in translation.


Indeed. I think that measuring the number of keystrokes might be more suitable for typists (and I think that's where it comes from), but the work of a translator is much better represented by the number of words.


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Michael Wetzel  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 07:37
German to English
source text vs. target text Feb 15, 2011

Hello,
I agree that counting the thing between two spaces as the basic unit of translation volume does not make much sense in a lot of languages (those with many compound words, for example).

One other issue is that words are counted in the source text and not in the target text. If Polish pages are counted according to the target text, you need to address this issue while converting.

Sincerely,
Michael


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Dr. Matthias Schauen  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 07:37
Member
English to German
Both methods are okay Feb 15, 2011

efreitag wrote:
but the work of a translator is much better represented by the number of words.


I am not sure. German has more characters, but less words than English (5-10% in my experience), but, again, this does not mean that you need more time to translate DE>EN than you need for EN>DE. All counting methods used in the field are just an attempt to arrive at an hourly rate that is as constant as possible, while at the same time giving the client a definitive information on the costs before translation starts.

[Edited at 2011-02-15 14:56 GMT]


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Erik Freitag  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 07:37
Member (2006)
Dutch to German
+ ...
agree Feb 15, 2011

Dr. Matthias Schauen wrote:

efreitag wrote:
but the work of a translator is much better represented by the number of words.


I am not sure. German has more characters, but less words than English (5-10% in my experience), but, again, this does not mean that you need more time to translate DE>EN than you need for EN>DE. All counting methods used in the field are just an attempt to arrive at an hourly rate that is as constant as possible, while at the same time giving the client a definitive information on the costs before translation starts.

[Edited at 2011-02-15 14:56 GMT]


That's true, but the question is not how to compare different languages, but to assess the amount of work it needs to translate a given text.

I agree that both methods are viable. Also, my point of view is probably narrowed by the fact that none of my working languages is an agglutinative one


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Małgorzata Gardocka  Identity Verified
Poland
Member (2010)
Polish to German
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
THANK YOU ALL! Feb 15, 2011

Hi,

Thank you all for the replies and the links, now things are a lot clearer to me.
There is nothing better than the help of colleagues:-).


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Steven Capsuto  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 01:37
Spanish to English
+ ...
Both methods are useful, but it depends on the languages Feb 15, 2011

Different traditions have grown up in different language pairs.

In all of my working languages, billing by the source word makes sense. But in languages that have a lot of long compound words (or where complex meanings are conveyed through multiple prefixes and suffixes or declensions), the source word count could be a poor measurement. I suppose this is why a lot of the German-English translators I know don't charge by the source word.

Now I'm curious: Can anyone tell me how translations from Hebrew are generally billed? I ask because it's such a compact language, and a single Hebrew word can sometimes be the equivalent of four or five English words.

[Edited at 2011-02-15 19:44 GMT]


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FarkasAndras
Local time: 07:37
English to Hungarian
+ ...
Char or word Feb 15, 2011

efreitag wrote:

Dr. Matthias Schauen wrote:

efreitag wrote:
but the work of a translator is much better represented by the number of words.


I am not sure. German has more characters, but less words than English (5-10% in my experience), but, again, this does not mean that you need more time to translate DE>EN than you need for EN>DE. All counting methods used in the field are just an attempt to arrive at an hourly rate that is as constant as possible, while at the same time giving the client a definitive information on the costs before translation starts.


That's true, but the question is not how to compare different languages, but to assess the amount of work it needs to translate a given text.

You can't really separate the two, unless you only work in one language combination and all you want to do is calculate your own rates. Your post was much more general than that.
I've been checking my translations and my source and target character counts are usually within 5 percent or so of each other, while the word counts differ 20% or more due to the nature of my working languages. One recent job's stats:
Hungarian: 6645 words, 48946 characters
English: 8117 words, 49002 characters.

So it's obvious that at a translation agency that works in various language combinations, prices should be set in characters. If you set the base rates by word, you'll be overpaying some language combinations and underpaying others. The same applies to freelance translators who work in both directions of a language pair: base your calculations on the character count, not the word count. To sum up: no, the translator's work is not better represented by the number of words.

[Edited at 2011-02-15 21:03 GMT]


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Peter Craggs  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 07:37
German to English
Payment by word count Feb 16, 2011

Dr. Matthias Schauen wrote:

efreitag wrote:
but the work of a translator is much better represented by the number of words.


I am not sure. German has more characters, but less words than English (5-10% in my experience), but, again, this does not mean that you need more time to translate DE>EN than you need for EN>DE. All counting methods used in the field are just an attempt to arrive at an hourly rate that is as constant as possible, while at the same time giving the client a definitive information on the costs before translation starts.

[Edited at 2011-02-15 14:56 GMT]


Maybe the time needed to translate a text DE>EN is about the same as EN>DE, but the payment, which is always on number of source words, means you get paid about 20% less for DE>EN than you do for the same text but EN>DE.


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Michael Wetzel  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 07:37
German to English
character count not more consistent than word count Feb 16, 2011

Hallo FarkasAndras,
Character counts are not any less variable than word counts between different language pairs and directions.

English>German is a good example of a case where the word count remains similar or goes down, while the number of characters increases significantly.

Collecting statistics and offering different rates for different pairs and directions seems to be the only real solution. (Even if rates are set only on the basis of a target income and not adjusted according to their market value.)

Sincerely,
Michael


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