Should 'words' that are orthographically joined to other words be counted separately?
Thread poster: Paul Gledhill

Paul Gledhill
United Kingdom
Local time: 00:25
Arabic to English
Jun 30, 2011

I have in mind certain common conjunctions and prepositions that in Arabic are always prefixed to the word that follows (wa-, fa-, bi-, li-, etc.). One might even wonder whether the definite article, which in Arabic is never written separately, should be counted separately. Is it not arbitrary that for one language, which happens to separate it from the word it qualifies, we count the article separately, while for another language, which happens to prefix it, the equivalent grammatical unit should be treated differently for billing purposes?

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Eileen Cartoon  Identity Verified
Local time: 01:25
Italian to English
depends on the program Jun 30, 2011

Paul
I don't know what's right or wrong but I do know that different programs count words differently. For example I have read that Word counts hyphenated words as one word while most CAT programs count them as two. So, if your articles are attached to the main word with a hyphen adn you are working, for example, in Trados you are counting, and charging for, them. If you do your count in Word you are not.
Eileen


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Nesrin  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 00:25
English to Arabic
+ ...
They are not counted Jun 30, 2011

Hi Paul,

These words are definitely not counted. In the case of particles such as bi-, li-, fa- and the article al- they are not recognised as independent words in the first place as they can never stand alone.
The conjunction "wa" is an independent word, and in the past it was common to place a space after it, but I think it was more recently that it was advised to not place a space after it, to avoid having it stand alone at the end of a line in a word-processed document.
In any case, we now all rely on MS Word to provide the final word count and no client or translator I know is prepared to go through a document to count all the attached wa's!
You will find that in any case, the number of words in an Arabic document is usually a lot less than the English counterpart - roughly 70% of the total word count (due to Arabic being a "synthetic" language*). So you should maybe just model your rates to reflect that fact.


-------
* So: Arabic: sa'aktub bil-qalam = 2 words
=> English: [I will write] [with the pen] = 6 words

This is an extreme case, of course!

[Edited at 2011-06-30 18:15 GMT]


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Madeleine MacRae Klintebo  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 00:25
Swedish to English
+ ...
Why? Jun 30, 2011

Can’t you just adjust your rates to account for this?

That’s what I do when quoting SV-EN as in Swedish all noun, verb, adjective and adverb compunds are ortographically joined-up. And the definite article is added as a suffix rather than as a freestanding preceding term.

EN: The typewriter keyboard button

becomes

SV: Skrivmaskinstangentbordsknappen

This might be an extreme example, but if I used the same source word rate for SV-EN as I do for EN-SV, I would seriously loose money in the first case.

In Swedish, and I think most/all Germanic languages there’s no end to how long you can make a term (although any competent writer would do their best to avoid something like the above).

And let’s spare a thought for our Finnish and Sami colleagues, AFAIK almost all grammatical information is added to the main term.


[Edited at 2011-06-30 20:51 GMT]


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Alexander Kirsch-Clayton
Local time: 01:25
German to English
Translators still charge per word? Jul 3, 2011

I have completely eliminated this problem by only charging by line. Get a program like Practicount, count the document's total lines (I use 55 characters including spaces), and charge based on that.

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Andy Watkinson
Spain
Local time: 01:25
Member
Catalan to English
+ ...
line basis Jul 4, 2011

As Alexander says, go with the German system of lines.

Quite an understandable approach, given the nature of the language.

Though A's "surprise" that translators still use word counts is unwarranted. It's a valid parameter for many language pairs.

In my Esp>Eng pair there approx. 10% shrinkage - so you simply adjust the rate accordingly.


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Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 01:25
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
Different rates - make sure the client knows what you have agreed on. Jul 4, 2011

It would be quite impossible to define how to count some words in some languages as two or three...
I use either Word or Trados to count words, and accept the client's total if it is reasonably close. Time spent haggling is time when you don't earn money!

I charge different rates, depending on whether we are counting source words, which most clients prefer, or target words, which may be necessary when the document is not in electronic form etc.

I translate from Danish to English, which is similar to Swedish, and there can be a 20 - 25% difference. So my rate for source words is higher than for target words!

Recently a new client with a rushed job thought she was paying extra for a quick turnaround when she was desperate, and was amazed when she saw my invoice. When she accepted my rate per word and sent me the the text, there was no time to discuss details. I had assumed she meant the 600 source words, not the 850 target words.

Luckily this went in her favour - I am glad I did not have to explain the higher rate to a client who expected the lower one!

But it is important to explain these differences to clients and be sure they understand.
In practice they understand, or at least use, rates for words or pages rather than rates per line of 55 characters.

The same principle applies to charging for lines or pages - you have to agree on a standard number of characters per line or page, and not simply accept the client's description of the physical document!

(The number of words per page depends again on the language, of course...)


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Neil Coffey  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 00:25
French to English
+ ...
What your client thinks is a "word" Jul 4, 2011

Paul Gledhill wrote:

I have in mind certain common conjunctions and prepositions that in Arabic are always prefixed to the word that follows (wa-, fa-, bi-, li-, etc.). One might even wonder whether the definite article, which in Arabic is never written separately, should be counted separately. Is it not arbitrary that for one language, which happens to separate it from the word it qualifies, we count the article separately, while for another language, which happens to prefix it, the equivalent grammatical unit should be treated differently for billing purposes?


What constitutes a "word" is indeed a fascinating linguitsic question in all languages. In English, is "don't" one word or two? Is French "de" really a 'word' or a 'case marker'.

However, for the purposes of estimating the price of a translation, most people's definition of "word" is usually either "things surrounding by punctuation or spaces" or "whatever Microsoft Word thinks is a word".

So it's best not to be too philosophical. Work out a rate for different text types that, based on Microsoft Word's word count, generally reflects a reasonable estimate of the amount of work involved and allows you to calculate a price in quick, practical manner.


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Neil Coffey  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 00:25
French to English
+ ...
"Lines" Jul 4, 2011

Alexander Kirsch-Clayton wrote:

I have completely eliminated this problem by only charging by line. Get a program like Practicount, count the document's total lines (I use 55 characters including spaces), and charge based on that.


This is great if your clients think in units of "55 characters including spaces".

Although it really boils down to the same thing: whether your unit is "words", "characters", "molecules of toner" or whatever, you'll spend more time on some of those units than others, and the point is to end up at a sensible average that is practical and (maybe) seems logical to the client.

[Edited at 2011-07-04 11:32 GMT]


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