Counting words in German
Thread poster: petrolhead

petrolhead
Poland
Local time: 11:34
English to Polish
+ ...
Mar 10, 2015

I specialize in English translations, but very occasionally I also undertake German translations into my native Polish. “Occasionally” is key here as I don’t have much experience in doing the word counts in German. I have usually relied on the word counts given by the customer (a blue chip automotive company, not an agency) and have never considered this to be an issue.

However, the most recent, sizeable, translation contains literally hundreds of hyphenated words and multiple words separated by a slash with no spaces. Some examples:

ABS-Sensor
Kofferraum ab-/anmontieren
Ölpumpe aus-/einbauen
Antriebs-/Gelenk-/Tachometerwelle/n lösen/befestigen
Dämpfer/Gelenk Handschuhfachdeckel

The word count given by the customer clearly shows that whenever spaces are missing next to hyphens or slashes, those have been counted as SINGLE words in each case.

Is this the correct way? I am only talking about missing spaces, not about German compound nouns such as “Scheibenbeschlagsensor” or “Bremsverschleissanzeige” which I do agree are single words.

Any thoughts or hints would be greatly appreciated.

Many thanks in advance.

Andrzej


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JL01  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 05:34
English to French
+ ...
There is a web site for that Mar 10, 2015

This web site will give you plenty of insight:

https://www.tm-town.com/blog/deconstructing-word-count


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Kitty Maerz  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 11:34
English to German
+ ...
Depends Mar 10, 2015

I generally translate from English into German so rarely need the German wordcount. If I do I usually rely on Word/Trados wordcount. However, theoretically I would count words with a hyphen (e.g. ABS-Sensor) as one word. Words with slashes (e.g. "ab-/anmontieren") I would count separately as there really are two distinct words.

Hopefully, someone who more regularly translates from German will be able to help you further.


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dianaft  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 10:34
Member (2013)
German to English
+ ...
Might be unintentional Mar 11, 2015

I had not been aware of this particular issue, but I just tested it in different tools.
To be fair, your customer might be completely unaware of it - some technical writer produces the text and your contact in the company is unlikely to have looked at the text in detail, simply running a word count as usual.

Maybe the least confrontational way is to simply request a higher rate for German texts. Even when no such issues are present, the number of words differs in equivalent texts of the two languages, making this a little easier to justify. I cannot see a client being too pleased about a provider questioning his regular workflow.


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Agnes Lenkey  Identity Verified
German to Spanish
+ ...
Lines vs. words Mar 11, 2015

Hi Andrzej,

In Germany it is very frequent to count the text by the number of lines and not by the number of words. A standard line comprises usually 55 characters including white spaces. It is a little complex, but in a simplified way a line would equal 8-9 words.

If you charge for example 0,10 € for one word, than for a line you should charge 80-90 euro cents. But there are many translators in Germany who work for 1 € or more per translated line.

*Remember that this is really a very simplified explanation*, it is rather complex and requires experience to find out the exact amount which is suitable for each translator, depending on his work. But in your text you could count the characters of the whole text, divide it by 55 and you will obtain the number of lines of your text. And then you can compare the numbers and see the result.

Hope this helps a bit, best regards,

Agnes


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Kelly Neudorfer  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 11:34
German to English
Counting by lines Mar 12, 2015

I translate exclusively from German to English, and whenever possible I calculate my price by the line as Agnes already mentioned. 55 characters (including spaces) = 1 line. That avoids the problem with the hyphenated words and the eternally long compound words German is famous for.

In the future you can try to negotiate your translations from German with line prices to avoid the word count issue!


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petrolhead
Poland
Local time: 11:34
English to Polish
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Many thanks for your insights Mar 13, 2015

Dear Friends,

Many thanks for your insights. Your feedback has given me that bit of assurance that the issue I am describing is a genuine problem that could potenially become quite serious with large volumes. I have all but forgotten that in Germany it is quite common to charge by lines of text.

You insights have helped me towards devising some sort of strategy to adopt with the client. I will take it to them next week and we will try to take things from there.

Many thanks again for taking the time to respond to my query.

Best regards from Poland.

Andrzej


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Whitney Maslak
United States
Local time: 03:34
Member (2010)
German to English
Charging by the line is a good idea. Mar 17, 2015

krp_2000 wrote:

I translate exclusively from German to English, and whenever possible I calculate my price by the line as Agnes already mentioned. 55 characters (including spaces) = 1 line. That avoids the problem with the hyphenated words and the eternally long compound words German is famous for.

In the future you can try to negotiate your translations from German with line prices to avoid the word count issue!


I agree--it seems like charging by the line would be the simplest solution in this case. German is tricky because the hyphenated words really should count as more than one word, but it would probably be pretty cumbersome for your client to calculate that since they're probably using the word count tool on their software.


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Kelly Neudorfer  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 11:34
German to English
Client line counting Mar 17, 2015

Whitney Maslak wrote:

krp_2000 wrote:

I translate exclusively from German to English, and whenever possible I calculate my price by the line as Agnes already mentioned. 55 characters (including spaces) = 1 line. That avoids the problem with the hyphenated words and the eternally long compound words German is famous for.

In the future you can try to negotiate your translations from German with line prices to avoid the word count issue!


I agree--it seems like charging by the line would be the simplest solution in this case. German is tricky because the hyphenated words really should count as more than one word, but it would probably be pretty cumbersome for your client to calculate that since they're probably using the word count tool on their software.


When you do a word count in Microsoft Word, it automatically gives you not only the word count, but also the character count with and without spaces. Take the character count with spaces divided by 55 and you have your line count. I use counting software so I don't have to do the math, but it's not particularly complicated if the client wants to figure it out on their own.

Usually, though, if I'm approached about a job, I'll quote my price in lines and tell them how many lines are in the text they've sent (assuming they sent a sample) so they can get a better feel for how much the whole job will cost. If they send me the whole text, then I can give them a straightforward quote and they don't have to do any calculations with lines themselves.


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