rates from different source languages
Thread poster: Pablo Grosschmid

Pablo Grosschmid  Identity Verified
Local time: 13:26
English to Spanish
+ ...
Jun 1, 2005

Rates sould reflect the amount of work involved, and this depends on several factors. Many of them can not be estimated beforehand, but there is one parameter that could be taken into account, if rates are quoted per source language: LANGUAGE DENSITY, i.e., the average number or words used to express the same thing, is relevant.
A comparison of the texts of the (probably doomed) Treaty for the European Union and all its annexes and protocols (almost 14M words), in English, German, French and Spanish, shows that for every 100 English words there are 91,5 German words, 107,3 French words, and 101,7 Spanish words. Obviously, texts of a different type can have other ratios.
Therefore, for the same translation, the source-word rate from German into French should be 17,3% higher than the other way round.
With agglutinating languages (like Hungarian), the difference should be substantially higher.


Heinrich Pesch  Identity Verified
Local time: 14:26
Member (2003)
Finnish to German
+ ...
Of course it is Jun 2, 2005

That's the reason, why German and Scandinavian translators and agencies use rates on the basis of text amount, not words. For Finnish the number of words is only 65 percent or less in relation to German, and the number of characters about 90 percent.
It's a problem really only, if the layout of some brochure is too tight, so when translating into German the text does not fit into the same text boxes between pictures.


Nicolette Ri (X)
Local time: 13:26
French to Dutch
+ ...
Of course Jun 2, 2005

I translate from French to Dutch (regularly) and from English to Dutch (sometimes, but for the same clients, same type of texts, same subjects). I really see the difference: 1000 English words takes much more time and will give about 1200 Dutch words, as 1000 French words will give about 1000 Dutch words. In the beginning I always forget that and was always in short of time at the end of translating; now I know it. 20% of time is one day per week! Of course I set my word rate accordingly, English is 20% higher (and much too high for agencies as there are lots and translators who translate from English into Dutch, but I don't care because it's not my main language pair).


Edward Potter  Identity Verified
Local time: 13:26
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
What is a word? Jun 2, 2005

Would somebody on this thread care to define the term "word"?

Some professionals in the U.S. will define a "word" as five characters.

It is well known that in Germany the preference is to count characters (in the form of lines) rather than words. This probably makes the most sense, no matter what the language is (assuming a phonetic alphabet is used).

I recently had a customer call from Germany using the word count of the German text but wanting to pay my regular rate for English text. I didn't mention that I felt my intelligence was being insulted - I just turned down the job.


Mari Noller
United Kingdom
Local time: 12:26
English to Norwegian
+ ...
Of course Jun 3, 2005

the amount of words, and therefore the rate, has to be changed according to the target language.
I translate into Norwegian, often from English, and especially for technical translations, the total word count can change drastically.
We Norwegians are so used to joining words and cutting sentences.

And what a word is? To me a word is a series of characters split by a space or punctuation mark.
I just did a search, and the longest Norwegian word is "fylkestrafikksikkerhetsutvalgssekretariatslederfunksjonene" (58 characters!). But it consists of 7 individual words. So should you charge for the 7 words or just the 1?

It's totally up to you.

But when I see a translation job for English into Norwegian with the rate 0.04 USD I really feel offended.


Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Local time: 13:26
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
My two languages have a 1:1 ratio (more or less) Jun 3, 2005

Pablo Grosschmid wrote:
Therefore, for the same translation, the source-word rate from German into French should be 17,3% higher than the other way round.

Yes, although for my two languages the density is roughly the same (although if you look at it theoretically, Afrikaans should have less words because it concatenates compound nouns). My statement here is based on experience and a Wordfast report at the end of all my translations. So for me it matters little whether the client wants to charge per source or target word.

But there should be a table of ratios for all languages somewhere... then this table can be used to "convert" one's rate for when the client pays the other way round (or for when the text is not available in electronic copy, and one is forced to count the target text instead of the source text).


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