How to calculate the work of a translator correctly: according to the original text or to the translated one?
For most people, ordering a translation is not a daily activity, but if they also hear about calculating its cost, they generally go into a state of shock. Each customer, faced with the need to translate, begins to search for translation agencies and of course he wants to understand how much he will have to pay for such services.
Having received the necessary information in the telephone mode, the customer comes to the translation agency with a bundle of paper which contains printed texts with pictures and diagrams and asks to immediately calculate the cost of work with the accuracy to a penny, as well as the exact terms of the order execution. And then the fun begins. The customer hears about the source text, the text sheet turns into three, the text becomes specialized, etc.
This is mainly due to the fact that the customer is not thoroughly familiar with the professional terminology of translators. In order for the client to be able to navigate at least a little in the terms used by the translators, let’s look at some of them to understand whether they affect the cost or they are just tricks of a translation agency. On the website of an agency or on the phone the customer learns the price for a certain unit, which allows him to calculate the cost himself. And when the customer orders it, it is very surprising why the cost, as a rule, is bigger. And it happens because the translation agency often provides the final cost on the basis of the completed order. This happens often due to the difference between the source and target (output) language.
The source language is the language of the original text, and the target language, respectively, is the language into which the translation is to be made. Typically, the number of characters in these two languages does not match, which in the circle of translators is called a text extension. It is very important to remember this when it is necessary to translate into several languages. Every translator decides. On what text should he/she navigate. Those who focus on the source text, try to make the text similar to the original version. And others, on the contrary, try to adapt the text as much as possible to the needs of the target (output) language. For example, when translating from English into Ukrainian, the text expansion is 10-20%.
Expansion of texts is still connected with the subject of the order itself. If we are talking about economic translations in which specific terminology with a large number of figures, tables and graphs is used, the text extension will be almost invisible. But, if you need a legal translation or a literary one, you should be prepared to maximum text expansion. Therefore, it is more profitable for a translation agency to calculate the cost of a completed translation.
In addition to the two options for calculating the cost of translation services, according to the original or the finished document, there is one more, one can say a neutral way, a fixed cost for the entire translation. The greatest advantage of this method is the ability not to tie the cost to the number of characters or pages and the price can be calculated according to the spent time associated with complexity, specific topics and other factors. But using this method of calculation, you can get less real value. This is connected with the possibility of an unpredictable large increase in the volume of the text. The fixed cost of a standard page is probably the only figure that can be offered for calculation before the start of work. At the same time, it should be understood that not all translation agencies use equal value, and for some it’s 1800 characters, and for others it’s 100 words. Very often using this method of calculation, you can face a problem even in the same translation agency. Everything is connected with the fact that translating one page of different texts, the same translator can spend a different amount of time. Usually, you need a few hours to translate a simple text page, but translating the text filled with technical terms will take much longer.
You can use different methods of counting, but you need to remember about the appropriateness and validity of such calculations. What does the appropriateness of calculation mean? Very often the customer provides the text not in an electronic version, but on paper, for example a marriage certificate, on which it is necessary to count not only all the typed characters, but also the data in seals and stamps, the calculation will take much longer than for any electronic text, even with pictures. This suggests a conclusion that such a calculation is a completely irrational expenditure of time and human resources. What is justice? To be honest, the translation is always longer than the original. This is connected not only with the peculiarity of the language, for example, in the translation it is necessary to provide a decoding of all abbreviations and to describe some concepts related to culture or religion much wider than in the original. The target language may not always have the equivalent words of the translated language, which also increases the amount of text.
The cost of the translation depends on many factors, and the most correct solution will be to calculate it in each individual case for each customer. Only then the translation agency is able to provide a minimum price for its services. When ordering a translation, you hear a ready price for its implementation, it can have two explanations. On the one hand, the cost can be overestimated, taking into account all sorts of nuances, and on the other hand – understated, which can lead to additional costs in the process of fulfilling the order, which will lead to a completely different price. Thus, the difference in cost can vary from 30 to 50% and for a simple customer it is almost impossible to calculate an average price.
It can be concluded that to calculate the cost of a translation, it is reasonable and correct to use two methods, counting according to the original and according to the translated text. There are times that you can calculate the source text better than the target text, but there are very few of them. Some customers are accustomed to knowing exactly how much they will need to spend on translation services, and if the cost changes, it causes a lot of questions and problems. To avoid this, use an individual settlement scheme for each order.