What does a translation cost?

Unlike some other regulated freelance professions in Germany, translators and interpreters are not bound by any particular official fee schedule. A fixed scale of charges would be counter-productive as translation projects can vary greatly in terms of topic, scope and language combination. The only exception is the Law on the Remuneration of Interpreters and Translators (JVEG) that provides clarity and equal treatment in the legal field.

Huge differences in price

What are typical prices in the translation industry? When you browse through the internet, you will be surprised: There are offers for 20 Cent per word as well as some for 5 Cent per word. Which offer will you take? Let's be honest: If you assume the cheapest price provides the best service, you will find the result rather sobering. This applies to any kind of service, whether it is medical treatment, tax advice or translation. Quality and expertise cost more.

Pay for actual work done

How much effort does a good translation require? When you call a professional translator and tell them you have a text to translate, you will most probably be asked to send it first via e-mail for examination. The translator's effort and, as consequence, the amount he or she will charge you is not dependent solely on qualifications, linguistic skills or specialised knowledge. Every professional will want to consider the circumstances and your personal preferences towards the target text. The translator will make sure they understand your expectations regarding the translation and will define the scope of the service accordingly.

Therefore, before you ask for the final price, you are well-advised to pay regard to the following aspects:

Amount of text: The longer the text, the longer it usually takes to translate it, unless it contains lots of repetitions or numbers. Do not forget that an A4 page can contain 50 or 500 words depending on the font type and size.
Topic: Translating highly specialised texts requires more experience, expertise and time. You will pay less for translating a private letter than a technical documentation.
Terminology search: Do you have any previous translations of similar texts? Is the website of your company already available in various languages? Do you have any glossaries containing terms frequently used to describe your products or services? Or do you expect the translator do all the terminology work, such as translating certain phrases? More reference material means less work for the translator and thus a lower cost.
Quality assurance: Is it sufficient for you if the translator corrects the translation themselves or do you want to have it proofread by a second translator? Does it need to be undertaken by a native speaker from a specific country? And: should all texts be implemented in your web tool by the translator himself in order to avoid any typographical errors? Any such additional services mean more work for the translator.
Certification: Does the translation need to be officially certified in order to be accepted by the authorities? In which country will the certified translation be used? Do you want the translator to procure the apostille for your documents?
Formatting: Is your text available in an open Word file or is it a barely legible document with faint ink, handwritten notes and graphics?
Time of delivery: Do you need a translation in two hours or two weeks? Fast processing of your order will cost more because the translator will have to ignore all other assignments and queries and fully concentrate on your documents.

The brochure Translation - Getting it Right published by the British Institute of Translation and Interpreting (ITI) gives a very good overview on what work needs to be done in order to provide a good translation and what you actually pay for as a customer.

In certain cases translation costs can be paid or refunded for you. For more details click here.