Quoting Projects:
What a Language Agency Needs to Know  

The Fundamentals:
  • Translating deals with written text (manuals, brochures, PPTs, software strings, etc);
  • Interpreting is for spoken projects (trials, depositions, meetings, conferences);
  • Localization is for websites or software apps (which often require changes to the code).
“We just need an estimate. It will be 52 pages into Spanish and Portuguese.”
Sorry! To give a quote, any agency will need more info.
The Basics:
  • Translation rates are based on the number of words in the source-language file.
  • Translation rates vary by your desired target languages.
  • A professional language service will discount for repeated terms within the file or for previously translated terms from past projects in that language.
  • Asking for the base rate per language is very misleading. Too many other factors apply to the quoted price.
1.If your document is not written yet, please estimate the number of words per page or the anticipated total word count of the file.
2.Ideally, your translation service needs the source file in the layout program in which it was designed. Usually these programs are InDesign, FrameMaker, Illustrator or QuarkXPress. A professional language service will then analyze the file for its word count and text repetitions, and apply discounts from the base rates.
3.If the layout files are not available at the time of quoting, document translation services can work with PDFs. But please be prepared to send the layout files to start the project.
4.If your files are copies of articles or were received by fax, language translation services may apply a fee to re-create the tables, images, graphs, etc., if needed.
5.Be sure to specify your desired languages. Saying, “I’d like a quote for this file” is not clear unless it originates in another language and goes into English.
6.Ideally, your translation service will also want to know your desired dialects at the quoting stage since dialect rates may differ:
  • French: for Canada or Europe?
  • Spanish: for the US, Spain, Mexico, General Latin America or a specific country?
  • Portuguese: for Brazil or Portugal?
  • Chinese: for China/Singapore or for Taiwan, Hong Kong or Overseas Chinese? Please click here to understand how the writing systems differ and why no one can translate into Mandarin. We will need to know which country/ies you are targeting.
  • German is generally understood as for Germany, but also covers Austria and Switzerland. This will work well for subjects like finance, business or sports. But if your project relates to local food specialties, culture, history, tourism, etc., our linguists will need to choose the right terminology for each country, even for the smallest nuances.
  • The same applies to French for France, Switzerland or Luxembourg as well as to Dutch for the Netherlands or Belgium, a dialect called Flemish.
  • English assumes US unless you specify that you want it for the UK, Australia or elsewhere. Remember that spelling, grammar and word choices vary by country.
  • Arabic is usually written in one version called Standard Modern Arabic regardless of the target country.
  • Japanese uses three writing systems – kanji, hiragana and katakana – all together in the same sentence or paragraph, not just “kanji.”
7.What other language translation services will you need?
  • Acculturation? Especially for advertising, this service could rewrite the text with alternate benefits and appeals that speak to your target country, all before translating. Consumer / retail ads from one country often do not resonate with audiences in another. A language service with a global-marketing orientation should be able to research these points in your industry and target country.
  • Layout? This flows the translations back into your source-language template/file. (Layout comes with post-layout proofing for accuracy).
  • Dubbing or Voiceovers? As in foreign movies, these replace the English original with a foreign voice or narration.
  • Subtitles? These keep the original (English) narrative but write the target language on the frames of the film, video or flash file.
8.Please specify at the outset whether your project will encompass many manuals, websites, films, etc. Special discounts may apply.

Knowing what questions to ask in advance can save you a lot of time. Especially for rush projects, many days are lost when assistants, ad agencies or contractors need to go back to their bosses or clients for clarifications. Your language service agency should always be willing to help you but will ask you the questions above before it can fulfill your request.