In order to answer this economic question, we’ll need to understand some economical factors that play role in the process of pricing any linguistic or translation product.
First is the language pair. For example, if you are translating a text from English to Spanish you have a huge market of potential providers, and this might play a role in lowering the price. On the other hand, an English-to-Hebrew translation is a much rare combination. Around the world, there are about 9 million Hebrew speakers while we have about 400 million Spanish speakers.
Apparently, a Hebrew translation can be more expensive than a Spanish translation, but that’s not always the case. There is an additional factor that play role in the pricing, like the field of translation.
While many translators claim to provide translation services in many fields, the fact is that many specialized fields need special knowledge in order to be able to provide the appropriate level of translation.
Now you’ll be asking yourself, what fields are so special?
It might surprise you but usually, the client has the answer and knows how difficult is the text that needs to be translated. I usually apply a simple test before calling a translation a specialized translation: If the original source document is easily understood by an ordinary native speaker of the language it’s an ordinary translation. If not, and the comprehension of the text needs some special background, then you’ll need a specialized translator to translate it.
A third pricing factor is a provider, whether you are hiring only one translator or a group of translators or you are hiring a professional translation company that will perform the whole process for you including translation, proofreading, editing, and management of the project.
Some of you might be asking, why should a translation be checked by more than one language expert?
Human translation is still the gold standard in all fields of translation as machine translation failed to provide good results, however, a professional well-trained translator will still make about 1% of major errors and 5% of minor errors (mainly style) on average.
In this case, a professional translation company will be able to locate these errors by a second or even third check and it may run a special computer program to locate these errors.
Now, let’s talk numbers, a translator’s salary is usually near the average salary in the country of his/her residence. Translators hold on average 2 diplomas and are considered as high-qualified labor. For this reason, translators are not paid minimum wages.
We will share here this table of average wages around the world to be able to spread some light on this issue:
Since we already know what is the average salary per month in each country, we can follow some simple equations in order to be able to count the average salary of a translator.
A translator is usually able to translate 2500 Words per day, this is the gold number.
2500*20 (working days)= 50,000 Words per month.
So a translator will be able to translate about 50,000 words per month and this leads us to another gold number which is 10 cents per word, a minimal salary for a translator living in a high HDI country. Which means an average salary of 5000 $ (50,000*0.1= 5000$).
However, we can see that this salary can be high for a country like Belarus and low for countries like the USA and Germany.
Moreover, translations in special fields like medicine and Pharma, require extra knowledge and are priced usually in a ratio of 1:1.5-2 relative to an ordinary general translation, as this group of translators is unique and difficult to acquire in case you’ll pay a minimal translation fee.
This brings us to a minimal fee of about 10-15 cents per word for a specialized translator. Of course, no proofreading, project management, software, and DTP are included.