The process of converting a piece of information such as a letter, a brochure, a form, from English into other languages may at first appear to be a simple process. A closer look at all the elements involved reveals that the process is quite complicated. There are many things to consider. Included in these considerations are the issues of cost, organization of the project, cultural, community and languages issues which differ from language to language, final output needs, and how to approach revisions and archiving.

Translation costs are based on:

The subject matter of the document and the level of language usage in the original. Complex texts cost more to translate than simple or average texts.

The number of words in a document. Translation costs are based on per word rates. Large projects are discounted for length.

Formatting requirements, media requirements, and other factors outlined below, will affect costs.


If a document needs to be returned formatted like the original, the amount of work required to do this is factored into the cost.

Formatting costs vary depending on the requirements of the project, the availability of the original files, the languages involved, and the software program used.

  • Some documents are translated just for content. These documents are formatted for easy identification between the original and the translation per word.
  • Other documents need to be formatted to look very close to the original but with some leeway. These documents don't require exact matching of the original.
  • Many documents need to be formatted exactly like the original, requiring that text and graphic boxes do not change size or position.

Most often the original electronic files are used to format a document. In the absence of electronic files, it is possible to recreate the document.

Turnaround time

Every effort is made to complete translations within the required time frame without charging rush fees. Occasionally rush fees may apply; for example, a rush project over a holiday season may require the assessment of rush fees.

Project Management

Project management fees are included in the translation fees on the majority of projects. Unique projects may have project manager fees included as a separate line item on the quotation.

Client reviews

The original quoted price includes corrections made after our editor reviews the project, and corrections made after the proofreading steps are completed by betmar. It also includes one round of client generated suggestions. Additional rounds of suggestions by the client may incur additional charges.

Fees for coordinating client generated internal or in country reviews may be incurred depending on the specifics of the project. These costs would be discussed during the quotation process.

If, during the course of a project, the client requests revisions or additions, the price/cost may need to be reviewed.

Community Reviews

Community reviews are organized and conducted on site by betmar languages as requested by clients. Reviews include three members of the community who meet to discuss the translated material and make suggestions for improvement as appropriate. Reviews offer an opportunity for community members to identify:

  • changing patterns of usage by local speakers of the language
  • cultural issues from one location to another where the same language might be spoken but usage differs
  • fine tuning the translation for understandability without expanding or editing the original message

Community reviews are billed at an hourly rate based on the length of time required to review the document(s). Community review costs can be anticipated and quoted up front, based on past experience.

Hidden costs

Throughout the translation process, a document must be carefully edited and proofread by qualified native speakers trained in the art of translation. Each round of checking requires coordinating the transfer of the materials between the parties working on the project. All of the individuals involved in checking for accuracy are paid for their expertise. Understanding the necessity of this process helps explain the cost of translation.

Language variables

The cost of translation can vary from language to language. Languages such as Spanish, which are historically well established and use an alphabet similar to English, are not as challenging to translate as other languages. Languages such as Somali or Hmong, which have not existed in written form until recently, present the challenge of finding ways to express ideas or terminology which don't exist in the target language. Languages written in another script, like Arabic or Cambodian, present technical challenges and add to the cost of producing quality translations in those languages.

Final output needs

Costs vary greatly depending on the final output needs of the project. A piece which will be produced in print form requires expert formatting in a page layout program. A piece which will be produced as copies may not require the same level of formatting expertise. Other considerations which can effect cost include whether the piece intended for use on a web site, it is being produced in a unique script like Lao, it requires extensive reformatting to accommodate right to left reading like Arabic, and so on.

Reviews and glossaries

The review process adds considerable cost to a translation project. The type of reviews required and the procedure for accomplishing the reviews will be a determining factor in the final cost of a translation project. The creation of a glossary is an extensive undertaking. Whether or not a glossary is formed and the parameters of the glossary as defined at the start of a project will also effect the final cost.

Evaluating bids

When making a decision on a translation project based on several bids, it is important to determine the level of services being offered by the translation agencies. For example, careful editing and proofing throughout the translation and production process is imperative. Not all agencies follow this procedure with the same diligence. It is also important to establish whether or not the bid is all inclusive. Any additional costs which may be incurred during the course of the project should be understood up front. This includes charges for revisions generated during the review process.

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