In previous posts we have discussed the different ways of quoting a translation project, such as per word, per page, per hour of work if the work involves images, etc.
But one of the fundamental factors, if not the main factor, when determining the cost of a translation is the pair of languages involved. Generally, translation agencies do not charge the same price for a translation from a text in English to Spanish compared to a text from English into Russian, Japanese or Arabic.
I can appreciate the logic of this process because I studied, among other languages, Arabic. It is more “complex” and its grammar, word formation and phonetics is different than many “Western” languages, such as English, Spanish or Portuguese.
For example, it is important to remember that Arabic is written from right to left, its alphabet is different in every aspect from the Latin alphabet and it is a language with a strong religious influence, which is something that is very important to keep in mind when translating. Other languages use alphabets that are entirely different from the Latin alphabet, such as Russian with the Cyrillic and Japanese with its two systems kana and kanji.
All of this must be considered in addition to the field of the translation, meaning here if it is a document in the technical or medical area, and the need for using professionally qualified translators for this language pair, which can drive up the costs even further.
When setting the cost for this type of language pair, when they are from entirely different families, the policy usually differs depending on the agency. Some prefer to make the estimated quote based on the original document in order to charge by the number of translated words; others charge per character of the original text, when the language makes this possible, such as Japanese. Every aspect of this process depends for the most part on the agencies and clients.