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How Is a Word Count Calculated for Translations?

Calculator-179x300When it comes to determining the cost of a translation, the main factor to take into account is the famous word count. Of course, the format of the text or language involved in the project, for example, will also play a major role in the final price of the translation; however, the word count has even greater weight. Volume, then, is the fundamental parameter in terms of measuring translation projects.

But who determines how many words a translation has? And how do they do it?

Generally, when a client requests a quote from a translation agency, there will be a project manager in charge of carrying out these calculations. Additionally, he or she will estimate the number of human resources to be involved in the project, as well as the amount of time allotted for each part of the process. This concludes with a determined turnaround time, that is, the time of final delivery. The method for determining the number of words to be translated varies according to the file format that one is working with. In any case, the goal is always to obtain a precise number that is as low as possible, taking into account possible repetitions (which will reduce the cost and amount of time to complete the project).

In this introduction to the topic, let’s begin with something basic: if the file is in a .doc format, for example, we can immediately see the total word count. However, the best thing is to process it with a translation tool (Trados, Memsource, Wordbee, etc.) which, by using translation memories (if there are any), allow for calculating the exact number of “no match” words (that is, new words that have never been translated).  Additionally, by doing so, we also obtain—with or without a previous translation memory—the number of repetitions in a text. This number can play a major role in the total word count in some types of texts (i.e. technical studies) or can be rather marginal in others (i.e. a mystery novel).

In the next part of this series, we will look at cases that are a little more complex; that is, those in which calculating the word count is a greater challenge than simply opening a file and quoting with the correct tool. Meanwhile, you can get in touch with our sales team and request a free quote.

To view the Spanish version of this post, go to:

¿Cómo se calculan las palabras de una traducción?