What’s the most expensive language to translate?

It is well-known that in terms of translations, there are languages that are more common than others. For geographical reasons, demand, language’s reach, among other factors, there are languages that do not pose any difficulty in trying to find linguistic resources: There are plenty of translators for Spanish to English, Spanish to French, Spanish to Italian, English to Spanish, English to French, Portuguese to English, English to Portuguese, etc. (and the list goes on, we could spend hours listing different combinations of these pairs of languages), which do not pose a challenge when assigning a translation job.

However, some languages do pose challenges, and we’re not talking about rare languages (regional dialects of African Ethnic Groups or Latin American Indigenous Communities, or even some languages from Southeast Asia; generally speaking these languages have few linguistic resources in the world). Here we’re speaking about languages from developed countries that are quite common, but that for one reason or another, linguistic resources in these languages are hard to find.

For instance, Norwegian is one of these languages (especially translators for the combinations English to Norwegian, French to Norwegian and Spanish to Norwegian, are among the most important ones). Norwegian is considered to be one of the most expensive languages in the world among experts in the translation industry. Usually, freelance translators and translation agencies tend to charge outrageous rates for doing translations (these rates, in some cases, exceed the average).

Why is a Norwegian translator an “expensive translator”? Basically, it’s because Norway is an expensive country.

Norway’s economy is one of the world’s strongest: it is perhaps the country with the highest income per capita. It has very high tax rates, given its lack of manpower, its sparse population and its vast territory that is nearly empty, but that it needs to support. Just to mention some aspects, Norway has some of the highest taxes on alcohol: for instance, a bottle of wine can cost between € 12 and € 150. Moreover, according to the prestigious British magazine “The Economist,” based on the Big Mac Index (an index commonly used by economists worldwide, to compare different countries’ purchasing power where the McDonald’s Big Mac is sold) in 2010, Norway was the country with the most expensive Big Mac.

I only mention some aspects about this Nordic country to give an idea as to why it is so expensive to live in Norway, and why Norwegian translators are so demanding when it comes to rates.

In order to combat this problem, perhaps the best solution may be to find Norwegian linguistic resources living in other countries: for example, in India or Asia, or even in cheaper European countries. Perhaps these resources would be willing to accept more affordable rates for companies that need to translate texts into Norwegian and do not have the same purchasing power as the people of that country.