Just like any other goods and services for sale, translation rates are subject to the laws of supply and demand. Some language pairs have many more qualified translators than others. Some are in higher demand than others. These, as well as other factors, will affect the cost of your translation.
From Other Languages into English
Translators must always work from their acquired language into their native tongue. Being natural speakers of the lingua franca (the most common commercial or trade language) of the day, native English speakers are not usually known for multilingualism. There is a fairly low supply of educated Anglophones who fluently speak a second language, so where there is a demand for “into English” translation, costs can rise.
For example, Germany’s strong economy has created a high demand for translation from German into English. As the manufacturing and pharmaceutical device industries in Germany continue to grow and the demand for international sales increases, the price for translation goes up. Chinese into English translation is another example of high demand with low supply. Very few native English speakers are masters of reading Chinese (especially the traditional character set), and their time is very valuable. This can also mean greater rush charges for fast turnaround times.
From English into Other Languages
Although English is widely spoken as a second language by many in the world today, a translation from English into a language spoken in an area of low population is normally more costly. For example, translations from English into Nordic languages, because of the few people who speak those languages natively, also tend to be pricier. Despite low demand, the supply of qualified professional translators is even lower. Indigenous languages, such as Native American or African tongues, are also subject to higher charges due to low supply.
Translation from English into Canadian French is a unique example of political policy affecting supply and demand and subsequently, translation rates. The Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism was established in Canada on July 19, 1963 to protect the French language and culture. Among other things, it recommended that English and French be declared official languages and that bilingual districts be created in regions of Canada where members of the minority community, either French or English, made up 10% or more of the local population. In Quebec, specifically, the use of French is protected by provincial law. Private businesses must use French, and children must be educated in French schools, whatever their native tongue. Thus, there is a high demand for linguists who can manage to translate the many documents, signs, and communications throughout the province. These translators are so busy with work that they have the liberty to charge a little more for their time.
Sometimes global economics are also at play. Translators living in areas with a high cost of living are likely to charge more. Tokyo is home to some of the most expensive property in the world. Consequently, Japanese is one of the most expensive languages into which to translate. (Translations from English into Japanese and other Asian languages are also more difficult because of differences in language structure.) However, translators living in areas with a low cost of living will probably charge less. For instance, those in Latin America or mainland Asia tend to be more affordable.
Additionally, the existence of translation memories in a language pair can make a difference in price. MTM LinguaSoft applies match discounts for repeat customers. Your previous translations are stored in our translation memories, and we can analyze your files to see if we have translated similar content before. If we’ve already done work for you in one language pair, you are likely to see a discount due to matches with previous content. This will not be true with languages for which there are no previous translations available. The translation into those languages must be done from scratch, so they will not only probably cost more but may also take more time.