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Why are some languages more expensive to translate than others?

I got an instant quote off of your website for several languages and some are more expensive than others. For instance Japanese to English translation costs more than French to English. Why?

Hi Lexi,

Great question.

The price translation companies such as ourselves charge for translating one language into another depends on a number of factors, the most significant of which is the number of suitably qualified and experienced translators we have on our books for the language pair in question and the volume of work on the marketplace for those pairs.

For instance, there is a consistently high volume of business between the UK and France, Italy, Germany and Spain. This means that there is no shortage of translators who specialise in translating these language pairs and so we have a wide pool of talent to draw from.

On the other hand, if you needed, say, a Chinese or Arabic translation then that will be more expensive as the number of translation experts operating in these language pairs is somewhat limited and hence they command higher rates.

It might seem strange that there are not many Chinese translators given that China has the largest population of any country but, despite what the media might suggest with so much coverage of Chinese economic growth, there’s still far less trade between the UK and China than there is between the UK and China.

Most language companies including ourselves group languages into six or so price bands with languages such as French, German, Spanish at the lower end of the price spectrum in band 1 and Asian, Arabic and some African languges at the top end in Band 6.

Languages from Eastern Europe such as Polish, Czech and Romanian are somewhere in the middle in band 3.

So, in summary Lexi, it’s all about supply and demand.

There is also the question of qualifications and experience. We get dozens of so-called Chinese translators applying to work with us every week via emails written in broken English. They have no qualifications and no experience, we don’t hire them but I’m guessing some of our competitors do. Scary!

Again on quality – just because someone says they are a qualified and experienced translator, doesn’t mean we take their word for it. We have our own selection process to make sure they are up to scratch. We also match the subject matter expertise of the individual to the job in hand to make absolutely sure the finished translation is top notch.

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