Why does one text cost more to translate than another? One reason is difficulty. Standard texts are easier to translate than specialized or marketing ones. Read this article to understand why. Let’s begin with a few examples.
Examples of standard texts
- E-mail about implementation of a new HR application in an organization
- Medical information for patients
- Blog article about global climate change
Examples of specialized texts
- GUI of a new HR application in an organization
- Articles of incorporation of a company
- Patent for a medical device
- Scientific article explaining the chemistry behind global warming
- Analytical procedure for testing efficacy of a drug
Examples of creative (mostly marketing) texts
- Website about an Ibiza hotel
- Brochure about a construction company’s services
- Video game review
- Article on a general subject that has a very creative style
Note that a text can be specialized and creative at the same time—an explosive combination.
Specialized texts call for specialized knowledge.
Whereas standard texts can be translated by almost any translator, special knowledge is critical when translating specialized texts. Because standard texts are easy to understand, linguists have little problem translating them. The little things that are unclear can be researched fairly quickly. Translators can also use generic translations and make educated guesses, since these “last resort” measures work fine with standard texts more often than not.
However, when it comes to specialized texts, a translator without specialized knowledge sometimes fails to understand as much as 50% of the original text. He cannot make up for his lack of knowledge by research, because it will take too much time, and even once the research is done, the translation will not be the same quality as one done by a translator who has this kind of special knowledge.
This knowledge is usually gained in two ways. The first is for a translator to deliberately specialize in a specific subject area. By working continually on translations in this area, he gains knowledge and experience quickly. The second way is to have an education in a specific subject area. When an engineer by education decides to become a professional translator, his specialized knowledge makes a difference in how well he can translate in his subject area.
Creative texts call for excellent writing skills.
Translators can produce well-crafted creative translations only as long as they have excellent copywriting skills, and these are generally hard to come by. Moreover, because translators are trained to make accurate translations, they tend to translate word for word. While such literal style is usually okay and even the norm with technical texts, this approach is disastrous with creative texts that call for a style that is anything but accurate. To produce engaging copy, a translator has to read the original text and then reimagine it using idioms and other structures natural to the target language. As a result, the translated text sounds as if it were written in the target language, not translated. This might seem to you like an integral part of a translator’s job, but the truth is that many translators struggle in this area and are thus not suitable for working on marketing content.
Translating marketing and otherwise creative content is brutally hard, because marketing texts tend to lack substance, i.e, the context that translators rely upon to understand the original. This causes translators’ productivity to drop significantly, down to as low as one page a day, whereas the average is 10 pages a day for technical texts. To illustrate, a short marketing message, such as a slogan, can take hours to translate, resulting in rock-bottom productivity.
Less competition means higher translation rates.
For the reasons stated above, there is a lot less competition for specialized and marketing texts than for standard ones. Translators capable of handling these more challenging tasks charge higher rates.
More time to translate
Even though translators have specialized knowledge, it still takes them longer to translate specialized and marketing texts, because they have to do extensive research or creative thinking. For example, a translator might be able to translate 5,000 words of a standard text in two days, but just 3,000 words of a specialized or marketing text in the same time span. A higher rate reflects this additional effort.
More difficult to manage
Well-run translation agencies realize it is difficult to manage specialized and marketing projects. Because skilled translators are in high demand and are always busy, assembling the right team is much more time-consuming than with a standard text. Such projects also tend to generate more queries from translators than usual, which also makes project management more intensive. The extra effort associated with the management tasks contributes to a higher price.
Needless to say, you don’t need to worry about these nuances if you buy translations from an agency like ours that has a deep understanding of how to connect the right linguists with the right texts. Contact us today to discuss your needs.