Translation Business Systems Japan
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Good service providers help clients make informed decisions. Here are many of the typical questions you are likely to face when deciding which company is right for you.
- How is the price of translation calculated?
- What is included in the translation rate?
- What is pricing on 'source words' or 'target words'?
- What are other costs I should be thinking about?
- How does TBSJ rate itself price wise?
- Why do some companies quote by pages?
- What is ‘copywriting’, and why is it an additional cost when translating marketing material?
- How long do translations take?
- How fast are express services?
- Does repetition and translation software mean the work will get done quicker?
- Does TBSJ use machine translation? What is it?
- Would just machine translation be good enough for me?
- How effective is repetition software?
- Can translation software be used on PDF files, scanned documents, and image files?
How is the price of translation calculated?
The basis for quotes is generally:
- Number of source words or characters
- Price per source word (or character) based on the language direction
- Price per source word (or character) based on field and type of work, i.e. financial, legal, engineering, software manual, general business.
- For hard copy documents such as scanned documents and faxes, pricing will be based on the count from the translated document.
Where the source is in Japanese, we use characters as the basis for quotation, for English and other European languages we use words.
Here is what a basic quote might look like:
10,000 characters of Japanese to English legal translation @ 24 yen/character = 240,000 yen
The Japanese/English language pair is considered among the most difficult along with Chinese/English and Korean/English, and this of course also affects price. Many combinations of European languages are less expensive because of their similarities and the number of people who can translate them. European and Asian languages pairs on the other hand have vastly different vocabulary, grammar, and writing systems. They also often use completely different wording to express the same concept, which presents more challenges for translators. As you would expect, difficult fields are generally more expensive in any language pair, although other factors like the number of translators specializing in a particular field also influence price.
What is included in the translation rate?
- Translation, editing, and project management (In rare cases, project management may attract an additional charge.)
- For each 5,000 words (or 10,000 Japanese characters) of translation, 30 minutes of basic formatting is included for MS Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. Click here to see rates for formatting, DTP and graphic editing.
What is pricing on 'source words' or 'target words'?
‘Source’ refers to the original document for translation, and ‘target’ refers to the translated document. Quotes are usually based on source documents, unless there is no automated or practical way to do a word count (i.e. scanned PDF documents) in which case the count from the target document is used. Below is an example of pricing for a Japanese-to-English translation, using 1,000 words based on the number of English words yielded after translation, or using 2,000 Japanese characters based on the number of characters before the translation:
Japanese to English translation; 1,000 English words x 2 x 14 yen = 28,000 yen
Japanese to English translation; 2,000 Japanese characters x 14 yen = 28,000 yen
Obviously the 2:1 ratio is an approximation, and 2,000 Japanese characters would rarely translate to exactly 1,000 English words, but it is much more practical to tolerate any small difference in pricing that may occur rather than manually count text because automated word counts aren't possible. Of course, one disadvantage of pricing on the translated text is that an exact price can’t be calculated until the project is finished, so for hard copy documents quoted prices are strictly estimates.
Also note that Japanese-to-English translation is more expensive than English-to-Japanese translation, so if the price of an English-to-Japanese translation is 24 yen/word, the same material from Japanese-to-English would not be 12 yen/Japanese character. This is a mistaken assumption people commonly make once they are told one English word translates to two Japanese characters. On TBSJ pricing it would be 14 yen/Japanese character. The 2:1 ratio is used to estimate the volume of a translation based on the source document, but the pricing of these two language directions are actually different.
What are other costs I should be thinking about?
- If you need a project urgently you may need to pay express fees.
- If your project consists of a PowerPoint presentation or contains a lot of flowcharts, tables, and graphics, there may be an additional cost for formatting, DTP, or graphic editing.
- If your project is very small, bear in mind we charge a minimum project fee (currently 20,000 yen), although this may be waived if you have an ongoing contract with us.
How does TBSJ rate itself price wise?
Translation is certainly a business where doing things cheaply can get expensive. Our rates are generally higher than most companies, but that is not to say we can’t save you a lot of money. We don't achieve cost reductions by seeking out cheap translators that offer lower rates, but instead look for more intelligent ways to do business. We focus on overall efficiency and cost-effectiveness. There is something to be said for getting things right the first time.
Why do some companies quote by pages?
For most people, it is easier to visualize the volume in pages rather than words, but this can be misleading. One page in the translation world is usually considered to be 200 or 250 words depending on the company. This makes it difficult to directly compare prices. For accurate quotations and comparisons, it is much more practical to use the word or character count (depending on the language).
What is ‘copywriting’, and why is it an additional cost when translating marketing material?
Copywriting refers to writing used to promote a company’s business or sales points more effectively. Translation for marketing material is usually more complicated than is immediately apparent, because it is often assumed that the copywriting will automatically be replicated in translation, but this is rarely the case. Companies spend a lot of time fine-tuning marketing material even after the intended meaning is clear, and that process needs to be repeated after the material is translated into another language. If copyrighting isn't required, TBSJ will translate at general business translation rates in most cases.
How long do translations take?
TBSJ will recommend a schedule for each project based on translator availability and client requirements. As with any work, there is a link between quality and timing, and from that perspective it is always best to have as much time as possible. Getting the right translators is the most important part of getting a translation done properly. TBSJ will always consult with you if we think the schedule you request is not practical given other aspects of the project that are also important.
As a benchmark, the average speed of an experienced translator for the English/Japanese language pair is about 2,500 English words or 5,000 Japanese characters per 8 hour day. Think of this as about 10 pages where documents have tables and pictures taking up page space, or about 5 pages for an MS word document with just text. Editing time is additional, as are some DTP and formatting tasks (where they cannot be automated or completed in parallel). For larger projects, it is likely a number of translators will work in parallel, so a 100,000 word project (200-400 pages) could be translated, edited, and delivered in about one month without any express fees, even though just the translation alone is 2 months work for one translator.
How fast are express services?
TBSJ can coordinate urgent short requests overnight, over a weekend, or even within a business day, and with the right team it is usually possible to manage what would normally be one or two months’ work in as little as a week.
Does repetition and translation software mean the work will get done quicker?
Yes it does. Not so much for small projects, but for some large projects, repetition literally means weeks are taken of the total schedule without additional charges for express fees.
How secure are files sent for translation?
Very secure. We consider it a critical part of our business. Our IT environment is as secure as those of the biggest global corporations who also consider security paramount. Click here to see system specifications
We recommend sending projects to us using our secure TBSJ Control Tower™ system for the highest security.
Does translation memory technology compromise security?
TBSJ Translation Memory is secure. Translation memories are separated for every client, and can be further partitioned where necessary. They are contained in our secure IT environment with fully controlled access.
Does TBSJ use machine translation? What is it?
No, but we certainly don't discount machine translation as a good option for some situations; especially as it is free and instant (see 'Would just machine translation be good enough for me?'). Machine translation is translation done by computers with no human interaction. The software translation companies are usually referring to when they talk about translation technology is Computer Aided Translation (CAT). CAT is any software that helps translators increase productivity and manage quality, such as tools for reusing repetition, referencing a translation memory, or terminology management. CAT is quite a different technology to machine translation and can significantly boost translator productivity and really help to manage quality, especially when multiple translators are working on one project.
Would just machine translation be good enough for me?
Machine translation is free, instant, and accessible to anyone, so there’s no doubt it is an excellent solution if you just need to know what something is basically saying, especially for European language pairs. With European/Asian language pairs it is likely you’ll need to do some more deciphering. Here’s the first sentence of this paragraph translated by Google Translate into Japanese and then back to English:
"Machine translation is a free instant, so anyone can access, there is just something which is basically a good solution, if you need to know specifically says European language pairs be no doubt."
Machine translation has come a long way, and Google Translate does a very good job of cross referencing a massive translation memory with no human interaction, but it is still not particularly reliable and sometimes incomprehensible (Note the last sentence in the example basically states the opposite of the intended meaning). The document format can also cause unintentional break up of sentences and inaccurate translation. Fixing the product of machine translation is an approach used by some people to save money, which can be effective for similar language pairs in documents from which text can easily be extracted.
What are the main benefits of translation technology and translation memory software?
Technology is increasingly being used by translation companies to improve quality and service while reducing costs. TBSJ continues to invest in this technology with the following main benefits:
- Use of previous translations to reduce the cost of projects with repeated or similar text.
- Use of project management systems that link translators over the internet to coordinate the rapid completion of large projects while maintaining consistent style.
- Use of glossary management systems so translators can efficiently access and utilize the preferred terminology of clients.
- Improved automation of formatting and DTP so clients can have these done in parallel with translation.
How effective is repetition software?
The following project types tend to benefit substantially from repetition software:
- Large technical manuals (often 40-50% repetition)
- Updated versions of technical manuals (sometimes as much as 80-90% repetition)
- Periodic reports like annual reports, financial reports, or business updates
- Excel files with multiple spreadsheets showing similar data
- Legal documents with many standardized sections
- General documents containing a lot of tables and charts.
For some documents, both the cost and time of translation have been reduced by 70-80%. For other documents the benefits can be slight or non-existent.
Can translation software be used on PDF files, scanned documents, and image files?
Text from PDFs (Portable Document Format) can be effectively extracted if they are not a scanned PDF, though some PDFs will still introduce problems.
Scanned documents and image files (jpeg, png) generally don't lend themselves to volume reduction software. Extracting text using OCR (optical character recognition) usually introduces too many inaccuracies for any kind of translation software to be useful.
What formats can be handled?
TBSJ can handle the following formats:
- MS Office (Word, Excel, PowerPoint)
- Text preprocessing (line break fixing, encoding problems, etc.)