Aug 03, 2018

The Magic of Translation Memories and Glossaries

Translation Memory Pricing

Does this look familiar? Probably not. Unfortunately, not many translation providers explain how translation pricing works in favor of the client and how clients can actually help the translation service provider create better, faster and more accurate translations!

Let’s start at the beginning. Imagine you’re a first-time translation client, like in the example above, with a weekly requirement of legal text translation. More likely than not, you would begin your search for the perfect translation service provider online or via a trusted reference. At this point, your expectations would be fairly basic – low cost, great quality!

You may find agencies which charge less than average but still have a good track record. They will have a static rate card which they would be happy to share with you. In that case, you would always pay the same amount per word translated for as long as you are associated with the respective agency, regardless of the amount of business you give them. However, if at some point in the future, you come across another agency with more competitive rates, your loyalty towards your existing agency may weaken. Lower rates upfront may be a great incentive to change service providers in the short run, but by doing so, you would lose the three significant benefits that a good, client-centric agency would provide – translation memory, provision for a translation glossary and variable pricing.

Translation Memory

One of the greatest benefits of an established association with a good language translation service provider is that content once translated, will be stored in an electronic database. The content may be in the form of words, phrases, paragraphs, etc. and is referred to as ‘segments.’ Segments made of the source and target language pairs are known as units. There are several software programs known as translation memory managers (TMM) that may be used along with computer-assisted translation (CAT) tools to help human translators perform more efficiently.

After the first document, every consecutive document that enters the system to be translated will first be assessed to check for any segments (generally in the source language) that have been previously translated. If an exact or similar match exists, the translator will be prompted to either accept or reject the suggestion. At that point, the translator would still need to check whether the machine-generated translation is appropriate for the text to be translated.

TMMs are excellent for texts that are repetitive, similar or need subtle changes from time to time. The major advantages of translation memory can be summarized in the following points:

  • Faster Translation: Translation memory saves the translator a lot of time that they would otherwise need to spend translating the same content time after time.
  • Competitive Pricing: Segments retrieved from translation memory are charged significantly less than the rest of the text as the translator’s work is reduced. As translation memory builds, you pay less.
  • Consistency: Translation memory assures consistency across your text where the same segment needs to be repeated. Often, there may be two ways of writing the same sentence, and it may be difficult for the translator to remember how it was previously translated without the help of translation memory.  

Although TMMs have several benefits, a translation agency well versed with translation memory will always use it as a tool to improve the quality of translations and never randomly insert previously used segments without checking for contextual relevance.

Translation Glossary

Translation Glossary Pricing

Think of a financial services website that needs to be translated from language X to Y. The site will bear the name of the company in several places across its many pages, and the client may want the company name to remain in the source language wherever it is used. Similarly, the words ‘view more’ may be repeated five times across the entire site and the client may want a specific translation to be used for that segment, every time. The best way to convey these instructions or specifications would be through a translation glossary which is a document that the client would generally create and share with the service provider. A glossary typically includes the following:

  • Terms: These would be the words or sentences in the source language that are of most importance and would require particular instructions for translation.
  • Definitions and Context: The meanings of the terms mentioned and the context in which they should be used would be specified for translators to use those terms to the best of their capacity.
  • Part of Speech: Is the term a verb or a noun? This information helps translators further understand its usage.
  • How to Translate: This includes instructions specific to how terms need to be translated from the source to target language. These could be preferred words, placement of terms, etc. that maintain standardization across your documents.
  • What to Omit: You may not want everything translated to your target language. Here, you can easily convey to the translator which terms you would like to keep in the source language. For example, when the target language is Chinese, many clients prefer that even proper nouns such as names are translated, however, unless that is something you want or need, you should specify otherwise.

The image below is an example of an English to Japanese language translation glossary:

A translation glossary ensures that all correspondence related to how a text is to be translated remains in one place. The glossary grows over time and helps create a better understanding between the client and the translation agency. Creating a translation glossary is crucial because it also ensures that you are not charged for parts of the text that you do not wish to translate.

Variable Pricing

Variable pricing is the practice of changing the price of a good or service based on the variable factors employed to produce that good or service. It’s often seen in a negative light from a customer’s perspective. Most customers believe that variable pricing, like dynamic pricing, is only used to achieve profit maximization. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Unlike dynamic pricing, variable pricing doesn’t change the price of services based on the customer but rather on the nature of services required by the customer. Variable factors such as the volume of business received urgency and the level of expertise required to deliver services are all important to consider before the price is decided upon.

Consider the following situations:

  • Hospital X needs a medical report translated from Spanish to English within 24 hours – 200 words
  • A baker needs a poster for her bake sale translated from Spanish to English within three working days – 200 words

A client-focused translation agency will assign a dedicated project manager to assess each of the situations above and provide the client with an appropriate price quotation. In both cases, the source and target languages are the same as is the word count. However, the nature of the content is very different. It would require a seasoned translator with experience in the medical domain to be able to translate the medical text because of the high risk involved. At the same time, the translator will also need to maintain pace and complete the translation much faster than the translator who would get three days to complete work for the bake sale poster.

Naturally, there will be a difference in the cost of translation. This is fair because the hospital receives a premium service at a faster rate than the baker and would therefore not object to a slightly higher price. Moreover, when the hospital becomes a regular client, it can also provide the service provider with a translation glossary and benefit from translation memory so that eventually, the price of the same services is reduced. The clients, in this case, get a variety of options to choose from and their price discounts increase with the volume of services they purchase. Similarly, the service provider can also manage the cost of delivering those various services, accordingly. When both parties are satisfied, a healthy and long-standing relationship is formed.


When you partner with a language translation agency that has a solid reputation and has redeemed itself in the industry, you stand to gain so much more than just good quality translations. You benefit from better pricing, enhanced communication and the added advantage of a lot more choice. Always ask your project manager how they can cater to your specifications because if they can’t now, they most likely will not be able to when your business increases and that may be too late!

At Translate By Humans, our friendly project managers are always open to discuss the various options that potential clients have when they require human language translation services. Send us an email, find us on social media or simply pop by our office to interact with our team and find a solution to all your translations needs.

Note: The prices quoted in the images are hypothetical and in no way indicative of the actual price of translation.

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Ruju Patel

Ruju Patel

Ruju Patel leads the Content and Design Team at Translate By Humans. She has a background in Psychology and Business and former experience as an HR professional. She is a people's person and a pro at drafting contracts, policies, and articles. Her creative edge helps give life to all the written and graphic content produced by the company.

When she's not writing, you'll find her reading with her cats or combining her love for food and culture by traveling around the world!

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    May 15, 2020
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