3 Ways to Control Translation Costs

Translating content is necessary for expanding a business globally into key target markets. Yet the costs can be a concern, especially for those operating on a limited budget. You don’t have to trade in quality to save money though. Here are three ways to cut translation costs while still receiving high-quality translations, reducing time-to-market, and increasing consistency.

Reduce the Word Count

Translation costs are tied to the word count of the source content. The greater the word count, the more the translation costs. Make sure your content truly addresses the audience’s needs and don’t overcomplicate it.
In some cases, such as with certain technical translations or marketing materials, it may not be possible to reduce the word count due to the nature of the content, but having a good editing process in place will help you address word count.

So how do you go about reducing the word count? Here are just a few of the many things that you can do:

  • Consider using images instead of or in addition to words. Sometimes a concept or instruction is better represented by a graphic or a photo.
  • Reuse content wherever possible. For example, if an instruction is used in more than one of your documents, make sure you say it the same way every time. Even if one word is different in a sentence, it will have a higher translation cost than if every word was the same. Write once, translate once, and reuse multiple times to get the most bang for your buck.
  • Create a glossary of terms
  • Simplify the English for your audience and translation. The more complicated the content is, the harder it is to understand the English and translate it. So simplify the content wherever possible while still conveying the intended message. Use clear, straightforward words with active verb tenses whenever possible to avoid any confusion for your customers and the translators.

Leverage Translation Memory

A Translation Memory (TM) is a database that contains all source content and associated translated content. The content can come from anywhere—website copy, a document, software, website copy or other types of content. Every time a translator works on a project, that content is stored in the TM and updated as the translator works.
The idea behind a translation memory is to reuse content for future projects. So you add source content, translate it, save it in the TM, and reuse it as needed. A TM is a necessary tool for any translation work given its benefits, and it’s one that your language service provider (LSP) sets up and processes for you.
Here’s how it works. A TM is used concurrently with the translators’ tool. When a segment comes up that has been translated before, the TM alerts the translator, allowing him or her to either accept or modify the segment. The segment may be categorized as either a 100% match or a fuzzy match, meaning that the cost per word is greatly reduced compared to a segment that isn’t recognized (a new word).

The more content you add, the greater the benefit:

  • Reduces your translation costs over time.
  • Reduces your time-to-market.
  • Leads to a better customer experience.
A translation memory incorporates a glossary of terms—more on that in the next section.

Establish and Maintain a Glossary of Terminology

Most companies use specific terminology to talk about their products, services, and brand. In addition, oftentimes there is industry-specific terminology. Together, these terms create the foundation for wording choices on websites, manuals, social media, and more.
It’s important to capture these terms from a content creation perspective to present a consistent brand, but it’s really critical when it comes to translating the terms. Creating a glossary of these terms and their context will help optimize the translation process and lead to better translations.

How Does a Glossary Work?

To establish a glossary, either you or your LSP can extract terms from a set of content like a manual. If your LSP handles this step, you should then review the terms and provide any necessary context or descriptions for each term.

Your LSP will then translate the terms into your requested language set. If you have in-country reviewers (ICRs) or other internal or external resources, your LSP will send the glossary to these people to review and edit the translations as necessary.

After the approval process, the LSP will feed the terms into the TM. Then when a translator starts a translation project, the translators will see these terms, as well as any previously translated content, before the translator even begins the project. In other words, the translator has a foundation of content to use for the project.

How Does a Glossary Help?

A glossary speeds up the translation process, since some of the content is already translated. The translator can then focus on the rest of the content. As a result, the time-to-market will decrease. In addition, the quality will increase because the terms are consistent and accurate. And since all of the translated content is stored in the TM, it can all be used in future translation projects.

Update the Glossary

A glossary is never really “complete.” When a company adds new content, products and/or services, the terms need to be extracted and translated. It’s an best practice to update the glossary regularly.


Translating content is a necessary part of expanding a business globally. You don’t need to spend a fortune though. Reducing word count, using a translation memory and a glossary will help combat costs while producing high-quality translations.

To learn more about how you can cut translation costs

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