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Q: Change in word count on translation ( Answered 4 out of 5 stars,   1 Comment )
Subject: Change in word count on translation
Category: Miscellaneous
Asked by: michael2-ga
List Price: $100.00
Posted: 24 Jan 2005 03:05 PST
Expires: 23 Feb 2005 03:05 PST
Question ID: 462364
I would like to know by how much the word-count of a typical piece of
text changes on translation from English into another language. 
(Typically, translation fees are quoted per 100 words of the target
language, and I want to be able to convert those costs to a
corresponding rate per 100 English words).

Only approximate figures are needed, and if you can't find anything
published I will accept an answer based on a computer-translation of
any typical piece of text of at least 1000 words.

Please tell me the percentage increase or decrease in the number of
words going from English into each of these languages:


I may accept a partial answer if you can't find all of these, but
please check first.


Request for Question Clarification by rainbow-ga on 24 Jan 2005 09:43 PST
Hi Michael,

After several hours of research, I have been able to locate the
approximate percentage of text expansion and/or contraction for the
following languages when translated from English:


In addition to the above languages, I have located the percentage for
these language when translated from English:


Please let me know how you would like me to proceed.

Best regards,

Clarification of Question by michael2-ga on 24 Jan 2005 23:23 PST
ok, I'll accept that.  Michael
Subject: Re: Change in word count on translation
Answered By: rainbow-ga on 25 Jan 2005 02:18 PST
Rated:4 out of 5 stars
Hi Michael,

The following is the result of my research for the approximate
percentage of text expansion and/or contraction for the various
languages when translated from English.

?Basic foreign language translation pricing is usually fairly simple.
Most agencies base pricing on the word count, to which a "per-word"
price is applied. The estimate is made based on the "target-language"
word count, which may expand or contract from the original. Let's say
you have a product description of 1,000 English words, which you wish
to translate to Spanish. Romance languages (Spanish, French, Italian,
Portuguese) typically expand by 15-20%, so the translated text would
be 1,150-1,200 words.?

New England Translations 

?...when designing the "source" graphics, allow for text expansion and
contraction, as most European languages are about 30% longer than US
English, and most Asian languages are a lot shorter than English.?

?Although target language text expansion of 20% or more is typical
during the translation process to another language, expansion rates
are not consistent across the board. And indeed, text may even
substantially contract. The same is true when translating from another
language into English.

Subject matter plays a significant role in the degree of text
expansion or contraction.

For example, average, well-written German technical, legal or
scholarly text translated into English expands 20%. Parts lists or
MSDS can expand as much as 40%, while the average educational
transcript expands only 30%. Most letters and personal documents
expand less than 10%.?

*Here are some of the expansion and contraction dynamics of various
languages translated from English:

Target        Text         Text        Comments
Language    Expansion   Contraction          
French        15-20%
German         5-20%
Italian          15%                  Differences minor with technical texts
Spanish          25%                  Depends on the type of text
Danish                     10-15%     Due to compounds
Finnish                    20-30%     Due to lack of pronouns and articles
Greek          5-10%  
Portuguese       30%                  Depends on the type of text
Swedish                       10%     Due to compounds

Source: OmniLingua Inc.: Text Expansion (or Contraction)

*More languages can be found at the above site.

Planning for Text Expansion and Contraction
Arabic, 88 
Chinese, 61 
Czech, 117 
Dutch, 128 
Esperanto, 93 
Farsi, 100 
Finnish, 104 
French, 111 
German, 109 
Greek, 129 
Hebrew, 83 
Hindi, 91 
Hungarian, 113 
Italian, 110 
Japanese, 115 
Korean, 124 
Portuguese, 110 
Russian, 116 
Spanish, 117 
Swahili, 89 
Swedish, 96 

This study used the official translations of the Preamble to the
Declaration of Human Rights by the United Nations to consider issues
of translation expansion and contraction and typography. The source
language, for the purposes of this study, was English. Type area
comparisons are in percentages to English (=100%).

SOURCE: Sadek, George and Maxim Zhukov, Typography: Polyglot: A
Comparative Study in Multilingual Typesetting, New York: The Cooper
Union, 1991.

Nancy Hoft Consulting

Search criteria:
?percentage increase? words english translation OR translated 
?text expansion? or contraction
text language expansion contraction
text language ?word count? expansion contraction
text languages ?expansion or contraction?
text percent english ?expansion or contraction?
text ?contraction or expansion?
text ?word count? expansion contraction
text languages ?expands or contracts?

I hope the information provided is helpful.

Best wishes,

Request for Answer Clarification by michael2-ga on 25 Jan 2005 03:37 PST
Dear Rainbow

I'm very much afraid that you have answered quite a different question
from the one I posed.  All the sources you have cited, except the
first, discuss not how the word-count changes on translation but
rather on the extent to which the display or printed area taken up by
the text changes.  That is quite a different issue, and because of the
totally different characteristics of language syntax the area taken up
by the text can by no means be simply related to word-count.  Changes
in text-area for layout purposes does not I am afraid help me with my
requirement to convert per-word translation fees.

Your first citation does deal with the number of words, but only for
four of the thirteen languages I listed.


Clarification of Answer by rainbow-ga on 25 Jan 2005 03:49 PST
Hi Michael,

Thank you for your clarification and my apologies for misunderstanding
the information you require. I will carry out further research and let
you know of my findings. If all else fails, I will request the editors
to have my answer removed.

Best regards,

Clarification of Answer by rainbow-ga on 25 Jan 2005 12:55 PST
Hi Michael,

Please take a look at page 4 of the following pdf file and let me know
if this answers your question.

MSI Trans-action: Translation Handbook

Best regards,
michael2-ga rated this answer:4 out of 5 stars
Thank you very much.

Subject: Re: Change in word count on translation
From: jack_of_few_trades-ga on 27 Jan 2005 13:11 PST
Although most of those numbers seem as accurate as their rounding, my
personal favorite is:
English -> Russian : multiply by 1.18
Russian -> English : multiply by 1.3
Perhaps that could be explained simply by the fact that the languages
don't translate well and documents tend to require more verbage to get
accross the same point in either direction, but I'd guess it's a

The rest of the numbers do look good though according to this part of
the peanut gallery.

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