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
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
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
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
Nancy Hoft Consulting
?percentage increase? words english translation OR translated
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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.