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How to Create a Quote for Software Translation Services

Software translation, software globalization and software localization are all terms used to describe the process of taking a software application that is in one language and translating it into other languages. One of the first questions companies ask when inquiring about software translation services is “how much will it cost?”

This is the third in a series of three blogs in which I will share a quick approach to calculating translation costs for document, software and website translation services. While the approach described is somewhat generic and will be modified depending on the type of software translation project we are talking about, the basic line items and metrics needed to understand the costs for software translation below should still be helpful. I will cover calculating costs of translating an application only, not internationalizing an application.

Getting Started with a Software Translation Quote

To create a quote for a software translation project, a series of tasks and metrics are required by your translation agency to build the quote and determine software translation costs:

  • Common metrics used for actual translations, or as the trade calls it, translation-editing-proofing (TEP), are typically per word.
  • Desktop publishing (DTP) (i.e., formatting) costs for user guides can be calculated per hour or per page.
  • Graphic localization (text inside graphics) costs can be calculated per hour.
  • Screen capture costs can be calculated per hour or per screen.
  • Engineering can be calculated per hour.
  • Basic software QA/testing can be calculated per hour.
  • Internationalization, localization and/or functionality testing can be calculated per hour.
  • Translation companies should also include a glossary development step and project management fee.

A translation company should request the source files (software localization kit) for your software translation project when quoting your project. A software localization kit should consist of all of the resources used to develop, build and run your application, including:

  • All files in your development environment, specifically resource files (e.g. RC, RC2, DLG, H, HH, CPP, EXE, and DLL).
  • All documentation source files (e.g. FrameMaker, Word, etc.). This includes all templates, books, fonts and original graphics (e.g., Photoshop, Illustrator).
  • All help source files (e.g. graphics, RTF, VBS, HTML and CNT/HHX/HHC). This includes all templates, fonts, books and original graphics.
Additional required information includes:
  • Reference materials (e.g., glossaries, past translations, style guide, etc.).
  • File names and types, including an explanation of each file’s purpose.
  • The name and version of the development, documentation and help authoring tool(s).
  • The location (i.e., directories/files) of any hard-coded literals which are in the user interface.
  • Original files of any third-party applications/components used.
  • Detailed build instructions (if applicable).
  • Test plan and test scripts (if applicable).
A Sample Software Translation Quote

Let’s assume that your project includes:

  • 10,000 words in the user interface.
  • 20,000 words in the documentation.
  • 20,000 words in the online help.
  • General desktop application.
  • Translation from English into Brazilian Portuguese.
Tasks Cost per hour/word # of hours / words Total
Pre-Engineering $65.00/Hour 8 Hours $520.00
Glossary Development $65.00/Hour 15 Hours $975.00
Translation-editing-proofing (TEP) – Documentation $0.20/Word 20000 Words $4,000.00
Translation-editing-proofing (TEP) – User Interface $0.20/Word 10000 Words $2,000.00
Multilingual DTP for Documentation $65.00/Hour 16 Hours $1,040.00
Online Help Generation $65.00/Hour 12 Hours $780.00
Post Engineering $65.00/Hour 4 Hours $260.00
Basic Software QA/Testing $65.00/Hour 6 Hours $390.00
Subtotal $9,965.00
Project Management Fee 10% $996.50
Total $10,961.50

Please note:

  • Per word rates can vary between languages, types of applications and results of translation memory usage.
  • Graphic localization and multilingual DTP, specifically screen captures and placement hours, can vary depending on availability of scripts and who places captures. The calculations above assume that the client captured screens and provided them to the translation agency for placement.
  • Engineering time is based on 120 files and can vary depending on file formats. Online help costs can vary depending if help can be generated from documentation. The above assumes documentation was created in FrameMaker and then help was generated in RoboHelp.
  • The testing listed above is basic testing, assuming the translation agency has been trained on the application and has access to expert users and is working with test scripts to run through the application.
Overview of Basic Tasks Included in Software Translation Quotes

The basic tasks in a software translation services project may include:

Glossary Development

Key terminology is identified and extracted from the source files provided by the client. The terminology is translated and provided back to the client for review and approval. Following review and approval, the terminology is imported into a translation memory tool and updated as needed.

Translation-Editing-Proofing (TEP)

This includes translation of text, editing of the text by a separate translation team and final proofreading. Price depends on language and word rate classification.

Desktop Publishing (DTP)

DTP encompasses formatting of all target language materials including text and graphics to match the source language documents. GPI will utilize client-specified DTP applications.

Graphic Localization

This process involves creating new graphics by extracting translatable text from source graphics, translating the text and placing it back into the new “translated” graphic. Graphic localization might include layout elements, buttons, navigation items, maps, etc. This process may include performing screen captures from localized applications and placing the new screen shots into the localized HELP or Documentation.

Preliminary Engineering

Source files (localization kits) are analyzed by your localization engineer. Components which are translatable are identified and prepared in a format that translators can easily work on without altering any source code or mark-up. Any necessary conversions are performed in order to import source content into a translation memory database.

Post Engineering

Localized files are returned to their original source formats and checked to ensure that no original codes or mark-up have been changed and imported back into their original format.

Cultural Correctness Assessments

In order to ensure that clients communicate in the most culturally appropriate fashion, without making any mistakes or offending their target markets, GPI performs a review of the selected communication medium for cultural issues. This would include a review of a client’s website, user interface and documentation content and treatment. Items such as content, metaphors, color, sound, and icons are all reviewed for appropriateness.

Basic Software QA/Testing

GPI typically provides software localization QA/testers for onsite testing (validation) to work side-by-side with a client’s expert user(s). More formalized software testing (onsite or offsite) can be provided and is quoted after the client provides an exact type of required testing such as localization,internationalization, and/or functionality and test plans and test scripts.

Project Management Fee

This fee includes all aspects of project management by your GPI team including scoping, scheduling, project coordination including client review and approval process, status reports/calls and budget tracking.

Keeping the Goal of Software Globalization in Mind

Whether you are trying to release a multilingual product in order to increase your global market share and ROI or you are trying to increase your company’s global operational efficiencies by developing multilingual applications, software globalization is a requirement to make either a reality. Each client’s needs are somewhat unique and there are a variety of factors that can influence resources and costs involved in a complex software globalization project.