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For a magazine, I know from a personal source that English text, when translated properly from German, fills out two thirds of the space the German source text usually takes up.

Does anyone know how much "text volume" differs when comparing Chinese to English or German? Either for magazines, or for books?

Maybe somebody has several books both in English and Chinese and can provide the page count?

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    This is going to be a hard one. Even with translated works, page size might differ as well as the font used to print the texts, so this makes page count an inaccurate measure. This is more like a linguistics research topic. I am not so sure anyone here can give you anything concrete here. – deutschZuid May 22 '12 at 0:14
  • I have to say, for most of the computer related books (like books of programming languages), the English version will be thicker than the Chinese version... – coolcfan May 22 '12 at 2:20
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    That's true. I think most people who have been in both worlds are aware of that. My point is it's difficult to quantify. – deutschZuid May 22 '12 at 2:50
  • I think some people that work in translation might have access to both English and Chinese versions of a certain book/magazine. – Moak Jun 1 '12 at 3:00
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Judging from my personal experience (I do translation for a living), the English and Chinese versions of a text have a word count ratio of about 2:3. That is, if the English version has 1000 words, the Chinese version will usually have about 1500 characters.

However, the Chinese version usually takes up less space. In Microsoft Word, with the same font size and style, the Chinese version is usually one third shorter than the English version. If the Chinese version has 10 pages, the English version will usually have 15 pages.

This may seem to be a paradox, but please note that Chinese texts are counted in characters, not words. Each Chinese character consumes the space of about two English letters, while an English word is five letters long on average.

Of course, these numbers vary every time, depending on what and how you translate. They are just very rough numbers to give you a general idea. :)

  • Great feedback, exactly the kind of information I was looking for – Moak Jun 1 '12 at 2:57
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I myself had been working as translator and am naturally keen on checking up the ratio between the Chinese character count and the English word count. An average result will be that 1,000 Chinese characters can be translated into about 600-700 English words, or 1,000 English words can be translated into about 1,500-1,700 Chinese characters, variying depending on the natures of the source contents and target writing styles.

In regard to the specific topic about the ratio between English word count and Chinese character count, there is a special article (click to read it) dedicated for it with concrete evidences to support the conclusions.

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