Archive for the ‘Translation Buyer Hints’ Category

The Ultimate Shortcut to Translating Russian into English with Optimal Quality

February 3rd, 2016, Roman Mironov

 Jason Taellious,
Looking for a translation agency to translate Russian into English? This article explains why it is important to have your translation done by a native speaker, budget permitting.

Why a native speaker?

Translation is best done by native speakers of the target language (the one being translated into), because it requires excellent command of the language that only people who learned it as native speakers have. Learning a second language later in life rarely results in excellent command.

That said, when it comes to translating from Russian into English, your translation team must include native speakers of English. Now, the problem is that there is a huge supply of RU-EN translators in Russia, native speakers of Russian, producing low-quality work at bargain-basement rates, which makes it difficult to find the proverbial diamond in the rough in this market. The problem is exacerbated by the fact that clients sometimes succeed in buying good EN-RU translations at low rates and assume they can do the same for RU-EN, never realizing that good RU-EN translation costs are much higher because of a different supply and demand ratio—there are many fewer skilled translators in this combination.

As a result, the market for RU-EN translations is segmented into at least three categories, with huge price and quality gaps between them.

Three quality categories

  1. The first category is native speakers of English who are professional translators. Being in the best position to translate into their native language and equipped with professional training, they deliver top-notch work.
  2. The second category is non-native speakers of English who are professional translators. They produce average translations that appear to follow English grammar and punctuation rules, but use language patterns typical of Russian, sounding weird to native English speakers. Such word-for-word translations are called “Runglish.” Here is an example:
    Russian Runglish English
    Мы уделяем особое внимание нашим услугам в области устного перевода. We pay particular attention to our services in the area of oral translation. Our particular focus is interpretation services.
  3. The third category is non-native speakers of English who are hobby translators. As if literal translations were not bad enough, these folks also inject their work with mistranslations, bad grammar, faulty punctuation, and spelling errors. Often lacking essential knowledge of the English language, they fail to adhere even to basic rules, such as distinguishing between BE and AE spelling.


What do you make of these categories? Most importantly, you need to understand your quality expectations before you buy. And by all means, consider these expectations, rather than making your choice based on budget alone:

    1. Just like medical or legal services, important translation is a service that does not lend itself to economy. You need a professional native RU-EN speaker for mission-critical content where nothing but top quality is acceptable. For instance, it makes no sense to save on translating marketing copy, because you will inevitably end up with texts that fail to sell or, worse, make people ridicule you. Here is an example of a great marketing translation from Russian into English: Bitrix24.
    2. For less important materials, such as documents submitted only to fulfill a legal requirement or internal company materials, a professional non-native RU-EN translator might be sufficient. If you believe that average quality is fine for a particular piece of text, there is nothing wrong with buying this kind of translation.
    3. Going with the cheapest hobby RU-EN translators is never a good idea. Although you might enjoy the low costs, you will end up wasting your time and money or even damaging your reputation. You may think that you are saving money, but in the final analysis, you are losing it. Think of it this way: you can spend an entire day doing something that a professional could have done in just one hour—you are not really saving money by doing it yourself, but wasting time you could have spent way more productively.

How to ensure you get a native speaker to translate Russian into English

You can take certain steps to have your translation done by native speakers:

  1. Insist on a native speaker when you talk to a translation agency’s salesperson. That does not mean you will get one, but increases the odds.
  2. Request a sample from an agency to evaluate quality before you buy.
  3. Try engaging a translator who is a native speaker directly.

Another way to safeguard yourself is to outsource translating from Russian to English to folks who know these subtle differences and have your best interests at heart, as we do. Contact Velior for a free quote today so that we can recommend you a quality level that meets your needs.

How to Reduce Stress by Aggregating Questions

September 19th, 2014, Roman Mironov

How does it feel when a small child incessantly asks you questions? Or when you are interrupted by another question from a colleague while working on your answer to the first one? There is an important lesson in these experiences: aggregating questions, i.e., asking several questions together rather than throwing them at another person one by one as they come up, is a must for reducing interruptions and sustaining concentration. This post discusses why such a habit reduces the stress for people you interact with—and yourself.

Translation examples

  • A client sends every single question about your translation by e-mail as soon as it pops up. As he continues checking, some of these questions are resolved naturally, and your answers are already unnecessary.
  • An editor keeps asking you about your translation choices by Skype, instead of sending a well-laid-out, easy-to-use error report with her comments.
  • A freelance translator bombards a project manager with questions about the project, instead of reading the project kick-off e-mail designed to answer these questions.

Smarter approach

The best practice in these and similar scenarios is postponing and aggregating your questions until you get to the end of whatever your current task is—translating a project, editing a translation, reading an e-mail, and so forth. Then and only then, do you send an aggregated report to the recipient.


  • Postponing a question often means letting it simmer and resolve itself naturally, as you find the answer in the very content of the task. For instance, an editor may wonder why a translator translated an acronym in a particular way, but finds the explanation a few pages later. Postponing saves you the time required to ask the question and the time to answer it for the other guy.
  • Interruptions are counterproductive, and doubly so in translation, which is often a creative process requiring full concentration. By packing questions into one message, you limit the number of interruptions, ideally to just one. Fewer questions asked on an ad hoc basis means fewer interruptions, resulting in higher productivity.
  • When you ask a question, especially in a face-to-face situation, you tend to wait for the answer, wasting time. When the other person is listening to you, he is wasting his time. Making an aggregated written report saves time for both sides—while one side is writing, the other is free to work, and vice versa.
  • By firing questions incessantly you are putting unnecessary pressure on the recipient, making it difficult for her to concentrate and come up with the best answer. Sending an aggregated report allows her to work at her own pace, resulting in better answers.

Additional productivity tip

I find it very helpful not to answer questions that come incessantly. Answering them right away prompts the other guy to ask more, because (a) you are sending a message that a constant stream of questions is okay with you, and (b) he gets instant gratification, which only reinforces the desire to ask more questions.

In conclusion

I know your mind craves the quick fix of an immediate answer, and so does mine. However, a more mature and productive approach is asking questions in an aggregated form. This best practice reduces interruptions, eliminates stress, and improves the quality of answers.

Three Facts About Translating Marketing Copy Effectively

July 25th, 2014, Roman Mironov

Marketing translation budgets are largely wasted, because buyers do not realize that translating marketing copy is an entirely different realm from other translations. Treating such translations the same as, say, technical translations, means setting yourself up for failure. This article might help you avoid falling into this trap.

Style cannot be literal.

This statement is based on what I have most experience with—English to Russian translations—but it definitely holds true for many other language combinations as well. Marketing translation is counterintuitive from the standpoint of “accuracy”: training and experience tell translators to put accuracy first; but with marketing, style is of paramount importance, because marketing copy has to relate to the cultural and linguistic norms of the target population. With a user manual, for example, literal translations are more or less okay as long as they make sense, because end users are already “sold”; that is, they already bought the product. Stylistically inferior translation will have little or no negative impact on the manufacturer’s bottom line. However, marketing copy is all about selling, and therefore a word-for-word translation turns away potential clients, and the bottom line takes a hit. To illustrate, a poorly written hotel brochure will fail to sell the hotel services to customers, because it projects an unprofessional image and makes it impossible to perceive value behind clumsy sentences. Moreover, some marketing texts have nothing but style to engage prospective clients, because the authors do not have anything substantial to say on the subject, either because they do not know much about it (an external copywriter) or the company itself does not have anything that sets it apart from the competition. Style then becomes even more important for translation, and if translators fail to produce an engaging style, they create what is essentially an empty message. Let’s put this into math terms for clarity:

Description Formula Explanation
 Ideal message Substance + style = ideal message Authors have some sort of competitive edge to write about and use engaging style, too.
“Better than nothing” message Ideal message – substance = style only The marketing message lacks substance and has to rely exclusively on style.
 Empty message Style only – style = zero Translators fail to produce engaging style, so the entire translated copy is a flop.

It is a waste of time for translators.

Whereas with technical texts, average translator productivity is one hour per page, translating one page of marketing content can take anything from two hours to a day. Take the extreme example: slogans. A slogan is a short marketing message that can take hours or days to translate, resulting in ridiculous words-per-hour productivity. What do translators think after a day spent like this? “Why on earth did I accept this job? I could have already translated twice or thrice as much of something technical!” Some translators put up with this, as long as they are paid accordingly for such translations. But the truth is that translators have a hard time justifying these higher rates to clients. It is difficult to get clients to pay even a double rate, much less a triple or quadruple rate. And most people are reluctant to ask for a double rate to begin with. A typical translator ends up thinking like this: “This translation will bring me the stress of negotiating a higher rate, and then I will spend more time that I will be paid for anyway.” The decision to refuse the job and avoid the stress altogether comes naturally.

Barely 5% of translators are cut out for marketing work.

In my experience, a very small fraction of English to Russian translators can handle marketing copy well. Translating marketing content is extremely difficult. Not only are you supposed to be a great copywriter, but you also need to understand the subject area very well, which is usually a challenge with marketing, because it tends to lack substance, i.e, a context that translators could rely upon. Another factor is that most translators prefer to steer clear of marketing because of potential problems. Firstly, as you already know, translators end up spending much more time than they are paid for. Secondly, even if they do a good job, someone may tear it down in a blink of an eye. If the translator chose style over accuracy, she gets punished for inaccuracy. If she chose accuracy over style (a bad idea, in any case), she is ridiculed for copy that does not sound as if it were written by a native speaker.

What do I make of it as a translation buyer?

If you want to get more bang for your marketing buck, drop the misperception that marketing translations are just as easy as others. Find a translator who understands that style is crucial and pay this translator whatever she charges, to make sure she does not feel that she is wasting her time and does not start cutting corners. Further reading: “Don’t Let Translation Be a Bottleneck to Your Expansion

Translation Prices Explained

May 23rd, 2014, Roman Mironov


The fees translation vendors charge for translation services vary depending on multiple factors. This article lists some of the most important among them.


Translation price is largely a function of quality, making it the single most important differentiator. Vendors with a “high volume, low margin” strategy attract clients with rock-bottom rates, but are unlikely to deliver to high standards. They deliver something that looks like translation, because it is written in another language (and clients often cannot tell the difference), but when push comes to shove, this translation may prove useless or even get clients into trouble. You may think of them as “hit and run” vendors, since making a quick buck is their priority—long-term relationships are not.

By contrast, vendors with a “low or average volume, high margin” strategy pride themselves in providing high-quality translations that are more expensive. By paying higher prices, clients ensure that the translations will provide the expected results, such as securing new business with a prospective customer from another country. Clients enjoy better customer service, too, because vendors value them and want to build a long-term relationship.

It stands to reason that writing a big, fat check for translation services does not always result in top quality, just as buying a BMW does not mean a 100% breakdown-free experience. It is all about probability. By working with a high-quality vendor, clients are much more likely to get a good translation than if they choose to pay an average price, much less when they buy at bargain-basement rates.

Subject area

Even though factors other than quality have less influence on translation fees, they still matter. For example, subject area also contributes to a higher price. Whereas general texts, such as directions explaining how to get to a specific location, are fairly easy to translate, specialized texts, such as gas turbine documentation, are way more challenging. Such texts require translators who specialize in this subject areas. Such translators are scarce and are in high demand, allowing them to charge higher fees. Another reason for a higher rate is the need to research specialized terminology and concepts in the course of translation, which takes time.

Content type

Texts also differ by content type, with types that are difficult to translate calling for a higher rate. Suppose you have a user manual for an MP3 player and a website designed to sell this player. Whereas the user manual, with its simple language and straightforward instructions, is a breeze to translate, the website is another story. Its marketing message is much more difficult to reproduce in another language. Even if your translator understands it perfectly, she may still spend countless hours coming up with translations that sound just right—as if they were originally written in the target language. Just as it is easier for the MP3 player manufacturer to produce a user manual than to create an effective marketing tool, it is easier for translators to translate the former than the latter.


Turnaround time may also have an impact on translation fees. Rush translations require a surcharge, while longer deadlines may be subject to a sweet discount. Unlike other factors mentioned in this article, this one is totally within clients’ control. Clients who have the discipline to plan ahead and send texts for translation well in advance of their internal deadline are very likely to benefit from lower prices. In contrast, clients who postpone translation until the very last moment invariably pay more than necessary.

In conclusion

Note that optional services offered with translation, such as text extraction, DTP, or post-DTP proofreading, also increase the invoice amount, but they do not influence the price of translation itself. The latter is mainly a function of the four factors described above: quality, subject area, content type, and deadline. You can read more about those optional services in the article explaining different items on an invoice for translation.

Why Professional Translation Matters

April 25th, 2014, Roman Mironov

Turkey hotel Russian translation error

This article lists four compelling reasons to enlist the services of professional translators.

Reason 1: Your reputation is at stake.

If you want your business to project a 100% professional image, you simply cannot afford to work with translation vendors whose less-than-perfect attitude might tar your image. Although it may be nice to save some money by hiring someone with low rates, such savings are likely to be far outweighed by damage to your firm’s reputation in the long run. In extreme cases, you even risk being ridiculed. To avoid this, think like General Electric: At a certain point, GE gave up its air conditioner business for the simple reason that it could not control how its A/C units were installed by third-party installers in the field. GE did not want the shadow of installers’ poor customer service and incompetence cast on the company.

Reason 2: Time lost due to bad translations

If you buy cheap translation, you save money, but are likely to lose the equivalent of what you saved in time, or even more. Whereas a highly qualified translator delivers a final product, a cheap, incompetent translator often delivers raw translation that requires your input, such as formatting or editing. For example, a few years ago, a translation agency that I know sent an unformatted translation in Adobe InDesign to a client, because the project manager did not realize that this file format required heavy formatting after translation. As a result, the client’s reviewer made a lot of comments about formatting when he reviewed the file, and the client was unhappy with the agency’s unprofessional approach, to put it mildly.

Reason 3: Money wasted on poor translations

Buying cheap, low-quality translation often results in additional costs for rework, not to mention lost profits. For instance, one translation buyer purchased a translation of a marriage certificate from German into Russian from an agency. The authority to which the client submitted this translation rejected it due to several critical errors. The client had to re-do translation from scratch with another translation vendor, meaning that the first translation was a total waste of money.

Reason 4: Doing translation yourself

The same applies to doing translation yourself. Just because you know the target language does not necessarily mean you can translate into it well. A good example is the leaflet at the beginning of this blog post: a hotel’s managers thought they could translate this note into Russian themselves, but what they produced is riddled with errors, to the point of nonsense. Translation takes linguistic expertise, knowledge of translation technology, and years of experience. Without such background, you make errors and spend your time ineffectively. And remember that even one translation error might be enough to ruin what took weeks or even months to prepare.

In conclusion

Unless you have extensive knowledge in the field of translation, it is quite risky to engage cheap, unprofessional translators or do translation yourself. Working with professional translators—even if it means paying more—will spare you lost time, money, and stress.

Find out more about our professional Russian translation services.

Google Translate Killed Translation of Personal E-mails

April 22nd, 2014, Roman Mironov


As online translators are getting better, it makes a lot of sense to use these free-of-charge services to translate your private correspondence—whether e-mails or Skype—rather than professional translation services. Obviously, machine translation is not always appropriate, but my point is that it is quite often sufficient for this type of text.

What kind of correspondence can you translate this way?

Examples include:

  • Communication through dating services in the attempt to find a loved one in a foreign country;
  • Writing to a friend casually;
  • Other informal exchanges where both parties do not expect perfect translation.

There is no doubt that in all of these examples, you can benefit from professional translation. A text translated by a professional will produce a better impression and protect you from falling into the trap of cultural differences. But before you choose professional translation, ask yourself:

  1. How critical is quality for private correspondence like mine?
  2. Do I accept the fact that a professional translator will charge hefty fees, even if this translation does not produce the results I want?
  3. Am I willing to wait a day or two until my translation is ready?
  4. Do I mind another person reading my private correspondence?


Until recently, machine translations were not just difficult to understand—they were often outright ridiculous. Online machine translations could distort your message to the point where it made no sense and made you look ridiculous. However, machine translation is getting better. Although not perfect by a long shot, it usually conveys information well. A certain level of errors is acceptable in personal correspondence anyway: after all, errors and misunderstandings are frequent even when no translation is involved. And if something is unclear to the other party, he or she can easily double-check with you.

Quality aside, machine translation has two distinct advantages: it is free and instantaneous. With private correspondence, where the speed of exchange can be more important than error-free communication, these advantages may outweigh the drop in quality.

Last, but not least, using an online translation service reduces privacy issues. If you are uncomfortable with a human translator reading your personal e-mails, using an anonymous service, such as Google Translate, might be just what you need.

Suggestions for better translations

To make the best use of machine translation, follow these best practices:

  • Keep your text as simple as possible. The shorter your sentences, the easier they are to translate. Bear in mind that too short sentences can be ambiguous, though.
  • Avoid idioms, e.g., “to put a stake in the ground,” because machine translation might translate them literally—it cannot tell whether you are using them literally or metaphorically.
  • Avoid ambiguity. For example, avoid homonyms, i.e., words that sound the same, but have different meanings. Example: “bar” means both “a retail establishment that serves alcoholic beverages” and “ a unit of measuring pressure.”
  • When it comes to politeness, err on the side of caution. Something that sounds casual in your culture may appear impolite in another, so be neutral.

Formal exchanges

Remember that these suggestions generally do not apply to formal communication! Using machine translation for such purposes will be detrimental both to your goal and reputation. For this reason, formal e-mails require professional translation. Examples include:

  • Proposals to prospective clients
  • Applying for a job
  • Applying for study.

In conclusion

With the recent advancements of online translation services, they are a viable alternative to professional translation, because they are quick, free-of-charge, and in theory anonymous. Although machine translation is not error-free (and will likely continue to be this way in the foreseeable future), it produces meaningful results that are quite sufficient for simple, informal exchanges. By keeping your text simple and culturally neutral, you can achieve good results without paying through the teeth.

Can I Buy Translation without DTP?

April 14th, 2014, Roman Mironov


A quote you received from a translation agency may include an item called DTP. DTP (desktop publishing) in translation means formatting documents after they were translated. The scope of DTP varies widely, with some projects requiring no DTP at all and others requiring many hours of formatting. The more complex the formatting is, the larger the scope. A simple document with few images needs little or no DTP. A large InDesign file with multiple images, tables, charts, and cross references is more challenging. But suppose you have a limited budget and do not want to pay for anything beyond translation. What are your options?

Is there much formatting?

First and foremost, evaluate the formatting in your original files. Perhaps, there is no formatting at all, because this is simply an intermediate file and you will insert the translations from the translated file into your website manually. In this case, no DTP is necessary, and you should not pay for it even if your vendor offers DTP. Simply ask them to deliver a loosely formatted document right after it was saved from a computer aided translation (CAT) tool.

If your original files have moderate formatting, you need to assess how comfortable you are doing DTP yourself. The main challenge in DTP is that the translated text usually expands compared to the source text and therefore does not fit in the original boundaries. Another challenge is the text within images that is generally extracted for translation into a separate table or file. You will need to replace the original text in images with this translated text. If you feel you can do all formatting yourself, then ask your vendor to deliver a loosely formatted translation saved from a CAT tool. All original formatting will be kept in this file automatically, and you will only need to adjust the formatting as described above.

If the text is formatted heavily, in particular with  more complex formats, such as PowerPoint or Adobe InDesign, it is best to leave DTP to professionals. Doing it yourself without the required skill does not usually make sense. Instead of saving money, you will end up frustrated, because you will waste too much time doing it on a trial-and-error basis and will ultimately realize that a professional could have done the work faster and cheaper.

Post-DTP proofreading

Buyers who choose not to pay for DTP tend to forget completely about post-DTP proofreading, although this is an essential step. The final documents require proofreading after DTP for two reasons: checking the translation in context and checking for formatting issues. The best way to do this proofreading is to assign it to a linguist, preferably the one who translated it, because she will be able to find both the linguistic and formatting problems. This linguist will mark all the errors and return the file to the DTP specialist for corrections or will correct the errors herself where possible.

Forgoing post-DTP proofreading is a bad idea. I have rarely seen files that were perfect after DTP. Another options is for clients to do this proofreading themselves, but it is important to follow the process described above. If a client sends each error by e-mail upon finding it, instead of going through all files and marking all errors, this will be ineffective and frustrating for both the client and the vendor.

Why charging for DTP separately is important

Some translation agencies and freelance translators do not charge separately for DTP. I do not recommend this. One reason is quite obvious: when you do both translation and translation plus DTP at the same rate, all other things being equal, you are losing money, because where DTP is involved, you spend more time on the project. Another reason is that once your clients get accustomed to the “free DTP” policy, it will be hard to charge for DTP if you need to do so one day, for example with a very complex document.

In conclusion

As a translation buyer, you are certainly free to refuse to pay for DTP. In this case, you will be responsible for DTP and post-DTP proofreading. Remember that you cannot blame your vendor for any formatting problems in this case, because they are your responsibility.

Now that you know when Russian DTP is important, you will choose whether to pay for it or not the next time you purchase translation.

Avoiding Time Loss in Challenging Projects

March 21st, 2014, Roman Mironov

6139595092_3a13ea7eb7_zWhenever you, a translation buyer, have a large or otherwise challenging text to translate, your project begins long before translation itself starts. If you want top quality, you need to think through your project ahead of time and start working on the plan as soon as possible. Any delays on your part will reduce the time available to complete the project, and less time means lower quality. This article lists some of the most important preparations:

Looking for a translation vendor

First and foremost, you need to find a vendor. Whether you want to engage a translator directly or use a translation agency, finding a high-quality translator is a challenge, especially if your text is difficult. The earlier you initiate the search process, the higher your chances of receiving the translation within a reasonable time frame.

Preparing the translation project

You need to prepare your project for translation properly. High-quality translation is only possible when the original text is crystal clear to your translation team. Check the text for errors, inconsistencies, or any other problems that may cause misunderstanding or trigger questions from the vendor. Remember to gather reference materials as well, so that the team has enough context to understand the original better.

Planning to succeed

Proper planning is crucial. A small and plain Microsoft Word document is one thing, but a huge manual is quite another. Larger projects may involve additional steps, such as review by an in-house employee, DTP, and post-DTP proofreading. Failure to plan these activities upfront will likely result in problems and delays. For example, if you want to have the translation checked by an in-house employee, this needs to be done right after translation, in a bilingual format; that is, while the translation process is still underway. Doing this after the translation process—after DTP and post-DTP proofreading—is ineffective and costly.

Post-DTP proofreading on your end should be planned ahead, too. Give your proofreader ample time and have her follow an established procedure. This means going through all the final files, highlighting both linguistic and formatting issues, and then sending the issues to the translation team all at once. Such a process will produce better results than having no schedule and procedure at all, in which case the proofreader might send her comments one by one by e-mail as soon as she notices each problem.

Eliminating delays

To avoid delays between activities requires setting up automatic notifications, so that whenever an activity is completed, the next one can start immediately. If triggering the next activity depends on someone sending a notification manually, this will invariably cause delays.

By implementing these best practices for planning translation, you will be sure to find the right translation team and make it possible for them to do a good job. Freeing people from working under pressure is rewarding enough in itself—following a plan will give everyone enough time to schedule their activities for the most effective work. And you will also send a clear message to all stakeholders that you are very serious about quality.

If you have questions about this post, feel free to ask in the comments below or by contacting me through LinkedIn.

Why Do Translation Rates Vary So Widely?

March 13th, 2014, Roman Mironov
Poor Russian to English translation

This is a cheap Russian to English translation from a bank’s website. It does not make sense to save on translations unless you are fine with things like “estimated cards.”

Receiving quotes for translation from several providers can be confusing, because the prices will be very different. Although different factors make up translation price, there is a single most important factor: quality. This post explains how quality is reflected in translation price, using a car analogy.

Translations are like cars when it comes to price.

The issue of a high range of prices is not unique to the translation industry. I like to compare it to the automotive industry, where divergence of prices is outrageous, too, with a new car priced from $10,000 to $100,000 and more. It is quality that accounts for such varied prices in both cases. If you want nothing more than a means to get from one place to another, you buy the cheapest car available. Similarly, if you want to have a document translated that no one will read, it is okay to get the cheapest translation. If you want a premium quality experience with a car, you pay a lot, and the same is true for translation.

Quality means safety.

First and foremost, buying quality at high prices means safety. A premium car has better steel and is manufactured by people with an excellent work ethic who will not cut corners. It has advanced safety systems and more airbags. Your chances of surviving a crash in an expensive car are much higher. The weight of the car alone will make it more likely that you will walk away in case of an accident. Translations are just the same. Bad translation can mean legal costs, if users run into trouble with your products or services. When you realize that you shipped your product with a flawed translation, you will have to “issue a recall” and face unexpected costs.  A high-quality, reliable translation—one that is free from errors—will save you from such liabilities.

Quality means reliability and convenience.

A cheap car can make driving hard work. It does not have many of the useful features that advanced cars have and breaks down more often. It is commonly a frequent source of frustration, since you have to do a lot yourself. By contrast, a premium car has features that make driving more fun. It is also more reliable and does not require much effort from you. Even if something goes wrong, you take it to the dealer, who repairs it under warranty, giving you top customer service. The same is true for translation. If you save on translations, you often end up with a flawed translation that you cannot use, because this is not the image that you want your business to project. You have to fix problems such as formatting yourself. If you have questions or additional requests, you get poor customer service. By contrast, buying at higher prices means that the translation will be final. You will not need to fix it. If you contact your vendor with questions, they will treat you like a king.

Quality means better results.

You bought a car because you needed to drive to work each day. You thought a cheap car would be fine for that purpose. But then one day, it gets stuck in a pothole due to insufficient ground clearance. The next day it does not start because its cheap battery died. This car does not get you to work, it does not deliver on your expectations. In the same vein, cheap, low-quality translations do not serve your purpose. Users struggle to make sense of them. Instead of attracting new business, they turn away clients. The money you saved is negligible compared to your lost profits. By contrast, expensive translations mean that you get what you expect, because they are easy to understand. sometimes even better that the original. They give you peace of mind, because you have the confidence that they will bring you the expected results.

You are in the driver’s seat.

The good thing about divergence of prices for both cars and translations is that you have a wide variety to choose from, based on your needs and budget. If you need a car to drive around a small town, a small car will be enough. If you drive on the highway a lot or even off-road, you need a bigger and more powerful car. With translation, you have the same freedom to choose. If you want a translation for legal reasons only, you can afford low quality. But if you have a marketing text to translate, one that your success hinges upon, you can select top translators.

In conclusion

Of course there are other price factors involved in both cars and translations, but quality is the one that contributes most to the price. A major difference is that a premium car can be viewed as a luxury, but a premium translation is primarily an investment. The better choice you make and the better quality you get, the higher your return. For this reason, even though there are exceptions, in general, you are much better off buying more expensive translations.

The main challenge is that unlike with cars, buyers often do not have the knowledge to tell low translation quality from bad translation quality. You can learn more about this in the article “You Can Check Quality of Translation, Even if You Don’t Know the Language.

“Wait” Your Way to Higher Quality

March 11th, 2014, Roman Mironov


Buying translation often involves making a decision about what is more important to you: speed or quality. Read this article to learn about the advantages and drawbacks of both approaches.


Advantages Drawbacks
  • Since you get your translation faster, you can start using it sooner, and it can bring you the results you want more quickly.
  • Going for speed makes sense if you delayed initiating the translation project until the point where only a rush translation can meet your deadline.
  • Quality invariably takes a hit—from inaccuracies that make it difficult to understand, to mistranslations may even subject you to ridicule. Remember that there is no shortcut to high translation quality. Quality translation takes time and dedicated people who are hard to find (again a matter of time).
  • Speed means stress for everyone involved in the project. An urgent project can make every stakeholder unhappy, leaving them with the feeling that it should and could have been done much better.
  • An extremely urgent project may call for a surcharge, as the translation team may need to put other projects on the back burner and work overtime.
  • You get a translation that is much more likely to bring you the desired results.
  • The project follows an orderly procedure, ensuring stress-free work for every stakeholder.
  • High-quality translation takes more time, which means having to wait patiently.
  • With more challenging texts, high quality is also more expensive.

Why choose quality over deadline?

Although I admit that some projects are truly urgent, I believe that in most cases, it is better to sacrifice speed for quality. Here are a few reasons in addition to the advantages listed above:

  1. Is not it fascinating that all you need to do for a higher quality of translation is to wait a little bit more? Whereas with other products and services, you usually pay more for higher quality, with translation, you just wait for higher quality.
  2. Urgency is often exaggerated. Clients ask their vendors to complete translations in just a few days, but then keep those translations untouched in e-mails for weeks or even months. Now that you know how translation quality hinges on the time available to do it, do not fall into this trap. Instead, set deadlines based on real needs.
  3. It is too easy and tempting to ask for and get a quick turnaround. Since competition is high among translation agencies and translators, there is always someone available to do the job within your deadline, even though it is obvious to a reasonable person that a “rush” deadline makes it impossible to do as good a job. You will get the translation back quickly, but you may find that it is too literal or riddled with errors to the point of being completely useless. Is quick turnaround really worth it?

I have barely scratched the surface of this issue. Your comments and additional ideas are more than welcome.

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