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“Native Speaker” for Russian to English Translations

This post discusses specifics of the “native speaker” notion in relation to Russian to English translation. Normally, just as with many other combinations, this translation is best accomplished by a native speaker who can translate more efficiently into their native language by definition. However, with Russian to English translation, the choice isn’t always straightforward.

  1. Compared to Spanish to English or English to Russian, RU-EN is a less popular combination, with a limited choice of available native-speaking translators. This results in higher rates and sometimes makes it challenging to find an immediately available translator, especially in an urgent scenario. Finding a non-native speaker of English for such combination is a much simpler task.
  2. Some clients prefer a native speaker, but are not prepared to pay more than they normally do for EN-RU translation. In other words, they expect that RU-EN rate should be basically similar to EN-RU. While this does make sense theoretically, it is not how things really are in this language pair. In fact, many EN-RU translators, native speakers of Russian, charge rates lower than an industry average. One reason for this is generally low pay rates in Russia or the CIS countries where most of such translators are based. Native speakers of English based in developed countries are not prepared to work for the same rate and can charge twice or three times more than that. Using a non-native speaker seems a very compelling option for those clients who expect EN-RU price tag for RU-EN translation or simply don’t want to pay more when they can pay less.
  3. The Russian language has complex grammar rules, which makes it more difficult to understand for a native speaker of English. Another reason that often makes understanding difficult is low literacy of the authors. For these reasons, a native speaker of Russian may seem a more natural choice.
  4. In general, a native speaker doesn’t necessarily guarantee a high-quality translation. It is my experience that some clients feel otherwise, because they appear focused exclusively on getting a native speaker and, while doing so, pay less attention to other quality-related factors. The truth is that you can’t really check whether your vendor is or has a native speakeryou can only trust them. Because of this, it is important to consider a variety of factors rather than base your judgment on the “native speaker” capacity alone. Remember that a poor translation is still a poor translation, regardless of whether it was done by a native speaker or not.

Here is an example from our experience to give you a feel of these specifics:

In a long-term project, which we were translating from English to Russian, an agency client requested a RU-EN translation. They specifically wanted a native speaker of English, and when we couldn’t provide one, they turned to another vendor who confirmed availability of such translator. As we proofread their translations later, it was clear that they hadn’t been done by a native speaker of English, e.g. Russian word order was preserved in English. So, while the vendor met the requirement formally, they ultimately failed to deliver on the client’s expectations.

If you want your Russian to English translation to be completed by native English speakers, work with us—we are always honest about who we engage for translation.

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About the Author

Roman Mironov
Roman Mironov
CEO & Founder

As the founder of Velior, Roman has had the privilege of being able to turn his passion for languages into a business. He has over 15 years of experience in the translation industry. Roman has helped dozens of clients increase sales by making their products appealing for speakers of other languages.