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Why Do Translation Rates Vary So Widely?

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.

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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.