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The Ultimate Shortcut to Translating Russian into English with Optimal Quality

 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.


  • Olga says:

    Practically, more often than not, native speakers of English, naturally being proficient only in their
    mother tongue, cannot grasp specific contexts and meanings. And even speakers of Russian cannot take it that “в южной части тундры” doesn’t translate as “TO the south of tundra” (from one of those portfolios from “experienced” certified translators). An American will never really understand it and will easily translate сущностный as significant, while существенный as essential and nobody will see that translation is not about creating a “native-like” text, but about making sure you don’t distort the meanings in the first place!

    Your example about “paying particular attention” (which is not incorrect per say, and can be OK in some contexts) vs “focusing on” is a bit stretched out. “Our focus is interpretation” means that “we are primarily occupied in interpretation”, while the Russian sentence reads as “We put a lot of stock into the interpretation sector of our company as especially demanding for such and such reasons”. This is how I, as a native speaker of Russian understand the original sentence. While you tried to sound “native-like” in your “no-Runglish” version, you ended up corrupting the original meaning a little bit, making the reader assume that the company’s main occupation is indeed interpretation, while they never meant it in the original. This proves again that native speaker of the source language is better in terms of context-keeping in the translation, if it is supported by a proofreader. I think one of the points you’re missing in this insinuation is that Russian is among pretty rare languages, and non-Russian-born proficient speakers of it are very few, and not even all of them speak it at a level approptiate for quality translation.

  • John says:

    What is really needed is someone who has lived in both countries, is proficient in both languages and is highly experienced in both cultures. Such individuals are rare, and many would not presume to be expert, since they “know how much they don’t know”.

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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.