9 May /13

The High Cost of Cheap Translations

For better or worse, we live in an age where it is easier than ever to understand and communicate with someone who speaks a different language. If a translation of a document is needed, all you have to do is type “translation service” into an internet search engine and you will instantly receive approximately 167,000,000 results, many of them promising “cheap” services.

Unfortunately, when your words matter most and the primary concern is getting your message across effectively and accurately, there are many pitfalls to discount translation service providers. Some of them are obvious while others may be subtle but equally disastrous. So, what exactly sets a quality language service provider apart from discount translation agencies?


  •  Machine Translation– This is exactly what the phrase says: your translation is performed by a language translating program. In essence, the program simplistically takes the words in a message or document and translates them verbatim based on a set of preprogrammed definitions. While this form of translation is very cost-effective, translation programs are generally unable to understand and decipher key aspects of written communication, such as specialist vocabulary and contextual nuances- as for instance the difference between feeling “well” and a “well” that is natural water resevoir or oil well. Machine translations can often be detected by their undifferentiating tone and incorrect word usage. When you come across a significantly discounted rate, you are likely to purchase the least reliable translation on the market, a machine translation.
  • Translator Quality– Human translators will always be able to provide a better translation than a machine; however, not all translators are created equal. There are no substitutes for a well-trained, professional translator, but a well-trained translator is not cheap to employ. Consider this analogy: if you are travelling to Latin America for business and need a Spanish translator to assist you, would you rather have a cheap translator who has had several online courses in conversational Spanish or a more expensive translator who has an inherent knowledge of business Spanish, knows the local dialect and the regional customs? As with many things in life, quality doesn’t come cheap, but it achieves better results. When you select a translation provider, ask for the education and professional training of their translators.
  • Inhouse Translators– If you ask your potential translation provider about the experience and education of their translators and they cannot or are unwilling to provide you with any details, you likely deal with a translation agency. Translation agencies outsource their translations to freelancers. In contrast, translation companies employ professional translators in-house, directly in their offices. This allows for much higher consistency of translation quality. Translators can work on the same clients consistently, thereby developing an expertise for specific vocabulary and style preferences. In addition, in-house translators are a translation company’s most valued asset. Accordingly, quality language providers therefore invest into their translators, providing them with ongoing training as well as the latest glossaries, dictionaries, and translation tools.
  • Native Speakers– Just as the cost of manufacturing cars varies from one country to the next, prices for translation services are subject to major fluctuations. In the translation business, companies frequently try to cut corners by using translators who are not native speakers of the target language. For instance, finding a cheap translator who translates from Kannada (a language from Southern India) into English in India might be cheap and easy. However finding an English native speaker who can translate a specialist pharmaceutical document according to FDA regulations from Kannada into English is a different matter. Specialist native speakers are essential to achieving top translation quality. But that quality doesn’t always come at the lowest price.
  • Quality Assurance– This includes many key aspects of a true, well-regarded translation firm, such as having in-house translators, proper and ongoing training, and translator supervision. Logically that requires the employment of project managers, account managers, and translation managers. The majority of discount translation agencies are able to offer lower rates due to their lack of quality assurance. By not having these added checks in the system, cheap translation firms can increase the overall volume of orders they can process, but they also decrease the quality of their translations.

Needless to say, when it comes to translation providers, cost certainly isn’t everything. Moreover, when it comes to specific and technical translation needs, all translation companies are not created equal. Quality language service providers do not compete based on cost; they compete by offering expert translations tailored to fit the needs of their customers. These translations are completed and overseen by trained professional who work in a professional setting with the necessary support system to produce superior results.

As a client, you want to make certain that your translation is in the hands of a translator and not at the mercy of a machine.

At EVS Translations, quality and improving quality is the driving force behind our ISO, DIN, ATA, and FPAL certified international translation company. EVS is driven by an in-house team of 102 employees – translators, proofreaders, DTP, IT and glossary specialists, project managers and an accounting team. We have a quality management system in place in order to analyze customer requirements, define quality objectives and secure them on a sustained basis.