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Cheap Translation Services: Why is Translation So Expensive?

cheap translation services

You need to translate a real estate purchase contract, so you call a professional translator that your colleague recommended for being reliable and providing great translations. Only when you see the quote, your jaw drops so far down that you can taste your fresh shoeshine.

You didn’t expect it to be that expensive.

So you Google cheap translation services. You find a company that promises perfect texts in record time, for a fraction of the cost the freelancer quoted. What kind of services can you expect?

What cheap translation services can you find on Google?

I took the liberty of doing a Google search for cheap translations to see what offers buyers peruse.

I looked at two translation companies marketing cheap prices combined with fast turnaround and perfect quality. Let’s see what I found:

My first choice, let’s call it Cheap Translation Company 1, offers rates as little as $0.04/word. Of course, that’s in any specialization and any level of difficulty! How can they afford to charge so little, you ask? They cut expenses on marketing while also claiming that, unlike other language service providers, they ‘could care less’ (shouldn’t it be ‘couldn’t care less’?) about the number of words in your document or how long it takes the translator to complete the job. It seems they also ‘could care less’ about profit: they professedly only use professional, qualified translators, who are apparently willing to work for McDonald’s-employee-worthy wages. With this setup, they’d make no money at all. What’s more, they provide proofreading for FREE!

It looks like they used the ‘free’ proofreader to revise their website, as their explanation of “how we ensure the fastest ever work ever” might raise some doubts about their claimed “perfect quality”.

They do have some useful pointers about how to translate texts:

“When dealing with difficult texts, use your wits”

I don’t know why I invested in a master’s degree in translation when there are valuable tips like these on the internet!

“Make good use of famous translation techniques”


“Don’t try to translate separate words”

Right… I’ll avoid translating separate words, whatever that means. That will certainly help the client save money since there won’t be any translation happening.

The Pulitzer goes to this comedically long and nonsensical phrase: “Even though these translators who translate these papers, it would take much of their time and effort to be able to translate every single word into a different language, adding to the fact that they also have to deal with sentence structures, punctuations and phrasings.”

That’s right, CTC1, but didn’t you say you ‘could care less’ about how much time and effort it takes?

Cheap Translation Services Company 2

Okay, I’ve had enough fun with the last one. Let’s take a look at CTC2 and try to break down how they attain the ‘best’ translations at the cheapest rates in the market.

They say their documents are not proofread and delegated to junior translators. They offer translation services for texts where 100% quality guarantee is not required. Fair enough. However, despite seeing this claim on the home page, they later affirm flawless delivery: “perfect results delivered on time, every time”. Right. Initially, I thought they were transparent about their less-than-mediocre quality, but now I’m confused. Which is it?

The age-old motif: you can’t have fast, cheap and good.

Translation services are expensive. That’s true. But your reputation in the English-speaking world is important. Style and fluency attract your audience. An incisive eye for details and nuances is priceless. Years of subject-matter experience is expensive. Deftness in transforming the words of one language into a localized, attractive text in another language is invaluable. Take more than price into consideration when choosing a translation service.

You can find some tips on buying translation services here.

If you have any questions about picking the right translator for your project, drop us a line and we’ll get in touch!

By Maeva Cifuentes, MITI

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