Costs and Benefits of Professional Human Translation

When you are looking for a translation provider, there are so many options that it may seem overwhelming. How do I find a professional translation that will give me the best results? Do I go with a human translation or machine translation? There are many considerations when looking into what type of professional translation someone might be looking for and at what cost. It mainly boils down to: audience, subject matter and specific language pairs.


If you are looking for client-facing material and a translation that will be accurate and contextually correct, human translation is the best option. It’s widely known that human translation can ensure 100% accuracy. On the other hand, machine translation has a 80-90% accuracy because it cannot compensate for idioms and grammar.

With human translation, you often pay for what you get. The process of producing a quality translation is highly labor-intensive and with the added assurance of producing an error-free file, the higher cost matches the quality of translation you will be receiving. The professional human translator will also be able to consider the audience who will be reading the material and translate accordingly.

Machine translation can be more cost-effective upfront and will offer you quick turnaround time, so people will often go with this option if they just need a fast translation that is for internal-use only and not for the public eye, as there will often be grammatical and syntax errors.

For example, when people watch movies they will often complain that the cultural phrases or words in the subtitles have not been accurately translated. Thus, the movie loses it’s meaning and it’s almost as if the viewer who watches in the native tongue will get an entirely different experience from a viewer who watched the subtitled version. This was apparent when the Korean movie, Parasite, was released. News platforms such as Medium pointed out the nuances with subtitles. For example, the instant messaging application called Kakao was mentioned but on the subtitles, it was translated as “WhatsApp”, to appeal to the American audience since most Americans don’t know what Kakao is. Also, the Korean language has a lot of titles to address different people, depending on how old they are or what their position is. These titles are able to implicitly signal the respect one individual has for the person they are addressing. In the Korean language, when you call someone your ‘older sister’, the character is trying to invoke an allyship with the other character to establish respect and a closeness with one another. However, when the English-speaking audience saw ‘sis’ come across the subtitled screen during a heated argument, it almost seemed comical and made it appear as if the two characters were sort of mocking one another. The power signals aren’t accurately portrayed with the subtitles because we simply don’t have these words in the English language. A machine translation wouldn’t be able to decipher these power signals or accurately translate the titles the way a human translator can.

Subject Matter

The beauty of working with a professional human translation company is they can review the  contents of your file and select the best translator who has a history of highly successful translations within the category you are looking for. This is what separates a human translation from a professional human translation. While there are freelancers out there who may have the language pairing you are looking for, working with a translation company gives you certainty and assurances that they have in-house translators who are tried and true. Once they identify the language pairing(s), they can take it on step further and will only task a translator who specializes in whatever translation you require. Sometimes, the more specialized the subject is, the more costly it will be. This is simply because of the context, which a machine translation could not decipher or know the terms for.

A perfect example is if a medical report is needed. A translator without medical knowledge of specific terms and instrument names could cost a hospital millions of dollars or even cause a legal battle if not translated properly.

Specific language pairs

One thing you may not have known about general translations, is that certain language pairs are differently priced than other. This is due to a number of factors: how popular the language is, the number of translators available, origin of the translator and the set language pairing.

If a language is not very popular, it likely means there are less translators available and even fewer qualified translators who can work on specific subject matters. They will demand a premium for their services. For example, a Spanish to English translation is very common so the price will be pretty standard throughout and quite affordable. However, Finnish to Chinese or Swedish to Swahili will be quite pricey.

That being said, most business clients will get their files translated into the most common languages: Spanish, English, Arabic, Mandarin, Italian and French so the cost will not be all that different.


When you work with an established translation company who has trusted, in-house translators, you are working with reputable and skilled professionals who can provide you the best and most accurate translation. They take many points into consideration before tasking a translator to your file because not all files fit one size. They also have a guarantee that their final translation is without errors because they review the work during and after the work is completed. The cost itself can vary, depending on how specific the subject-matter is and who the audience is for the final translation.

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Costs and Benefits of Professional Human Translation
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Worldwide Express - Document Translation Services
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