Russian to English translation cost?
May 22, 2010 11:01 AM   Subscribe

How much should we expect to pay for Russian to English translation services?

A follow up to this question. My stepfather and the Admiral have been in communication for a while now and they're working on putting together a book (totally on spec right now - no publisher involved - they may self/vanity publish, may try to shop it around to military press types). As part of that they'd like to include about seven short stories (~10,000 words each) that the Admiral has written. For that, obviously, they'd need better than machine translation into English but the first quote they got (from American Language Services) was $1700 for one 6000 word story - that's out of their price range. Is that the going rate?

Google turns up places that advertise $0.02 a word but I have no idea if those are legit services (i.e. would we be paying someone to run it through Google translate?) The stories are nautical/Naval in nature - would we need to get a specialist? None of us have any experience in this area so any suggestions would be appreciated.
posted by macfly to Writing & Language (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
You might be able to get an ambitious student (undergraduate or graduate) to do it for you for far less, if the literature is interesting/important enough. Contact Slavic/history departments at your local universities.
posted by availablelight at 11:15 AM on May 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

Availablelight's suggestion to contact a university is a great one. Professional translators can run well above $30 per hour depending on the subject and difficulty.

If the Slavic or history departments don't have any takers, you could also talk to the office in charge of exchange programs.
posted by Mackerelly at 12:14 PM on May 22, 2010

$1700 for 6000 words is about $0.28 per word which is definitely in the range for quality translation with a US based agency. Unfortunately you are not going to get satisfactory translation for 0.02 per word. One thing you may try is going directly with a freelance translator rather than an agency that will outsource your work to a third party. Check out for professional translators. If you get one based in Russia you can definitely cut costs. Try posting there and ask for quotes.
posted by clarkie666 at 12:30 PM on May 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

My father who does this professionally says $0.12 per source word. With a minimum of $60.
If you would like my father to do this memail me.
posted by Confess, Fletch at 12:34 PM on May 22, 2010

Also I notice you are in Monterey - guess what else is in Monterey - The Monterey Institute of International Studies. There is most likely Russian language students there.
posted by clarkie666 at 12:36 PM on May 22, 2010

* are most likely. I need to go to language school myself.
posted by clarkie666 at 12:51 PM on May 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

"If you get one based in Russia you can definitely cut costs."

Do not get a translator whose native language is Russian, no matter how good they claim their English is. Unless you want to go over the text rewriting every sentence.
posted by londongeezer at 1:55 PM on May 22, 2010 [2 favorites]

Sorry, my bad..rush read as English to Russian. londongeezer is correct - you want a native English speaker not a Russian based translator. should still provide you with contacts.
posted by clarkie666 at 2:09 PM on May 22, 2010

For something like a short story, you need someone whose English is not only native quality, but native-short-story writer quality. You'll get a better rate by hiring a freelancer directly, rather than going through an agency. I would say .10-.15 a word would be the right range for a true professional. Post an add on

For .02 a word you would probably be paying someone in Russia (or India or China) to do the translation, or perhaps a minimally reviewed machine translation, and almost certainly not be getting someone whose native language is English or who writes English well enough to translate fiction.

Only go the university student route if you're not too keen on getting a professional translation from someone who knows how to solve the many problems involved in the task. There's more to it than being fluent in both languages.
posted by drlith at 7:08 PM on May 22, 2010

Thanks for the info folks - I think we're going to make an attempt at a student translation (at least see what the price is) and then go to proz if that's not working for us.
posted by macfly at 2:35 PM on May 26, 2010

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