In an increasingly globalized world, professionals are realizing that reaching a multilingual audience is more important than ever. Since so many people around the world speak English, it can be easy to overlook the need to translate your work into other languages. However, people are much more likely to buy something if it’s advertised to them in their native language, and trying to communicate with a partner or team member for whom English isn’t their first language can be difficult. Professional translation services make it easier to do business, sell services and products, and reach a larger audience.
If you intend to have a global audience or team, it’s a good idea to hire a translation company to help with your communication. But it can be difficult to know where to start. To help you pick the best one, we reviewed 50 companies on a variety of factors including their industry specialization, price, reputation, and more to narrow down our choices to the top nine. Read on to find out which one might work best for you.
The 9 Best Translation Services of 2021
- Best Overall: Day Translations
- Runner-Up, Best Overall: The Word Point
- Best Free Option: Google Translate
- Best for Students: Reverso Context
- Best for Finance Professionals: Lionbridge
- Best Legal Translators: Morningside Translations
- Best for Marketing Materials: TransPerfect
- Best for Travelers and Tourism: TripLingo
- Best for E-commerce: Stepes
Best Overall: Day Translations
A U.S.-based translation firm with 15 years of experience, Day Translations is known for its high-quality work and is trusted by large-scale clients like Tesla, AT&T, and HBO. We picked it as best overall due to the variety of services it offers, including translation, transcription, localization, and foreign language proofreading, along with using certified translators and native speakers and providing the option of specialized experts in industries as varied as medical, academic, or marketing. Day Translations also offers a certified translation for government or official documents such as visas, diplomas, and accreditations, and offers translations for 50 languages.
Customers praise Day Translations for its accuracy and punctuality, as well as its excellent customer service, which is known to be friendly, professional, and online 24/7. Pricing is available once you request a quote, which you must do through its website and you must also provide a copy of your document along with the request. Day Translations pricing is higher than its competitors, but the quality and accuracy of its work are worth it.
Runner-Up, Best Overall: The Word Point
Like our choice for best overall translation service, The Word Point offers a diversity of services such as translation, localization, interpretation, and transcription, and the company also hires linguists specializing in all major industries from finance to legal, marketing, and gaming. Prices are competitive and reasonable, which is made even more impressive by the fact that the company claims to use 100% human translation rather than machine-assisted translation, and the translations are accurate. However, The Word Point offers fewer options for languages available for translation versus some competitors.
The website provides an automatic pricing estimate, which is both uncommon and helpful while researching and comparing firms. Calculated per word, prices operate on a system tiered from basic to premium, and also by language pair. This combination usually favors the customer, especially for more common language pairings.
Reviewers positively rated the company’s customer service with all employees seen as polite and professional. While their turnaround times are average, translations are returned promptly and they do offer urgent work services, but be aware that those come with a higher price.
Best Free Option: Google Translate
Google Translate is a high-quality, free translating tool that uses machine learning, a key part of artificial intelligence that trains software to improve itself, to create your translations. We selected it as our best free option because of its availability, at no charge, on your browser, tablet, and smartphone, and because it can translate writing, speech, video, and images quickly.
Note that Google Translate works on AI rather than human translation and it does not pick up on all the nuances involved in language. However, it can give you a quick translation that makes sense grammatically and semantically. This works best for casual conversations and low-sensitivity documents, and for more common translation pairings like English and Spanish. If you have a sensitive document or one that’s in a less-common language, you should consider using a paid service that relies on trained translators.
Best for Students: Reverso Context
We selected Reverso Context as our best resource for students because of its free searchable database of human translations with added machine translation capabilities. This means that students looking for help understanding a sentence in a French book or looking for the right word for a Spanish essay can find what they need. It helps provide more natural-sounding translations since it relies on the translators’ experience with the phrase or word and it helps students teach themselves the language.
Unlike Google Translate, which simply spits back the translation, Reverso Context translates your inputs and offers you a list of real human translations using the word or phrase in context, in both languages. This is the best way to use machine translation since you can check out the human translations yourself and catch the machine’s mistakes while learning yourself.
Reverso also offers a free download for its machine translator onto your desktop, allowing you to translate from within applications like Word. However, note that free machine translators like this one are unlikely to give you a very high-quality translation. But for its database of human translations and solid translation capabilities, students and teachers alike rate this service highly.
Best for Finance Professionals: Lionbridge
One of the largest translation services companies and with 25 years of experience, Lionbridge is well-versed in translating all types of financial documents including financial reports; equity and bond research notes; funding and licensing agreements; investment, performance, and market reports; and legal regulations. Due to this, along with clients like Credit Suisse, JP Morgan Chase, and BlackRock, we selected Lionbridge as our best translation service for finance professionals.
Advertised for businesses, Lionbridge is best used for big, custom projects at the enterprise level, but the company recently acquired Gengo, which can be used for smaller translation projects and is typically completed by freelance translators.
The company claims they can work on short deadlines, and Lionbridge also emphasizes the importance they place on the confidential processing of your content. Their website is sleek and navigable, though they require you to give them a call or send an email to discuss pricing.
Best Legal Translators: Morningside Translations
Founded in 2000 in New York, Morningside Translations specializes in intellectual property and legal translation. Their services include patent translation, contract translation, and full multilingual litigation support requiring certified translation and document review. Given their expertise and focus on legal documents, as well as a certification from the Geneva-based International Organization for Standardization (ISO) for translation quality, medical device translation, and information security, we selected it as our best legal translation service.
According to the company website, 97% of Am Law 200 and over 90 leading brands trust Morningside Translations for their legal translation needs. Employing linguists with at least five years of experience in legal translation, they prove their professionalism with a 98% punctual turnaround rate. Their website is clear and easy to navigate, but like most other translation services, you must request a quote; pricing is not available on the site.
Prices are a bit higher than other companies', but for legal translation a premium price is normal. Note that Morningside Translations only works with other businesses, so if you’re an individual needing legal translation help, your best bet is to look for a general translation firm that employs linguists specializing in legal translation.
Best for Marketing Materials: TransPerfect
Our pick for best translation service for marketing materials is TransPerfect due to its 25 years of experience providing document translation for marketing materials, as well as its multilingual call center, multimedia services, hiring, and “transcreation” services, which is the process of adapting a marketing message to appeal to a specific cultural demographic, rather than translating word-for-word. They also use an “agency-style” approach to your marketing and localization needs, offering cultural consulting, brand management, name testing, and image consultation.
To ensure the quality of their translations, the company’s linguist certification exam has an even lower pass rate (12%) than the rigorous American Translators Association exam (20%) and was the first translation proficiency exam to be subject-specific to assess both language skills and industry knowledge.
If you want to use TransPerfect, note that their website is a touch confusing, and it can be hard to find contact details. They also ask clients to get in touch with them to discuss project details and request a quote, rather than providing that information upfront.
Best Translation Service for Travelers and Tourism: TripLingo
For those planning on traveling, TripLingo is our best translation service for travelers and tourism. A free app with a premium upgrade available, it can translate the text as well as images you take with your camera (e.g., menus or road signs) and acts as a robot interpreter by translating your voice and “reading” its translation aloud for you and your listeners. It also offers offline translation and integrates a WhatsApp-style international calling service.
In addition to translation services, it helps you with monetary conversions and Fahrenheit to Celcius conversions and assists you with travel tools, safety and emergency tips, and culture notes to help you during your trip. There’s even a tip calculator as well as a learning component with the premium version where you can teach yourself around 2,000 phrases per language and drill key vocabulary through audio lessons and flashcard practice.
Although some user reviews complain of bugs, we tested it out and had no issues.
Best Translation Service for E-commerce: Stepes
Research suggests that visitors to websites are twice as likely to buy from a website in their native language, but it’s expensive to hire a company to translate every page of your website, and machine translators or plugins can skip over a lot of nuances. Fortunately, e-commerce sites looking to translate their websites, social media posts, customer reviews, and other copy can use Stepes, our choice for the best translation service for e-commerce.
We selected Stepes because it offers machine-human hybrid continuous translation for e-commerce platforms, with their own patent-pending machine translation post-editing technology, resulting in a speedy turnaround. Prices are reasonable for basic work but on the higher side for marketing and legal work, but that makes sense for those premium services.
Customers praised Stepes for their speed, accuracy, and reliability. They also appreciated Stepes’ integration of technology, with an easy-to-use online user interface and an excellent automatic terminology tool for consistent word choice. Customer service, as well as translators themselves, were easy to get in contact with and were responsive and professional in their interactions.
What Are Translation Services?
Translation services are companies that specialize in translating information from one language to another. They can translate documents from birth certificates to reports, social media posts, and books; provide spoken, in-person interpretation for meetings and conferences; and work with businesses to help market their ideas in culturally appealing ways, also known as localization.
All types of businesses can find translation services useful, particularly if they are trying to expand abroad or increase the productivity of their foreign offices. Individuals moving abroad may need a translation of documents to apply for a visa or get a job.
How Do Translation Services Work?
Once a translation company has received your request, they will assign it to one of their linguists. This translator will contact you to ask any questions about the translations, clarify instructions, and understand your linguistic preferences. When speaking with your translator, be as specific as possible about what you want. The clearer your instructions, the better the quality of the translation.
At this point, you’ll also be able to set a deadline. When picking the due date, however, make sure to leave some time before you need the project to be completed, since your linguist may deliver a little late, and you may find their translation requires revisions.
To find out if it’s a quality translation, we recommend taking your translation to a native speaker, if you know one. Most good companies will accept your request for revisions and return an edited translation promptly.
How Much Do Translation Services Cost?
Most translation firms offer tiered pricing for standard work, which involves less formal content like social media posts, reviews, emails, and premium work with industry specifications like legal, marketing, financial, or urgent work. Often your language pairing will be an important factor in pricing; it’s not unusual for a firm to charge more for uncommon and low-demand pairings (think Yoruba to Uzbek), where there is a limited number of experts.
Other services beyond document translation, like interpretation and localization, will have different pricing structures. Interpretation especially will come at a premium, with many minimum rates starting at a half (or even full) day, since it requires specialized training and experience.
Don’t be surprised if pricing information is not readily available on a translation company website. Because translation jobs are highly specific, based on the quality level, industry, language pairing, and promptness requirements, many companies prefer to calculate each job on a case-by-case basis, often using the document needing translation, and request clients contact them for a quote.
However, many newer startups have begun automating this process since it saves time for potential clients.
What Are Important Features of a Translation Service?
When looking for a translation service, you want to check if they’re corporate members of a national bureau, like the American Translators Association (ATA) for U.S.-based companies. For companies based abroad, look for an ISO 17100:2015 certification, a translation quality standard set by the Geneva-based International Organization for Standardization.
You’ll also want to see if the company hires certified translators. Many American translators are certified through the ATA test, which has a pass rate of only 20%; however, if a firm is a member of the ATA, it does not necessarily mean their translators are also ATA-certified. It’s helpful to search their website for their hiring process and to keep in mind the size of the firm. If a company with a small executive team and two years of experience claims to have a team of 10,000 linguists worldwide, they probably don’t do the best job vetting each one.
Another important factor to consider is how much they use machine translation. While these translations are usually of acceptable quality, a machine runs the risk of overwriting nuances that a human editor might not then catch. A better approach that many companies use is having machines initially translate their projects and then have certified human translators edit the text for grammar, style, context, and tone.
If a company uses a human-only approach, the nuances of tone and style are likely preserved along with accuracy, but depending on the quality you need and the type of document you need to be translated, a machine translation or hybrid work will likely save you money.
Is Using a Translation Service Worth It?
Companies understand that a globalized business model opens up new market opportunities, increases sales, and expands audiences. A translation company is incredibly useful to access these benefits; after all, customers are much more likely to consume information or make a purchase from a website or brochure that’s in their native language, whether they’re searching for a lawyer, booking a trip, or buying makeup.
When it comes to working with international employees, communicating policy changes to team members working in foreign offices becomes easier with a translation service, as does the opportunity to find potential partners or hire foreign employees. And, due to increased immigration, using a translation service can help a company with their domestic employees as well.
While it’s possible to translate between languages using a free service like Google Translate, hiring a translation service is worth it for professional work.
How We Chose the Best Translation Services
To choose the best translation services, we compiled a list of 50 translation companies and organized them according to their specializations and services provided, along with any industry-specific experience in fields like finance, legal, marketing, tourism, education, and e-commerce. We reviewed their webpages and customer reviews as well as focused on factors including accuracy of the translation, pricing, industry specialization, customer support, and website clarity.
The ones that we selected as our top choices all provided accurate, affordable translation in their respective industries, had solid reputations, and provided quality customer support and easy-to-use websites.
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