Translation services's market in Russia

A few words on the translation agency market in Russia

We often discuss the situation of the Russian translation market with our partners. We talk about how prices are fixed, and other, greater, problems. Understanding these issues stops our customers from making mistakes and helps them make sensible decisions. For those who want a clearer picture of the situation, we've compiled the basic information about the state of the translation market in our country in the following section. We hope you find it useful.

The Russian translation market is not yet mature. A company that needs to choose a translation agency must take this into account. The main characteristics of the market are:

 - A lack of standardization. Unfortunately, the translation industry does not yet have any commonly accepted standards. The quality of the translation depends totally on the translator receiving your text, and not the company you are working with.

 - A lack of regulation. Translation services are not subject to certification and agencies bear no legal responsibility for the quality of the work. Existing cerfications are purely formal and do not guarantee high quality work.

 - A high-growth market and a shortage of professional translators. These two characteristics are linked: the demand for translations is constantly increasing, as are the quality requirements (texts are increasingly becoming increasingly specialized), and there are very few truly qualified professionals. At the same time, thousands of young and inexperienced translators reach the marked after finishing training in universities that have only recently offered courses in translation. One harmful practice is the issuing of translation diplomas to many experts in other areas, as a "bonus" on top of their main area of study. These trends do not favor the professional translator. In parallel, the growing demand for translations leads to higher prices, without the level of quality existing that would justify them.

 - Freelance workers. Most Russian translators work "freelance" - in other words, they are contractors. Freelance translators tend to work with many translation agencies. They benefit from greater flexibility, but this way of working also reduces their sense of responsibility and specialization. They accept translations outside their area of expertise. One of the major problems in the sector is that a huge number of unskilled freelance translators exist, who offer their services alongside truly professional translators. This leads to an overvaluation of the unskilled freelancers, and an underestimate of the value of the talented and experienced professionals.

 - Computerization. The emergence of computer programs and internet services has greatly simplified the job of a translator, allowing them to quickly work with long texts on their computers. At the same time, many companies have started using automatic translations indiscriminately, almost losing their ability to provide professional translations. Many "virtual" translation agencies work on this basis - they are entirely composed of an editor and a computer program. The editor is often completely unfamiliar with the original language of the text that he is working with.

The only way to compete with these new, cheap, translation agencies, is by competing on prices, which leads to lower prices across the industry, and hence the disappearance of many professional translators (as well as the arrival of many new, unskilled ones).

IdeaTranslate Translation Agency was founded to bring new quality standards to the market, and overcome the shortcomings of the sector.

Stakeholders in the Russian translation market

Today, the translation market in Russia includes several types of stakeholder:

1. The "translation agencies" (called in Russian "bureau perevodov") which only partly specialize in translation, and are often subsidiaries of notaries' agencies. In these organizations, translation complements the main business activity. The main workflow of these companies is the translation of documents for individuals, which are then certified by notaries. This market segment works with individuals and is currently not able to provide quality translation of any texts more complex than personal documents (passports, diplomas, procurations).

One characteristic of these agencies is that they have very few staff (only one or two) and they are equipped with computer programs and templates for the translation of personal documents. The quality of these translations is the lowest in the market, and entrusting important work to these agencies is very risky.

2. Small unspecialized translation agencies. These are usually small companies that serve as intermediaries between clients and freelance translators. The strength of these companies is their flexibility and their low prices. But they cannot guarantee the quality of the translation, or the confidentiality of documents, and cannot offer the translation of large, multi-sectional texts.

3. Large unspecialized translation agencies. These companies employ some of their translators full-time, who specialize in certain areas. They provide a number of additional services beyond basic translation. They have earned their reputation and are able to fill large orders. The costs of their services are much higher than average market rates but they are still able to attract clients, especially among those who were once victims of poor quality translations. By dealing with a business of this type, the customer cannot guarantee a perfect job, but can substantially lower the risk.

4. Specialized translation agencies. Some agencies have specialized deeply on some specific topics. These companies often work with a few loyal clients or a specific type of customer. Tariffs are much higher than market rates, since these companies position themselves as providing exceptional quality work, and charge correspondingly high prices. However, many large companies who require many high-quality translations on a specific subject prefer to create their own internal translation departments, rather than working with translation agencies.

The IdeaTranslate translation agency works on a European model and isn't a typical Russian translation agency. We chose an alternative strategy from the start, combining the qualities of various types of agencies and approaches. Specializing on various subjects does not stop us from remaining flexible. Our translation process is based on our own software system and intelligent quality control, allowing us to integrate with the client's business perfectly, in order to meet their objectives and goals.

Here is a table comparing the various features of firms in the Russian translation market:

Type of company Prices Quality of translation Additional services offered
Standard personal documents Non-standard texts, with rich content Translation by a native speaker Apostille, legalization Interpretation

"Bureau perevodov" 
Translation section of a notary service

Low Medium Low No No No
Small unspecialized translation agency High Low Low No No No
Large unspecialized agency High Medium Low/medium No Yes Yes
Specialized agency High Medium High Yes Yes No
IdeaTranslate Medium, optimal (determined by the translation's objectives) Yes High Yes Yes