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Translation and Interpretation

If you need a document translated or you're seeking an interpreter for visitors or a conference, these reputable providers and tips about translation and interpretation will start you on your way.

Service Providers

Alboum

Exclusively supports nonprofits and mission-driven organizations. Provides human translation for printed materials and virtual interpretation services. Woman-owned small business; no minimums or rush fees. Half-day interpretation services available. Obtain a quote from Alboum.


CyraCom

Offers interpretation services from seven centers staffed with CyraCom employees (not freelance linguists). Dedicated project manager for Cornell, plus free translation portal access and no project management fees. Ongoing training, quality monitoring, and several ISO certifications. Obtain a quote from CyraCom.


Language Connections

Offers standard translation and interpretation services; also specializes in language training. Language Connections hires subject matter experts who freelance as linguists; most translation jobs are assigned a translator and a proofreader. Five percent nonprofit discount. Half-day interpretation services available. Obtain a quote from Language Connections.


Stepes

The "Uber of translation services," focused on streamlined technology solutions to interface with clients. With a primary focus on document translation, clients can upload documents, receive fast quotes, and interact with the linguist assigned to their project. Obtain a quote from Stepes.


TransPerfect

World's largest translation provider with enterprise offerings across the spectrum of translation services. All linguists are ISO-certified, native speakers with 15+ years of experience. Subject matter experts are assigned to projects. Ten percent nonprofit discount. Obtain a quote from TransPerfect.

Units may choose to work with other providers not listed above.

Two students working by a wall that has a posterized view of Cornell and says Language Resource Center.
Students in Cornell's Language Resource Center.

Translations are for written text. Interpretations are for oral speech.

About Translation Services

  • Most providers offer a range of services (document translation, interpretation, website localization, etc.), rather than specialize in one area.
  • Some providers offer a linguist-review service, where you can provide a previously translated document and get a review for accuracy.
  • Reputable companies will assign native speakers of your target language who are subject matter experts in the project’s academic field.
  • Many providers work with linguists who live abroad and freelance their translation services, rather than employ in-house translators.
  • Some services will assign a single translator to complete the work, while others will assign a translator, editor, and proofreader as quality assurance.
  • Linguist certification can vary from company to company, with many requiring translators to be certified in their home countries. Some top companies have International Organization for Standardization (ISO) certification.
  • Document translations are typically priced per word, with an average of $.20/word. The overall cost will depend on the language (Swahili is more expensive than Spanish) and the content (creative writing is more expensive than roughly translating an email).
  • Most document translations will have a minimum cost of $100–$200.
  • The industry standard for turnaround time is 2,000-2,500 words/day, but rush orders may be offered at a financial and quality cost.
  • “Translation memory” is common among providers, and refers to storing previously translated material for each client. If a client has multiple projects with similar content, there is no need to translate twice, and the per-word savings are passed on.
  • Discounts can often be found when there is a large volume of projects, or if there is a lot of repetition across projects (e.g., legal contract templates).

About Interpretation Services

  • There are two types of interpretation:
    • Consecutive interpretation, which can sometimes be done by one interpreter repeating back in a second language (depending on event length); and
    • Simultaneous interpretation, which typically requires hiring two interpreters for any event over 20–30 minutes. Simultaneous interpreters typically switch off every 15-20 minutes.
  • Top U.S.-based interpreters typically charge about $1,200/day per person (2021 rates), with two or more interpreters required for most events. Many interpreters will only accept full-day payments and may consider six hours of interpreting to be a full workday, with multiple breaks. Some providers are willing to accept half-day bookings.
  • When hiring interpreters and considering quotes, consider that it takes interpreters significant time to prepare for your event, including reviewing any meeting documents you send in advance to learn specialized terminology, connecting with any other interpreters to establish communication signals to use with each other during the event, and potentially attending a pre-event meeting for technical checks and interpreter briefing (recommended). It's a good idea to confirm if a pre-event tech check and briefing is included in the cost.
  • It is not standard in the interpreting industry for clients to request video samples or trial runs. To increase your likelihood of finding high-quality interpreters without being able to assess their performance in advance, use trusted recommendations or professional services.
  • When finalizing pre-event plans with interpreters, consider confirming the following with your service:
    • Can you provide the interpreters with event documents in advance to help familiarize them with specific terms? If so, how far in advance do the interpreters want the materials?
    • How can you reach the interpreters mid-event with any urgent communications—and what's the best way for them to reach you? (Phone texting or messaging apps are commonly used.)
    • For simultaneous interpretation, confirm which interpreter will start interpreting, approximate timing, and what signals the interpreters will use with each other when they are switching.
  • Ask meeting participants connecting virtually to use a headset, as this will improve the sound quality to enable simultaneous interpreters to provide better interpretations.

Resources on Campus

Translator-Interpreter Program

The Translator-Interpreter Program (TIP) is a student-run program that trains bilingual and multilingual Cornell students to serve as volunteer translators and interpreters for community agencies in emergency and non-emergency situations. TIP is not certified to provide translations for legal documents (e.g., licenses, certificates, diplomas, identification documents, immunization records). Contact translator@cornell.edu or visit their website. TIP is part of the David M. Einhorn Center for Community Engagement.


Language Departments

Contact the department where your language of interest is taught. They may be aware of individuals who offer fee-based translation. You can search by language or view this list of departments where languages are taught and inquire about the availability of translators.


Language Assistance at Cornell Health

Cornell Health offers a telephone-based translation service with more than 200 languages for patients who are more comfortable communicating with their health care provider in their native language.