Transcription is a very common request at Meridian Linguistics, whether it be an hour of recorded Korean interviews or 12 hours of a Russian-language deposition.

Transcription used to be pretty expensive. However, AI technology now helps transcription providers like us offer much more affordable and efficient transcription solutions.

When choosing a transcription service, make sure that that your provider uses AI-powered transcription technology. This will help lower costs. But you should also make sure that they use human editors: this will improve overall accuracy immensely.

Here are some key things you should know before ordering transcription:

1. How Long Does Transcription Take?

Unfortunately, one hour of transcription does not usually equal one hour of work.

Even for our professional transcribers, who work with our AI-powered transcription software, transcription of 1 minute of audio usually takes about 3-5 minutes of work. This means that an hour of audio takes 3-5 hours of work. And this is only if the audio is clear and voices do not overlap (and this does not include translation).

This is why transcription cost estimates can sometimes surprise a buyer. Don’t worry, many people make this mistake!

To keep costs low (especially since our clients often need dozens of hours of transcription work!) Meridian Linguistics uses AI transcription technology (available in 25 languages) to do a first pass transcription.

However, transcription technology is not yet error-proof, especially when the audio contains unexpected names or terminology. So, after the initial transcription, our human transcribers (who are often subject matter experts) then carefully check the draft transcription against the audio to ensure it is client-ready.

Depending on the quality of your audio, this can cut your costs by almost half!

The best part? If you continue to work with us, we will save lists of important recurring vocabulary so that we can offer even more competitive pricing and even better accuracy in the future!

2. How Much Does Transcription Cost?

Transcription costs can vary wildly. Costs depend on the language, the quality of the audio file, and whether your transcription provider can offer quality AI transcription solutions that can accommodate the language you need.

Purely human transcription usually ranges from USD $5-10 per minute. If your audio recording is of very clear quality and is in one of the languages our AI software can handle, costs can come down to as low as USD $2.50 per minute.



3. What If I Need My Transcription Translated As Well?

We do this all the time!

If you need a written English transcription of a Spanish audio file, we first transcribe the audio into the original Spanish, then translate it into English.

Why do we take these two steps?

Because it is actually much more efficient for a native speaker to transcribe their own language – meaning it is faster, and cheaper for a native speaker to transcribe.

And for translation, you want a native speaker of the TARGET language, so that the transcription flows naturally and fluently. It is best not to have the same linguist working on both stages for this reason.

Using two stages also allows for more rigorous quality assurance: we apply proofreading and quality assurance at both the transcription and translation stages.

4. How Much Does Translating a Transcription Cost?

Translators usually charge per word, but if you’re dealing with an audio file, it is not always clear how many words are involved. So, how do you figure out a fair price for the translation of an audio file?

A good rule of thumb is that for average continuous speech in English, about 150 words are spoken per minute (note that speech rates vary per language).

Since human translation rates can range from USD $0.10 to $0.30 per word (depending on the language pair), you are looking at approximately $22.50/minute for translation (plus the $3-10 per minute transcription costs, depending on whether you use our AI services or not).

That WOULD put 20 minutes of continuous audio at approximately USD $500.

Sound pricey? Don’t worry – remember that this is assuming nonstop, continuous speech for 20 minutes, which is highly unlikely in most situations.

In many cases, 20 minutes  of continuous audio will be priced closer to USD $200 or $300.

This is why we also recommend allowing us to provide you with a two-stage cost estimate:

1) Upon first receiving the files, we give you an estimate for transcription costs only

2) After our initial machine transcription (usually ready within the hour) we give you an estimate for translation costs only

This way you will receive a more accurate translation estimate, and you can then decide if it best suits your budget and your needs to proceed with human translation or human + machine translation hybrid translation.

5. What does the finished transcription product look like?

Thanks to our technologies, we can offer transcripts in the following formats:

Microsoft Word (.docx) (with timecodes/timestamps)

SubRip (.srt) (Universal subtitling format)

VTT (.vtt) (Subtitles for use with HTML video players and other software)

Avid DS Subtitles (.txt)

Subtitles for use with Avid Media Composer and other software

Spruce STL Subtitles (.stl)

Edit Decision List (.edl) (Video editing post-production format for importing into Premiere and Media Composer)

Interactive transcripts (.html) (Customisable HTML player)

Project (.xml) (Video/Audio editing project format for importing into Premiere, Audition and Final Cut Pro 7)


Embeddable transcript player for your website

We hope this answers your questions and makes the ordering process less overwhelming! For a free transcription estimate, please send us your audio file and we’ll get back to you within the hour!