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. When deciding whether transcription fits your budget, keep in mind that there are now several technologies available that help transcription providers like us offer much more affordable and efficient transcription solutions (we’ll talk more about that below). When choosing a transcriber, make sure that they are using these technologies, in order to ensure that your project is cost-effective.
Here are some key things you should know before ordering transcription:
1. How Long Does Transcription Take?
Unfortunately, one hour of transcription does not equal one hour of work, if using human labor only.
Even for our professional transcribers who work with transcription software and foot pedals (which free up the hands for typing), 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.
This is why transcription cost estimates can sometimes surprise a buyer.
However, Meridian Linguistics now uses AI transcription technology (available in 90 languages) to do a first pass transcription. Transcription technology is not yet error-proof, so our human transcribers then carefully check the draft transcription against the audio. Depending on the quality of your audio, this can cut your costs by almost half!
2. How Much Does Transcription Cost?
Given the above, transcription costs can vary wildly depending on the language, the quality of the audio file, and whether your transcription provider can offer AI transcription solutions. 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. Translation of transcriptions mean errors can occur in the transcription (due to mishearing or mistyping) or in the translation (misunderstanding or lack of context). Since quality assurance is a very important part of our services, offering this two-step solution allows us to be confident in the quality of the transcript we provide.
4. How Much Does Translating a Transcription Cost?
Transcription buyers are often confused at what they should be paying for translation and transcription, since translators usually charge per word, but if you’re dealing with an audio file, it is not always clear how many words are involved. 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 puts 20 minutes of continuous audio at approximately USD $500.
Sound pricey? Remember that this is assuming nonstop, continuous speech for 20 minutes, which is highly unlikely in most situations. This is why we also recommend allowing us to provide you with a two-stage cost estimate:
1) Upon first receiving the files, for transcription costs only
2) After our initial machine transcription (usually ready within the hour) 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.
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!