Why is there such large variation in the prices charged by different translation companies?
Worldwide, the translation market is vast—in Japan alone, there are around 2500 companies that specialize in translation and interpreting. In the age of the Internet, there are also numerous companies based outside Japan that offer translation between Japanese and English. Many companies (both here and abroad) choose to compete on price, which requires that they slash their own costs to the bone. In general, they do so by using the cheapest (generally, non-native) human translators available or even machine translation—with predictable consequences in terms of quality.
At the other end of the spectrum, companies that choose to compete in terms of quality and specialization need to utilize the highest-quality, most specialized translators whom they can find (whether as in-house employees or freelancers), and to ensure that the translations they submit are properly checked and edited by reliable checkers and high-quality editors. This increases the company’s costs in terms of salaries and payments to freelance contractors, which inevitably makes for higher prices to the client.
In general, then, the client tends to get what they pay for. Seeking the cheapest vendor when buying translation services may seem like a good idea at the time (and may, of course, go down very well with the boss). However, if that translation is not up to standard and then goes out into the public domain (on the Web or in print), what are the potential longer-term consequences and costs to the client company in terms of reputation and public image?