How many words can a translator translate per hour? The general consensus is around 500 to 600 words. Most professional translators specializing in converting business materials will also say something in the same range.
But there’s no hard and fast rule for how long translating your business text should take. Factors like the complexity of the content and project type can affect the translation rate.
So, how long should you wait for a follow-up message when you assign a translation task to a translation service provider? Your account manager will generally give you a timeline for task completion. But how would you know if the timeline is valid for your project? Should it really take this long? Let’s find out.
Factors Affecting Turnaround Time for Translation Services
You might think translation is as easy as sitting on a work desk and typing words from one language to another. But that’s just scratching the surface of the entire process.
It’s actually a much more complex process, equally prone to delays and challenges as any other task.
To better understand the language translation process and factors that can directly influence the time required to complete it, we contacted a senior translator from TS24, which is one of the UK’s leading translation agencies specialized in translation services, and asked them to share their expert insight with our readers.
Here are some factors that affect a translation’s turnaround time.
Just how big is the project? One page? 20,000 words? The time it takes to finish a translation mainly depends on its length. For example, translating one web page won’t take as long as translating a 100-page user manual or an eBook.
Translation service agencies may sometimes use a team of linguists for a job. For example, if you want to get your website translated, they will most likely assign a translator and proofreader.
Let’s say it’s a healthcare website, and you want to translate it from English to French. The agency will seek a native French translator with medical and marketing experience.
Once the translation segment is ready, the second phase will be proofreading, where a native proofreader will go through the translation and make the relevant modifications to ensure accuracy and flow.
Like the size, the project complexity also affects its completion timeline. Let’s take two projects. Project A is the minutes of a short meeting. Project B is an in-depth financial report, such as a statement of cash flows. Which of the two do you think will take longer? The latter, of course.
Complex projects also require more scrutiny since the slightest mistake can have a massive impact. The project will also go through proofreading and editing stages to ensure that all the financial figures, facts, and concepts are accurate. All this can take additional time.
Translating from Spanish to Catalan or vice versa is simpler than translating between French and Hindi. It’s because the former language pair is more closely related.
When two languages are similar, translating between them takes less time. Such projects also finish earlier than those that involve languages from different families.
Source Text Quality
If one source text is an edited and published novel while the other is a telephone conversation transcript, the former will take less time to translate.
Sometimes, the low quality of source text increases the time it takes to translate it. For example, the translator may have to go back and forth to clear ambiguities. They may contact the client for additional information to ensure the final translation makes sense.
Level of Repetition
A document with little repetition of words will usually take longer to translate. On the other hand, if the source text has a repetitive pattern of words, the translator will not have to translate them from scratch every time.
Some professional translation service providers also use tools like translation memories to store previously translated sentences and terms for future use. It helps them reduce time spent on repetitive translations.
Use of Technology
Speaking of translation tools, technology can reduce the turnaround time for translations. Computer-assisted translation tools, such as fuzzy matches, can do menial tasks for translators.
Most of these tools work in tandem with a Translation Management System (TMS) that professional translation services use to monitor project progress. A centralized system for managing business translation projects reduces administrative delays and keeps all parties on the same page.
Average Turnaround Times for Translations
The table below shows a professional translation agency’s average time to finish projects of varying lengths and scopes.
|Average Turnaround Time
|Up to 24 hours
|2 working days
|4 working days
Note that these are estimated figures. Before starting a project, you should discuss the turnaround time with your translation service provider.
How to Reduce the Translation Time
Not all of it is up to the translator alone. You can also do your part in reducing the business translation time. Check out these tips below:
Assign Project Before Time
If your deadline is a month from now, don’t wait a week to assign the task to a translation company. Ensure you do it at least a few weeks before the document is needed. That gives you enough time for a second round of revisions, if necessary. This can be especially true if you’re planning to translate marketing materials for taking your business globally.
Add Details for Business Translation
Give the translation service provider a glossary of terms you’ve used in the source text, if possible. If they need additional files, like website links, images, or audio/video snippets for accurate translation, ensure these items are provided during the project assignment.
Similarly, if you want the translation service agency to use a particular format, tell them beforehand. Doing this at the last minute will only extend the project time.
If you want the translation agency to localize the text rather than merely translate it, specify that too. The more information you give about a project, the sooner you can expect it to finish.
Check the Source Text
Go through your source text to ensure it is error-free. Otherwise, there will be a lot of back-and-forth communication and ambiguity, eventually making the project take longer.
You shouldn’t have to wait a month for a twenty-page document, but you can’t expect it to be done overnight, either. What’s the sweet spot? That depends on the many factors mentioned in this guide.
As long as you choose a reliable translation service agency and provide them with all the necessary details, you should have your document translated by the time you need it.