07 August 2019
Hourglass filled with sand

It occasionally comes to pass: You are in the middle of an important project and the schedule is tight.


You need your content translated as quickly as possible so that the design agency has time to put it in an attractive layout before the deadline.

In a situation like this, it helps to know in advance what factors come into play when considering the duration of the translation process.

How long does the translator need for the translation?

There is no one answer to this question. Superficial research will of course present you with a value quite quickly: a translator can usually translate 2,000 words per working day.

So you may think, great, my text only has 500 words, so it will be ready in just two hours!

But it’s not as simple as that, because this value is only a more or less rough approximation.

The following factors also play an important role and can influence this value.

The complexity of the text

A translator will need more time for a specialist text from complex fields such as technology or law than for a general text, for example, an internal communication informing staff that the move to a new location has been completed.

Even if your texts are complex, you can help the translator by providing additional reference material. For example, do you have a list of fixed, in-house terminology, or are there images of your product?

If you provide additional material, the translator will not need to carry out as much research for technical texts, which in turns shortens the translation process.

Another influence on the speed of translation is whether the text is running text or a series of bullet points. Bullet points are generally quicker to translate – individual words, on the other hand, are a different matter again.

Most words have multiple translations depending on the context. If a translator sees a word on its own, he or she has no clue as to the context – making it more of a guessing game than a translation.

The quality of the source text

A lot depends on the text given to be translated; after all, that is the basis of the translation.

Make sure that the text is written clearly. If you yourself, as an expert in your field, have to read certain sentences twice to understand them, the translator is unlikely to fare any better. And that is at the expense of time.

Less common abbreviations in the text also require the translator to spend time researching their meanings. There could even be abbreviations in the text which are specific to your company and whose meanings cannot be found out at all without your help.

Maybe your text was more or less put together from excerpts of existing texts and some sections do not fit together so well.

Generally, there is a simple rule for all this: the better the source text, the quicker and easier the translation.

Even if your source text is immaculate and your translator can translate 2,000 words a day, it doesn’t necessarily mean that your 500 word text will be ready two hours after placing the order. This is because there are other factors that influence the duration of the translation process.

And there is a marked difference between these two questions:

“How long does the translator need for the translation?” and “When will my translation be ready?”

Because translators aren’t the only ones in a translation agency involved in the process. A project manager must prepare your text for the translator before he or she can even start.

When the translator receives the job, it can happen that they don’t start on it immediately because they have other jobs to work on.

Even after the translation is completed, more time is required for an editor to revise the translated text a final time to guarantee the best quality.

But don’t worry:

even a text of 50,000 words does not take a matter of months.

It may be true that an individual translator can only translate 2,000 words per day, but multiple translators can work on large projects simultaneously by dividing it up between themselves.

Translation agencies have language teams for each languages. Thanks to special software, a translator can see at any time how a colleague has translated a specific term.

If a word appears in a text multiple times, all translators can coordinate themselves and adopt the same translation. This means that your completed text will be consistent even though it is the work of multiple translators.

A blanket statement regarding how long your translation will take is therefore hard to give in advance

Depending on source text and the working capacity of your translator, translation duration can vary widely.

However, the next time you need a translation, you now know what factors have an influence on when you will get your finished translation.

You will be able to discuss a fixed date of delivery and the most efficient way of realising your project on placing an order with your translation agency.

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