You will often hear that the usual metric is around 2,000 words translated per day by a professional translator. However, this should only be seen as a rough indicator for a project, as this can vary greatly (and thus increase or decrease), depending on three main points: type of content, quality of potential legacy translations, and contextual information.
Type of Content
Translating a technical guide is, obviously, completely different from translating a medical IFU or a marketing document. Such a document can consist of reasonably straightforward sentences which can be translated at a normal speed, or even faster when the linguist in question is used to the applicable terminology. Moreover, style is generally of standard type, meaning you don’t have to spend as much time as you would, for example, localizing a marketing brochure that often requires you to be creative and play with words.
Medical content is another story. First of all, it can include terms that you will need to carefully research in order to understand and localize them properly, which can imply several hours. Even more important, health-related texts are sensitive materials whose accurateness is crucial as they can impact human lives, hence the need to be extremely careful and allocate sufficient time to your job.
Content plays a big part in committing to a deadline: in some occasions, you might be able to easily translate 3,000 words of “regular” IT strings within one day, but it will take you almost as long to handle a 500-word file containing highly specialised medical information.
Quality of Potential Legacy Translations
A translation project can include leverage (i.e. some of it has already been translated in the past, has been saved into a TM [Translation Memory] and can be retrieved while translating), especially if it is an update made to content previously delivered. These legacy translations can be provided by the client, or may have been created by other linguists working on the account in question as well.
Unfortunately, legacy translations are not always of optimum quality and a dedicated translator will need to amend these, which inevitably will increase the time spent on the task. If you get assigned a project made of only 200 new words and 800 words coming from 100 % matches, you can assume that the translation shouldn’t take long. That’s true indeed, but provided these 100% matches are reliable. If not, and if they all need to be rewritten, you will have to produce much more than 200 new words from scratch.
Translators know better than anyone that having contextual information at their disposal is essential. This information includes, first and foremost, a previewable version of the whole source file. If a linguist is asked to translate a user guide, they should have access to it and be able to visualize its graphics and figures as referencing them might be necessary to understand some sentences.
Sometimes, a linguist will have to process long lists of random software strings. However, it can be very difficult to do so without knowing where these appear. In such cases, having access to the solution being localized might be of huge help. A term can indeed be translated in several ways depending on the context, and the use of specific punctuation, as well as gender, may also be determined by it.
The more information a translator gets, the quicker they can send back an accurate delivery, without the need to submit numerous (and potentially time-consuming) queries to make sense of the text at hand.
If you like this topic, you might like to read our white paper on writing for a global audience.
Click below to download it now!