How many words per day?
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One topic most freelance translators just starting up their business
devote some thought and calculations to, is
this: How many words am I supposed to translate
Well, it is a tricky question - and it doesn't
really have an answer! We all have different
working approaches, different speciality fields,
different software etc. This makes it very difficult
to generalize. You will soon notice yourself;
two texts of equal length will take you different
long to translate.
The main factors involved in deciding how many
words you can translate per hour or per day
Text format - When you are working from hardcopies
it takes longer than when you are working on
electronic texts. It will also go quicker if
you are working in a program you are very familiar
with as opposed to a program you have just bought
and are unfamiliar with.
Available dictionaries - Looking up words you
don't know will go quick if your dictionaries
are good. If you have to search for words -
be it on the Internet or at the library - you
will loose a lot of time.
Use of CAT-tools - If you are using a CAT-tool,
the translation process will go quicker, especially
if you are working on a repetitive text.
Speciality topic - The more familiar you are
with the topic, the quicker the translating
Style of the source text - Another factor is
the style the author of the source text has
used. If you compare two texts within the same
topic you might find that one text will consist
of floating and poetic sentences whilst the
other will have short and hard sentences.
Typing speed - How quick can you type? This
is also one factor determining how many words
per day you get through.
Motivation - When you are having a bad day and
not feeling too good, it will also be very difficult
to get your work done. The more motivated and
focused you are, the quicker you can translate.
Then you also have to calculate the time it
will take you to edit and proofread your work.
The translating job does not consist of just
translating - you also have to check and double
check your work!
The average translator will tell you that he
or she can translate 100 words per hour working
on a complicated text where he or she is not
familiar with the topic and needs to do a lot
of research. On the other hand the same translator
will tell you he or she can do 500 words per
hour working on an easy text in his or her speciality
When working on a project requiring extra effort
an average translator will do up to 4000 - 6000
words per day. But this workload cannot be maintained
over longer periods of time. An average translator
will do between 2000 and 3000 words per day,
working at a comfortable speed and also having
time to revise and proofread his or her work
Consider the following two translations: Translation
1 is a PowerPoint presentation consisting of
1200 words and the text is an environmental
report. Translation 2 is a software manual of
3000 words written in Word. If you asked several
translators to perform these two translations
and then asked how long each translation took
them, you would not get the same answer from
any of them.
I would use about six hours for the first job
and about seven hours for the second job, that
is including editing and proofreading, not counting
breaks. Even if translation 2 has over double
the amount of words, I do not need much more
time on that than the first translation. I am
not very familiar with the topic environment.
I would have to spend relatively much time researching
the terminology and looking up words. In addition,
I am not very familiar with PowerPoint either.
Even though this is a relatively easy program,
I am bound to run into a problem or two. A software
manual, on the other hand, is right up my street.
This is a subject I don't need to do a lot of
research on, as I am quite familiar with the
terminology used. In addition Word would not
cause me any problems.
So basically you have to set your own standards.
To do this you can time yourself. See how much
you can translate of different types of texts
in one hour. This way you get an idea of how
much you can expect to do in a day of a certain
type of text. You learn as you go - and soon
you will be able to predict very accurately
how long it will take you to translate any given
© 2003 Anita Karlson Henssler
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