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Calculating hours for a Job when no previous experience. Can you help me?
Thread poster: MariaPelufoV
Apr 17, 2009

Hi!

I am a newbie in this forum and I apologize if I am in the wrong one, and this issue is not "business". I just got hired by a company that is aware that I am a French and Spanish translator but since I am very fluent in German and know their product by now, they prefer that I handle their German translations as well.

Logically, they are much more difficult for me than working in the languages I am used to work in. And I am having a lot of problems calculating the hours it will take me to finish my work and estimating my time. Does anyone here have experience working with an unfamiliar language, machine assisted (Trados) but using the software for the first time, (so you know how nearly useless it can be for that language), let's say per hour, how many pages?

I would appreciate it very much your help!!

Thank you!!

maria


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KSL Berlin  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 12:30
Member (2003)
German to English
? Apr 17, 2009

It's not at all clear what you want to do. Could you be more specific? Are you intending to translate into German?

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MariaPelufoV
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you! and YES! Apr 17, 2009

I am translating INTO German, and my question was generic because I assumed that perhaps there was way to calculate how many hours it takes to translate in a language with which one is less familiar compared to the ones with which one works regularly. For instance, perhaps it is a known fact that working with an unfamiliar language takes 50 % longer, or something like that.

I was hoping someone had that kind of experience in a forum where there are so many translators.

What would be useful to me would be some examples like "once I had a similar experience: as a favor I translated into serbo-croatian, (for instance), and I noticed that when I translate into English I can do 2000 works in a shift, into serbo-croatian I barely managed 100 (not 266) works an hour"

I hope it's clearer now...I really appreciate the help! I could really use giving these people an estimate, and I haven't worked enough or gotten familiar enough with the material to calculate an average from my own work.

Maria


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 13:30
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
My guess is three to four times Apr 17, 2009

MariaPelufoV wrote:
And I am having a lot of problems calculating the hours it will take me to finish my work and estimating my time. Does anyone here have experience working with an unfamiliar language...


My guess would be at least three times as long as your normal language. Think of it this way: it is as if you're first translating it into one of your other languages before translating it into the unfamiliar language, and you have to think twice as hard in the unfamiliar language as well. So, three times as long. Give yourself plenty of room if you want the end-product to be of good quality.


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Vito Smolej
Germany
Local time: 13:30
Member (2004)
English to Slovenian
+ ...
my two cents Apr 17, 2009

...And I am having a lot of problems calculating the hours it will take me to finish my work and estimating my time. Does anyone here have experience working with an unfamiliar language, machine assisted (Trados) but using the software for the first time, (so you know how nearly useless it can be for that language), let's say per hour, how many pages?

The client is ready to pay for the final product, and this is relatively easy to determine, based on the price / productivity information available.

What they are not supposed to be charged for (well, you can still get away with murder, but still...) is your education. Think of the (unknown, but probably quite huge) overhead as your investment into the future business. It will pay down the road, but certainly not right from the beginning. There's a definite danger also, that you may still fall on your nose. I have gone through this kind of fire baptism myself, and times were rough sometimes - but I learnt on the way.

By the way, I am not talking about a week or two for the first order. It's been months, if not years, and it involved dozens of orders. And I feel I still have a mile or two to go.

regards

Vito

[Edited at 2009-04-17 18:09 GMT]


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MariaPelufoV
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you so much for your replies! Very useful! Apr 17, 2009

I am not so much worried by the money (because I am paid a flat hourly rate), but by the expectations they have about *when* the work will be finished. That's what I need to tell them, and I wanted to be realistic.

You have helped me a lot!!

Maria


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A. Patricia Pedraza  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 07:30
Member (2007)
English to Spanish
+ ...
maybe you should shy away from this work Apr 17, 2009

As you state, it is not your language, it will take you longer to translate into it and still the quality may be inferior to the one that can be attained if the translation is done by someone who works into this language.
So, is your client willing to pay more money for a lesser quality and a slower job? or, are you willing to earn less money in order for you to gain the expertise you really need?
Even if your rate is not increased, the fact that you will work at a slower pace will reflect in less income.


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Katalin Horváth McClure  Identity Verified
Local time: 07:30
Member (2002)
English to Hungarian
+ ...
Here is simple answer: Hours to invoice=Total words/250 Apr 17, 2009

Without commenting on the described circumstances, all I can say is that a professional translator, translating in his/her working language pair, in her field of expertise can translate about 2000-2500 words per day (assuming an 8 hour normal workday), or in other words about 250-300 words per hour on average. (This is assuming no other special requirements or conditions are present that would make the job go slower.)
So, the normal number of hours required to do the job is:
Total number of words / 250.

Anybody who is willing to pay for significantly more hours is a fool (or has some other underlying reason).
The fact that it takes someone to do the job 2 times, 3 times or even 10 times, due to lack of expertise, does not justify such a bill.

Katalin


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MariaPelufoV
TOPIC STARTER
mmmm... ahhh but there are other factors! :) Apr 17, 2009

1) We are talking about IT manuals. Extremely technical stuff. If I do the translations for the languages I an expert in, when i go into the language for which I am weaker, I already know the material by heart. It's the exact same manual over and over!

2) I am listed as a consultant for them, so they pay me less. The hourly rate is much lower and they give me steady work. It ends up being much cheaper for them and for me it's a job! I am not a total freelancer. I work 4 days a week, and give them the bill for the hours.

Those are the factors why it is a good deal for both parties to accept these conditions. I am slower and thorough, and they know the end result still will have good quality because I know their product very well, and I am also cheap

Maria


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 13:30
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
The underlying reason Apr 17, 2009

Katalin Horvath McClure wrote:
Anybody who is willing to pay for significantly more hours is a fool (or has some other underlying reason).


IMO the OP already mentioned the underlying reason -- she is more familiar with the client's product than anyone else. She is therefore less likely to misunderstand a text, or to do a probably-guess type of translation that another translator might be tempted to produce.

Another option you might offer the client is that you subcontract the translation to a fast translator who is used to translate into German, and then you just scrutinise the translation for misunderstanding or ill-chosen phraseology etc before sending it to the client. The client will win because the rate is bound to be lower, and you will win because you can focus more productive work without pressure to be lenient with your rate or be slow to apply penalties for difficult texts.


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Claudia Alvis  Identity Verified
Peru
Local time: 07:30
Partial member
Spanish
+ ...
I agree with Patricia word by word Apr 17, 2009

A. Patricia Pedraza wrote:

As you state, it is not your language, it will take you longer to translate into it and still the quality may be inferior to the one that can be attained if the translation is done by someone who works into this language.
So, is your client willing to pay more money for a lesser quality and a slower job? or, are you willing to earn less money in order for you to gain the expertise you really need?
Even if your rate is not increased, the fact that you will work at a slower pace will reflect in less income.


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Sybille  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 13:30
Member (2003)
English to German
+ ...
Maria... Apr 17, 2009

Which is your source and target language? The target language must be your mother tongue. Otherwise you should refrain from the job, I think. You will lose time (because it will take you a lot more time to translate into the foreign language), reputation (if the quality of the target text is not as good as a native speaker would have translated) and money (because you could translate other texts into your mother tongue during that period of time in a double/triple quantity).

Sybille


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Jenn Mercer  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 07:30
Member (2009)
French to English
Offer Proofreading/Consultation instead Apr 17, 2009

I agree with Samuel that it may be better to offer your services as an expert in the material, rather than as a translation expert.

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Gerard de Noord  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 13:30
Member (2003)
German to Dutch
+ ...
Please state your mother tongue Apr 17, 2009

Dear Maria,

Please state your mother tongue. This is a silly discusion otherwise.

Cheers,
Gerard


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Parrot  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 13:30
Member (2002)
Spanish to English
+ ...
You could study a project management option Apr 18, 2009

In the interests of quality, you could study the option of managing the translation jobs for this company and outsourcing/quality checking for a higher fee, with higher performance. It's worth a go.

The reason I propose this is, that I can't see a company staying long with a product of less than 250 words an hour that would probably still need checking.

That way you maximize your position as a consultant who knows the company and its products well with the position of others who may know the language better.

Second point (and it's possible I'll get knocked for this, but I'll say it anyway): translation as a mental activity can run like a high-speed train. When you're in that position, the only limit to it is mechanical (keystrokes per unit time). I'm sure there are colleagues out there who log between 400 and 750 words per hour without TMs -- that's what you have to gain from tapping those resources.

Hope it helps.


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