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How many words can you translate a day
Thread poster: dmoamin
dmoamin  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 09:10
Arabic to English
+ ...
Aug 25, 2008

Greetings,

I hope I am in the right place to post the following question. I just wanted to know, if asked about the number of words you translate per day, what number would you provide and how would you count that? If for, any reason, you have never thought of counting words when you translated before, what would you do if an agency asked you about your daily production of words?

What affects the number of translated words a day for you? is it the type of translation? the topic?

Thanks for the help in advance

Thank you,

Dima Almoamin


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Marie-Hélène Hayles  Identity Verified
Local time: 18:10
Italian to English
+ ...
Calculate an average Aug 25, 2008

Presumably even if you don't think of your production in terms of words per day, you do use a rate per word or character (I assume you must do if you work as a freelance translator). So you can work out your average production per day from your income and your rate per word, not forgetting to take account of any slack time - by which I don't mean the time you spend on administration, marketing, sending out the bills and so on, but time you had allocated for working but you didn't have any assignments.
So, for example, if you're a highly successful translator who is always busy and rakes in €20,000 a month with a rate per word of €0.50, then you translate
20,000 / 0.5 = 40,000 words per month

and your daily output (assuming you work an average of 22 days a month) is
40,000/22 = 1818 words.

I've obviously simplified here, as I'm not taking account of holidays, month-on-month income variations, rate variations for different clients, etc., but you get the idea.

Output is affected by the type of translation, how familiar you are with the subject matter and style (this has nothing to do with how technical the text might be considered in general - it would take me longer to do a text on tourism than the same number of words on a clinical trial, for example) and the type of file it arrives as - straightforward word docs are the simplest, scanned PDFs require a lot more work, for example. It's also affected by other factors, such as whether you use a CAT /Speech recognition tool.

In any case, the agency knows that your output will vary with these factors - they just want an idea of how much you can get through in a given time period.
I've never understood why they should actually care, as long as you do what you've agreed within the deadline you've agreed, but that's a different question.


Most translators would consider an average of around 2000 or 2500 words a day to be normal. 3000 would be regarded as on the high side, although some can sustain this or more without any problems.


[Edited at 2008-08-25 16:53]


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Astrid Elke Witte  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 18:10
Member (2002)
German to English
+ ...
You need to know how many words you can translate per hour... Aug 25, 2008

... and, I expect, to get your "official" daily rate, you multiply that by six, seven or eight (it may be as little as six, if you also wish to include other essential tasks related to the job in a daily hour count of eight hours).

However, I do not like it when agencies ask how many words I can translate per day. For them, at any time, it would not be more than half of the total words that I can translate in a day, since I have to reserve the other half of the day for other customers. I feel that the question suggests that they may wish, from time to time, to monopolise my time for an entire day, or even several days, and that is not acceptable to me from a business perspective.

Astrid


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Lawyer-Linguist  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 17:10
Dutch to English
+ ...
Same here ... Aug 25, 2008

Astrid Elke Johnson wrote:

However, I do not like it when agencies ask how many words I can translate per day. For them, at any time, it would not be more than half of the total words that I can translate in a day, since I have to reserve the other half of the day for other customers. I feel that the question suggests that they may wish, from time to time, to monopolise my time for an entire day, or even several days, and that is not acceptable to me from a business perspective.


I just make it clear from the outset of our working relationship that I generally do not allocate more than 2,000 words a day to any given customer. Obviously there are exceptions, but that's the rule of thumb for my longer projects.

Allocating more of my time to one customer would mean I'd have to turn down other regulars too often and since there is no shortage of legal work in my language pairs (especially from Dutch to English) it wouldn't make good business sense to do so.

I also tend to get bored if I translate for longer than four hours on a particular job and find I'm far more productive - in terms of my bottom line - if I can switch to a different job(s) after lunch.

Wouldn't suit everyone, but works for me.


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Ali Bayraktar  Identity Verified
Turkey
Member (2007)
English to Turkish
+ ...
You mean... Aug 25, 2008

Marie-Hélène Hayles wrote:

So, for example, if you're a highly successful translator who is always busy and rakes in €20,000 a month with a rate per word of €0.50, then you translate
20,000 / 0.5 = 40,000 words per month

and your daily output (assuming you work an average of 22 days a month) is
40,000/22 = 1818 words.


Do you mean €20,000 or €2,000?
0.5 Euro per word, I think you mean 0.05 Euro per word

[Edited at 2008-08-25 21:46]


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Lawyer-Linguist  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 17:10
Dutch to English
+ ...
Not as I read it ... Aug 25, 2008

M. Ali Bayraktar wrote:

Marie-Hélène Hayles wrote:

So, for example, if you're a highly successful translator who is always busy and rakes in €20,000 a month with a rate per word of €0.50, then you translate
20,000 / 0.5 = 40,000 words per month

and your daily output (assuming you work an average of 22 days a month) is
40,000/22 = 1818 words.


Do you mean €20,000 or €2,000?
0.5 Euro per word, I think you mean 0.05 Euro per word

[Edited at 2008-08-25 21:46]


A 'highly successful translator', as described in the example, wouldn't be charging €0.05 per word and only earning EUR 2,000 per month.

This was just by way of example - Marie-Hélène could have used any figure.


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dmoamin  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 09:10
Arabic to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you Aug 25, 2008

Hello again,

I just wanted to say thank you all for all your nice suggestions and recommendations that is really helpful.
I don’t like it either when I am asked to present a daily average for a simple fact. When I am assigned a certain translation I finish it on time regardless of how many words I can finish a day. Usually I work really hard to complete the translation before even the required time, but, some agencies would like to know the number regardless.

So if I said that I can translate about 1000 words a day, how does that sound? really bad, good? I wonder how it affects the decision to choose one translator over the other.

Is there a common translation average a day? Is 700-1000 or is it more, less..


Thanks a lot for your great suggestions and help I really appreciate it

Dima


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Lawyer-Linguist  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 17:10
Dutch to English
+ ...
Sounds very low ... Aug 25, 2008

dmoamin wrote:

So if I said that I can translate about 1000 words a day, how does that sound? really bad, good? I wonder how it affects the decision to choose one translator over the other.



... for a professional translator - in my opinion, at any rate.

Apparently the average is around 2,000 - 2,500 words - I say "apparently" because there are so many factors involved and I've no idea who came up with this figure in the first place. Nevertheless, it's seems to be an established industry standard.

Be that as it may, if you not up to that yet in terms of delivering quality, it doesn't help overstating the figure.




[Edited at 2008-08-26 12:26]


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Kevin Fulton
United States
Local time: 12:10
German to English
Don't promise more than you can deliver Aug 25, 2008

If at the moment your high-quality output is 1000 words/day, let your clients know this. Over time, as you become more skilled, your speed will increase without sacrificing quality.

As others have mentioned, experience and familiarity with particular subject matter will influence your daily output.

Even if you eventually triple your current rate of output, I wouldn't promise more than 2000-2500 words/day. You never know when you'll have to do research or when the computer may break down or some other minor calamity may slow you down.


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bohy  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 18:10
English to French
+ ...
Only important for project management Aug 26, 2008

In my opinion, there is no problem with giving a low estimate, as it may be for various reasons that the agency doesn't need to know (including because you have to take care of concurrent jobs or tasks). The translation PM asks that simply to enter the value in his project management software. When he receives a project of x words to be turned back in n days, the software will look for translators able to output x/n words a day...
Of course, you may be excluded from some projects, but there are other ones (smaller, less urgent), and other criteria are used in this case.


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Marie-Hélène Hayles  Identity Verified
Local time: 18:10
Italian to English
+ ...
Exactly Aug 26, 2008

Lawyer-Linguist wrote:

M. Ali Bayraktar wrote:

Marie-Hélène Hayles wrote:

So, for example, if you're a highly successful translator who is always busy and rakes in €20,000 a month with a rate per word of €0.50, then you translate
20,000 / 0.5 = 40,000 words per month

and your daily output (assuming you work an average of 22 days a month) is
40,000/22 = 1818 words.


Do you mean €20,000 or €2,000?
0.5 Euro per word, I think you mean 0.05 Euro per word


A 'highly successful translator', as described in the example, wouldn't be charging €0.05 per word and only earning EUR 2,000 per month.

This was just by way of example - Marie-Hélène could have used any figure.



The figures I used are completely irrelevant - the important point is the calculation.


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Astrid Elke Witte  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 18:10
Member (2002)
German to English
+ ...
You will need to find out the average number of words per day for your language pair Aug 26, 2008

While I would agree that 2000 to 2500 words per day is the industry standard for translations between European languages, I have no idea how many words per day could reasonably be achieved between English and Arabic. It may be a lot less. I have learnt some languages with different scripts myself, and, although I do not offer translation of these languages (which I learnt at university), I could not imagine translating between English and a language with another script at even half the speed that I can achieve between two European languages.

You may simply need to experiment and find out what your hourly output is. You can then price and offer your services accordingly.

Astrid


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Parrot  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 18:10
Member (2002)
Spanish to English
+ ...
I'm with Astrid Aug 26, 2008

dmoamin wrote:

I just wanted to know, if asked about the number of words you translate per day, what number would you provide and how would you count that?


Get an hour average and multiply by 5 or 6 (not all the 8 working hours are equally productive, and one is only capable of "burst rate" under optimum conditions [such as being well-rested, absence of fatigue...]).


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Steven Capsuto  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 12:10
Spanish to English
+ ...
Several factors Aug 26, 2008

dmoamin wrote:
What affects the number of translated words a day for you? is it the type of translation? the topic?


For me, the biggest determining factors are the language pair, the topic, and whether the project came in as editable text or a faxed/scanned image.

Another issue is whether the document is for publication or just for the client's in-house informational use. It it's for publication, I'll spend a bit more time polishing the style.


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Seamus Moran  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 18:10
Member
German to English
+ ...
Depends on the subject matter Aug 26, 2008

It all depends on the subject matter. If I do legal, then this will take me much longer than a simple text like a tourist leaflet.

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