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How many words per day
Thread poster: delphinedh

delphinedh
Local time: 03:24
Dutch to French
+ ...
May 17, 2011

Hi everyone,

I don't really know if this question is in the right forum, but here it goes:

How many words does a starting translator translate on average per day (or week/year)?
And an experienced one?

Thank you!
Delphine


 

Ricardo Gouveia  Identity Verified
Local time: 02:24
English to Portuguese
+ ...
There is the myth of the two thousand May 17, 2011

People/Translators usually refer that "a translator should consider a daily average of 2,000 words".
However, and despite being probably the answer you are not looking for: only the translator should know about that. You will hear this a lot in this industry but "it depends on many factors".
Using CAT tools, working more hours, having more experience, good typing skills (for example, when I learned Wordfast and Trados in University I finished all class assignments before anyone else)
... See more
People/Translators usually refer that "a translator should consider a daily average of 2,000 words".
However, and despite being probably the answer you are not looking for: only the translator should know about that. You will hear this a lot in this industry but "it depends on many factors".
Using CAT tools, working more hours, having more experience, good typing skills (for example, when I learned Wordfast and Trados in University I finished all class assignments before anyone else), complexity, and on the translator's status.

Some of those are pretty obvious, but I will exemplify a couple of them.
For example, there are days that I work 4 hours, and there are days that I work 10 hours. The same way, there are days that I am having headaches and my productivity drops, and there are days I am extremely motivated.

Other than that, the complexity factor is also pretty obvious. The amount of seconds/minute taken to decide on certain terms or translate different things should be very considered. "Hello, sir. How are you? The sun is shining and birds are singing happily." should give you less thinking than "These industry leading medical equipment manufacters play an important role to the group's economy." - the amount of words is the same.

You are the one who can give the best answer, as you gain experience and practice you will get know better than anybody your "inner translator", its skills, its weaknesses, its features and the way it works. Once in a while, try to make a few translations and record some hours, like 10-15, then you can calculate a helpful average.
Sure, experience helps, but I type faster than many translators with age above 35, however, they may have more ease when it comes to problem solving. There are too many dicotomies to give you an exact number. It's nothing of the other world if a 16-years old has a superior turnaround than a senior translator.

[Edited at 2011-05-17 22:31 GMT]
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Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 03:24
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Insufficient information May 17, 2011

Let me ask you this:
- What source and target language?
- Is the target language your mother tongue?
- How much do you know about the source language?
- Do you know much about the subject or not?
- How fast do you type?
- Are you good doing research with printed and electronic references?
- How fast is your computer?
- What is the format of the files (i.e. does it have a lot of technical details to control, like HTML or similar tags, many names and
... See more
Let me ask you this:
- What source and target language?
- Is the target language your mother tongue?
- How much do you know about the source language?
- Do you know much about the subject or not?
- How fast do you type?
- Are you good doing research with printed and electronic references?
- How fast is your computer?
- What is the format of the files (i.e. does it have a lot of technical details to control, like HTML or similar tags, many names and numbers, etc...)?
- What is your computer like?
- What CAT software do you use and how well do you know how to use it?
...
...

Ok, ok, I just wanted to show you that there is a whole pile of things that have a big influence in the wordcount per day.

However, from my experience I can tell you that in my main language pair (English-Spanish) a newbie will translate some 1,800-2,000 words in 8 hours, with a quality that does need a review by an experienced person. An experienced person usually does 2,500 words in 8 hours, with a good quality. So the difference with experience is not really in the wordcount, but in the quality.
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Nikki Scott-Despaigne  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:24
French to English
Depends May 17, 2011

In the beginning :

1) A translator starting out may not work every day. Then again he may, it depends on how he has started : on a wave of orders, on one big order enough to keep him busy for weeks...

2) It will also depend on his intentions. Is the person intending to work full-time? Is this a secondary activity?


Once you're up and running :

3) Allowing even for the variability of 1) and 2), I suspect that for those of us who have bee
... See more
In the beginning :

1) A translator starting out may not work every day. Then again he may, it depends on how he has started : on a wave of orders, on one big order enough to keep him busy for weeks...

2) It will also depend on his intentions. Is the person intending to work full-time? Is this a secondary activity?


Once you're up and running :

3) Allowing even for the variability of 1) and 2), I suspect that for those of us who have been translating for a while may mention the following factors as important in the volume of work:

- the type of work you do
- your specialist areas

Some types of text comprise short phrases with lots of technical jargon. You have to get the term bang on right as there is no padding text to play with.
Terminology research will depend on specificity, accessibility to information and your knowledge of the field, for example. Other types of text will enable you to cover a greater volume.

Now I shall try and answer your question. In what has gone before, I have deliberately ignored factors such as telephone, working from home with children around. I am assuming that you are free to devote your time exclusivley to the job of translation.In my experience, I know that I can turn out anything from 3-5 thousand words a working day. I also know that sometimes squeezing 2 thousand words out of my keyboard can be like getting blood from a stone. A page can take 20 minutes or 2 hours. You do need to know when you review a text roughly how much time it should take you of course otherwise you would not be able to know whether you can meet the clients deadline or not, nor whether to accept other work.

If you are working full-time on your own, you will probably spend half a day doing paperwork, admin and accounts. That time may be in a chunk or may be spread out, but you will need to allow for it.
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philgoddard
United States
Member (2009)
German to English
+ ...
I aim for about 2,500. May 17, 2011

People will tell you they can churn out 6,000 words or more a day, but they're the exception rather than the rule. My record is 7,000, but that was dictating, and it was a long day.

 

Heinrich Pesch  Identity Verified
Finland
Local time: 04:24
Member (2003)
Finnish to German
+ ...
Not words, characters May 18, 2011

The maximum number of characters you can type daily without spoiling your hands sets the limit. Typing can be avoided by using voice recognition. How many words can you speak daily would then be the limit.

 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 02:24
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Points that may not have been mentioned yet May 18, 2011

How familiar are you with the source texts?

If you have already worked for this client on similar texts, you will be able to do the job faster, even if you don't use a CAT tool, simply because of the familiarity. Also, if you're doing a big job then you will normally be able to speed up after the first 'learning curve' is over.

On the other hand, breaking off to do a bit of research does relieve the monotony of typing and can actually speed up your rate of translation.<
... See more
How familiar are you with the source texts?

If you have already worked for this client on similar texts, you will be able to do the job faster, even if you don't use a CAT tool, simply because of the familiarity. Also, if you're doing a big job then you will normally be able to speed up after the first 'learning curve' is over.

On the other hand, breaking off to do a bit of research does relieve the monotony of typing and can actually speed up your rate of translation.

How long will you spend on proofreading?

I found that the biggest problem when I was a newbie - when to stop and deliver!

How much administration and marketing work do you need to do?

A translator doesn't simply translate all day, every day. Other work needs to be factored in, both in terms of hours spent and in your rate per word for translations.
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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 03:24
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
800-2000 May 18, 2011

delphinedh wrote:
How many words does a starting translator translate on average per day (or week/year)?


There is no reason not to believe the "between 800 and 2000" rule of thumb (for average translators with average texts). Beginner translators typically do less than that... say, 500 words a day?


 

Emma Goldsmith  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 03:24
Member (2010)
Spanish to English
Where are you coming from? May 18, 2011

I think the answer largely depends on where you are coming from as a translator.

2 possible scenarios are:

1. You've just finished a degree in translation, so you will have good technical skills, only a reasonable knowledge of your source language and no specialised field. You will not be highly productive to begin with because a) you will be unsure of the meaning of some of the source text and b) any slightly specialised text will have you Googling every other word. <
... See more
I think the answer largely depends on where you are coming from as a translator.

2 possible scenarios are:

1. You've just finished a degree in translation, so you will have good technical skills, only a reasonable knowledge of your source language and no specialised field. You will not be highly productive to begin with because a) you will be unsure of the meaning of some of the source text and b) any slightly specialised text will have you Googling every other word.
With practice, however, your very low productivity will improve.

2. You're coming from another profession with experience in that field, and happen to be bilingual or speak another language to a very high level. So, your productivity will be much higher to begin with if you only translate in your field. Of course, you would be advised to take some training in translation, because being bilingual is not enough to be a good translator.

My two cents...
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Michael Wetzel  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 03:24
German to English
agree with Samuel May 18, 2011

Hello Delphine,
I just struggled through 2250 (long, German) words in a day on Monday. That was well over the limit of what I could do in a fairly normal day (and a day with no unpaid activity, an issue pointed out by Sheila). I only work in my field of expertise and am no longer a beginner.

I am certainly not a fast translator, but I don't consider myself especially slow either: this is absolutely a question of the kinds of texts that you are dealing with and the needs/expect
... See more
Hello Delphine,
I just struggled through 2250 (long, German) words in a day on Monday. That was well over the limit of what I could do in a fairly normal day (and a day with no unpaid activity, an issue pointed out by Sheila). I only work in my field of expertise and am no longer a beginner.

I am certainly not a fast translator, but I don't consider myself especially slow either: this is absolutely a question of the kinds of texts that you are dealing with and the needs/expectations of your clients.

As several of us have said, the only way to get halfway helpful numbers is to time yourself doing different types of work, but I think that Samuel's range of 800-2000 seems pretty good for most beginners.

Sincerely,
Michael
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delphinedh
Local time: 03:24
Dutch to French
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
business plan May 18, 2011

Hi everybody,

Thank you for your replies, they're very useful.

I will start to work as a translator soon, with little experience but a good education. I have had some working experience but not as a translator. I will mainly work with Dutch-French-Spanish.

The reason I asked the question is that I need to make a business plan and I am trying to find out what COULD be an acceptable amount of words, to make the financial calculations.

I know th
... See more
Hi everybody,

Thank you for your replies, they're very useful.

I will start to work as a translator soon, with little experience but a good education. I have had some working experience but not as a translator. I will mainly work with Dutch-French-Spanish.

The reason I asked the question is that I need to make a business plan and I am trying to find out what COULD be an acceptable amount of words, to make the financial calculations.

I know that the amount of words is influenced by so many factors. I had thought about many of the ones mentioned above, but you also gave me some new ideas, thanks for that.

So, of course I will have to find out myself how fast I can work.

But for now, I just needed a figure, a wild guess, for my financial plan.

I think I will go for 1500!

Thanks again!
Delphine
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NMR (X)
France
Local time: 03:24
French to Dutch
+ ...
Agree with Samuel May 18, 2011

After that, the most important factors are typing speed, knowledge of source and target langages and experience. After some years, you read a source sentence and the target sentence is already in your fingers.

 

Krzysztof Kajetanowicz (X)  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 03:24
English to Polish
+ ...
experiment first, plan later May 18, 2011

delphinedh wrote:

But for now, I just needed a figure, a wild guess, for my financial plan.

I think I will go for 1500!

Thanks again!
Delphine


I'd suggest that if you're going to come up with a financial plan that makes sense, your underlying estimates must be really good. Are you a beginner or an experienced translator? At least one of the two figures is readily available - I'd check how much I can translate in an hour or so first (at a relatively high level of concentration), then multiply by several hours (5?), and only then get to the planning stage.

Otherwise your plan might go out the window on day 1.

By the way, 800 words a day is a very low throughput in my opinion, even for a beginner. It's less than two pages in MS Word (in English - approximately, of course). 1500 words is ca. three pages.

[Edited at 2011-05-18 10:35 GMT]


 

Williamson  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 02:24
Flemish to English
+ ...
Speaking May 18, 2011

I speak a lot faster than I type.

 

Nikita Kobrin  Identity Verified
Lithuania
Local time: 04:24
Member (2010)
English to Russian
+ ...
1000-1400 May 18, 2011

I do in average 1000-1400 words per day.

Nikita Kobrin


 
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