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How quick/slow were you when you first started out?
Thread poster: Vivien Green

Vivien Green  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Member (2013)
French to English
Oct 21, 2013

I'd be interested to know how many words you could process in a day or working day when you first started out and how long it took you to substantially increase this? What kind of increase in productivity can a translator expect to achieve in the first five or so years of his or her career? I'm primarily interested in those of you who started in the internet age but feel free to post about your experiences whenever you started.

 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 07:07
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Good question Oct 21, 2013

I distinctly remember the first few translations: translating was slow, but the proofreading stage was interminable. I just didn't have the confidence to deliver my work. Even when I'd researched every term and hunted down the best synonym for every adjective, I still worried over punctuation. I think I did most of the real work at the rate of about 200 wph, but by the time I'd clicked "SEND" I had barely managed 150 wph.

Nowadays, I average 300 wph (not just translated but proofread and delivered), although the actual figure can be anything from 200 to 500 wph.

How about you?


 

AntDunn
Local time: 07:07
German to English
1000 words per day on a good day Oct 22, 2013

I started out just under five years ago and I would say that if I reached 1000 words in a standard eight hour working day, then that was a good day - and that doesn't include proofreading. The biggest challenges were mastering "How would we write this naturally in English?" and working out which terminology sources were reliable, and which were not (I predominantly translate technical texts or texts for engineering companies).

If I'm being honest, I would say it probably took about 9 months to get up to 2000 words a day (translation) on "general" technical texts, with more difficult and specialist areas taking a bit longer. Now I'm at 2000-2300 per day including proofreading, but it took about 18 months before I was consistently at this speed. The internet is a great help in finding translation options and researching different industries/technologies, but I still feel much happier if I find a translation in a printed dictionary!

Anthony


 

Alexandra Bruknapp  Identity Verified
Norway
Local time: 08:07
Norwegian to German
+ ...
Agree Oct 22, 2013

Hi

I agree in the general with Sheila and Anthony. I have been translating for seven years and my average today is about 2000-2500 words, although that can vary greatly if I translate in a domain I am not familiar with. I also was very insecure when I first started and simply didn't know what the customer expected. Today it is much easier, especially when I work with customers I know. Also the building of a TM helps.

Alex


 

Teresa Borges
Portugal
Local time: 07:07
Member (2007)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Sorry, but no idea! Oct 22, 2013

I started out before the computer age with a typewriter!!!???. It’s impossible to compare… One can't compare apples and oranges, as the saying goes.

 

Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 08:07
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
@Vivien Oct 22, 2013

Vivien Green wrote:
I'd be interested to know how many words you could process in a day or working day when you first started out and how long it took you to substantially increase this?


I have no idea, but I do recall how hard it was to translate, even though I had translator training. What I find is that whenever I do a translation in a field that I haven't done translation in before (not even taking account the additional term research), or particularly if I have to do a literary translation (as I'm currently a technical translator) my speed drops down to what I suspect my newbie speed must have been like.


 

Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 07:07
Member (2008)
Italian to English
Still is.... Oct 22, 2013

Sheila Wilson wrote:

.........but the proofreading stage was interminable.


For me, it still is.

No matter how many times I polish a text, print it, leave it for a while, and re-read it, there's always something that I think could be improved. It's amazing how the perceived quality of a translation can change depending on time of day, mood, etc.

In the end, only the delivery deadline stops me from doing this ad infinitum.

My own average per day (for text fully corrected and ready to go) is about 3000-3500 words unless it's the kind of text that requires every single term to be researched.

My days tend to be long.

[Edited at 2013-10-22 13:06 GMT]


 

Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 08:07
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
Not here Oct 22, 2013

[quote]Tom in London wrote:
No matter how many times I polish a text, print it, leave it for a while, and re-read it, there's always something that I think could be improved. It's amazing how the perceived quality of a translation can change depending on time of day, mood, etc. [quote]

I have the opposite problem. Although I can spot real errors when I reread a text a few hours later, I typically don't feel any compulsion to change the actual translation. It changes when I reread the text several days later, however.


 

Vivien Green  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Member (2013)
French to English
TOPIC STARTER
Interesting and reassuring! Oct 22, 2013

This is all very reassuring! I was a little nervous I'd get lots of people saying they could "only" do 4000 words a day when they first started and it took them "weeks" to get to a rate of 5000 words or more!

With technical texts (legal and financial for me), I'd say 1000 words in 7-8 hours is realistic. I can do 2000 words in a day but it is a very long day! There is just so much terminology to check and I also find myself checking the meaning of all the words I'm already familiar with just in case they have some other meaning in a legal or financial context. Increasing my speed may take some time but I'm doing a lot of work every day and I feel like I am making real (but slow) progress. General texts are more doable though.

It's interesting to hear that many of you currently process 2000-3000 words a day now that you are experienced and established. I know quite a few translators in my home town and many of those I've spoken to seem to be the same in this regard, despite having worked in the industry for some time. What's strange is that the speakers at a lot of the proz.com events (free webinars and industry panels etc.) have implied that this isn't financially viable in the long run and that you really need to be doing 4000 to 5000 a day if you're going to survive. I'm very glad to receive some more confirmation that this isn't the case! To be fair, I imagine that the particular language pairs a translator works in will have a strong influence on this and I also reckon that some of these people live in places like London or Paris where living expenses are significantly higher. A translator living in London might have to earn twice what I earn to be able to pay for the same quality of life.


 

Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 07:07
Member (2008)
Italian to English
Just to clarify... Oct 22, 2013

My 3000 - 3500 words are for translations in my specialist field, in which I have a good general command of the terminology and don't need to do much research.

I live in London and if I had a constant stream of work, doing those 3000 - 3500 words a day I'd be financially self-supporting - even with London prices (although my rate is at the upper end of the scale for my language pair).

However: I haven't got a constant stream of work, partly because I have another job and partly because I usually only accept the kind of translation work that really interests and challenges me.

[Edited at 2013-10-22 22:10 GMT]


 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 07:07
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
But then... Oct 22, 2013

Vivien Green wrote:
What's strange is that the speakers at a lot of the proz.com events (free webinars and industry panels etc.) have implied that this isn't financially viable in the long run and that you really need to be doing 4000 to 5000 a day if you're going to survive.

they're spending half their days giving free webinars, so they really have to pack the words in on the other days!icon_smile.gif


 

Vivien Green  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Member (2013)
French to English
TOPIC STARTER
Wish there was a "like" button for this comment Sheila! Oct 22, 2013

Sheila Wilson wrote:

Vivien Green wrote:
What's strange is that the speakers at a lot of the proz.com events (free webinars and industry panels etc.) have implied that this isn't financially viable in the long run and that you really need to be doing 4000 to 5000 a day if you're going to survive.

they're spending half their days giving free webinars, so they really have to pack the words in on the other days!icon_smile.gif


 

Nicole Schnell  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 23:07
English to German
+ ...
If you have to translate more than 2500 words/day then there is something wrong with your rates Oct 22, 2013

Vivien Green wrote:
What's strange is that the speakers at a lot of the proz.com events (free webinars and industry panels etc.) have implied that this isn't financially viable in the long run and that you really need to be doing 4000 to 5000 a day if you're going to survive.


I am talking about translating new text including thorough editing and proofreading before delivery. I DO NOT refer to "production output" by means of CAT tools.

Let's say your rate is some low and measly $0.10/word (I wouldn't lift a finger at this rate). This makes $250.00/day, which makes $1250.00/week, which in return results in $5000.00/month. Neat!

Why anyone has to churn out 4000-5000 words per day to "survive" is a mystery to me.


 

Nicole Schnell  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 23:07
English to German
+ ...
Thanks, Sheila! Oct 23, 2013

Sheila Wilson wrote:
they're spending half their days giving free webinars, so they really have to pack the words in on the other days!icon_smile.gif


icon_smile.gif


 

Phil Hand  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 14:07
Chinese to English
Bit simplistic Oct 23, 2013

Nicole Schnell wrote:

Vivien Green wrote:
What's strange is that the speakers at a lot of the proz.com events (free webinars and industry panels etc.) have implied that this isn't financially viable in the long run and that you really need to be doing 4000 to 5000 a day if you're going to survive.


I am talking about translating new text including thorough editing and proofreading before delivery. I DO NOT refer to "production output" by means of CAT tools.

Let's say your rate is some low and measly $0.10/word (I wouldn't lift a finger at this rate). This makes $250.00/day, which makes $1250.00/week, which in return results in $5000.00/month. Neat!

Why anyone has to churn out 4000-5000 words per day to "survive" is a mystery to me.

I agree with Nicole's sentiment, but I think this is a bit simplistic.

First of all, I've got the equivalent of three degrees. I'd like to be making a bit more than 60K dollars a year!

Second, that calculation assumes that you can smooth the work perfectly over a year. In reality there are busy periods and slack periods. On average, 3000 words is fine, but I certainly think you need the ability to do 5000 on a busy day without working 16 hours.


 
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