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Poll: How many words can you accurately translate in an hour?
Thread poster: ProZ.com Staff
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Jul 17, 2014

This forum topic is for the discussion of the poll question "How many words can you accurately translate in an hour?".

This poll was originally submitted by Anthony Bock. View the poll results »



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LilianNekipelov  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 03:43
Russian to English
+ ...
I really depends--on the text and on the Jul 17, 2014

weather (just kidding--not entirely). Usually about 400 for the first few hours--then perhaps nothing for an hour or two, and then maybe 300-400 again for an hour or two. It all depends on many factors.

[Edited at 2014-07-17 08:18 GMT]


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neilmac  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 09:43
Spanish to English
+ ...
Other Jul 17, 2014

How long is piece of string?

In my case, if we rule out interruptions and force majeure, it depends on the subject matter/ client. I have one client whose material I can zip through like road runner (meep meep) and do maybe 500-800 words an hour at a push.

I have another whose content I'm also familiar with, but their marketing material requires a lot more time and thought, chopping and changing and twisting their original text to achieve a similar approach/tone in the finished article. So, although the two companies are roughly similar, the style of writing of the marketing department of the second one means that I take almost twice as long to produce a decent rendering.

Then there are things like advertising puffs, where half a dozen words could take an hour of wrangling/brainstorming/shoehorning to get the Goldilocks version...

PS: A 520-word text has just come in from the client I mentioned in paragraph 1. I'll time myself and post the results.

[Edited at 2014-07-17 09:22 GMT]


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neilmac  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 09:43
Spanish to English
+ ...
Weather with you Jul 17, 2014

LilianNekipelov wrote:

weather (just kidding--not entirely). Usually about 400 for the first few hours--then perhaps nothing for an hour or two, and then maybe 300-400 again for an hour or two. It all depends on many factors.

[Edited at 2014-07-17 08:18 GMT]


Been there. The other week we had a mad electrical storm and it burnt out my UPS completely. I bought and installed a new one almost immediately, which is just as well as we had a brownout again just the other day. When it rains heavily around here, power outages are par for the course.


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Giovanna Alessandra Meloni  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 09:43
Member (2012)
Spanish to Italian
+ ...
Other Jul 17, 2014

I agree with Lilian and Neilmac.

It depends on too many factors.


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Muriel Vasconcellos  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 00:43
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Same as others Jul 17, 2014

It's comforting to see that others have approximately the same experience. My "normal" pace is 300-400 wph, but I've been known to go as high as 1,000 and other texts are so dense that I'm lucky to do 200.

At 1,000 wph, it would be hard to vouch for the accuracy. Usually under such conditions there's no time to proofread. One can only cross one's fingers and pray. I do remember once doing 1,000 back in the dark ages using a manual typewriter with a carbon copy underneath. But I was a lot younger and quicker back then.

[Edited at 2014-07-18 08:04 GMT]


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Tim Drayton  Identity Verified
Cyprus
Local time: 10:43
Turkish to English
+ ...
other Jul 17, 2014

It depends on the subject matter and type of text. At one extreme, I will be able to produce less than 250 target words per hour if translating, say, a typical Turkish first-instance court judgment usually containing sentences of up to 300 words in length, whereas, at the opposite extreme, I can produce more than 500 target words per hour if working with conceptually and grammatically easy texts like private correspondence or market survey responses. Then again, I translate from an agglutinating language (Turkish) to an isolating language (English) and the word count expansion in this pair is in excess of 50%, so you will get a very different answer depending on whether you go by the source or target word count.

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Chris S  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Swedish to English
+ ...
250-500 Jul 17, 2014

Obviously it depends (see above) but it's always somewhere in this range

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Teresa Borges
Portugal
Local time: 08:43
Member (2007)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Same as others: it depends! Jul 17, 2014

Even with subject matters that I’m very comfortable with, I might stumble on a term or expression that requires a lot of time-consuming research. In general, my pace is around 400 words per hour, but occasionally I have gone much higher than that.

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Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 09:43
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
Other Jul 17, 2014

As neilmac says, how long is a piece of string?

I'm just looking at a text (a book, around 70 000 words) that is superbly written in the source, slightly out of my usual beat, and just challenging enough to be enjoyable most of the time. There was a classical-philosophical section that I crawled through.

Generally I feel it flows as I translate, but I have spent ages preparing, checking the background, checking the concordance and terminology... and finally I go through it again rephrasing and balancing the sentences.

I am not translating words per hour, because a lot of the time you would almost say I am not translating. Without spending the preparation time I could not translate, and without the revision and editing it would not do justice to the source.

I have no idea how many hours I have spent on it (4 000 words to go) - months is a more suitable measure of time. I started negotiating in March and set it up in Trados in early April.

In parallel I have been doing the kind of thing I usually do. The speed record was probably a press release (Hi, Christine, how fast can you get this into English? - the client needs it yesterday )
Response time an hour for 350 words, including mailing it to the agency, but it was largely standard expressions and familiar client-specific terminology. Typical here-today-and-mulched tomorrow stuff.

I have done 12,000 words in a week this year (a technical contract, and I was completely burnt out afterwards). Normally I never promise more than 10,000 in a week.

Add to that the differences from one language to another.
There can be up to 25 - 30% for the same text, just between European languages. So any figure is meaningless unless you start working on equivalents in some 'standard' language.

The Danes call it selling elastic by the metre.

I do wish people would stop selling translation by the kilo like groceries!


[Edited at 2014-07-17 10:48 GMT]


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Julian Holmes  Identity Verified
Japan
Local time: 17:43
Member (2011)
Japanese to English
With or without repetition? Jul 17, 2014

I translate manuals for industry and there will always be repetition in installation/repair procedures, for example, in big manuals, like the one I am translating for a major Japanese automobile manufactuer. I also use Trados and use legacy translation culled from the TM for each manual. There will always be content overlap. This is all part and parcel of tech trans.

If the TM is good - either well-maintained or originally translated by yours truly - I would say that I can easily do 200 words (400 source characters) in 5 minutes very accurately. Also, speed picks up once you become more familiar with what you are translating. So, speed also fluctuates even in the same job/project.

As others have said, it all depends on a number of factors such as the complexity of the source document, familiarity with content and biorhythm, too - in addition to the above.

So, this really is a "how many apples in a bunch of grapes" kind of question.


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Noura Tawil  Identity Verified
Syria
Local time: 10:43
Member (2013)
English to Arabic
+ ...
(250-500)???! Jul 17, 2014

Am I seeing right? Are these hugely different two figures both in the same choice?

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neilmac  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 09:43
Spanish to English
+ ...
Trial outcome Jul 17, 2014

OK folks: I started the translation (Website article/Press release, 520 words) at 11.30; first draft was ready by 11.55. Cleaned up and checked ready for sending by 12.00 (I'll deliver it this afternoon, as I don't want the client to think that I can always deliver so quickly).

I use WF Classic, but there were no repeated segments in this document. I use a mix of typing and Dragon NS for speed and comfort.

[Edited at 2014-07-17 10:05 GMT]

So, going on the above, I reckon I could knock out 1000 words an hour for this particular client and this type of texts. Sometimes I get more legal or technical material from them, which takes longer, but shortish, informative texts like this are a breeze. I love this client (today they paid me for last month already!)... and I hope it's mutual

[Edited at 2014-07-17 10:07 GMT]

[Edited at 2014-07-17 10:08 GMT]

PPS: One contact in the company calls me "el guepardo de las traducciones" because of the quick turnaround times. It doesn't sound so good in English (the translation cheetah)...

[Edited at 2014-07-17 10:10 GMT]


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Teresa Borges
Portugal
Local time: 08:43
Member (2007)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Congratulations, guepardo! Jul 17, 2014

neilmac wrote:

OK folks: I started the translation (Website article/Press release, 520 words) at 11.30; first draft was ready by 11.55. Cleaned up and checked ready for sending by 12.00 (I'll deliver it this afternoon, as I don't want the client to think that I can always deliver so quickly).

I use WF Classic, but there were no repeated segments in this document. I use a mix of typing and Dragon NS for speed and comfort.

[Edited at 2014-07-17 10:05 GMT]

So, going on the above, I reckon I could knock out 1000 words an hour for this particular client and this type of texts. Sometimes I get more legal or technical material from them, which takes longer, but shortish, informative texts like this are a breeze. I love this client (today they paid me for last month already!)... and I hope it's mutual

[Edited at 2014-07-17 10:07 GMT]

[Edited at 2014-07-17 10:08 GMT]

PPS: One contact in the company calls me "el guepardo de las traducciones" because of the quick turnaround times. It doesn't sound so good in English (the translation cheetah)...

[Edited at 2014-07-17 10:10 GMT]


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Chris S  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Swedish to English
+ ...
No offence but... Jul 17, 2014

Why do people here find the concept of an "average" so taxing?

Granted the question is ambiguous (are we talking typical or extreme circumstances?), but once you plump for one or the other it shouldn't be too hard to guesstimate an average.

I kinda feel we need an "I am a pedant" option in most of these polls


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