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How many words can you translate in 8 hours?
Thread poster: areli_ash

English to Spanish
+ ...
Feb 5, 2015

Hello everyone!

This is the context: I'm the only translator at this university, where I work full-time translating from A to B (Sp > En), without glossaries or CATs. The topics are quite varied, including, but not limited to education, law, religion, science, etc.

I would also like to know, do you think it is feasible to translate 25K words per week under these conditions? If not, what would I need to do to hit this target? Thanks for your comments!


Andrea Halbritter  Identity Verified
Local time: 21:15
Member (2014)
French to German
+ ...
For me it's more likely to be 2 or 2 and a half weeks Feb 5, 2015


I work without a CAT and can do between 2 500 and 3 000 words in 8 hours depending on the subject and the style of the source text. I translate from French to German though which probably is a bit more time taking than from Spanish to English due to the structure of German sentences.

Translating is not everything though, you also need to polish the style and proofread it. I go at least three times through my text so 25 000 words are more likely to take me up to 2 and a half weeks if I only work 40 hours per week (as a freelancer I work more than 40 hours though if I have a lot of work...)

[Modifié le 2015-02-05 20:45 GMT]


Ahmed Abdi
Local time: 23:15
English to Somali
+ ...
8 hours Feb 5, 2015

I think you can translate 4000 words in 8 hours and you will also need one more hour to check the translation and the spelling.

[Edited at 2015-02-05 06:53 GMT]


Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Local time: 21:15
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
Without CAT Feb 5, 2015

areli_ash wrote:
Do you think it is feasible to translate 25K words per week under these conditions?

Without CAT, my speed drops to less than 2000 words per 7 hours. Even if there are no TM matches, CAT speeds up my translation work by helping me focus.


Merab Dekano  Identity Verified
Member (2014)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Unrealistic target Feb 5, 2015

Sorry to say, and don't just take my word for it (check with other fellow translators), 25k words a week is too burdening a target.

If you work 7 days a week, you will have to do 3.5k words a day, day in day out.

If you work 6 days a week, you will have to do 4.2k words a day. I find it to be "too much", unless the text is "too easy".

If you work 5 days a week, you will have to do a staggering 5k words a day. That I find impossible, unless you compromise quality (inconsistencies in terminology, typos, doggy word order, questionable terminology, fuzzy readability, etc.).

I would not commit on more than 3k words a day. I usually work 6 days a week, so I would say my target for a week would be set at 18k words. Now, I work 10 hours a day, not 8.

Well, this is just me, I am not the fastest and I am not striving to become one. I do strive to become the most accurate and reliable.

I do use CAT and it helps to speed up the process (possible repetitions, concordance search, auto propagation, etc.).


Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 20:15
Member (2008)
Italian to English
Experience Feb 5, 2015

As an experienced translator I can produce on average 3,000 words per day. That figure includes all research, proof-reading, printing and checking etc. In other words: 3,000 words per day **ready to go**.

I can increase that if I work long hours and weekends. So I could only do 25k words per week if I worked long hours every day, 7 days per week, refusing all other job offers, and at my full rate.

Refusing other job offers is seriously counterproductive. If a client asked me to translate 25K words per week I would charge a higher rate. In any case I couldn't work at that level of intensity for more than 2 weeks, eating "on the fly", not going out or seeing any friends, and I would then need at least a day's rest. All of these factors need to be taken into consideration.

(notes added later)

1. I don't use CAT tools. It's interesting to note that despite this I'm just as fast and productive as those who do. Maybe that's because I'm more skilful at using MSWord, macros, fast googling, etc.

2. Even though I lived and worked in Italy for more than 20 years and am perfectly bilingual, Italian is not my native language. For that reason I do not translate from English to Italian because I would be much slower. So if you are proposing to translate both into and out of your native language, you would probably need to double the time for translating "out".

[Edited at 2015-02-05 08:52 GMT]


Terry Richards
Local time: 21:15
French to English
+ ...
As Tom said... Feb 5, 2015

I could do 25K words in a week with CAT if the text was reasonably easy. Then I would need a week off! There is no way you can keep up that kind of rate week after week.

Actually, there is a way. If you run it all through Google translate, you could manage that output quite easily. I'm assuming that this is not an option.

For correct, human translation, I normally quote on a basis of 3K words per day, 5 days a week and many of my customers think that I am "fast".

For the right text, I can actually produce up to 5K per day in short bursts (2-3 days maximum). Obviously, the definition of "right text" will vary according to your own abilities and interests. As a general rule, if you have a very good idea what the next sentence will say before you read it, that's probably a "right text"!


Michael Wetzel  Identity Verified
Local time: 21:15
German to English
Translate poorly? Feb 5, 2015

If the university is not willing to invest in a CAT for you to use, then you could download the free OmegaT to try to improve your productivity.

In the end, though, I think that the only way to consistently translate 25,000 words per 40-hour week (and into a second language and in a wide range of fields) is to translate pretty badly. I mean, I could probably translate at least 10,000 words a day if I never checked any terms, never thought twice about anything and my editing consisted only of a quick proofreading for spelling and grammatical mistakes.

If your employers have established reaching this target as the highest priority and you have explained that this is problematic and they want you to do it anyway and you are willing to do it, then put an alarm clock on your desk. Make sure you never dip below 700-800 words per hour and that you are never behind at the end of the day - by any means necessary. It's as simple as that.

Working with a machine-translation system (post-editing) might also be an option. Some people (not me) insist that this allows them to work significantly faster.

Alternatively, you could inform them that 15,000 words per 40-hour week would actually be an unrealistically ambitious goal for reasonably good translations under the conditions you have described (into B language and in various fields). You could also help them to reduce your workload by sorting out texts that do not need to be translated or could be translated in a drastically reduced form.


Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 20:15
Member (2008)
Italian to English
Ask for a raise Feb 5, 2015

areli_ash wrote:

I'm the only translator at this university

This means you would probably be difficult to replace not only because they know and trust you but because you are also familiar with university management and working practices, know your way around, are on speaking terms with the faculty etc.

With that in mind, you are in a strong negotiating position.

Explain to them as a professional (in a field in which you, not they, are the expert) you could not produce more than 3K words in an 8-hour day unless you literally want to kill yourself by work. And ask for a raise!

[Edited at 2015-02-05 09:36 GMT]


Verena Schmidt  Identity Verified
Local time: 21:15
Spanish to German
+ ...
12,500 per week / 5 working days Feb 5, 2015

I never take on more than 2,500 words per working day, not even with a CAT tool (and I'm in this job since 10 years, full-time).

Translating 25,000 words per week is ridiculous.


United Kingdom
Local time: 20:15
Polish to English
+ ...
Not consistently, with varied texts and no help Feb 5, 2015

I'd agree with what everyone above says.

Maintaining a humane working week (ie around 40 hours of actual work), that means an average of 625 words per hour. I *do* think this is perfectly possible in some cases, with an easy text, however you define 'easy', not requiring any (or minimal) research, where you are familiar with the terminology and the voice required, text-only, for more casual purposes in which an odd instance ow awkward usage is not going to be a disaster.

But with academic texts from a variety of fields, and with no second-opinion available for queries regarding stylistic or usage queries, I would find it very difficult to do this kind of thing consistently with any degree of quality.

I'd say that 3,000 words a day would be a much more realistic target for a consistent provision of quality work.


Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Local time: 21:15
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
Get a CAT and start using it to build glossaries Feb 5, 2015

I would never dream of doing university work without a CAT.
I translate academic papers and research protocols etc. and find my CAT absolutely indispensable for terminology.

I translate from Danish, and NEVER promise to to more than 10 000 words a week. That is hard work from Danish, especially for academic work that has to comply with a style manual or whatever and be checked as well. From Danish, 10 000 words translate into 12 000 or more English words.

I know some of the Romance langages are 'wordier', so I don't doubt colleagues who say they can translate 15 000 words or more a week, but 25 000 is definitely too much to expect.

If you have a good way of managing terminology without a CAT, fine, but it puts in figures and deals with formatting automatically, and wil insert terminology where you want it. (At least Trados Multiterm will. I dropped other CATs because I had to move terminology around, and then I might just as well type it myself...)

This means that when you have long strings like the Danish Committee for Scientific and Technical Information and Documentation, Trados inserts all that, correctly spelled, no typos, at just a few keystrokes.

It saves typing and it makes proofreading easier - then you can concentrate on the rest of the content.

I don't find a CAT actually saves a lot of time overall. It has to be maintained and updated, but so do word lists or however you keep track of terminology, etc etc. under any other system.
Where it may save time, if properly maintained, is from the moment you start typing a document to the moment you finish the first draft.
If it is largely similar to earlier work, the CAT will find, cut and paste sentences or sections for you.

You should insert all the corrections from proofreading into the CAT afterwards, or it will of course 'remember' the uncorrected version. That need not take appreciably longer than proofreading without the CAT if you have an efficient routine, but it may 'eat up' some of the time you saved earlier.


Local time: 22:15
English to NdebeleNorth
+ ...
Look for help Feb 5, 2015

25k per 8 hour week is too much for anyone, and can cause serious problems in future, both to the translator and the work.

To answer the second part of your question, get help from someone. Either to do part translation or to help with the proofreading of the text.


Anne Pinaglia
Local time: 21:15
Member (2011)
Italian to English
+ ...
Hire another translator Feb 5, 2015

areli_ash wrote:
what would I need to do to hit this target?

Split it with another translatoricon_smile.gif

I would never dream of taking on that much work in one week, unless I had a trusted partner who split the work with me... even then it would be tough to squeeze in the proofreading.

You can hit this target by working all of your waking hours, 7 days a week, but it's going to really, really wear you out. Translation is brain-heavy, and in my experience, once the brain has had enough, you're at its mercy.

I think realistically you will need to hand off part of the work to someone else, whether on site or off site in order to make it happen.

Good luck!


Max Deryagin  Identity Verified
Russian Federation
Local time: 01:15
Member (2013)
English to Russian
25K a week!? Feb 5, 2015

I have no idea how people can translate more than 1,500 words a day if there are few to no repetitions in the source text. Maybe it is just me, or maybe my language pair is more resource-intensive than those of the previous posters — I don't know — but even 15K a week is completely unrealistic for me.

[Edited at 2015-02-05 14:54 GMT]

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