Translation speed
Thread poster: Dr Howard Ca (X)

Dr Howard Ca (X)  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 07:45
Italian to English
+ ...
Jul 17, 2015

This week I have been contacted by six potential clients for 'urgent' medical translation work and I have declined all six! Without exception, the deadline required for each was ridiculous - the longest was half a day (7250 words) and the shortest was 2 hours (4100 words). I follow the standard EU guideline of 2000-3000 words per day, but have begun to think I am missing something here. I specialise in medical translating and interpreting and the nature of the documents for translation is, by definition, technical and complex - rushing the translation leads to errors, with potentially serious consequences. The 'urgent' jobs remain 'urgent' until payment is requested of course, when, suddenly, much longer deadlines apply.

 

Soonthon LUPKITARO(Ph.D.)  Identity Verified
Thailand
Local time: 13:45
Member (2004)
English to Thai
+ ...
MT method Jul 17, 2015

Dr Howard Camm wrote:

I specialise in medical translating and interpreting and the nature of the documents for translation is, by definition, technical and complex - rushing the translation leads to errors, with potentially serious consequences. The 'urgent' jobs remain 'urgent' until payment is requested of course, when, suddenly, much longer deadlines apply.


During these days I spent very long time to study Internet resources about machine translation (MT) as well as its quality management standards e.g. ISO, EU categories. I understand that the job demand is rising and new paradigms of translation method are expanding. MT is specific and quite useful in many situations e.g. non-idiomatic documents.

Soonthon L.icon_biggrin.gif


 

Michael Wetzel  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 07:45
German to English
standard EU guideline? Jul 17, 2015

Is the 2000-3000 words/day based on a written source? I'd be interested to see it. Is that for salaried translators (= 285-430 words/hour, assuming they have 7 working hours in an 8-hour day) or for freelance translators (375-560 words/ hour, assuming 2/3 of their working time [= 5.33 hours] consists of billable hours). Is that for finished translations or for some kind of intermediate step before some or all editing and corrections?

I know I am a fairly slow translator, but that seems extremely fast if we are talking about ready-to-deliver work and a 40-hour work week.

I think that Common Sense Advisory once presented the brilliantly astute equation 250 words/hour = 2000 words/day (and presumably 44,000 words/month) for full-time freelancers.

I also know that this topic has been discussed numerous times, but I for one (wink) remain interested.


 

brg (X)
Netherlands
Always ask yourself why you have been contacted Jul 17, 2015

Dr Howard Camm wrote:

This week I have been contacted by six potential clients for 'urgent' medical translation work and I have declined all six! Without exception, the deadline required for each was ridiculous - the longest was half a day (7250 words) and the shortest was 2 hours (4100 words).


It seems to me that you have been one contact on a long list of translators and that all other translators refused (for obvious reasons). If it had been a 'normal' translation, someone would have taken it. The client has run into problems and now they don't know what to do with it.

I follow the standard EU guideline of 2000-3000 words per day, but have begun to think I am missing something here. I specialise in medical translating

I do too, for business and marketing translations. This is an average of course, not top speed.


 

EvaVer  Identity Verified
Local time: 07:45
Member (2012)
Czech to English
+ ...
It depends... Jul 17, 2015

on the language pair, on your familiarity with the subject, and, of course, on your computer literacy (or simply the speed with which you are able to type). Provided the target language is your native one or you have native-like proficiency in it (not always the case in my country - we translate "in all directions"), between two similarly structured languages (in my case, English or Romanian to French or Bulgarian to Czech) and on a familiar subject, it is possible to do twice the stated amount - but I might need two hours for a normalized page in other circumstances. Of course, if you have the endurance to do this, which I am loosing with age.
I am talking about working without CAT tools, which I seldom use.


 

Graeme Waller  Identity Verified
Finland
Local time: 08:45
Finnish to English
+ ...
I found this regarding capacity (EU) Jul 17, 2015

I found this EU guideline regarding capacity.

http://cdt.europa.eu/CDT%20Call%20Documents/FL-TM13/FAQs%20TM13.pdf

Frustratingly, they measure capacity in pages and do not say how many words are equivalent to one page.

As someone said, capacity depends on the source language and the topic.

It really annoys me that most translation agencies etc. just do not seem to get this.



Michael Wetzel wrote:

Is the 2000-3000 words/day based on a written source? I'd be interested to see it. Is that for salaried translators (= 285-430 words/hour, assuming they have 7 working hours in an 8-hour day) or for freelance translators (375-560 words/ hour, assuming 2/3 of their working time [= 5.33 hours] consists of billable hours). Is that for finished translations or for some kind of intermediate step before some or all editing and corrections?

I know I am a fairly slow translator, but that seems extremely fast if we are talking about ready-to-deliver work and a 40-hour work week.

I think that Common Sense Advisory once presented the brilliantly astute equation 250 words/hour = 2000 words/day (and presumably 44,000 words/month) for full-time freelancers.

I also know that this topic has been discussed numerous times, but I for one (wink) remain interested.


 

Merab Dekano  Identity Verified
Spain
Member (2014)
English to Spanish
+ ...
3000 Jul 17, 2015

I just finished 3000 words, full day, with very few interuptions. Yes, it is finished work. Yes, I am tired. No, I cannot keep translating today and maintain the same quality. No, I do not think I will get any faster in the future. Yes, I too decline 10,000 word a day jobs (I wish).

Reality and fiction have always been two different dimensions.



[Edited at 2015-07-17 19:06 GMT]


 

Alistair Gainey  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 06:45
Member (2009)
Russian to English
For agencies, no? Jul 17, 2015

Graeme Waller wrote:

I found this EU guideline regarding capacity.

http://cdt.europa.eu/CDT%20Call%20Documents/FL-TM13/FAQs%20TM13.pdf

Frustratingly, they measure capacity in pages and do not say how many words are equivalent to one page.

As someone said, capacity depends on the source language and the topic.

It really annoys me that most translation agencies etc. just do not seem to get this.



I agree with what you're saying, but are you referring to the table in Point 15? It's for agencies, isn't it? Nothing to do with individual output. By the way, I hope the standard of their English translations is rather better than the standard of the English in that document.

[Edited at 2015-07-17 19:27 GMT]


 

Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 07:45
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
You're not wrong Jul 18, 2015

Dr Howard Camm wrote:
This week I have been contacted by six potential clients for 'urgent' medical translation work and I have declined all six! Without exception, the deadline required for each was ridiculous - the longest was half a day (7250 words) and the shortest was 2 hours (4100 words).


I agree with you that it is not possible for *one* translator to complete 4100 words in 2 hours, using a typewriter/keyboard. But can it be done using a dictation system?


 

LilianNekipelov  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 01:45
Russian to English
+ ...
No, it doesn't. To some extent, perhaps Jul 18, 2015

EvaVer wrote:

on the language pair, on your familiarity with the subject, and, of course, on your computer literacy (or simply the speed with which you are able to type). Provided the target language is your native one or you have native-like proficiency in it (not always the case in my country - we translate "in all directions"), between two similarly structured languages (in my case, English or Romanian to French or Bulgarian to Czech) and on a familiar subject, it is possible to do twice the stated amount - but I might need two hours for a normalized page in other circumstances. Of course, if you have the endurance to do this, which I am loosing with age.
I am talking about working without CAT tools, which I seldom use.

For a fully bilingual translator, who hardly ever checks any words in a dictionary, it is still about 1,500-2,000/per day, if the person is to do it every day (five days a week). Of course ,you can occasionally translate 4,000 within 18 hours, perhaps, but then you have to rest the next two days.


 

John Moran  Identity Verified
Ireland
Local time: 06:45
Member (2004)
German to English
+ ...
Working speed variation Jul 18, 2015

As it happens the topic of words per hour productivity is something I look at closely in my research with adaptcentre.ie (Google for iOmegaT if you are interested) and in my small agency (transpiral.com). While it is certainly true that most translators produce 2-3k words per day, the the time required to produce that work varies.

However, words per hour translation throughput is a highly complex picture.

Just as some people walk faster than others, some translators translate faster than others so there are some underlying factors.

There are also a number of external factors that can impact on productivity. For example, working on texts that are familiar or just easy is a big one. Where no terminology research is required (20-40% of time for terminology research is not unusual (according to a researcher called Joanna Gough I spoke to yesterday) all translators are more productive.

Customised MT can help on large accounts or in very well defined vertical domains but it is largely out of the translator's control as the bitext that is required for most MT systems is normally held by agencies or end customers. Economically, it is a variation on the theme of fuzzy matches. Even MT with poor word order can serve a dictionary function. It is far faster to look at a proposal on screen than to actively research it in, for example, Linguee.

In contrast to MT, automatic speech recognition is very much within the translator's control. As the translator brings the aid to the table, discounts for this mode of production are -I suspect- rare. For some of the translators that work with Transpiral have agreed on an additional 1c review charge to catch the dictos they overlook but mostly we pay the same for dictated work as we do for typed work.

In the absence of a full-coverage termbase ( except for large companies like SAP a rarity in my experience), MT Assisted Dictation (MTAD) is the most productive mode of working that I am aware of. I know of one translator who works like this at speeds of up to 2,000 words per hour (note: the evidence here is second-hand as it is from another translator who has shared a working space). However, I do have first-hand soft data (not iOmegaT but based on turnaround times and self-reporting) on draft speeds of up to 1,000 words per hour for translators who work for Transpiral. They have been working with Dragon Naturally Speaking for a number of years. Except for the odd dicto their work is just as good as those that are typed. In fact, subjectively, I prefer to read them. It is harder to say something that sounds dumb than to write it and to be that fast you have to know the technical domain well.

I pinned a comment from a translator to the top of a Facebook group I started to promote the use of dictation called Technophile Translators. He doubled his throughput for a direct client over a period of a few days but I think it is worth sticking at dictation for a few weeks or months as many translators report that it takes this long to get used to the new input mode. It is worth scrolling down the Facebook group to read the entire conversation. I think the key factor was that it was a direct client and he was already very productive on that work as he didn't have to do terminology research.

It is worth pointing out that even though I do have large volumes of hard translation speed data it was focused on MT, the numbers above are anecdotal (mostly drawn from conversations with translators who work with my agency but also translators I have met face to face and Skyped with). However, this paper concurs with my own -less structured- data https://ddd.uab.cat/pub/tradumatica/tradumatica_a2014n12/tradumatica_a2014n12p524.pdf.

Dictation is not new. Some older translators will be aware that dictation was common in the days before word processors. In-house translators who could become very familiar with the texts they were translating could be even more productive than today's post-editors (e.g. 6k per day). That is to say, even translators who translate into languages not supported by any speech recognition system should consider experimenting with human transcription for highly familiar or easier work. Productivity is just one argument in favour of dictation. It can also help prevent injuries like Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI) or help relieve them.

For translators who translate material they are familiar with into German or English Dragon Naturally Speaking (DNS) is a no brainer. Even translators who have tried it in the past unsuccessfully should try the latest version as the technology is improving all the time. French, Dutch and Spanish also feature as target languages in some online fora (e.g. Translators who use Speech Recognition on Facebook). Some translators who translate into languages like Ukranian which are not supported by DNS benefit from dictation services built into Google Chrome and Windows or MacOS. The jury is out on Italian. It helps one of the translators we work with but not by as much as the German and English translators we work with (our main languages with in-house review). Kevin Lossner's blog Translation Tribulations is a good source of information for this.

To address the 10,000 words per day question raised at the start of the thread - it is possible in some domains and language pairs that some of their translators are post-editing Google Translate or MS Translator Hub output at 8-10k words per day with reasonable fidelity, but the style would be negatively impacted. It is very rare for anyone to type or dictate 10,000 words per day at high quality (10,500 is the personal best for the fastest translator we work with and that was a double shift for another agency).

I suspect the agency is just overly aggressive on price. Though it was rare, in the past where we outsourced work at higher word rates during review we suspected that some translators outsourced their work to others. I would advise against working for an agency that expects project management, review and translation from you at the rate you charge for translation only. In our business this is worth around €.05 and it has taken us quite some time to find enough good technical translators to take on work with five or six day turnaround times on 2k words or more. Staccato or one day jobs with multiple translators are not profitable except at very high rates and the agencies that ask us for it don't pay those rates so we ignore them.







[Edited at 2015-07-18 21:02 GMT]


 


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