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How can I increase my translation speed?
Thread poster: Amir Arzani

Amir Arzani
Iran
Local time: 15:41
English to Farsi (Persian)
+ ...
Apr 26

Hi
I have recently consulted with a few colleagues and come to the conclusion that I am not translating as efficiently as I should be. The average amount of words that one should translate (according to my colleagues) in English to Persian translation should be around 2k-3k a day meanwhile I have been stuck on around 1.2 K max and 800 min. I am quite comfortable using Trados and Termbase so I know that my technology and searching skills are not an issue. I assume I get easily distracted either going about doing something else or just getting stuck on a segment and not being able to move past it.
I would like to know what you do in order to increase your efficiency and concentration during a translation session, I am also aware that not all documents and language pairs are the same but this issue has been bothering me quite a lot this past week and I decided it's about time I figure out some way to help myself.


 

Jorge Payan  Identity Verified
Colombia
Local time: 06:11
Member (2002)
German to Spanish
+ ...
¿Did you try voice recognition? Apr 27

https://www.nuance.com/dragon.html

I really don't know if it exists for Persian (Farsi).


 

Rossana Triaca  Identity Verified
Uruguay
Local time: 08:11
Member (2002)
English to Spanish
The best productivity boost I noticed personally... Apr 27

...was when I forced myself to routinely skip segments I was having issues with or were just taking too much of my time. The truth is 9 out of 10 times you'll find the answer you're looking for a few lines below, since there's usually more context or you simply gain more understanding once you finish translating the whole thing.

Many times a translated sentence just doesn't "sound" right and you can't quite put your finger on it, and you can spend hours tweaking it to no avail. But keep going and come back later with fresh eyes? The answer just jumps out at you!

Terminology woes? Use a placeholder for the difficult term (XXX) and make all the terminology research you need at the very end (if you didn't already at the beginning). Usually the term will show up again and now you have further context, or you just know now what they are talking about. Also, stopping to check 100 dictionaries all the time interrupts the flow and reduces your speed considerably.

I'm not saying this is easy to master -- I still fight this battle with myself constantly; I'm clearly a nitpicker that doesn't know when to let go and I have to berate myself out loud to move forward. I think in general we are all very structured in nature and the fact that the text is presented so clearly delimited makes you feel a sense of completion is needed before moving forward (and we are fastidious as linguists to boot!). But again, we also know empirically that it's easier to steer a ship that's already moving... I find the more I skip segments, the easier it gets to overcome this predisposition that I should get it right the first time around.

In short, go for the low-hanging fruit first, complete everything that is straightforward (it's more than you think too, about 80-90% of the project in my experience for technical texts), leave the rest with a draft status, and when you reach the end start over at the beginning again and tackle only the difficult bits set to draft (thank God for CAT tools). After finishing those, take a coffee break or, even better, a nap, and then do a full review with fresh eyes starting at the beginning (this is the moment to check your QA settings too to avoid inconsistencies and adhere to the terms you settled on).

I also discovered that, in addition to the speed-up, this approach also has two interesting side-effects: it definitely improves quality overall, since the "problematic" bits get visited twice before review instead of just once, and it also allows you to manage your time much better, since you got the easy "bulk" out of the way and know exactly how much time you have left to deal with the difficult parts before the deadline, and you also know exactly how many words that is (the draft status wordcount, usually shown at the bottom in most CATs). You'll never again delivery something that begins brilliantly and then tapers off to just... OK at the end due to being rushed.

Try it for you next project and see how it goes!icon_smile.gifDisclaimer: I've only tested this for small to medium (20k) projects, which I think it's the norm for freelancers anyway.

[Edited at 2018-04-27 05:49 GMT]


 

Jan Truper
Germany
Local time: 13:11
Member (2016)
English to German
+ ...
... Apr 27

Invest in hardware/software to optimize your workflow, for example

- dictation software
- a mouse with a lot programmable buttons
- a gaming keypad
- a second / third monitor for web browser windows or reference documents
- if you're on a Mac, consider this: https://www.orderedbytes.com/about/ (I don't know if there's a Windows equivalent)


If you can't do it already, invest the time to properly learn touch typing (it took me about a week to get real fast when I finally decided to learn it about 10 years ago; I can now type sentence A while already thinking about sentence B).


As Rossana said, don't get stuck on individual terms too long; if you are not fully satisfied with a choice, mark it with a specific symbol in your translation (I use this: °°°), then come back to all the marked terms and work through them once you have the bulk of the job done.


 

Jan Truper
Germany
Local time: 13:11
Member (2016)
English to German
+ ...
One more suggestion... Apr 27

This might seem counterproductive, but I suggest taking regular breaks or power naps.

I have noticed that after about 1.5 hours of work, typos start to creep in, and I am generally not as quick in mind and body anymore.
As soon as I notice that I slow down, I lay down and close my eyes for a while, or get some fresh air.


 

Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 13:11
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
Listen to music Apr 27

Amir Arzani wrote:
I would like to know what you do in order to increase your efficiency and concentration during a translation session.


When I have a long slog ahead, I put on some music (if you have free internet, Youtube playlists). I find that power metal has just the right kind of tempo to push my typing speed to just a little bit beyond casual. Unblack metal or non-English folk metal is also good for me, because the music swallows one up. If I discover a particularly non-annoying piece, I put it on endless repeat, because the mindlessness of it helps my brain focus on the task at hand.


 

Sharon James
Australia
Improve your speed Apr 27

- One of the quickest ways to improve your translation speed is to learn to type faster. This will benefit every single job that you undertake. If you don’t yet know how to touch-type, now is the time to learn. Knowledge about the particular topic is also necessary to translate a document.

- For many translators, having a quiet, peaceful environment in which to work, with minimal interruptions, will have a noticeable impact on their translation speed. Others find that music in the background helps them to work faster. Whatever your preference, ensure that your office is designed in such a way as to maximise your productivity levels.

- Give yourself an incentive to boost your speed. From a chocolate at the end of each hour to a glass of wine at the end of the day, find a treat that will motivate you to work harder and faster. Vary your treats to keep up your enthusiasm.

- It may seem an obvious point, but many translators are unable to focus due to incoming emails, or social media channels that are open on their computer. Close your email and your social media pages and don’t open them until you’ve completed a full hour’s translation. You may be surprised to see how much faster you can work with fewer distractions!

- Consider using speech recognition software to see if you can boost your translation speed. Such software has come a long way in recent years and could provide you with a quick and easy way to increase your speed.


 

Dan Lucas  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 12:11
Member (2014)
Japanese to English
This! Skip and return to them later Apr 27

Rossana Triaca wrote:
...was when I forced myself to routinely skip segments I was having issues with or were just taking too much of my time. The truth is 9 out of 10 times you'll find the answer you're looking for a few lines below, since there's usually more context or you simply gain more understanding once you finish translating the whole thing.

A really useful observation. This is something I have noticed myself, but I still struggle to skip these problem segments due to a perfectionist streak.

Dan


 

Chris S  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Swedish to English
+ ...
Specialise! Apr 27

I would say specialise - the more you translate in a particular area, the faster you will get.

(The flipside is you might then get sick of it after a while!)

In terms of the translation process, I find that dictating a very quick first draft and then working through it is better than translating sentence by sentence, for the reasons given by Rossana and Dan and also just to get a feel for what you're dealing with.


 

Heinrich Pesch  Identity Verified
Finland
Local time: 14:11
Member (2003)
Finnish to German
+ ...
Skip or take notes Apr 27

Skipping difficult terms is good advice. Or otherwise you can make a note of terms you are not sure yet and when you have decided on the proper translation it is easy to find and replace either in the translation environment or even better in Word export file. MT will speed up things too, because it gives you often new ideas or confirms your thoughts.

 

Susan Welsh  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 07:11
Member (2008)
Russian to English
+ ...
Slow? Apr 27

Amir Arzani wrote:

The average amount of words that one should translate (according to my colleagues) in English to Persian translation should be around 2k-3k a day meanwhile I have been stuck on around 1.2 K max and 800 min.


I don't know about English to Farsi, but in my language pairs I could never competently translate 3k words per day. I don't consider 1.2k so bad (I work a short day for personal reasons). But 800 min per day is really a lot -- I'm not surprised that your productivity declines in 13 hours of work!

I think Rossana's suggestion is terrific. I have not infrequently spent an hour agonizing over a term, posting a Kudoz question, checking English usage with Google or Google Scholar, only to discover that it is clarified later in the text.

Also MT is definitely a time-saver, as Heinrich says. Not only for terminology, but because it saves key strokes and, with whatever strange errors it offers you, there will not be typos in numbers. The down-side is that MT + CAT tool (segment by segment) = a certain decortication and less creative translation. Depends on what you're translating how important that may be!

PS/OT - Referring to your profile, nobody says "have a nice time" as a closing to a business letter. It's appropriate perhaps when writing to a friend who is on vacation. I even find "have a nice day" annoying, but that's a personal quirk. (An elderly friend, now deceased, once responded wryly to a grocery store cashier who said that to him: "Thank you, but I have other plans.")


 

Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 12:11
Member (2008)
Italian to English
Dictation Apr 27

I have found that using Mac Dictation (which comes free as an integrated part of the MacOS) has greatly speeded up my output. It isn't ideal for every type of document but for discursive text of high quality, e.g. academic papers, it's a boon. It does offer a wide range of languages but unfortunately, so far, not Farsi.

So far as CAT tools are concerned, I've often noticed that the translation speeds quoted by CATs users are no faster that my own non-CATs translation speed. So for the kind of work I do, CAT tools offer no advantage.

They are also very expensive and they seem to continuously generate unforeseen technical problems (as evidenced by the constant new discussion threads seeking help with CAT tools)

Over many years of practice, I've found that I've gradually become more and more skilled in the use of ordinary software (MS Office) and internet searches, and that as a result, my translation speed has greatly increased. I don't think you can increase your output speed by adopting technologies (which may actually slow you down because you have to learn them). I think you can increase it by simply becoming more experienced and fast-moving yourself.

Not that speed alone should be the translator's goal; word-perfect accuracy can't be done in a rush.

[Edited at 2018-04-27 12:40 GMT]


 

Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 12:11
Member (2008)
Italian to English
Hooray! Apr 27

Susan Welsh wrote:

....nobody says "have a nice time" as a closing to a business letter. It's appropriate perhaps when writing to a friend who is on vacation. I even find "have a nice day" annoying, but that's a personal quirk. (An elderly friend, now deceased, once responded wryly to a grocery store cashier who said that to him: "Thank you, but I have other plans.")


Hooray! Thank you, Susan. For some reason, too many non-native English speakers seem to have picked up the idea that "have a nice day" is good English !

[Edited at 2018-04-27 12:42 GMT]


 

Kay Denney  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 13:11
Member (Apr 2018)
French to English
comfort zone Apr 27

I don't work full-time, but when necessary I can pull 3500 words a day in my comfort zone.

Do you have a comfort zone? A field where you don't need to worry at all, you know you'll find the terms you're not sure of, and barely need to ever consult your 60-page glossary because it's all in your head.
It took me a while to get there. Experienced translators work faster than noobs.

Other than that, Rossanna's advice is very sound.

You don't say exactly how you go about translation, so here's how I do it:
1. a first bad draft where I don't look anything up or try to make a natural sounding text, I just translate what I can and skip the rest.
2. I go back and do the research to fill in the gaps.
3. I check against the source text to make sure I haven't forgotten anything, and that terminology fits properly.
4. one last check only reading the target text, checking that it flows well and sounds natural.

One last thing: I usually ask for deadlines of at least 24hrs, so that my brain can rest at some point between the first and last stage, ideally before the two checking stages. If theres anything that bothers me, words that are on the tip of my tongue, expressions that just don't sound right and so on, it seems that my brain has worked on it overnight, because suddenly I find the elusive word, or I think of a more appropriate idiom. That definitely reduces the amount of time I'm working on the file at the laptop, even if it doesn't make for speedier delivery.


 

Janet Ross Snyder  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 08:11
Member (2006)
French to English
+ ...
Music and fast fingers Apr 27

The most important skill is fast and accurate typing. I find that an ergonomic keyboard helps me type more accurately with less stress on my hands and wrists. It is also important to adjust chair height and keyboard height so that the keyboard is not too high and you can keep your forearms, wrists, and hands in a straight line, with your fingers curved.
Having a second wide screen is a big time saver. I can keep source and target documents side by side on one screen, two web browsers and my personal glossary up on the other screen. (One browser dedicated to my favorite dictionaries, the other browser used for searching.) This saves a great deal of time switching between windows and it's easier to keep a thought in mind when you don't have to dedicate a part of your attention to window switching.
When time is of the essence, I don't even read my email for long stretches. There are disadvantages to this, to be sure, but I find that it takes a lot of mental energy to respond to all those messages, and then I lose the thread of where I was in the translation and have to reorient myself.
Normally, I listen to the radio while I work, but when a higher level of attention is required, I turn off the radio and turn on a YouTube music channel. The best music for me is instrumental: music for meditation, New Age music, or classic Salsa.
It's important to get in touch with your diurnal rhythms. I work most efficiently in the morning, with a second period of reasonable productivity after supper.
We're doing intellectual work, but in a living body that has physical needs and emotional ups and downs. Keeping all these factors in harmony will help you achieve the productivity you're looking for.
I hope this helps.


 
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