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How many words per day can you translate on a day-to-day basis?
Thread poster: jjacek

Nicole Schnell  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 22:23
English to German
+ ...
In memoriam
The number of words vs. the number of jobs Jun 6, 2011

Translating 3000 or 4000 words a day? No problem. If all those words belong to one, continuing job that you are already familiar with and that doesn't require full research from scratch.

If 3000 or 4000 words are supposed to equal 6 to 8 public relations articles at 500 words each - sorry, guys. Nobody will buy THAT myth.



 

apk12  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 07:23
English to German
+ ...
...or vs. number of clients - or vs. number of new clients... Jun 6, 2011

Sure, sev-k-records are possible only with medium to larger, coherent texts. With several smaller projects or even several smaller projects from several (direct) clients hardly.





[Edited at 2011-06-06 20:19 GMT]


 

Martin Cross  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 22:23
3-5000 Nov 11, 2011

Experienced translators working in their specialty field and not doing any formatting typically produce about 500 words an hour of polished text. I can do about 1000 words/hour of draft text, so if there are no curve balls I can produce about 750 words an hour of finished text, assuming I have another translator checking my work. I know quite a few translators who can consistently put out 10,000 words a day of polished technical translation.

 

Germaine  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 01:23
English to French
+ ...
The dictation question Nov 12, 2011

N Ivan Contreras wrote:
Nobody seems to have paid any attention to the dictation question I posted a couple of days ago. Should I suppose that no translator ever dictates a text (either alive or using a dictating machine) to a fast typist to improve his/her speed?
Or shall I suppose those who do it won´t confess the sin?


I occasionally do transcription for translators, so yes, some dictate! They usually deliver the tapes and email the source text, although it is also possible to email audiofiles. Only one dictates "live" though. At the end, it might be a little more expensive for him since he takes time to discuss any problem/blanks he may have. On the other hand, he also save time on research and even more when it comes to wordprocessing and formatting.

I usually type 70-90 words/minute, which means an output of 4 to 6 pages an hour for typing only, depending on the quality of the manuscripts I receive. Under (good) dictation, I can easily double that, which would mean an output of 2400 to 3000 words for one hour of (good) dictation. So, the bill may not be that "heavy" for the translator (obviously, depending on his rate vs the transcriptionist/audiotypist's rate!).

In Montreal, as far as I know, an audiotypist would charge $25 to $40CA/hour (plus taxes in some case). One of my clients adds this cost to his invoice; I don't know for the others. Anyway, it must be profitable somewhere: I know of three translators who have been doing it for more than 15 years.


 

Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 06:23
Member (2008)
Italian to English
Hmmm Nov 12, 2011

jjacek wrote:

How many words per day can you translate on a day-to-day basis? How many words/day do you think a beginning translator can translate?



Hmm. This is an interesting thread that has made me rethink a little.

If I include all necessary research, revision, polishing, checking, doing a final print and checking again, etc. plus invoicing at the end, chasing late payments, registering the invoice, doing the other paperwork, and all other related admin., in other words, fully finished, delivered, paid, and entered on my books, I wouldn't generally go above 3000 words per day unless it's a special rush job that requires me to work long hours and weekends.

Moreover, that estimate is based on the assumption that I have no other jobs in hand and that nothing will interrupt my work. In reality, when giving clients an estimate of how long a job will take, I always add extra time. And I do like to get out of the house once in a while, to keep my sanity.

I try to avoid phone calls. There's very little you can do in a 5-minute phone call that you can't do by writing a 30-second email.

This is of course only an estimate. I can often do better than 3K words/day.

On the other hand, sometimes I get really challenging academic texts written in abstruse, dense language that not only require more time but are often so interesting that they set me off reading other things, ordering books for myself, just sitting and thinking, etc. Which all slows me down, but in a very enjoyable way.

Speed isn't everything. What matters is quality, faithfulness to the source text, and writing style. If you have to slow down to achieve those things, then...slow down!

As for beginners, I don't know. What does it mean to be "a beginner"? A beginner could be highly fluent and literate in their mother tongue (i.e. their target language) and have an excellent vocabulary, but might not be nearly so literate in their source language. Or they might not be very literate in either language.

In the worst cases (which, alas, do exist) they might not even know the meanings of words like "literacy". I regret to say that all too often I see translators asking for help with questions that reveal a low level of literacy in their own mother tongue. Such people might have to grope for a long time for the "mot juste", whereas a literate person will often be able to find a good word inside their own head, without needing to have recourse to a thesaurus or a dictionary.

A beginner would presumably not be very confident about when to adhere punctiliously to the precise literal meaning of a text, and when to let go and be creative.

They might also be very slow with a computer, and inefficient at creating a basic workflow for doing translations.

There are so many factors at play in defining what a "beginner" is that I wouldn't hazard a guess as to how many words a beginner might be able to deliver. Presumably it would be a lot less than my basic 3K.

Oh - and my estimate doesn't include for "time spent browsing through the Proz discussion forums and contributing to them". But I usually only do that when I'm not busy. This is Saturday !



[Edited at 2011-11-12 10:01 GMT]


 

Juan Pablo Sans  Identity Verified
Mexico
Local time: 01:23
Member (2011)
English to Spanish
+ ...
2,500-3,000 Nov 14, 2011

The other day I hit 15,000 words in three days and the quality was VERY GOOD!

From last Saturday up to today I hit 7,000 words.

It depends on the person and the speed typing and the them you are dealing with. I suppose it also has to be with age (youngsters like me being able to type faster than not so young translators and being able to use word in a better way).

It depends on your skill as a translator.

I have only 5 years translating and I f
... See more
The other day I hit 15,000 words in three days and the quality was VERY GOOD!

From last Saturday up to today I hit 7,000 words.

It depends on the person and the speed typing and the them you are dealing with. I suppose it also has to be with age (youngsters like me being able to type faster than not so young translators and being able to use word in a better way).

It depends on your skill as a translator.

I have only 5 years translating and I feel comfortable doing 2,500-3,000 a day.
Collapse


 

inge van dri (X)
Local time: 07:23
German to Dutch
+ ...
Well... Nov 14, 2011

I have 20 years of translation experience, am a fast typist and still translate "only" 2,500-3,000 words a day. I can speed up if necessary (using a CAT, having coffee and meals prepared by my husband, working more hours, doing paperwork on Saturdays, etc.), but max speed in one working day still remains about 4,000. When I deliver everything has been thoroughly checked. By the way, I do not translate easy commercial or IT texts.

 

BobAsh  Identity Verified
Local time: 07:23
Czech to English
+ ...
5-6k no CAT May 27, 2012

I translate mostly articles for car magazines (Autocar, TopGear), so no use of CAT, as it is sort of creative work. If I'm not goofing around too much, I can do 2,500 word text in less than two hours, without proofreading. But there's no way I could keep up that pace for 8 hours a day, several days in a row. If I really, really need, I probably could do 10,000 words in one day (and I probably have a few times), even with proofreading, but I would become a zombie for the day after.

B
... See more
I translate mostly articles for car magazines (Autocar, TopGear), so no use of CAT, as it is sort of creative work. If I'm not goofing around too much, I can do 2,500 word text in less than two hours, without proofreading. But there's no way I could keep up that pace for 8 hours a day, several days in a row. If I really, really need, I probably could do 10,000 words in one day (and I probably have a few times), even with proofreading, but I would become a zombie for the day after.

But I type very fast, know the subject really well (I'm motoring writer myself) and, what's most important, I love cars, and I love the magazines I work for.

If I were to translate a washing machine manual, I would need to work hard to do 3,000 words a day.
Collapse


 

Bernhard Sulzer  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 01:23
Member (2006)
English to German
+ ...
record your voice May 28, 2012

N Ivan Contreras wrote:

I am not a fast typist, and I suppose at some point I may have to hire a typist whom I can dictate to. Does that sound familiar?


Me neither.

Better use a software program you can dictate your first draft or single sentences.
That will alleviate typing, hopefully. (I am not using that yet.)

Mind you though, I will not be giving any discounts for that.

Greetings,

B

[Edited at 2012-05-28 02:14 GMT]


 

Bernhard Sulzer  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 01:23
Member (2006)
English to German
+ ...
put the old horses out to pasture May 28, 2012

juanpablosans wrote:

The other day I hit 15,000 words in three days and the quality was VERY GOOD!

From last Saturday up to today I hit 7,000 words.

It depends on the person and the speed typing and the them you are dealing with. I suppose it also has to be with age (youngsters like me being able to type faster than not so young translators and being able to use word in a better way).

It depends on your skill as a translator.

I have only 5 years translating and I feel comfortable doing 2,500-3,000 a day.



Excuse me?
Which age group are you referring to when you say it also has to do with age?
Seriously!

And you surely mean Word, as in Microsoft Word?

An old horse

B



[Edited at 2012-05-28 02:07 GMT]


 

Marina Steinbach  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 01:23
Member (2011)
English to German
It depends... May 28, 2012

Depending on the difficulty of the text and research required, I am able to translate approximately 2,500 words per day, and I am able to type with all ten fingers!

 

Bernhard Sulzer  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 01:23
Member (2006)
English to German
+ ...
Ask: how many hours do/should you work, not: how many words can you translate on a day-to-day basis? May 28, 2012

jjacek wrote:

How many words per day can you translate on a day-to-day basis? How many words/day do you think a beginning translator can translate?

[Subject edited by staff or moderator 2008-04-02 20:20]


I believe some of the advice given to you here is very good. There are many variables. It just depends on many factors.


To me, more important than the question "how many words can you translate" ... (as in "when you work for 10 hours straight because a cheap outsourcer wants it tomorrow and then will pay you a measly price (EUR .08/word or even less) in 60 days or later) ...

... is the question:

how many hours do YOU or should YOU work daily?

Well, currently, I do not translate as many hours on a daily basis as I wish. There are less and less words to go around for decent rates anyway. Some professionals might have a different experience. Hats off to them.
But that's another topic.

When I do translate, I translate until I feel I can't concentrate as much as I should anymore. You will learn when you get to that point.

You definitely need to take breaks, short ones and bigger ones. I am sure I don't translate more than 2000 words a day unless it's a very easy text.
But there are other examples here (see Nicole's and other translators' comments).
I do not translate 3500 words, ever.

But it's not about the words, although you first look at the word count (of a job) and estimate how long it is going to take you - but it will depend; you don't always spend the same amount of time translating 2000 or any number of words. That's why you shouldn't always quote the same rate for the same amount of words.

With breaks, I work 6-8 hours a day (during the day!!), rather 6 than 8, doing not just direct translating but other important related tasks, as others have pointed out already.

I did work longer in the past, and I don't anymore. You need to work at a comfortable pace and comfortable time (not at 4 am in the morning). Otherwise, you will slow yourself down with mistakes. You will get discouraged. You will hate your job.

Don't start a career as a translator by working yourself into a frenzy because you think you have to accept as many cheaply paid jobs as are advertised at the Proz.com job board (forget about it!!!), working day and night to make a living.

That's not what a professional translator does, that's being a workhorse for an agency that doesn't care about you but instead only cares about how fast and for how little money you can deliver a job (and if it's not perfect you'll give them a reason not to pay you or pay you less). Don't fall into that trap.

Do what you are able to do.

First, make sure you have your own independent website. Get your keywords in and make sure you register with Google Webmaster Tools. Then look for decent jobs.
That is very hard these days. You might have to keep working another job, locally. Don't count on making a decent living simply as a translator right away.
But: Don't ever sell yourself cheap. It's not true that new translators have to work for less money when compared to an experienced translator That general idea is false.

You might not be able to take on very difficult translations yet. But for the ones you CAN do, you should get paid the same adequate amount of money that a more experienced translator receives.

From the beginning of your career, you, as a professional translator, are expected to deliver accurate and stylistically excellent translations, no matter if you are 24 or 56. It's the translation job you get paid for, not your age. (I can already hear some critics). But seriously, DO NOT accept a cheap job because you are a NEW or YOUNG translator. You wouldn't want to work as a translator at all if you couldn't do an excellent job.

As I said above, you should probably stay away from more difficult jobs but with experience, you will be able to tackle those as well.

So, my advice to you is: Be professional: Don't work for unacceptable rates, don't become a slave to unfair agencies. Don't overwork yourself. Don't believe you hit the jackpot finding good jobs here on the Proz.com job board. Be very cautious when accepting any jobs: check out every new outsourcer or direct client. For big jobs, ask for a down payment (at least 25%). Check the Proz.com Blueboard - although I have not much faith in it any more. Too many cheap translators rate agencies as 5's. But if you see ratings in the 4's, 3's 2's, .... don't bother at all.

You want to be happy, right?

All the best,

B



[Edited at 2012-05-28 03:41 GMT]


 

Kay Denney  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 07:23
Member (2018)
French to English
Thank you Bernhard May 28, 2012

Bernhard Sulzer wrote:

juanpablosans wrote:

The other day I hit 15,000 words in three days and the quality was VERY GOOD!

From last Saturday up to today I hit 7,000 words.

It depends on the person and the speed typing and the them you are dealing with. I suppose it also has to be with age (youngsters like me being able to type faster than not so young translators and being able to use word in a better way).

It depends on your skill as a translator.

I have only 5 years translating and I feel comfortable doing 2,500-3,000 a day.



Excuse me?
Which age group are you referring to when you say it also has to do with age?
Seriously!

And you surely mean Word, as in Microsoft Word?

An old horse

B



[Edited at 2012-05-28 02:07 GMT]


I know Word inside out and have a far better grasp of it than any of the youngsters I have had working with me as interns.

And I know that not only do I translate more quickly, I translate far better than when I was younger. My vocabulary is richer, I know far more about far more different themEs.

I cringe to think of some translations I turned out as a beginner. I'm glad I no longer have any trace of them, so I can no longer see just how bad I was (of course it could also be a source of joy, to see just how much progress I made...)


 

Charles Comenos (X)  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 01:23
Chinese to English
Bernhard, Thanks! Jan 28, 2013

As a new and very eager translator getting started (Chinese to English) you nearly brought a tear to my eye! Dignity! Humanity!

Great advice, and thanks.

Charlie


 
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