How Long Does Translation Take?

There are a lot of wild estimates for translation project timelines floating around on the Internet. Many of them are based primarily on the number of words that a given translator can translate in a single sitting, with estimates ranging from 1,500 to 3,000 words a day. Unfortunately, the reality is that translation turnaround time is affected by a complex mix of factors, where the speed of the translator is only one piece of the puzzle.

However, that doesn’t mean that your translation will take weeks to complete. In fact, there are plenty of things that you can do when ordering a translation to ensure that your project is completed both quickly and to a high standard. In this article, we’ll explore some of the major factors that influence turnaround time, before laying out some advice for how to avoid delays. Finally, we’ll outline some average turnaround times for a variety of different types of translation projects. Let’s begin!

5 Factors that Affect Translation Turnaround Time

Translation can be a surprisingly complex process, filled with hidden obstacles and potential delays. Below are just a few of the things that are likely to have a big influence on how long it takes to complete your project:

  • Size of Project: It should come as very little surprise that the larger your volume, the longer it will take to complete your project. As the size and scope of a project increases, the need for multiple translators also becomes more likely. This in turn makes rigorous quality checks necessary. Ensuring that multiple translators have a consistent output could have an additional impact on your timeline.
  • Complexity of Project: Some documents require a greater level of expertise to translate than others. If your project contains a lot of technical words, abbreviations, or in-depth explanations, your translator will need time to research them. Similarly, medical or legal documents often demand an extended timeline.
  • Specialism: Different agencies have different strengths. A mismatch between project and translator can cause significant delays. To give an extreme example, asking a single freelancer to translate an entire ecommerce website would take months longer than asking a crowdsourcing agency to do the same thing. Similarly, translators who specialize in certain types of projects will be able to complete them at a faster rate.
  • Level of Repetition: If a document frequently uses the same words or phrases, it will require less effort and time to translate that document. In fact, there is a whole range of software available to translators that is built around recognizing these repetitions. If an effort is made to ensure consistency of terminology, a high level of repetition can result in a quick turnaround time.
  • Access to Translation Tools: Certain agencies will employ translation tools or other forms of technology to reduce the amount of work that a translator has to do. For example, access to approved glossaries or spellcheck can significantly reduce a translator’s workload, as well as ensuring a greater level of consistency across longer projects. All of these mechanisms can knock valuable hours off your project’s timeline.

How to Reduce your Translation Turnaround Time

It may initially seem that your project’s delivery date is entirely at the mercy of your chosen translator. Fortunately, there are several things that you can do to ensure that your project doesn’t have any unnecessary delays. By employing these helpful tips, you’ll free up your translator to concentrate on doing their best work – and slash your delivery times in the process.

  • Choose your translators carefully: It goes without saying that you should select your partners with care. However, when it comes to delivery times, an extra layer of scrutiny can save you days. When you investigate your potential translators, be sure to ask about their quality assessment process, how many translators will be working on your project, and what their specialism is. If all of this sounds a little daunting, check out our previous article on the best platforms to find translators for more information.
  • Confirm your translator’s start date: It’s particularly important to assess how quickly that translator will be able to begin work on your project. In fact, the time it takes to find an unassigned translator is one of the most significant causes of delays. After all, if your documents simply go to the bottom of an in-tray, it could add days or even weeks to your schedule. Before selecting your translation partner, assess whether they excel at minimizing this delay or whether they can give you some concrete guarantees about a start date. It could save you a significant amount of time and money.
  • Add context to your order: A detailed explanation can save you time in multiple ways. From simply including relevant pictures to supplying a glossary of specific translations, there is a lot that you can do in the preparation stage to make your content easier to comprehend. Not only will this make translators more willing to pick up your project, but it will also ensure that crucial pieces of the text are translated right first time.
  • Set up communication channels: One of the biggest causes of delays in projects occurs when a translator is unable to resolve a question quickly. While translators should use their best judgement when stuck, prompt communication will always help them to complete your translation more quickly. This can be done either through simple email or, in the case of a company like Gengo, through the actual translation platform itself.

Average Translation Turnaround Times

Quality should always triumph over speed when it comes to translation. After all, translation is a complicated business, where guarantees on time can come at the expense of accuracy. However, sometimes it’s helpful to have a ballpark figure to aim for when planning out your translation project. With that in mind, we at Gengo have compiled some average turnaround times for a variety of translation tasks, drawn from over a decade of experience in the industry. We hope that they enable you to set realistic expectations and have fruitful discussions with your translator of choice.

ProjectWord CountAverage Turnaround Time
Personal letter1,0004-24 hours
Website article1,0004-24 hours
White paper5,0002-3 days
Series of blog posts10,0001 week
Corporate website localization (small to medium scale)20,0002 weeks
Technical user manual35,0001 month
Book80,0002+ months
Large product database100,000+2-3 months

Still not sure what to expect? Contact us to discuss your translation needs. With over a decade of experience in translating between 37 languages, we can ensure that you receive a quality translation at a competitive ROI.

Daniel Smith

The author

Daniel Smith

Daniel writes a variety of content for Gengo’s website as part of the marketing team. Born and raised in the UK, he first came to Japan by chance in 2013 and is continually surprised that no one has thrown him out yet. Outside of Gengo, he loves to travel, take photos and listen to music that his neighbors really, really hate.

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