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How Long Do Document Translations Take?

Document translation is vital, any time of the year, anywhere in the world. Individuals, companies and organizations that deal with documents in other languages or need to understand or communicate in another language, use the services of a translation company to ensure proper understanding.

Poems and religious texts were some of the early works since the Mesopotamian times and the second millennium that were translated into other languages. Most of the early translators were poets, priests and Buddhist monks. Some ancient Indian texts were translated into Chinese by Buddhist monks. Horace and Cicero were some of the known Roman leaders who used translation services during their time.

One of the popularly known translation works was the translation of the Old Testament from Hebrew to Greek by St. Jerome and a team of 70 scholars without using any tools or references. Their translation became the basis for more translations of the Bible into other languages.

Translation turnaround time is one of the most asked questions by clients. While some documents can be translated in one day, the time it takes to finish translating a document depends on several things.

Factors affecting translation turnaround time

Translation clients often ask how long it takes to finish a translation because they want to plan for it. But the answer to the question cannot be straightforward as several factors affect the speed of translation.

Human translation takes time, and the speed of their work should not be used as a gauge for the quality of the translation. The speed of work depends on the quality of the source text, the use of translation tools, and the complexity of the source document.

1.  Complexity of the project

The translator or the project manager of the translation company assigned to the project will determine the technical complexity of the material.

  • Sometimes a material for translation needs transcreation instead.
  • Another thing that affects the speed of the translation is the terminology that the specific material needs. A translator with subject matter expertise should handle the translation of an operating manual for a vehicle, medical device, or computer peripheral or software. Each specific material needs a translator who has experience in a particular subject because the project uses terms that are not used in everyday speech.
  • The quality of the source text affects translation time as well. If the source material is written well, it will be easier to understand.
  • If the project is complex, the number of questions the translator needs to ask, and the speed of the client’s response likewise affect the time it takes to complete the translation process.

2.  Use of translation memory and other translation tools

It will help the translator if you can provide a glossary of specific terms used in the source material. Likewise, the use of translation memory for redundant texts can speed up the translation process.

3.  Source and target languages

Some language pairs take time to translate. Other languages, such as Hebrew, Arabic, Japanese and Chinese are more difficult to translate because of the lack of equivalents.

4.  Formatting

Usually, the translation should be a mirror image of the source material. If the translated document requires formatting, it can add more time to the completion of the document. Brochures, forms and other materials created in a graphic or digital design program takes time to reformat. The translator and the desktop publisher need time to ensure that the translation will be of high quality.

How to reduce your translation wait time

Knowing the factors that can affect the entire translation process will help you identify some of the things you can do as a client to reduce the time you have to wait for the submission of a translation project.

  • You can provide the translator with a glossary of terms that is specific to the document for translation.
  • You should check if the translator uses a translation memory tool so that redundant words can be saved and reused throughout the document. That can save time because the translator does not have to repeat the translation.
  • See to it that the source material is well written. Review the document before sending it to the translator to ensure comprehensibility and accuracy.
  • Moreover, you should specify where you are going to use the translation because some languages have regional variations. For example, Spanish has five regional varieties.

Average translation services turnaround times

A client expects to have quality translation and to achieve that, the process involves research, drafts, and reviews, as well as edits. The translator must fully understand the source material, render the text in the requested language and edit the translation so that it reads like the original document.

Translation turnaround times depend on several factors, including the complexity of the subject, the document’s format, and the number of words.

Normally, a professional human translator can accurately translate a document containing 2,000 words in one day. For a complex or technical document, a translator can do about 1,500 words a day. On the other hand, a human translator can translate about 2,500 words a day if the document contains simple text.

Putting aside the other factors, a human translator can translate an average number of words in a day, according to the document content, as follows:

  • 1,000 words: 1 working day for simple or technical content
  • 5,000 words: 3 working days for simple content and 3-4 working days for technical content
  • 8,000 words: 4 to 5 working days for simple text and 5 to 6 working days for complex content
  • 25,000 words: 13 working days for simple text and 15-16 working days for complex content

Some translation companies use multiple translators to split the text to speed up the translation process.

Translating a document involves several steps, which affects the turnaround time. Once the translation agency receives the document, a project team will handle the project. The team comprises a project manager, translator, editor and desktop publisher. The quality assurance process will take about two days, so you add this to the number of days it takes to prepare, translate, review, and edit the translation before formatting the translation according to the request of the client.

Rely on eTS for all your translation needs

All clients require accurate document translation. eTranslation Services is here to carry out your request. We assure you that we deliver high quality and accurate translations, created by our professional, native-speaking and subject matter expert translators located worldwide. We meet the deadlines set by our clients to ensure that there is no disruption in your business process. In stressful times like what the world is experiencing today, we at eTranslation Services see to it that we facilitate your communication needs. You can email us thru [email protected] or give us a call at (800) 882-6058.


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