What is the Average Number of Words a Translator Can Produce Daily?

Jun 15, 2017

Content what is the average number of words a translator can produce daily

This is definitely a “loaded” question for which there is no real answer. And the reason is this: Consider for a minute that you are a college student. You are majoring in English literature. You have a paper to write on Dante’s Divine Comedy, a piece of literature that you have studied and about which you know a great deal. That paper will not be a horrible task for you. Now, suppose you are also enrolled in a biology class. You have a paper assignment there too. How long will it take you to do this paper compared to the literature one? Much longer, of course.

It is the same with translators. If the piece to be translated is on a topic with which they have lots of experience and for which the vocabulary and terminology is well known, it could take an hour or so. But another piece, of the same length, the topic for which they are not as familiar, might take 3-4 hours.

Add to this the fact that different firms have different levels of technology, software and such, and the variance can be even greater.

Other Factors

There are a number of other factors that may speed up or slow down translators as they work. Consider the following:

  • Paper vs. digital text. Translators get original documents in all types of formats. A client who wants handwritten letters translated, for example, will submit those hard copies, and the translator will of course be slowed down, reading through someone else’s handwriting. On the other hand, a translator may receive a digital piece, clearly typed and formatted, and the translation will go much faster.
  • The target language. Translating a document from English to Spanish may go relatively quickly. Alphabet letters are the same. But translating that same document from English to Japanese will be more laborious and take a much longer time to do. And yet the word count is the same. For this reason, many firms pay translators at different rates, based upon the difficulty level of the translation. Someone translating to Japanese may only get 1800-2000 words a day, while the Spanish translator may easily do 4,000.
  • Quality of software. Most translators today use a combination of software and their own expertise in a language as they work. The quality of the software is always a factor in how quickly translations can be accomplished. Firms that use older, more outdated software will handicap their translators somewhat, and this will slow them down. Digital dictionaries are also a factor. The more updated the dictionary software, the faster a translator can work.
  • Typing Speed. Some translators obviously type faster than others, and their work is completed faster.
  • Time to check and edit. Most translators use machine translations to a point. But once that machine has finished its job, the translator must go back manually and check every sentence. There may be cultural nuances or vocabulary that is not appropriate for a particular audience. These are the things that can slow a translator down. Editing and proofreading can take lots of time, especially when it is technical or when cultural nuances must be considered. This is cause for wide discrepancy in the number of words per hour that translators can produce. While one translator, who does not have to consider cultural nuances can translate up to 5-6,000 words a day, another may only get 3-4,000 words.

Still, No Answer

The number of words a translator can produce in a day will always vary. The same translator may get in 4,000 words on one day and only 1,800 on another, dependent upon the original document, the target language, and the software that is at his/her disposal.

If you are using the services of a translator/translation firm, consider how soon you need your final document and what a translator may have to do to get you the highest quality and accuracy.