4 Factors to bear in mind when estimating translation time

Are you considering starting a translation project and wonder how long it may take? Or are you wondering why your last project took so much longer than the previous one? Maybe you are looking into becoming a translator and wonder how long you will have to allocate realistically? One way or another, if you have read this far, this article is for you!

So how long does a translation really take? It depends! Let’s shed light on 4 major factors that play a role here:

  1. Intricacy of the project:

    Is the project very long? Does it include many technical terms or is the project part of a creative work that may require transcreation? In that case it may be useful to allocate more time or to split the project and assign it to various translators.

    Transcreation requires translators to gather their own creative material, which can take a while and perhaps several attempts. Many technical terms will mean that a dictionary may have to be consulted, which, in the long run, has a great impact on the translator’s speed.

    Complexity is no problem of course if a realistic deadline has been given!

  2. Expertise:

    Particularly if you are dealing with a complex, subject-specific text it may be an advantage to consult a translator with knowledge in that particular field. Many translators specialise and it saves them from needing to look up technical terms.

    A translator with specialized knowledge in the subject may be spared from the time-consuming effect outlined in the previous point. They may also generally find the words to explain the complex topic right away.

    A non-specialized translator will still be able to achieve the same outcome and produce an accurate translation – they might just take a bit longer.

  3. Match between target and source language:

    Some languages may be less compatible for translation if they do not share expressions and wordings, which will require the translator to think of equivalents in meaning.

    Differences in wordings will require transcreation and major cultural differences between the source and target country may also create the need for the translator to localize accordingly and make adaptions.

    Some languages even have particular words that do not exist in other languages and will have to be expressed differently (German is famous for this).

  4. Translation tools:

    Access to tools such as translation memory (TM) and glossary can significantly speed up the process as the translator will be able to re-use already translated material in the case of repetition.

    If a text happens to be repetitive, this works even better! The translator will be able to automatically re-use sections that were already translated elsewhere.

Daniel Jelis

Daniel Jelis

Head of Marketing


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