How long will it take?

Understandably, this question is one of the first to come up when discussing translation services. To meet their own deadlines, customers inquire about the translation turnaround time for their project. Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all answer.

Translation turnaround times depend on numerous factors that greatly vary from job to job. The languages involved, formatting, proofreading requirements, and more will affect how fast translations can be delivered. Understanding some of these variables will give you an idea of what to expect for your translation time.

Factors That Affect Translation Turnaround Time

There are several main factors that have the greatest impact on translation turnaround time. The following is a brief explanation of such variables.

Source Language, Target Language, and Turnaround Time

Some languages are more complex with more nuances to take into account. The more complex a language’s structure or cultural basis is, the longer turnaround time.

Source to Target Tone Affect Translation Time

Tones can be difficult to translate across cultural borders. With American English, for instance, a casual tone may be acceptable for a wide range of audience, from peers to superiors. However, some languages, like Japanese, have clearly defined lines of appropriateness between different professional levels. So, translating from the source target of American English to the target language of Japanese may take longer to translate.

No Direct Equivalents of Translated Words or Phrases

Along these same lines as tone, some words and phrases do not have equivalents in the target language. Spanish, Chinese, Arabic, Japanese, and others lack equivalents from an English source. The BBC has an excellent article on ‘untranslatable’ emotions, like the Arabic word “Tarab” that describes a musically induced state of ecstasy. There is no one-word equivalent in UK English. Translators then must figure out a way to convey the message indirectly while maintaining accuracy.

Unusual Pairing of Source Language & Target Language

While it may be easy to find a translator, who can translate English to French, it is not the case with other language pairs. If you need an uncommon translation, like from Polish to Chinese, it will be more difficult to find a qualified translator. Furthermore, fewer translators usually mean slower turnaround times. You can expect their workload to be larger and their team to be smaller.

Standard Translation vs Technical Translation

It is important for customers to understand the difference between standard translations and technical or specialised translations. The difference between the two will not only affect what kind of translator you should hire but also the speed of delivery.

Standard translations are essentially a word-for-word substation from the source language into the target language. This type of translation is relatively easy and has a fairly quick translation turnaround time. On the other hand, a technical or specialised translation requires a translator with industry knowledge and, ideally, extensive experience in the technical field. Technical documents, such as user guides, manuals, or medical transcripts, may require careful analysis of every word to translate accurately. As learned in our previous article, bad translations can have damaging and even dangerous consequences.

Proofreading & Revisions

When translation agencies provide quotes, they typically specify the number of proofreadings and revisions included in the price. As a customer, you can always request more proofreading or revisions before, during, or after the translation process. But of course, such requests will most likely affect the cost as well as extend the turnaround time.

Formatting

The complexity of the formatting may also factor into determining the turnaround time for your translation. Customers who provide the source document in plain text and expect it in the same format upon delivery will enjoy the fastest turnaround time. The translation time required will increase if the source material and final document have complex formatting. This delay is often the case with advertising campaigns where messages are dependent on design.

If the translator is required to replicate the formatting within the design of the source material, there will be more factors involved. For instance, some languages require less or more space than the original. Also, some languages are written in different directions, either up and down or from right to left. The source text or the translation text may need to be tweaked to fall within the required format. And, of course, the more complex the format, the more time needed to complete the translation.

Quality of Source Text

To receive the quickest and highest-quality translation, customers should put a lot of effort into the source text before submitting it for translation. Investing in professional writers and editors could save you time and money in the long run. The better the source text, the better the translation will be. The clearer the ideas, the quicker the translation turnaround time.

Translation Turnaround Time Depending on Provider

Machine translation has the fastest turnaround but has obvious shortcomings when compared to human translation. Freelancers are next in line for speediest delivery if they have no other orders in the queue. Their workload and expertise can also be limited.

People often assume translation agencies will have slow turnaround times. However, this is not the case. Translation agencies usually have a network of translators that live around the world. This translation team spans across time zones and incorporates many specialities. Thus, translation agencies have the flexibility and workforce to cope with higher workloads and meet urgent deadlines.

Estimates of Translation Turnaround Time

Average turnaround times will vary from translator to translator and agency to agency. We can’t speak for others, but we can give you an idea of what translation turnarounds to expect at Avo Translations. Our translators can translate around 2,000 words per day of standard text. This generalisation will fluctuate depending on the factors discussed earlier. Technical texts may reduce the number to 1,500 words per day. On the other end of the spectrum, simpler texts like blog articles or interviews may increase the word count to 2,500 per day.

Type of Text Word Count Turnaround Time
Blog articles, interviews 2,500 24 hours
General 2,000 24 hours
Legal 1,500 24 hours
Medical 1,500 24 hours

Need to Know Exact Turnaround Time for Your Translation?

Turnaround time for translations strongly depends on individual needs. Professional translators must consider the difficulty level, language pairs, cultural differences, formatting and more. Hopefully, this article provides you with a picture of what to expect. If you need a more definitive answer, you will have to describe your needs and expectations to a professional translator. Email sr.m.paiva@comengpt.com