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Barbara Jungwirth of reliable translations llc writes about language and the business of translation.

How Much Time Will It Take?

“How much will it cost?” and “How long will it take?” are the two most common questions anyone who buys a service has. I explained the variables that influence the first question in my previous two posts (“How Much Will It Cost? – Part I and Part II). Here I will explain the issues to consider when you determine how much time to allot for the translation portion of your project plan. The time required for a translation depends on:

  1. How much money you are willing to spend
  2. How many different translators work on your text simultaneously
  3. Whether you have a comprehensive glossary
  4. How difficult the text is to translate
  5. Whether you want the translator to also handle text formatting


1. How much money you are willing to spend

Freelance translators often work on several projects with varying deadlines at the same time. If you need your translation very quickly, the translator has to either get the deadline on another project extended or work very late into the night to accommodate your project. Many translators therefore charge higher fees or assess a surcharge for projects with very short deadlines – typically for a turnaround time of 24 hours or less. This is not so different from paying a higher rate for overtime when an employee works longer hours.


2. How many different translators work on your text simultaneously

One way to have a large amount of text translated in a short period of time is to divide that text up among several translators. Agencies may do this, but individual translators sometimes have colleagues with whom they can share such work. The challenge here is to ensure that the terminology and style of the final translation is still internally consistent. The final edit is likely to be more time-consuming than if only one translator had worked on the entire project. Still, such an approach can significantly reduce the time it takes for your text to be translated.


3. Whether you have a comprehensive glossary

If you can provide a comprehensive, verified bi- (or multi-)lingual glossary, translators do not have to research that terminology. This means they can work faster and thus deliver the translation within a shorter timeframe. Another benefit of such a glossary is that the terminology used for the current project will be consistent with previous translations.


4. How difficult the text is to translate

A general-purpose text, such as a business letter confirming receipt of goods and ordering additional items, does not require translators to research terminology and only needs minimal editing. The legal proceedings in a patent dispute, on the other hand, will likely require a fair amount of research, both for appropriate terminology and the subject matter itself. Such texts also frequently involve long, convoluted sentences and paragraphs, which take more time to read – let alone translate – than short, succinct instructions. Marketing material presents its own challenges, since word choice and sentence structure not only need to convey specific information, but must also appeal to the customer on an emotional level. In general, the more specialized a text is, the longer it is likely to take to have it translated.


5. Whether you want the translator to also handle text formatting

The extra time required to format your text obviously depends on the complexity of your document. Basic formatting, such as boldface for subtitles, is usually taken care of by the computer-aided translation tools many freelancers use. More intricate formatting, such as text captions inset into images or charts that include text in very small fields, must often be handled manually and will therefore add to the time required to complete your project.

The more time it takes to handle your text, the more money you can expect to spend. In my next post I will describe some ways to reduce that cost. Some of the cost-reduction techniques I will discuss can also shorten the time it takes until you receive your translation.

A Documentation Manager’s Questions About Translation lists the questions I will answer in this series of posts.

2 Comments

  • Posted April 13, 2013 at 7:25 am | Permalink

    Some very good points, Barbara.

    Two other points worth mentioning are the length of the text for translation (obviously) and your translator’s availability.

    One benefit of a hiring a freelancer is that you don’t have to pay their national insurance, sick pay, holiday pay, software, hardware, etc., but a corollary is that your translator may not necessarily be immediately available. Planning ahead is the best way to help your translator schedule their time to help you.

    • Posted April 15, 2013 at 9:41 am | Permalink

      Oliver, thanks for your comments. You are, of course, right on both counts: a longer text will take more time and if a translator is busy with another project, he or she may not be able to start on your project right away. I wanted to keep each post in this series to 4 or 5 points, but maybe a summary sentence along the lines of “Other things that may impact the deadline are …” is in order. Barbara

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