You are not alone if you have ever wondered how many words does a professional translator translate per day. Is there a limit to what a human translator can produce on daily basis? This however is a tricky inquiry and doesn’t have a definite response as everyone and every translation firm have their various working methodologies with diverse fields, software, equipment, skills and experiences. Thus, it is a bit hard to generalize in providing a straight answer to this question.
For instance, you may be given a task of 2 projects with same wordcount but different fields; and you will discover that both tasks will require a different approach and timing. Whilst one may take you a quick 30 minutes to achieve, the other may require you to spend an hour or more to execute. If you know languages, you know perfectly well what we are talking about: try translating a menu from a sophisticated restaurant!
Some factors to consider are medium of operations i.e. working with text formats in either hard copy form or soft copy (electronic) form. Here you would realize dealing with hard copies would take longer time than when you are working on electronic texts. Whilst a paper-based translator may be stuck on 1,800 words a day, translators working with electronic formats (file-based translations) and a good translation memory, can achieve anything between 2,500 and 3,000 words. But this may also differ across languages as translating into Japanese is known to be slower than translating into European languages as several keystrokes are required to display and type a character in any of the three alphabets used in Japanese. In the case of Chinese translations, translators may often need to choose between the suggestions provided by the software.
Your point for word reference also matters a lot here, as looking up words you don’t quite understand will come up fast when your dictionaries are upright. Looking up words on the Internet may make you lose some extra time.
And also the more acquainted you are with a specific subject or topic; the more speedily the translation will go. A clearly written, easy-to-understand text will also come up fast in translating when compared to text that has long and hard-to-understand sentences.
You can also consider speed of typing as this is one of the major factors that determines how many words per day one can get through when translating a document.
Another pointer is to consider calculating the time it will take to edit and proofread any project as a translation job does not only consist of just translating but also to check, double check and triple check the job!
One translator may boast of translating 150 words per hour working on a complex text where he or she is not so familiar with and requires a lot of inquiries. And on one hand again, the same person may mention that he or she can translate 600 words per hour working on a much easier text in which he or she is specialized.
With this being stated, a translator working on a certain project may produce between 3000 – 5000 words daily if certain conditions and technologies apply. For example, it is known that customized machine translation boosts the productivity of translators and that having reliable translation memories will also speed the translation process. This however cannot be sustained over a long period – hence averagely, he or she would be able to do between 1500 and 3000 words daily, functioning at a comfy speed and also having the time to review and check through his or her work accurately.
In conclusion, it all depends on the person or company in question – as skills, experience and method of work organization play a vital role in determining translation word counts. It is you as a user of translation services or professional translator, who has to set your standards, check up your timing and schedule to see the number of words that you can achieve every day with the right translation tools.