GTE Localize
How to calculate the turnaround time of a translation project

How to calculate the turnaround time of a translation project?

Posted by Anne Quach on Aug 2021.

Whether you have a website, game script, or financial report that needs publishing on a foreign market, getting it translated and localized on schedule is of importance. Being able to calculate the estimated turnaround time of a localization project gives you a huge advantage – having time to plan ahead.

So how long does it take to translate a document? Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all answer. Timelines for the delivery of a localization project depends on various factors that vary from job to job. The number of words, repetition level, types of services required, area of specialization, translators’ metrics, and formatting all affect the turnaround time of a project.

In today’s post, let’s discuss in detail the effect of each factor on how fast translations can be delivered.

1. Project Volume & Repetition Level

Turnaround time is proportional to the volume of a project. The more words you need to translate, the longer the delivery time is. However, it does not mean two projects with the same number of words will have the same exact turnaround time.

In every project, there are new words and repetition words (words or phrases that appear multiple times in the files). Naturally, translating repetitive words take less time than translating completely new words. The turnaround time can also be reduced even more if the translators use CAT Tools which automatically translate words or phrases that were previously translated and restored in the translation memory (TM).

If your project has a high proportion of repetition words, you can expect a shorter turnaround time and vice versa.

2. Translators’ Metrics

The number of words a translator can handle a day is called ‘translator’s metric’. This metric depends greatly on the translators’ work efficiency, speed, experience, and even attitudes. For example, the average metric of a professional translator at GTE Localize is 2,500-3,000 words a day. However, this metric can be much lower if you work with an unprofessional linguist who delays the work for days.

Language pairs also have a direct effect on the translators’ metrics. If the source and target languages have some similarities in the origin, vocabulary or grammar, the metric tends to be higher. However, when handling more difficult language pairs such as English – Japanese, the metric is normally around only 1,500 words/day. This is because the two languages have completely different alphabets and great differences in grammar and sentence structure. What’s more, the context-heavy nature of Japanese and the use of honorifics also make it harder for translators to find suitable equivalence.

Sometimes, the choice of CAT Tools for the project is a contributing factor to the translation speed. Trados, memoQ, or Memsource are three popular CAT Tools that most translators are familiar with. They are also user-friendly, making the process smoother and quicker. However, some other CAT Tools might lack important features such as the replace all function or do not allow multiple users to work on a file. These drawbacks make it more time-consuming for translators to complete a project.

Another indicator that affects the timelines for the delivery of a project is translation capacity. For large projects or rush projects, more than one translator will be assigned for the task. The total number of words a team of translators can handle per day is called ‘translation capacity’. At GTE Localize, our daily capacity is 4,000-15,000 words depending on the language pairs.

Below is the list of GTE Localize’s daily capacity for some language pairs for your reference.

How to calculate the turnaround time of a translation project?

3. Levels of Services

Translation agency usually offers a wide range of service levels for clients – Translation Only (TO), Translation + Editing, and Translation (TE) + Editing + Proofreading (TEP). The higher the level of service you choose, the longer it takes to deliver the translations.

If you choose the Translation Only service, only one translator work on the project. Once they finish translating, the translation is delivered to you. However, if you choose TEP, more linguists and steps are involved. Sometimes, extra services such as LSO, DTP, and Testing are required after the translation process to guarantee an error-free and well-designed final product.

4. Content Complexity

Some types of content are complexed and require highly skilled expertise from translators, meaning more time is needed for the translation process. For instance, when handling highly technical content in manufacturing and engineering, legal documents or medical materials, translators need a lot of time researching, comparing, and analyzing information to guarantee accuracy and consistency.

5. File Formatting

The format of your source files is also a determining factor in the turnaround time of your project. If your source files are in plain text and the target files are in the same format, you can expect a faster turnaround time. However, if your files are badly scanned, linguists must retype the text in an editable format before working on it.

In case you have high visual documents, translators need to perform another step called Desktop Publishing (DTP) which replicates the source formatting for the translated files. And of course, more time is needed to complete this process.

When it comes to more technically complex projects such as website and app localization or video localization, technical engineers need some time to process the source files (e.g. XML, CSV, SRT, etc.) before translators can work on them, then later, export files in the formats that can run well with the localized products.

Need to Calculate Exact Turnaround Time for Your Translation?

Unfortunately, there is no way to calculate exactly how much time it takes to translate a document. However, if you understand the requirements and features of your projects as well as factors that affect the delivery time as we mentioned in this post, it is possible to have an estimation of the turnaround time for better planning.

Another way is to contact a professional translation agency like GTE Localize to get a quotation with the expected delivery time. With long experience and available translator resources, we know how to get you the best quality translations at the shortest turnaround time.