GTE Localize

A Step-By-Step Guide To Make A Timeline For A Translation Project

Posted by Chloe G. on September 26, 2023.

How to make a timeline for a translation project? We aim to address one of the most frequently asked questions by our clients. Creating a timeline for a translation project helps ensure efficient coordination of resources and streamlines the overall process. 

In this guide, we will walk you through the entire process, explaining each step in detail and providing examples to illustrate the concepts. By the end of this article, you’ll be well-equipped to manage translation projects effectively and ensure they stay on schedule.

1. Factors that affect the turnaround time of the project

The time it takes to complete a translation project can vary significantly depending on various factors. It’s essential to consider these factors when creating a timeline to ensure a realistic and achievable schedule.

Moreover, determining the precise time required to complete a task can be challenging. Translations are performed by humans, which means that various factors can cause delays in delivering the work on time. So let’s explore some of the most important ones to make a timeline for a translation project:

 The complexity of the content 

Realistically, different translation projects have varying levels of complexity. The complexity of the content and the presence of technical words, and abbreviations can demand a higher level of expertise as well as increase the time needed for a translator to study and accurately translate a project. Highly specialized and technical texts generally require more time for translation. Medical and technical translations, in particular, should not be rushed due to the complexity of the content.

Language pairs required 

The choice of languages being translated can impact the speed of the process. Translating from English to French generally takes less time compared to English to Chinese or Japanese, as these languages may not have direct equivalents for certain English words or phrases. In certain cases, the target languages may have multiple meanings, which can slow down the translation process as the translator has to carefully select the most appropriate equivalent to convey the intended meaning of the source text.

Project requirement

Another significant factor that affects the turnaround time is the project requirement itself. Detailed specifications, additional revisions or editing, specific file formats, or other customized demands can all impact the duration of the project. This is particularly applicable when dealing with documents that contain embedded but non-editable images, pictures, or graphs that need translation. If the source document necessitates specialized formatting, such as posters, banners, brochures, or forms, the involvement of a desktop publisher is crucial. Such requirements significantly extend the time needed to complete the translation.

On the other hand, if comprehensive terminology, guidelines, and detailed information are provided at the start, it can significantly enhance the efficiency of translators, enabling them to work more swiftly and produce the desired output.

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A document that contains non-editable images

Resources availability 

The availability of resources, both human and technological, can significantly affect the turnaround time. Having an adequate number of skilled experts, such as translators, editors, and DTP experts, is crucial in ensuring efficient project completion. Limited resources or scheduling conflicts can lead to delays or longer project timelines.

Certain language combinations may have more resources readily available, enabling faster completion. However, projects requiring less common language pairs may take longer since it may be harder to find experienced translators or interpreters in those languages.

Understanding and managing the factors that impact project turnaround time is essential. By considering the complexity of the content, required language pairs, project requirements, and resource availability, you can better plan and execute projects and optimize timelines.


2. How to make a timeline for a translation project 

It requires careful planning and organization to make a timeline for a translation project efficiently. Follow these steps to develop a timeline for your translation project.

Step 1: Make a plan on the resources needed based on the above factors 

One of the first steps in creating a timeline for your translation project is to determine the resources required based on various factors.

Target Languages 

Calculate the number of linguists required for the total number of target languages needed. The translation times for multi-language translations can occur simultaneously. Great, right? But remember, coordinating multiple linguists may take longer than a single translation, so factor in some additional time for the coordination process. 

Project Requirements

Remember to take specific project requirements into account while planning the resources needed. For smaller projects with a volume of less than 40,000 words, the preparation stage usually takes around 0.5 days. However, for larger projects with more complex requirements, it might take up to 1 to 2 days to adequately prepare and more resources may be needed for each step.

Keep in mind that each project is unique, so adjust the resources accordingly to accommodate any specific challenges that may arise. Start your translation project on the right foot by investing time in proper planning and resource allocation.

Step 2: Calculate the turnaround time for each step 

Take into account the experience and efficiency of your linguists to establish reasonable timeframes for each step.

To determine the realistic translation speed of a professional human translator, we should consider that most translators can handle up to 2,500 words per day. A professional reviewer typically can review around 5,000 to 6,000 words per day. 

The average speed of desktop publishing per day can vary depending on several factors such as the complexity of the project, and the software used. On average, a desktop publisher can produce around 40 to 60 pages of simple content in a day. This includes tasks such as formatting text, adding images, and arranging page elements. However, for more intricate designs or projects that require extensive editing, the speed may decrease to around 20 to 30 pages per day. 

It’s important to note that these numbers are estimates and can vary depending on the individual’s proficiency.

Here is an example of how you can make a timeline for a translation project of 30,000 words from English to Vietnamese, with the source files in simple PDF format and the domain is about business based on the above metric.

make a timeline for a translation project chart 2

Step 3: Finalize the timeline by adding suitable buffer time 

Adding extra time is crucial to accommodate any unexpected challenges that may arise during the project. Technical issues, delayed delivery of any steps, difficult content requiring additional effort, or personal issues faced by the suppliers, etc. can impact the project timeline. The larger the project, the more buffer time should be added to ensure a smooth process.

For smaller projects with a volume of fewer than 50,000 words, allocating 1-3 days for the entire project may be sufficient. However, this duration may vary depending on the difficulty of the content and the number of languages involved. For small projects, you can skip buffer time, or adding a few hours to half a day should be enough. As project volume increases, additional days should be added accordingly to accommodate the increased workload. This will help ensure timely delivery while allowing room for any unforeseen circumstances that may arise.

Let’s continue with the previous example. As it’s a 30,000-word project with simple content, we can add 1 buffer day to the calculated turnaround time. And then there is the final timeline:

make a timeline for a translation project chart 1


3. Tips to speed up the process

While creating a timeline is crucial for effective project management, there are strategies you can employ to expedite the translation process without compromising quality. Let’s consider the following factors for a smoother and quicker process.

Work with multiple translators 

To speed up the turnaround time, consider employing multiple translators for big-volume projects. Nevertheless, estimating translation timelines with multiple translators is not as simple as dividing the word count and assuming the overall project time will be halved. This is because, in most cases, it is crucial to ensure all translators adhere to the same terminology and maintain consistent writing styles throughout the text. Ultimately, it must appear as though only one translator worked on the entire project. For this reason, it is necessary to have a single reviewer proofread the entire document.

Coming back to the previous example, if we involve 2 translators and 1 editor in a 30,000-word project, the translation time will be shortened to 30,000/(2,500 x2) = 6 days. Thus, the total turnaround time for the whole project will decrease from 21 days to 15 days.

Leverage available technology (CAT tool, TM and TB, etc.) 

To expedite the translation process, it is essential to incorporate technology. CAT tools are widely used by professional translators and localization companies for enhancing productivity. There are two important functions of CAT tools that can help shorten the turnaround time: Translation memory and Termbase

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The use of the CAT tool to enhance productivity

Translation memories are databases that store translated text segments, which can be automatically matched to the source text for accurate or approximate matches. This is particularly beneficial for large projects with repetitive content or for recurring projects. For instance, when translating a website user manual, there are likely to be numerous instructions like “Click button A to go to B section.” A TM can automatically translate these segments. If a reviewer modifies one word in a segment and enables the auto propagation feature, all segments with the same text will be updated accordingly. By using TM, translations can be stored and reused whenever similar expressions need translation, enhancing efficiency and reducing redundancy.

CAT tools offer the ability to directly incorporate an approved terminology list, ensuring consistent language usage. Additionally, translation glossaries include specialized industry terms and their appropriate context. Therefore, regardless of the type of content being translated, a consistent and accurate translation can be maintained.

Arrange a staggered delivery

In addition to improving the overall organization of the timeline, staggered delivery enables partial reviewing of the work being carried out at the same time as translation step. Opting for translators to deliver one section at a time over a few days enables the reviewer to begin their work promptly. This also allows for timely adjustments to be incorporated into subsequent deliveries. This approach is particularly effective for big projects, where multiple translators and one editor are involved. The entire translation will then be reviewed by the editor to ensure consistency. 


4. Wrapping Up 

Effective timeline management ensures that the project stays on track and is completed within the specified timeframe. Providing clear guidelines and deadlines to all involved parties, allowing them enough time to complete their tasks accurately. By gaining a clear understanding of how to create a timeline for a translation project, both you and the translation company can effectively plan the workflow for mutual benefit. 

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At GTE Localize, a professional translation agency, we offer exceptional translation services with the quickest turnaround time and the best outcomes. Our team has a comprehensive quality assurance procedure, which includes proofreading, peer review, and technical support to guarantee that your translated projects are polished and precise. 

Reach out to us now for a free 300-word translation test and more information!