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Joanna Tarasiewicz
August 14, 2020

How to Reduce Turnaround Time for Content Translation

Isometric image of team working on improvements like translation turnaround time

Are you worried that your content isn't translated quickly enough and you might be missing out on great opportunities in the international markets?

Or, are you considering translation and are wondering about the most efficient ways to use it for your global growth?

Whatever your reason is for asking about how long it takes to translate a document, a website, product information or marketing materials, this is a relevant question to ask.

In the 15 years that we've spent helping our clients grow their businesses, we've had to answer multiple similar if not the same questions, to list a few of them:

  • How long will it take to translate a document?
  • What’s your turnaround time for marketing translation of a hefty brochure?
  • Can you estimate how long it will take to translate the website into the new languages?

It is understandable that you need to know how fast will your marketing campaign in a new market start or how soon will you be able to roll out your product internationally. It’s all about how fast you can start growing your business worldwide.



So, How Long Does It Take to Translate 1000 Words?


The average daily capacity for a translator is about 2,000 to 2,500 weighted words. But there's more to it than just the translator's capacity.

This article will describe certain factors that affect the turnaround time for translation and how it's all connected to your money.




time is money why not save both on translation



How Do Translation Tools and Word Count Affect the Turnaround Time (and Translation Costs)

Let’s start with the concept of weighted word count and Computer Assisted Translation software referred to as CAT tools.

The translation tools are used by professional translators and localization companies to speed up the production process.

How does it work and what do CAT tools do?


Translation software divides your original content into logical chunks of text called segments. Each segment, once it's translated, is stored in a database called Translation Memory (TM). The content kept in the TM consists of the original segment and the appropriate translations. The translation can be restored and used again anytime similar expressions need translation. 

Translation tools can easily evaluate how much translation effort is needed by analyzing the text and searching for repeated expressions and TM matches.






Related video content: TM Matches Explained in Real-Life Example






CAT tools easily calculate the word count assigned for translation in various file formats. For example, a folder with .csv .xml and .docx files can be analyzed against one TM and the word count will include the repetitions not only within the files but also in the cross-file repetitions.

In order to divide the content into segments, very basic formatting rules apply. For example, hard returns (whenever you press the Return or Enter key while editing a document) in the middle of a sentence can easily divide the text into two segments. 

Before the analysis by the CAT tools, the files have to be checked and fixed (if needed) to ensure that the deadline and cost estimate are accurate. Any discrepancies in the files can lead to errors in the estimation.






Related content: 5 Ways That Translation Companies Cause You to Overspend






Storing the translations in TM not only allows translation providers to quickly calculate the speed of translations. The use of the translation memory enables translation agency to translate your content faster and with improved quality.

After the text is translated, the translations are approved or corrected by a reviser. The Project Manager makes sure that only the approved translations are included in the translation database.

incorrect translations were included in the translation memory, there would be a risk of them being populated in future translation projects. Making sure that only approved translations are stored in TM is called TM maintenance and it is one of the services included in translation agency's rates.




translation memory



One of the features of CAT tools that enable faster localization is the option to directly incorporate a list of approved terminology. This may be done by data exchange or by integrations.






Related content: 50+ Translation Integrations You Should Know About





A built-in glossary module enhances the quality and consistency of the approved terminology as well as within the whole translation project. Therefore, when you’re translating different types of content, the translation can be consistently applied.

For example, let's say you have UI and documentation together with a product description and warranty information. Translation of all of these documents is kept consistent with a glossary of approved terminology. 


Other Factors that Affect the Translation Delivery Time

Translation File Formats

One of the factors determining the speed of any translation project is the format of the files you send.

It is highly recommended that you use consistent formatting within one file. Think about how much easier it is for a translation company to work with your content y when the files are all prepared in Microsoft Word and you wish to receive a multilingual document.

Keeping the files clean allows a faster preparation for localization. It enables translation tools to easily separate the pieces of text for better segmentation.






Related content: Creating Localization-Ready Technical Documentation for International Audience




What needs to be remembered with regards to formatting is the font type. Please bear in mind that there will be limitations in the use of fonts when it comes to special characters of the local language. Many fonts do not support local special characters. The last thing you want to do is produce a high visibility presentation with missing diacritics. 

Lack of special characters may lead to serious misunderstandings. Fixing it all takes time. The easiest way to avoid these problems is to spend a bit more time on the file preparation.

Therefore, should you send unprepared files for translation don't be surprised if the project manager insists on a longer deadline for a document containing relatively small amount of words. Translation experts love delivering projects and helping you. Keeping a translation job on their plate for too long is simply against any good localization project manager's code of conduct.



Translation Queries

Another factor that influences the localization assignment turnaround time is translation queries. Professional and responsible translation specialists will ask you questions.




questions about translation turnaround


Experienced localization companies have a bonafide Q&A process. The translation queries can be collected and sent once a week or raised to the client immediately. They can also be manually managed in files and exchanged through email.

Linguistic queries can also be managed directly in CAT tools or in separate platforms or integrations. Nevertheless, these questions need to be addressed and answered in a timely manner.

There are very few things that will slow down your turnaround time with translated content more than an unanswered question from a linguist. Some questions concern a particular word or term.

Translators often ask for clarification with regards to the application, device functionality, or product design. These queries don't have to be immediately answered. It is still possible for linguists to work on the rest of your content.

However, there can be real delays if, for example, a question of how you would like to address the reader in your marketing campaign is left unresolved. This type of question stops the whole translation process when unanswered.

In order to help the translation team to meet the deadline, make sure to manage linguist's queries effectively.






Related content: Marketing Translation Playbook






Preparing for Translation

One of the best ways to help streamline the localization process is to carefully prepare the reference material in advance.

Translation companies don't often go into detail about why the reference material is crucial for the worldwide success and shorter localization turnaround time. However, all professional translation companies will insist on collecting as much context as possible.

If the content for translation is enriched with properly prepared reference material, the localization team will send you fewer queries.

The translation team can find a lot of required answers in the provided context. It saves time especially when it comes to global locations of translation teams and various time zones. It is good to build your company's own Translation Style Guide that will address most of the questions in advance.

Another reference material is the list of approved term translations, often referred to as glossary or terminology. This is usually the first step of the translation process and when it's translated upfront, it speeds up the localization process.

Your glossary is a list of approved terminology translations often accompanied by forbidden terms and sometimes interactive links to product specifications or other reference materials.

Any visuals, graphics or other explanations that help to provide context will help you hit shorter translation deadlines.


Translation Professionals’ Availability

The speed of the translation process also depends on the location and the pool of available localization experts. The availability for translators is first subject to the number of people living in the area.

Another factor that influences translation availability is the level of the localization maturity among available native speakers. 

If the number of translation professionals for a given language is limited, the use of translation technologies may be limited too. A

Also, if a particular market is a very common place for localization it may turn out that the translators are occupied or booked for other tasks.

These are the problems that the translation company and its vendor management teams need to solve without telling their clients. Therefore, sometimes translating a few words into one language takes as much time as localizing half of a product manual into another.

It could be the case for example for North Germanic languages like Norwegian, Swedish, Danish, Icelandic or Faroese. The pool of professional translators for these languages is simply smaller than for, let's say, French.






Related content: 15 Languages for Translation in 2020 You Should Know About






Translation Quality

What can also influence the time needed for translation? Content previously translated from another source language. For example, Spanish content poorly translated into English will be a challenging source text for translation into Chinese. 

Anything written by non-native users of the source language may also be a challenge. Another example would be documentation written by an unprofessional technical writer who does not take internationalization into consideration. All these examples are the factors that influence the regular amount of time needed to translate text.



The Reason You Want to Translate Your Content




Post-it paper with question why written like why translate


One last thing to consider is the purpose of the translation. While approaching a localization company, the purpose of translation is an important factor that determines the estimated turnaround time.

Will the text be used internally or is it going to be a part of a marketing campaign that will establish the company's first impression globally?

The two scenarios generate a different turnaround time. Translating documents that should only render the general message requires one step: translation only.

There is no need to mind the style and how the audience would receive the message. The second scenario, however, requires a round of revision and probably review too.






Related Content: A Guide to Understanding Translation and Localization Terminology






The revision step consists of comparing the source text and the translation and making sure the translation is correct. This step focuses on accuracy, language, content and formatting.

The review is a target text examination and it aims at making sure that the content reads well and is appropriate for the audience as a whole. This is the final check that should confirm that the translation feels like originally written in the audience’s native language.



What Does the Length of Translation Process Mean?

It means that the longer the deadline the more possible it is that the translation is going to be conducted in CAT tools and will be reused for your savings in the future.

It also means that your globalization efforts will be supported by carefully selected localization professionals.

It means that your content translation is in good, professional hands of translation project and vendor managers, linguists accompanied by translation software used in your best interest.

If you receive a considerably short localization deadline, be sure to ask what lies beneath.

Whether you want to roll out your product, launch your website or sell your software to international markets, make sure that you know how to choose a translation agency that will meet your expectations both with regard to price and the turnaround time. Just remember to plan ahead, deliver as much information as possible, ask questions, and then decide.

In case you need more information on any of the aspects mentioned before, or you're unsure what to watch out for, ask away. We are happy to help.

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