Behind the value

Can you translate this by tomorrow, please?


People in corporate communications work under pressure most of the time, and drive hard bargains to keep their deadlines for the press, the print shop, a trade fair or other keynote events.

But if the question above refers to 40 pages, a few uncomfortable compromises to quality are likely. Four translators (with the right background) must be immediately available, and there’s no time to check the final translation for consistency of style or terminology if they have slightly different ideas (and they do) about what needs to be done. A Translation Memory, which may be useful for straightforward technical texts, is seldom a good way to cut time when good wording in marketing or public relations depends on a bigger picture of the topic.

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But what is the time that should be allowed for translation?


Per translator

Different agencies quote anywhere between 1000 and 2400 words per day, per translator, which means nothing, frankly. This will depend on the size of the project and whether it can be divided up sensibly between two or more translators.

Let’s assume it takes around six weeks to get your company’s website in shape – with well-structured, appealing content and wording. Comparable media projects include major company periodicals, image brochures, or even films.

A certain proportion of the hours already invested in the project will be needed to produce an equally good translation, since it deserves every bit the same attention to detail, (creative) appeal and readability as the original.

Step 1

The translator has to spend some time getting acquainted with the ideas presented, but that only takes a fraction of the time that it took website authors to transform those original ideas into real content.

  • Website content development: 45%
  • Translator: 5% of that time to get acquainted with the entire website

Step 2

How the content is structured on the website, an often time-consuming task, is something that only affects translation when options are dictated by where the text occurs on the site.

  • Website structure/layout/design: 25%
  • Translator: 5% of that time to review how the content is interlinked, cross-referenced, where topics are related, or refer directly to visuals, where text space is limited.


Step 3

Choice of words, consistent style, terminology and creative presentation – how the appeal of the message is generated (readership focus, pitch and benefit) – are indeed directly relevant to the translator’s own work. If both the author and the translator are ideally qualified and talented, the latter will be able to make the author’s choices and creativity work in another language, when given enough time to do so.

  • Website text author(s): 30%
  • Website translator needs at least half that time, or 15%

The translator should be given at least 25% of the time it took to produce the original website, magazine, brochure, etc. in order to generate an equally appealing version in another language.