Translator output

In the comments to this post by Thoughts on Translation, several translators said that they use 2,000 words per day as a benchmark (or rule) for daily output. In an article about how much to charge for translation, I estimated that translators probably produce around 2,400 words per day on average, and Masked Translator agreed with me.

Curious about this seeming consensus on average productivity, I calculated my average output per month for the past year. It turns out that I've averaged about 350 pages per month, which given 22 working days per month is about 16 pages per day, or 3,200 words.

I was actually a little surprised at that: it often feels like more. <G> But that's because I'll often have very high-volume jobs, punctuated by lulls of just a few pages per day. It's very rare for me to have no work at all in the queue.

4 comments to Translator output

  • Interesting. I typically quote 2000 words/day as the amount I’m comfortable producing. In fact, I max out around 3500 words/day (assuming the 原稿 is not repetitive), although there have been a few cases where I could beat that without frying my brain.

    I often have no work in the queue. Not for a lack of trying.

  • I use the same number (2000 words/day), because it’s a nice cliché for keeping client expectations under control and ensuring some reserve capacity or at least room to breathe.

    My usual output for average texts is probably around 3000 words/day, but recently I achieved new personal records of over 8,000 words per day with high quality and not-too-unreasonable working hours. I’m still not sure how I did it, but I think there was a psychological “trick” to it. For well over 30 years people have been telling me that I “must” stop typing with one finger and learn to use ten. Recently, some have claimed it would improve my translation speed. That always sounded pretty bogus, but I never took it seriously to think about it in more detail. Then I found myself facing about 26,000 words to be done in a little over two days (a situation which came about due to illness and other unforeseen circumstances). I realized, of course, that I was doomed, and that the client was going to be very unhappy. It was an easy text, but I had been averaging about 500 words per hour with it up to that point. There were damned few repetitions. Then I did a little thinking. As a one-finger typist I manage somewhere around 40 words per minute I think. So I assumed 20 per minute. That means that I should be able to type at least 1200 words per hour. I read and understand far more than that in an hour, so the bottleneck obviously lies with the reformulation or other factors (distractions). Armed with only those thoughts, I shrugged and got to work. I averaged well over 1000 words per hour and finished the job on time, even had enough time for thorough QA and commentary. I am certainly NOT going to rely on being able to pull this off again (it was a very easy text), but the experience did show me that there is more complexity to the issue of throughput than I had realized.

  • Jonathan Michaels


    Are you reading and thinking about the next source sentence simultaneously while typing the previous sentence? If so, that’s pretty cool. If not, you’re doing tasks in series, not parallel, and I don’t think the “bottleneck” concept applies. Thus, improving your typing speed would in fact improve your translating speed.

  • […] По своей сути правдивое высказывание, но для формирования объективной картины стоит заглянуть в дискуссию по этому поводу, развернувшуюся между переводчиками с более чем 10-летним стажем работы, где ключевой мне представляется фраза Кевина Лосснера: […]

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