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Tuesday, 29 August 2017 09:00

8 Factors that Influence Translation Turnaround Times

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When requesting a quote for translation, price is the most important factor for obvious reasons. However, the second most important factor is the deadline without doubt. In fact, the turnaround time of a project plays a key role, as clients usually organise their further administrative tasks with the translated text depending on the deadline given by the translation agency. Therefore in this post, we provide a list of the 8 most relevant factors that influence turnaround time, and the aspects that are typically considered when determining the exact turnaround time.

1. Volume of the source text

Probably the most obvious factor is the volume of the source text, since a few pages long medical report takes considerably less time to translate than the instructions for use of a medical device containing a hundred pages. However, the volume of a text is usually not defined by the quantity of pages but rather by the exact number of words contained in it. Therefore, texts of higher volumes (and higher word counts), are associated with longer turnaround times; thus, the greater the source text, the longer the period is that the translation requires.

2. Nature and complexity of the source text

Besides the volume of a text, the nature of the text and the level of difficulty/complexity are also important to consider. If a text is highly technical or specialised, the time for translation might take significantly longer as in this case, the project will most likely require in-depth research work from the translator. Translating a general text, a CV for instance, requires less time than rendering a patient information leaflet or a service contract into a given target language. Moreover, difficulty levels of texts may significantly vary, even within a certain field of expertise. For example, the translation of a rather general medical text on nutritional supplements is expected to be completed faster than a discharge summary or a study on negative pressure wound therapy of the same word count. Consequently, the more specialised a text is, the longer the translation turnaround time will be.

3. Format of the source text

The preparation time of files provided in editable (e.g. in Word) format is minimal; however, if a document is only available in PDF or other image formats such as JPG, translation turnaround time will be longer due to additional processing, preparing and post-editing. Similarly, if an editable Word or PowerPoint file contains non-editable images, pictures, or graphs that need be translated as well, the turnaround time will be extended by the time of editing. Therefore, the more complex the formatting is, the longer the preparation time will be, which, in turn, can prolong the turnaround time.

4. Quality of the source text

If the source text is hard to read or difficult to interpret, not only processing but also translation is encumbered. On the other hand, if the source text is easy to read and raises no problems of interpretation, the translation process will obviously run smoother. If, however, due to the poor quality of the source text, the client needs to be contacted during the translation, the pace of communication and answering questions that may arise can also influence the deadline. The situation is similar when the documents sent for translation were scanned in poor quality or at a low resolution. In such cases, the translation agency needs to ask for the client’s assistance to be able to read certain parts that are hardly legible or not legible at all. It may also occur that the source text to translate was not written by a native speaker or it had been translated from a third language. The subsequent quality issues may hinder accurate interpretation, hence translation turnaround times may expend proportionally.translation turnaround times

5. Language pair

It may sound surprising, but the language combination of a translation project is also one of the most important factors that influence the deadline. Every language is different but there are general characteristics that may play a part in determining turnaround times. For example translating between two European languages is usually faster than translating from a European language into Japanese or Chinese. Furthermore, when it comes to rare language pairs, the price goes up and turnaround times are expected to get longer as well.

6. Number of target languages

When determining a deadline, not only the language combination but also the number of target languages is a crucial factor. The more the target languages are, the longer the turnaround time of a translation project will be. Deadlines will also expand if a client requires a translation into not one but, for example, twenty different target languages. In this case, not only the translation but also project management and quality checks will obviously take much longer.

7. Are additional services needed?

Besides translation, additional services such as certified translation (i.e. a certificate of conformity provided by the translation agency is issued with the translation), technical or linguistic review, proofreading, editing, or DTP services may be needed. If a client chooses to order one or more of these complementary services, turnaround times will be inevitably longer compared the situation when translation is ordered alone.

8. Reference material available

If reference material is provided, such as previous translations, termbases or translation memories, it may speed up the translation process, thus the deadline will also be somewhat shorter. Moreover, depending on the quantity and nature of the reference material, the quality of the translation will better fulfil the client’s expectations since the required terminology can be followed throughout the project and special requests can also be implemented in the target text.

The above listed factors broadly illustrate that, in some cases, the determination of turnaround times for translation projects can be really complex. Now you know why.


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