is it ready yet?Clients are sometimes surprised by our estimate of how long it will take to do a particular translation job. Some have no conception of how long it takes a translator to do their job. Unlike machine translation engines, professional translators are writers who take time to consider the best translation for a phrase in its particular context or the best way to render an idiom in another language. They may also have to do research on specialized terms.

The industry standard is 2,000 to 2,500 words per day per translator. But this standard may not be a good indication of how long a particular job may take. There are many other factors that will determine the actual timeframe you can expect, including 1) the number and types of languages, 2) the availability of qualified translators, 4) the level of quality requested, 4) international time differences, and 5) the application of in-house checks and quality controls.

Number and Types of Languages

The first thing that happens after you approve a language quote is that the project manager will identify translators who have the necessary subject matter expertise. For a translation into a single, commonly used language (for example, Spanish or Chinese), this process may not take much time. However, many of the projects we take on at MTM LinguaSoft are multilingual projects, and each language complicates the process of assembling the best team for your project. And the less common the language is the harder it may be to identify translators who are both qualified translators and experts in a particular subject domain. Some languages cost more because there are so few qualified professionals.

Availability of Translators

The time it takes to line up translators will also depend upon the availability of qualified translators at the time your project is scheduled. Our translators take on work for other clients and also take off for holidays, weekends, vacations, or personal reasons just like anyone else. It may take time to find one who is available. Generally, we will have several options among our large network of translators, but contacting the various freelancers takes time. For languages and subject domains where there are few choices of qualified professionals, it may even be necessary to wait until one can fit the job into their schedule.

Level of Quality

We offer two levels of professional translation, basic and publication quality. While the basic quality only involves one translator, publication quality involves a second translator who reviews the first translator’s work, just as articles for publication are edited and proofread. Most of the projects we handle involve publication quality. Reviews generally take half again as much time as the original translation. There is also the extra time spent in lining up two qualified translators for each language.

International Time Differences

Many of the freelancers we hire are in-country, in other words they live and work in the place where the translation will be used. It is, of course, preferable to use translators who not only know the language but are in daily touch with the local idioms and usages.

On the other hand, these translators are almost always in a different time zone—at least 6 hours ahead of us for European languages, and up to twelve for Chinese and Korean. Sometimes this can work to our advantage as when we can assign a translation to someone who can actually do a short translation while we would be sleeping and have it back by the time we come in the next morning. More often, though, it means that there are delays in finding out about availability, dealing with any questions that come up, and generally communicating with the translators.

In-House Checks and Quality Controls

Finally, it isn’t only the translator’s work that takes time. The files you send are reviewed for any potential problems. They often also need to be prepared for translation with CAT tools. This may take some time if the files aren’t straightforward text or Word files. For longer technical projects, we will usually want to prepare and translate a glossary first to make sure that technical terms are translated correctly and consistently throughout the documents.

More importantly, all the files are put through in-house quality checks after they are returned by the translators for things like consistency in terminology. If any problems are found, the files may need to go back to the translator for clarification or further work.

Always remember, too, that our in-house staff is handling other projects at the same time—sometimes many other projects. Our time estimates have to take this into account, as well.


Generally, all parts of the process run fairly smoothly and a minimum amount of extra time is needed beyond translation, review, and any additional services, such as DTP or voice-over recording. We always strive to make our process as efficient as possible. We will always try to meet your timeline, whatever it is, although that may sometimes involve a rush charge.

What we will not do is accept your job on an unrealistic timeline knowing that either we will actually have to deliver late or that we will not be able to get the work done to your standards.

If you have a job coming up and want an estimate on how long you need to give us, get in touch. We’ll give you the best estimate we can on based on the information you have so that you can better plan your own schedule.

Contact us for an estimated timeline for your project »

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