Let’s start by doing away with this unit of measurement. The Portuguese have a funny tendency to measure things in “palmos” (the length of an open hand), and it depends on the size of the hand, doesn’t it? The same is the case with pages. I can estimate a page to be between 250 and 500 words, but who knows? Translators always do their maths in words. They know how many words they can translate per day, depending on several factors. If you have ever requested a translation quote, you most likely received a rate per word.  

The number of words a translator can translate per day depends on several aspects:


Obviously, some areas are trickier than others. Some are more technical (which can be good or bad, depending on the software the translator uses or the proficiency the linguist has in the field) and some are general.

A technical text will usually take longer to translate. This is because the text will have terms that most translators will have to research. On the other hand, a general text will have simple language that won’t require as much effort from the translator.

However, if the translator is proficient in the technical field of the text, they can be very quick too, because they know the terms. Also, general texts sometimes have longer sentences that are hard to deal with, requiring some effort and time to transpose.

Some LSPs (language service providers) even prefer technical texts over general ones, because they feel much more confident in the area, and usually translate them faster.


Software also makes a big difference to a translator’s speed. Going back to technical texts – they tend to be repetitive. If a translator uses a software that suggests prior translations of such terms, they will certainly notice a huge difference in their output.

There is also the matter of voice dictation. Some LSPs dictate their translations to the computer, and most say this has a big impact on speed, sometimes making them twice as fast.


Like in most professions, experience has an impact on speed. A translator that has been translating for many years knows where and, most importantly, how to do their research. Fast research and quick access to resources can be the difference between 2000 or 4000 words per day.

Experience not only influences research speed, but many other aspects. The preparation of the project itself will be much faster with an experienced translator. He will have templates and fine-tuned software that will help him to quickly prepare the documents you want to translate. In addition, he will most likely have translation memories in your area that will provide him with previous translations he has done, making the process much more efficient.

Related to experience comes general knowledge. Translators who don’t specialise in one single area tend to have a good general knowledge. This means that a term or concept that would be unknown to an inexperienced translator will be easily translated by a more experienced LSP.


Besides software, there is also the matter of hardware. I don’t just mean computer hardware (although it is very important and certainly affects speed). There are also chairs, screens, keyboards, mice, tables, air-con, light, etc. Finding a suitable work environment is a very important step in a translator’s career. With the correct office conditions, a translator will be able to work for longer without needing a rest or feeling tired, thus increasing their output.

Of course, one of the most important pieces of hardware is computer hardware. A good keyboard, screen, processor and RAM can double an LSP’s output.

On Average

On average, a translator does 2000 words/day (so we’ve heard). From this point on you may start to be asked for an urgency fee – which will probably mean the LSP will work overnight to have your project ready.

Back when I started, my daily output was 1500. That number quickly grew to 2500 words per day, after acquiring some experience and gaining access to software and hardware. However, the number of words an LSP can provide will always depend on the above-mentioned topics (mainly the area).

Some linguists claim to translate as many as 6000 words per day, or 8000 with voice dictation. I believe this to be possible, however, I’m pretty sure this comes at the expense of proofreading. With such a high output, there will be no time for proofreading, and mistakes will probably be more frequent towards the end of the project.

Don’t rush.

I know, you may be in a hurry and your boss may be breathing down your neck. Nevertheless, keep in mind that a good translation service is a thorough process. Only the translator will know when he’ll be able to deliver the best quality possible. Respect his deadline and, if he’s 10 minutes late, don’t immediately grab the pitchfork. He’s probably reading it out loud while pacing around the living room in his pyjamas.

Brought to you by www.sierra-editing.com , at your service. December 7 2018