Average Translation Rate: What it Means and How to Improve it

One of the important measurements every translator should know and understand is her average translation rate.

The reason is simple.

If you don’t know your average translation rate, you’ll never know how much you’re really earning as a translator.

Sure, you’ll know that you earned $1,000 for a job that took you ten hours. But if you don’t know exactly how many words you translated per hour, you won’t know how much you’re really earning.

And knowing how much your really earning is the first step in figuring out how to earn more.

What is Average Translation Rate?

When most translators talk about average translation rate, they’re usually just talking about the average number of words that they are able to translate in an hour.

Sidenote: “Average translation rate” can also refer to the average cost per translated word, or basically what a translator will charge. More on that topic can be found in the article on how much you should charge as a freelance translator.

This number can then be extrapolated to the number of words translated per day, per week, per month, and per year.

One thing to remember is that average translation rates won’t be the same for every translator.

They’re average translation rates for a reason.

They will vary depending on the skill of the translator, the material to be translated, the mental energy and focus the translator has, the languages to be translated, etc.

However, most translators agree that a generally acceptable average translation rate is anywhere between 2,000 and 3,000 words per day.

If you can translate that many words consistently per day, then you are translating in the realm of most other professional translators.

Significance of Average Translation Rate

As I mentioned earlier, knowing your average translation rate or the number of words you can translate in a set period of time can help you have success as a freelance translator.

If you charge $0.10 a word and can only translate 100 words per hour, you are limited to earning $10 an hour.

However, if you can translate 300 words per hour (for roughly 2,400 words in an 8-hour period), then you just increased your earnings from $100 per hour to $300 an hour.

And all you did was increase you average translation rate.

So it pays to be able to translate faster.

(Of course, this assumes that your quality is good, no matter if you’re translating 100 or 300 words per hour).

How to Increase Your Average Translation Rate

Despite erroneous thinking on the part of some language (and non-language) professionals, translators can increase their average translation rate.

Here are some ways that you can accomplish this:

  • Practice translating at faster speeds
  • Learn more vocabulary so that you don’t have to look up as many words in the dictionary
  • Improve your source language knowledge so that you can more easily understand concepts that you will be translating
  • Get adequate rest so that you have enough energy to stay focused.
  • Speaking of staying focused, set up your office or translation space in a way that maximizes focus and limits or eliminates distractions.
  • Instead of trying to force yourself to work straight through 3-4 hour blocks, work for a solid 50 minutes and then take a ten minute break. Do this for every hour you’re working.

Remember, as you increase your average translation rate, you will increase the amount of money you earn from your translation.

Good luck! Be sure to ask any questions you might have in the comments.


P.S. Be sure to read my top-rated book for more information on how tips and tricks for becoming a successful translator.

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