ULG's Language Services Blog

How Long Will It Take to Translate My Project?

When prospective clients approach us with a new project, one of the first questions they ask is about the turnaround time. How long is it before the translation project is finished?

The short answer: it depends.

No two translation projects are the same, and there are many factors that determine how long it will take. Most of these factors are related to the scope of the project and the languages involved, but other factors are related to the personnel and resources that the language solutions partner (LSP) has available to complete the project. Here are five main questions your LSP or translator may ask to figure out your project timeline.


How Much Content Needs To Be Translated?

Projects that require a lot of content to be translated will take longer than projects that might only be a few sentences or paragraphs. In most cases, single, short documents can be translated quickly, whereas documents with multiple pages, such as websites or manuals, might take weeks or months. 

Which Languages Are Required For Translation?

Languages vary in complexity, and for English speakers in particular, some languages are harder to learn and adapt to than others. The differences in grammar, vocabulary, and alphabet between two languages can make some translations more difficult. For example, is the document being translated between two languages with the same alphabet system, like English to Spanish? Or is it being translated between different languages, as in from French to Chinese? The greater the difference between the languages, or the more obscure the language is (Czech or Basque, for example), the longer the project is likely to take.


How Complex Or Specialized Is The Content?

Simpler subjects or those written in plain language will not take as long to translate as projects that require technical jargon or otherwise specialized language. It is easier to find a linguist who can translate a project with plain language, such as most website homepages and blog posts, than to find a linguist who is also a subject matter expert. Some specialized topics include medicine and science, and finding a translator skilled in these topics may take longer because they are in high demand and fewer of them exist.

In addition, the challenges of legal translation include matching not only the translated words from one language to another, but also finding the appropriate legal concepts in the target language that convey the intended meaning of the original language. Legal translations tend to take a while.


Are Localization Services Also Required?

Keep in mind that translation is often accompanied by other language services such as localization, which accounts for more cultural nuances and adapts content more comprehensively. Localization may include numerical conversions or images suited for a particular regional audience, or it might include a new document layout to account for how the target language fits into the space or is meant to be read (left to right, top to bottom, etc.). The more that needs to be done outside of translation, the more time is required.


What Technological Resources And Linguists Does Your Chosen Language Solutions Partner Have Available?

An individual translator or small company may not be able to dedicate as much time or as many resources to each client as a larger language services provider can. Often, larger firms have a greater variety of linguists and can handle more languages. Larger firms might also have better access to machine translation and translation memories, which can help expedite translation and reduce turnaround time. Outlining your specific needs and choosing the provider whose resources match will significantly reduce turnaround time.