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How to handle large volume translation projects

Are you wondering how to manage large volume translation projects? 

Large volume translation projects are not easy to handle. Ask yourself these questions:

  • is it possible to translate  40,000 words in a single day?
  • what guarantees can we give a job like this will be successful?

The answer is none. Translations are carried out with care and precision so that important details are not left out. This is not to say translation projects won’t have tight deadlines sometimes. But to translate 40,000 words (approx 130 pages) in a short space of time requires more than one translator.


Who can handle large volume translation projects?

Few freelancers will be able to manage this. Particularly if the deadline for delivery is tight. To translate 40,000 words of English into Spanish, for instance, would take a single person around 14 working days (at an average speed of 3000 words per day). If you take into account other ongoing projects, a single translator could take weeks or even months.

A professional translation agency, on the other hand, could probably handle this. One way of doing it is to split the work among several translators. This allows us to accelerate production but runs the risk of having multiple levels of quality.


How can it be done?

Imagine translating 130 pages, with the word “mesa” appearing multiple times. Different translators might well translate it differently, as “table” or “desk“, for instance. This means no linguistic unity or consistency. In general, the higher the number of translator, the bigger the risks. Therefore, we should keep the number of translators on the job to a minimum.

It is common for clients to have urgent translation needs. So this happens all the time. But clients need to be aware that this sort of project is more expensive.


Setting up the project

Setting up a team of translators is better done by an agency for the following reasons:

  • Agencies are used to it, they do it all the time.
  • They normally have databases of pre-vetted professionals they can contact.
  • Agencies often have IT platforms which allow for interaction between translators. A high level of communication between translators and the project manager reduces risks.
  • They can also centralise linguistic decisions by creating a glossary and sharing it with the team. For example, if the word “construction” appears 50 times in the document, someone should decide how to translate it throughout.
  • Project managers might decide to split the work in different ways. For example, give a larger chunk of the work to the most trustworthy translator.
  • Customers often want partial deliveries (first few chapters/sections/files, for instance) so they can review the work internally. A project manager will factor this into the project plan.

Why will it cost more?

The translation agency can get the job done quickly, but must always warn the customer of the risks and consequences:

  1. a number of IT tools are used, often online and/or cloud-based. Any methodology used will need licences, updates, training and maintenance. As well as the expertise to use them correctly.
  2. a potential lack of consistency. To make it consistent (linguistic unification), we need to put more work into it. And that will increase the cost of the project.
  3. project management costs (coordination of different suppliers, splitting and re-joining documents, etc.) will also increase the costs.
  4. by accelerating the project, the translation agency is putting this particular project at the top of its list of priorities. This also has a price.
  5. translation projects include linguistic review and quality assurance, often by a second team of professionals.


Why could it cost less?

Large volume translation projects are often offered with a volume discount. This is something to be negotiated for each project, as there many factors involved (strategic project/customer, promise of further work down the line, etc.).



If the translation agency creates a solid team and uses a proven methodology, the project will normally be successful. Deadlines are met and customers are happy. The key is to come up with a strategy that is always effective.

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