How long can you translate for? Six hours a day? More? Less?

As a translator, your labour may not involve a lot of physical exertion, but there is still a limit to how much you should work. With a job that involves detailed knowledge of not only another language but also of another culture and its nuances, you need to be able to concentrate hard, check facts, proof-read and, ultimately, craft great copy.

In this feature on the Open Mic there are tips on how much work you should be putting in per month and how much you can expect to charge based on that and other factors. I think it’s really interesting.

Screen Shot 2016-09-05 at 09.26.48It asks a translator, just starting out, to consider how much work is feasible in a month. Sixty hours of pure work (not counting breaks and procrastination!) is deemed (by the blog’s writer) a reasonable amount. That works out at less than four hours work per day, which is a comfortable amount of work to be doing (as anyone in a Nine-to-Five job will tell you!), but translation is a specifically focused task and we are talking about the actual time worked rather than the shift itself. Five hours a day, pushing your monthly total up to a hundred working hours, is going to push you towards the edge of your effectiveness.

Six hours a day translating is apparently the edge. Any more than this and you simply will not be able to do the job effectively. As someone whose job is labour-intensive may suffer from burn out so too may the translator’s mental faculties be temporarily exhausted. Six hours a day can be sustained for short bursts when you have a lot of work to do, but otherwise should be avoided.  However, isn’t there then a danger that this ‘productivity’ issue will ultimately be rendered irrelevant by machines, which don’t have any problems working 24×7?   I’d be fascinated to know what translators think?

Rosetta Stone, Global Connects