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Posted on26 April 2023

Urgent translation: How to reduce turnaround time

In last week’s blog we discussed the factors that influence translation turnaround times and advised to plan ahead. But what if the translation is really urgent? As a translation agency, we often receive requests for urgent translation services, and understand that sometimes it is not possible to plan ahead. In exceptional circumstances, there are a few ways to reduce the turnaround time. Let’s see what they are!


First things first. If you have a number of documents to translate, are they all equally important and urgent? It might be that a few documents can wait a few extra days. If that’s the case, tell us which documents you’d like us to prioritise and we’ll start working on them first.

Dividing work between multiple translators

When dealing with a large volume or numerous different documents, it is possible to divide the material between multiple translators. As you can imagine, this can significantly speed up the process. Keep in mind that different translators may opt for different word choices, so this option is only advisable where there is little room for interpretation – e.g. for financial documents.

Providing information and glossaries

Context in translation is essential. The more information you can provide from the get-go, the easier it will be for the translator to work on the text. It can also minimise potential queries that tend to arise during the translation process. Some of the basic details that can be useful for translators are:

  • Purpose – Where will the translation be used and what is its aim?
  • Audience – Who is the translation for? What tone of voice should be used? Do you have a preferred way in which the reader should be addressed?
  • Special requests – Are there any words or phrases that should be left in the original language? Do you have preferred wording for certain phrases or terms, for example, job titles?

Any references or glossaries you can share will be most welcome! If you have continuous projects and you’ve had translations of similar texts done in the past, don’t keep them to yourself. Being able to refer to them will not only help to maintain consistency between texts, but also make things easier and faster for the translator.

Avoiding obstacles

As mentioned in our blog on factors that influence turnaround times, formatting can have a big impact on how quickly the translation can be completed. If you’re sending images or scans of documents, make sure that they are clear and legible. When translating content from a website, send it in an editable format like a Word document.

Paying urgency fees

In certain circumstances, paying an urgency fee may be a solution to your problems. The translator may agree to prioritise your project, working on it during the weekend or evenings for extra compensation. Be mindful, however, that translators are only human and can only take on so much!

Machine translation post-editing

If all else fails and you’re running out of options, you can consider machine translation and then have it edited by a professional human translator. This option can significantly reduce the turnaround time, but it won’t work for all language pairs or subject areas. The quality of machine translation will largely depend on the quality of the source text. Before going ahead with such a solution, consider if it’s really worth it in your case. If high quality is essential and cultural nuances have to be taken into account, machine translation might be dangerous. At times, the output of machine translation is woefully inadequate, which means that the translation may have to be done again from scratch. If you want to make the right decision, our blog on human vs machine translation may help you weigh up your options.

Being realistic

As you can see, there are ways to reduce translation turnaround time in exceptional circumstances. Before proceeding, it’s important to evaluate your needs and the quality you’re looking for. When dealing with certain fields, for example medical or marketing translation, some of the above-mentioned options may not work.

Unless it’s a short text in a fairly common language pair, there’s no magical way to receive a high-quality translation in an extremely short time. Be realistic when stating your deadline, and try to meet us (and the translators) halfway. At the end of the day, it’s important to acknowledge that professional translation takes time, and fast translation, despite the best intentions, may not equal high-quality translation.

It’s worth noting that a reduction in turnaround time may not be possible if certain additional services are required, such as typesetting, notarisation or sending the translation to the FCDO for legalisation.

Urgent translation services

If you’re looking for fast translation services, don’t hesitate to contact us. We can’t guarantee we’ll be able to meet your deadline, but we certainly promise to try to come up with the best solution.

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