Including translation in a project workflow Part 2: choosing a translation agency and assigning tasks
Selection criteria and quotes
Picking up from where we left a few weeks ago, you should by now have a good idea of what content needs to be translated. So, once you’ve gathered all that material, you need to choose if you want to work with a freelance translator or a translation agency.
The difference is very simple: for a sizeable project, if you decide to go with an independent translator, you are likely to have to do all the admin work yourself. This means keeping track of the files and essentially being a project manager for the translator, or translators if you are having the text translated into several languages. This option is definitely cheaper, but then again you will have much more work to do.
In case that’s a bit much for you and you don’t have enough time or are not interested in dealing with this aspect of the project, I suggest you choose a translation agency. This means, of course, that you will have to find a translation agency that works for you, makes you feel comfortable and is reputable. There are several ways to do this, but there is nothing that a good old Google search can’t help you with (probably there is, but it sounded cool to me!).
For this step, I would suggest you select the language service provider that best works for you based on:
Test your candidates
After you’ve identified some potential candidates you would like to work with, it’s time to ask for quotes. Based on the criteria mentioned above, you should have two or three agencies that you would like to work with and therefore you will need to understand which one is the best one for you.
A test is definitely something you could consider and from my experience you could have it done in 2 ways:
Assigning the project and finalising the translated content
After all these lengthy preparation steps, you will assign the project to a translation agency (here again depending on the size of the project and if your budget does not allow it, you’ll have to go with a freelancer) and they should be able to care of you from here on.
When you receive the material back, you’ll put it online just as you did when you deployed the original online course or project, however you’ll need to make sure you have it all checked by a native speaker in-situ. This will allow you to get a perfectly working product that does not include typos or silly errors that may have been introduced when putting the files back together.
A few years ago I had the chance to help organise and manage the translation of the Goldman Sachs’ very popular online course 10,000 Women available on Coursera. For who has never heard of it, this course is still available and, as mentioned on the Coursera's platform, it is aimed at providing a practical business education, while strengthening the attendants' business knowledge, skills and plans for growth. It was originally designed for women business owners in emerging economies, but anyone can enrol and attend it. So, the topic was very interesting to me and having always been in some sort of language or linguistic environment, I found that working with people from the Digital Education Service at the University of Leeds, who didn’t necessarily know much about translation quality and processes, proved to be a positively challenging but also very interesting opportunity. This is why I have decided to share my experience in a couple of articles that describe how to proceed when you have to include translation in an existing project because maybe you too don't know where to start 😎. So, watch out for part 2 of this process.
To start with, I should clarify that the e-learning course we worked on had already been launched online, so it was a case of adding the translation/localisation step into something that had not initially been optimised for translation at all. This is a very important aspect to focus on, not only because the files for translation included all sorts of directions that needed to be filtered out, but the text and video content for translation was not all in one place. This file preparation step created a lot of work for who was in charge of managing the content and, even if you are not interested in having your material translated just yet, this is maybe something to keep in mind when organising your folders 🤓.
After this long introduction, I would also like to mention that the team had already selected the languages they wanted the course to be translated into, so I can’t really share what that process looked like. Anyway, let’s crack on with this lengthy but effective process!
Gather ALL the files that need translating and get a word count
No matter if you work in a big or small company, you will need to have a meeting with or contact all the people that worked on the course or project you want to translate and decide what actually needs translating – nobody wants to go back to the translation agency and ask for additions to their projects to then end up spending more than expected!
The content you may want to consider is:
Once you have all this, you should be able to get a word count, however it is only possible if your files are in user-friendly format that will allow you to have a rough idea of how many words you need translated. This will also ensure you have some sort of ballpark figure you can compare with what the agency you choose will include in their quote.
These are the first steps to start getting your content ready: it’s already quite a long process that in some companies may take days or even weeks!
In the second part of this guide we’ll explore how to actually choose a translator or translation agency and assign the work to them, ensuring quality and clear procedures are followed, so watch out for that!
Since streaming services became popular a few years ago, subtitles have become an increasingly important part of our lives. On top of now being able to watch films and TV series for hours on end without even touching the remote control, this also caused the demand for subtitlers and subtitle translations to increase.
Given that everyone is now exposed to subtitles, even those countries that have historically preferred services like dubbing or respeaking, and that many translators without any formal training in subtitling have turned subtitlers, the quality of subtitles and the definition of errors in subtitles seem to have changed.
After a couple of colleagues asked me for some guidance on how to proceed, I thought of putting together some sort of reminder highlighting the most common errors that I have seen while QCing subtitles. Please note that all the information I've included were taken from what I have learned at the University of Leeds and from subtitling literature, mainly from what Jorge Díaz-Cintas and Aline Remael explained in their book Audiovisual Translation: Subtitling.
I don’t think that anyone likes to give nor receive negative feedback, however this is something that happens when you work as a freelancer and it's clearly because people have different opinions, views on a specific grammar or syntax issue and because strict guidelines can be a problem on their own. I have been on both sides, first as a PM and then as a freelance translator, and although receiving negative feedback is definitely the worst bit, I really despise giving a negative opinion on a translation and I much prefer reading a well translated text and praise the translator for their job. Having said that, I noticed that sometimes, both agencies and linguists, are not very effective and most of all not very polite in giving their opinion and providing feedback on someone’s work. Not that there is guidebook on how to do this, but I thought of putting together some of what I consider 'best practices' to follow within the revision or LQA workflow – you’ll find them here below.
GIVING NEGATIVE FEEDBACK
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Receiving and implementing feedback are common practices within the translation industry: some people love it and some people hate it.
But when can this happen? Let's have a look at the possible scenarios:
As you can see, revised files can create a great number of challenges for translators, and PMs, on how to effectively and efficiently implement the final changes. Having worn both hats, I can say that how you tackle such situation depends on what file you want to work on: either the xliff file or the TM. Having said this, I will explain all the options here below.
We all know what they are, or at least if you work with CAT tools, you should definitely have heard of them. In case you are not sure, have a look at this page.
If you have worked on a local project that you haven’t yet imported in your TM, you can:
Select the Retrofit function from the Batch Tasks menu and follow the next steps.
Select a Specific Review Document.
Look for your revised file, select it and click Open (or Apri, if you are Italian).
Finally, follow the next steps, clicking on Finish and Close.
At this point, you’ll see that the changes included in your revised file in Word will appear within the SDL Trados Studio environment.
Then, accept or reject the changes using the appropriate buttons in the Review tab and you'll have your final file in Trados. You can import the final xliff in your Translation Memory or you can make sure your TM is attached to the project and then re-confirm the segments you modified. At this point, you will have a clean and extra approved resource to use for your future translations!
If you are not interested in changing the xliff file because you have already imported the relevant segments in your Translation Memory, you can:
Although I thought I was the only one experiencing anxiety and pressure coming from my own expectations, in the last months I started noticing how people around me, i.e. colleagues, friends and family members are actually feeling in the same way. Not being an expert, I am not 100% sure what’s the cause of this, but the majority of people I spoke to are blaming social medias and the stress that their jobs cause. The amount of people posting pictures in fantastic locations, conventions or job sites is endless and although I do understand that working on social medias is a job and that many people are trying to tell a story or show the best of them and of their job, I wonder if that is maybe causing damage in people’s self image and awareness. If we stop for a second and think about it, we are constantly bombarded by perfect images that create expectations that affect not only how we think we should look like, but also what we should be doing, the job we should aim for and so on.
In this context, I believe it’s important to take everything we see as a pinch of salt: if we see that someone has a super dynamic corporate job and they show in every post that they are very happy that may not be exactly the truth. I am not saying that I don’t spend time scrolling through Instagram feeds watching other people’s stories, but I can confidently say that I have taken a step back because the same people that seem all smiley and happy may have their issues too, it’s just that we don’t get to see them. So, instead of comparing yourself to all these ‘perfect’ people online, or even friends that seem perfect on the surface, be inspired by them to improve yourself; don’t copy them or try to be them, but take their positive sides to improve yourself and focus on you!
With this sermon I simply wanted to say that I have been through it myself and that after some trial and error, I have found some techniques that help me with my mental and physical health, so here we go!
I am the definition of a couch potato. When I was younger I used to be very active, but then I injured my ankles and stopped practicing sport altogether, needless to say that it was an awful decision. Turned out that practising sport is essentially like a medicine that helps you avoid falling into anxiety and depression’s vicious cycles. So just give it a chance and try to find what you like: it can be zumba, swimming, running, gym classes of any sorts. Nowadays, there are plenty of options for every pocket, so you can’t escape. In my case, I tried to go to the gym, running and so on, but what I found really works for me is swimming. When I am in the swimming pool I focus only on that, I think about the movements that I am doing and best of all, I don’t feel all sweaty and hot because I am immersed in the water! On top of that, I have found that yoga really helps to soothe my nerves. Getting into it is not as fast as one would think: we all have different levels of flexibility and not everyone can find their focus straight away. The good thing about this discipline is that you mix meditation practice and sequences of poses that can be challenging but also relaxing, depending on the type of practice you choose. To give it a go, you don’t have to spend hundreds of pounds on super tech accessories and yoga classes, but you can just start familiarise with it following online videos. The one I feel works best for me it’s Yoga with Adriene: she doesn’t take it too seriously but at the same time makes everything easier and her voice is really pleasant.
I am aware that this may sounds cliché or boring, but it is true. Finding some time during your day, it can be 1 to 10 minutes, can truly improve your lifestyle. Stopping and thinking about your breath really makes the difference; there are plenty of apps, like Headspace, and videos online, but if you are already feeling overwhelmed, simply try the square breathing technique. Obviously, you won’t get the benefits of it straight away, but giving it a go doesn’t cost anything and in the long run you’ll find yourself feeling calmer and more positive.
This is what works for me and I thought that sharing it may help some other people that are feeling buried by expectations coming from the outside world, but mostly from themselves. Please, feel free to share your experience and suggestions!
If you follow this blog or if you know anything about me, you may know that approximately seven months ago I quit my job as project manager and in-house translator and started my own business as a freelance translator and subtitler. At first, as anyone, I guess, I wasn’t expecting to get much work, actually in my mind it would have been great if I managed to pay for my bills and keep the lifestyle that I had when I was working as an employee. However, somehow, the response that I got from starting this new adventure was very positive : thanks to ex-colleagues, friends and acquaintances, I managed to be busy every day of the week, getting a lot satisfaction.
As I said, I have been lucky enough to start working right away and, as anyone does, I was accepting every job I felt comfortable with because my schedule was pretty much empty. However, after a month or so, projects started piling up and I was getting a bit overwhelmed because even though my planning skills were (and are) pretty good, I was getting the feeling that I didn’t know exactly how long a task would take me and therefore estimating a precise delivery deadline for anything that wasn’t translation or revision was a bit tricky. So, the first suggestion that I could give to the seven-months-ago me would be to stop for a second and actually work out how long a task would take, obtaining in this way a realistic delivery deadline. This method does not only give myself some peace of mind, but it also shows my client that I will not let them down with a project because I haven’t been able to estimate the turnaround time.
As you may have understood from this second paragraph, to me, time has become super precious. There have been days when I stayed at my desk for way too many hours without even standing up and days in which I felt that I needed a 50 hours working day. But every cloud has a silver lining and from this I have learnt to take the time to really think about deadlines that will make my clients happy, that will allow enough time to be able to work on ongoing projects and open orders and finally to keep me sane. This has also led me to set, and stick to, some working hours which can vary, but do not exceed 8 to 9 working hours per day, also because it affects deeply my productivity level. And if I work more than that during a day, I will make sure to take an afternoon off or finish a bit earlier the next day to balance things out.
Differentiation has also been a big part of my path so far: I have learnt that translation only can be a bit monotonous for my taste (this can change depending on people’s tastes), so I decided to start working with subtitling agencies too, as I am very passionate about this area of the translation industry and I find it more dynamic. Also, in terms of clients, having more than one or two clients is very important, not only because it’s nice to ‘talk’ to different people, but also because not all agencies may have work for you every month. For this reason, having four or even five clients will provide some balance and a steady income.
Talking about clients, feedback has also been one of the main characters of this story. The feedback that a translator may receive comes from direct clients, agencies, colleagues, friends and may not always be super polite and educated in terms of translation choices. What I found is important in this matter is to not take it too personally: I understand that a that text is your work and you put a lot of effort into it, but try to avoid letting your ego play the drama queen. A pair of fresh eyes or an opinion coming from someone who may not know much about translation, but who will finally be the public reading your text, may have a positive influence on your final product making it more effective.
Finally, just regarding the ‘professional sphere’ (the wellbeing bit will be touched in another article), I have found that keeping my language skills up to scratch and being always up to date are key in this job. To do that, I have used two pretty simple methods: attending CPD workshops and reading, listening and speaking in my native language as much as I can. The first suggestion, to me, has only positive aspects because you get out of the house, you talk to colleagues and you learn something new in every session. The last one that I attended was only a few days ago and was carried out by David García Ruiz from Trust Your Brand. On top of being super interesting and out of my comfort zone, it taught me something that I had no real clue about, i.e. SEO searches for my own website. On the other hand, the second suggestion may seem very simple, but you’ll be surprise by how much your brain changes by only living in another country. That is why I try so hard to read and speak Italian every day, as well as going to Italy as often as I can (also because I love my hometown but that’s another story).
Although this blog may seem like a diary page, I hope it gave an idea of what’s been going on for me in the last months and I would really appreciate to receive any suggestions on how to work better, but also on other translators’ experiences.
When you start exploring the translation industry or maybe you are studying translation at university, everybody will tell you that it would be best for you to buy a Windows PC, in case you want to use a CAT tool. Indeed, many translation agencies use Windows desktop computers instead of Apple computers and the same SDL Trados and MemoQ websites, which I consider the most used CAT tools on the market, mention that their programme is not supported by MAC OS X, as written here and here.
So, what if you already have a MacBook, or you just bought one because you really wanted it and now the world seems to tell you that you’ve made the wrong choice? Well, don’t despair, I was in the same situation, but got out of it fairly easily. Thanks to my IT department (*coughs* boyfriend *coughs*), I understood that I didn’t need to buy a computer that will probably be very tired and pretty useless in two years’ time and that I could keep using my MacBook Air.
In case you are interested in how to run the most used CAT tools on your Mac, you have two options:
The free option – with this option you will be able to partition the hard disk of your machine, effectively storing in your MacBook both Apple’s and Window’s operating systems. For doing this you will need to use Apple's Boot Camp utility, which is already in your machine; you will only need to arm yourself with patience (the process will take around four hours), an external hard disk for storage and you will have to follow the instructions at the links below. Here you’ll find exactly what you need and if your machine complies with the requirements: https://support.apple.com/en-gb/HT201468 and
The positive side of this option is that if you are only starting out, you don’t have to waste your budget straight away, as it is free. As mentioned before, The Boot Camp facility is already on your computer and you just have to use it + the light version of Windows 10 is free and downloadable from the Windows website. The two downfalls of going for this solution are that for switching from Windows to Mac, you will need to reboot your computer, then hold the option button on your keyboard to choose which OS you want to work on. Also, if your Mac does not have a lot of storage space, it's possible that once you have installed Trados, you will not have much room left to run other applications on that side of your computer, for that reason, it’s best to use a memory stick or some external hard drive from the start.
If you have a bit of money aside option – go for Parallels and VMware Virtual Machine respectively found at these links https://www.parallels.com/uk/products/desktop/buy/?full
These two options do not partition your disk, but use a sort of virtual machine on your computer: a kind of machine (Windows) in the machine (Apple). With this new "fake" computer, you will be able to switch from a virtual machine to your real one without having to restart your computer, however the cost for the basic version of both options gravitates around £70. It will be up to you if you want to splash out right away or wait; it will still be better than wasting £500 on an additional computer.
I hope this shed some light on what to look for and how to proceed if having a Mac and being a translator don’t seem super compatible. I personally went for option no. 1 because I did not want to spend money before getting any jobs, but the choice is entirely up to you and will depend on your priorities and budget.
CPD is defined as Continuing Professional Development and most freelance professionals, as well as people working in-house, make sure to keep up with it following a variety of courses, which can be related to what they do for a living (i.e. a course on a specific graphic design technique), their personal skills (how to introduce themselves/give presentations), or to learn something new that maybe is out of their comfort zone.
Since I joined the Yorkshire Translators and Interpreters (YTI) in September, I took the opportunity to take part in one of the workshops they offer. Luckily, it was about transcreation, one of my first interests when I started making my way through the translation industry, after finishing my studies in Applied Translation Studies. In 2016, I had indeed participated in a workshop in London presented by Adriana Tortoriello, a transcreation and subtitling expert in the UK, and I was really impressed by how much I liked this aspect of translation and how fun, but also challenging, this task could be when it was taken seriously. For this reason, I said to myself ‘why not?’ – surely, participating will not only help me refresh and update what I learnt in the past, but I will also be able to meet new people that work within the industry and have interesting discussions on the matter.
Returning to the workshop, it was led by Kim Sanderson, translator and teacher at the University of Durham, and it took place in York. It was structured in a pretty classic way: she gave a presentation on the transcreation and marketing translation sectors, showing some examples of very good and very bad transcreation works that made the participants raise some very stimulating discussion points and lots of input. Then, the participants were divided into groups according to their language combination, however the Italian one was a bit mixed, as it was made of three Italians, a Brit and a Czech. Even so, the outcome and the debates were very interesting as we had different opinions that contributed to achieve impressive results, given the timeframe allowed, and we understood all the shades that the English copy was trying to transmit. Finally, we had a general discussion on the different solutions found by all the groups, having therefore the opportunity to share our thoughts and maybe improve solutions that had already been put forward.
Overall, I was very happy and grateful for taking part in this workshop, as it strengthened what I already knew and it allowed some super brainstorming sessions in which translators from different countries gave their opinion and explained some hidden meanings behind the text. It also helped me meet some new people and some people that work within the sector and that I had already met thanks to my previous job.
All in all, I look forward to the next CPD session and even though it can happen that sometimes these sessions are not very useful to improve our skills, they are always a good opportunity to meet people and to put ourselves in a different setting that doesn’t make us sit in front of a computer.
One month in... my first impressions
As promised in my last article, here's how it is going after a month of working as freelance translator: I AM LOVING IT, mainly because as far as I am polite and I do my job well, as I always try to, I don't have to ask permission to do anything to anyone - SO LIBERATING!
Going back to business, here below you'll see some of the aspects that have been challenging/new to me.
Of course, before starting, I knew that I shouldn't have expected that all agencies would have just wanted to wait for me and be super kind and interested in working with me. In my mind I knew it was going to be hard, but I didn't expect people to actually dislike me. I won't go too much into detail, but I thought that if you are fair to someone they will treat you in the same way: well, that's very wrong! Sometimes people won't like you, no matter what you do, and you know what? That's fine by me!
Manage my day
This may sound cliché, however when I was working as project manager, I barely could organise my day. I was so busy with incoming projects that sometimes I had to stop to understand what I was doing... ahah the good old days... now, at times, I almost find it unsettling to have a couple of hours in which I can fit in activities that are not strictly related to what I do for living, e.g. writing a blog post, check LinkedIn for any interesting articles, check proz for jobs etc. Now I can actually organise my days without having to throw away my list because it has become useless the minute I wrote it.
This is the beast that most people are scared of when talking about freelancing. Personally I thought that I wouldn't have minded a bit of loneliness, and actually I don't: I like working in bed, I truly enjoy my own company, however sometimes I do miss my ex-colleagues and their coffees (in case you are reading, maybe not, but anyway, I am talking to you Amy!). With this I am not saying I would like to go back to work in an office, but I am simply pointing out that even if you think that you are the strongest person in the world, things may change as you experience new options.
So far so good on this subject, thanks to networking and lovely friends I managed to be covered for the month of July and this makes me very happy, not only because I am not living under a bridge yet, but also because it means that people trust me and trust my work and this is very rewarding!
This bit can go crazy at any moment if you don't organise your folders and computer well enough. I have written some guidelines in this article, but as I said before you really need to be on top of everything otherwise you will lose hours of your own work very easily.
As you may have gathered, I am very very HAPPY. For now, I believe it's the right choice for me, but I will check in again in a couple of months!
Wish me luck! :)