The translation industry is known for being unpredictable, many times new projects come in waves. One week is slow and quiet and the next one is so busy and fast that you don’t even realise that is almost the weekend.
When everybody remembers that it’s almost the end of the month and they forgot to send the files for translation, things can get very busy and stressful and right at the point, we PMs forget the importance of reference material.
But what is reference material? Well… this term covers a very wide variety of files that are normally sent to the translators to help them understand the source material or the subject matter of the project, and to be consistent with the previous translated material. They can be Translation Memories, Terminology Databases, previous translations (for example, this can be very useful when translating manuals as well as marketing material) or visual material, such as pictures, CAD drawings and so on.
These files can be supplied by the end clients when requesting a job, however this is a very rare occurrence, as PMs need to ask for them every time a project goes ahead. It is true that translators should do their own research and spend time looking for what they are translating to better understand the subject matter, however having all the files ready for a project can speed up the whole process a lot, improving the delivery deadline and translation too.
It is the classic PPPPP rule – Proper Preparation Prevents Poor Performance!
Unfortunately, this step is often overlooked in the fast-paced industry of translation. I believe that agencies should take more care of storing and using properly all the reference material that is necessary for a project. An example are TDs which are not as widely used as TMs mainly because looking after terminology is a long process compared to simply throwing everything in a TM and then ask the translators to search for the terms they may need. Also, to create TDs, you need to make a small investment and spend time researching what the preferred and correct terminology is. On a positive note though, the programmes needed to maintain them are very cheap and are already included in other main packages, such as Excel and Trados Multiterm.
All in all, I believe that taking some time to look after terminology and do some research to provide more context are a crucial step to improve the quality of translation and make a translation project flow smoothly. This will also avoid receiving negative feedback mainly based on terminology and a ton of questions from the translators! 😊