The bare necessities

Wouldn’t it be great if our clients could send us only the information we need when they submit a job to our attention — and no more than that? It would indeed, but then, come to think of it, how often does it happen? Not quite often enough, at least in my experience.

Sometimes I have to read a submission message over and over again trying to make out exactly what the client is requesting. Other times the client throws everything they’ve got into the submission without giving much thought to priorities and essentials. This happens a lot when they send you a TM or a glossary you already have and they omit to tell you if is has been updated, and you then need to use/import it, or if it is exactly the same as the one they sent you before, and you can therefore disregard it entirely.

The fact is, at least from my experience, that because the stress at the multi-language vendors’ end is on quick turnaround times and speed in general, the concept that “spending 30 minutes now helps you save 3 hours later” is just no longer a principle that carries any weight.

When we started working for large multi-language vendors, particularly from the US, standard practice had a PM “digest” the entire bulk of intormation, reference material, terminology, translation memories, etc. that would come with a job and then serve you the “filtered” version, i.e. ONLY those things that were truly needed to carry out the job at best. What would be the use of sending 3 XLS glossaries when you can create a single termbase out of them and send that to the translator/single-language vendor company? And why send a dozen PDF reference files when the time allotted for the job barely allows you to translate and review? The trouble is, devoting time to preparing, checking, converting, streamlining a job in a way that makes life easier for the translator/SLV is apparently no longer part of the Project Manager profile. Project Managers in a MLV company seem rather to be focused entirely on clients and clients’s needs, sometimes at the cost of requesting very unconventional and unsuitable things of the translator/SLV (but I will come to this issue in a separate post).

As a PM in a smaller single-language vendor company, when I have to assign jobs to my translators (whether in-house or freelance), I always try to put myself in their place and, with that in mind, to decide what needs to be conveyed to them and what doesn’t. I write specific job instructions, and our system allows us to retrieve end-client specific instructions that have been entered only once and can then be updated as needs be. I also try to mould my instructions so that they are logical and consequential, with every task in the right order of discharge. And naturally, the less organised is the material and the instructions I receive from our client, the more time I will have to spend trying to make sense of it so that my translator is spared the aggravation. I don’t always achieve what I set out to do, but at least this is the direction I’m heading towards and one that makes sense in more ways (and for more people) than one.


[Definitions from the Localization Industry Standards Association’s glossary]
multi-language vendor (MLV): A language service provider that provides translation or localization into more than one language, as well as (usually) project management and a variety of value-added services.
single-language vendor (SLV)
: A language service provider that provides translation or localization into one language. The smallest SLVs are freelance translators, while larger SLVs may employ many translators.

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