In technical translation, as in any other kind of job and/or project, we are sometimes faced with the need to meet very tight deadlines for all different kinds of reasons. Translating is the sort of service that always seems easier said than done. In fact, depending on the specifics of the text, its translation can be extremely slow. Speeding the process up is not always easy and may not be in the translator’s hands.


What can the client do?


1. Supply editable documents

Everything has a beginning, a middle and an end. If for some reason you cannot allocate the ideal amount of time to the translation project, start by providing the translator with an editable document. Otherwise, the translator is going to have to spend time on the formatting and editing. This not only affects the production time that is needed, it also pushes up the price the client has to pay.


2. Supply references and instructions

Be precise and say what you want and, if you have any material that can be used as a reference for your products and services, provide it. Remember that your product or service has different names depending on the company that sells it and don’t forget that what you are going to market can be referred to in different ways. If your company has any terminology preferences, say what they are. Translation is not an exact science. Although 1+1=2 regardless of how you look at it, the English word “bar”, for instance, can mean many different things in another language depending on the context. Help the translator to interpret the text better and to write the way you like most. Team work pays off and avoids having to make preferential changes after the translation has been delivered.


3. Be available to clarify any queries about your project

This point applies to any kind of project you award, but when it comes to something urgent, team work is imperative for the translation to progress at the right pace. Giving the contact of someone who can help the translator quickly resolve any doubts can be fundamental for the translation to be viable.


4. Agree on delivering the translation in phases

Apart from allowing the production to be better organised, staggered deliveries mean there can be a partial analysis of the work that is being done and any alterations that are needed can be fed back into the rest of the deliveries. At the end of the day, this is precious time that can be saved!


What can the Project Manager and the Translator do?


1. Update the translation memories

Translations can and should be saved, but not just in the original and final formats. Apart from the documents received and delivered to the client, it is important that work is kept and managed in databases such as translation memories. The ability to find correspondences with older translations, the capacity to search for terms or constructions that have already been deciphered and the speed we can apply the solutions to the text we are working on, speed up production and this can lead to substantial financial gains.


2. Create glossaries

Creating glossaries may seem like a very time-consuming process, but there are actually tools that can do it fairly quickly. After all, why should we waste time searching for a term when we had to go and look for it two months ago on another project? Keep glossaries by industry, client, topics or any other categories that can be useful and always keep them on hand when you are translating. After a project has been awarded, one of the first things we do is to check whether we have a glossary that matches the needs of the text. The time we save by using a glossary is not very tangible, but it is not hard to realise that it is a great advantage. Ah! And don’t forget! Keep it up to date!


3. Phone instead of sending an email

In urgent situations, email may not be the best means of communication. Emails tend to take some time to be synchronised, read, replied to… If you need to clarify something immediately, don’t be shy, that’s what the phone is there for! Always have a contact at hand and remember that calling about a query shows interest and helps create empathy.


What can the Project Manager do?


1. Use a translation + revising team

Although it is never the first option, you can have more than one translator working on a document in exceptional circumstances. First of all, it is important to note that, as we said earlier, translation is not an exact science, which means that two translators will rarely translate a sentence the same way, much less an entire document. To say it would be impossible is not really an exaggeration! In that case, how can we put more than one translator on the job and still get a good final product?

There are some tools and strategies that can help minimise the negative effects when you have a translation done by more than one translator. One of the most important things is to make sure that the translators all share the same translation memory in real time. Regardless of whether the project is provided online or through an in-house project, the possibility of the translators being able to look up the same terminology and have immediate access to what everyone else is doing can help them communicate and make any changes needed to improve the consistency. And obviously, make sure colleagues stay in contact with each other. They are professionals you trust, and first and foremost, they are professionals! They are all aiming to provide the same kind of quality the Project Manager is looking for!

Keep a good reviser on stand-by for the project. Make sure he or she knows exactly when to expect the documents and any instructions they are going to have to follow. If you can provide any documents straight away, do so. That way, the reviser is going to have more time to prepare the up-coming project. Explain that the work they are going to receive is coming from more than one translator and insist that they pay special attention to issues of consistency. This also allows the reviser to prepare properly and to know exactly what to expect. If possible, provide revision material in a staggered way too. In this way, the reviser can give feedback as early on as possible about the main inconsistencies and can advise the translators in time to correct a lot of the work before it is delivered.


2. Draw up style guides

If the project is from a client who sends lots of work, having a style guide already prepared can let the different translators know some of the client’s specificities and preferences. Bear in mind that if the project is urgent, the translators may not get the chance to familiarise themselves completely with the style guide, but it can still be a resource by which they can eliminate some doubts that crop up during the translation.


What can the translator do?


1. Make the most of remote access

If you work as a freelancer and work together with other colleagues, take advantage of networking. You always have to remember that you must obey the non-disclosure agreement, but on an urgent project, speak with the client or the agency that awarded you the project and tell them about the possibility of bringing an additional professional on board to help you. If the job is too big and if there are difficulties in sharing translation memories or files, use remote access. There are masses of tools that can help you do this. If your machine can stay turned on for many hours, arrange with a colleague to work in shifts, keep the machine up and running and whenever you swap shifts, just switch the remote access on or off. This way everyone is working on the same document and the production can be duplicated more easily.


2. Use Autosuggest dictionaries

It may seem that you can’t have much of an effect on the work, but the use of Autosuggest dictionaries that are available in some computer assisted translation tools help to boost the number of words you can translate. It doesn’t matter if we are talking about common terms or specific terminology, if the words are included in the Autosuggest dictionaries you can get the word you want just by typing the first couple of letters and then pressing <Enter> to insert the final result you want. For some agile fingers, typing couldn’t be any simpler!


3. Organise a queries file

Doubts always crop up as translators work through a file and it is not always easy to gather them together right away for the client to answer them as quickly as possible. Nonetheless, and regardless of whether the query comes up in the last sentence of the last paragraph of the last document to be delivered (which is not only possible, but quite likely!) bear in mind that organising a queries files in good time is going to help everyone. What may seem like a hindrance to your production rhythm may be an advantage when you come to do the final accounts. You should also confirm the best way to send your questions (email, Excel, Word, form, etc.). Contact the Client or the Project Manager and ask for these details.


4. Use computer-assisted translation tools

When dealing with technical translations, computer-assisted translation tools have a fundamental role to play, even if not everyone agrees with them. The functions these tools offer, some of which we have already mentioned, let translators produce much, much more than if they were simply writing in a Word document or anything else of the kind. Remember that a good tool helps you to convert the original into an easy-to-use format and then back again into what the client wants, so you don’t have to bother too much with formatting questions.


5. Create translation memories for each client

Is the urgent translation for a client you have worked with before? Do you have other documents you have already done for them, but you don’t have the time to search for all the information and all the details? This is where translation memories save the day! Consider the possibility of having a translation memory for each client. You can group different client memories together to create a database by industry or topic as we mentioned earlier, but it is important that the particularities of each client are saved in one single database so there is no risk of being corrupted with another client’s information or preferences. Don’t mix up the preference for “LCD TV” from one of your clients, with “LCD Television” from another one. These are not details that affect the reader’s comprehension, but the client’s word is always final!


In short…


These are a few strategies that can help boost production in an urgent process. Of course, just putting in a few extra hours might help too, but everyone needs to relax or the quality of the work is going to suffer. A couple of extra hours every now and them is certainly a great way of keeping on top of the workload, but don’t overdo it too much and make sure you take care of your health.

Notwithstanding all these strategies, always bear in mind the age-old saying: “More haste, less speed” Everyone’s priority should always be to allocate the right amount of time to do the job properly. If you have any doubts about how much time the project might take, talk to your Project Manager or email us.


Were these ideas useful for you? Is there anything you’d like to add? Do you have any other advice to offer? Thank you for your input!