How to manage large translation projects – Part 1

manage-large-translation-projects-Piles-of-books_01

To manage small ones requiring only one translator is fairly easy: assuming you have a translator you trust, you send them the file, they send the translated file back, and if you want to make sure it is perfect, you forward it to a proofreader, and perhaps afterwards to a vettor (someone who checks that nothing is missing and that the formatting correctly reflects the original).

But with large translation projects requiring several translators, all this emailing back and forth can get quite complicated, files may need to get broken up into smaller, more consumable chunks, glossaries may need to get developed to help the translators unify terminology, while the proofreader will need to unify the styles. Especially large projects will require more than one proofreader, so a head translator/proofreader will need to be assigned to try and unify everything in terms of style and terminology.

manage-large-translation-projects-proofreaders-translators

I have had the good fortune of having to manage several large projects, my largest about 5 million words in 11 language combinations and more than 100 translators which needed to be completed within a single month! And I had to accomplish this with no experience with most of the translators! I’ll explain below exactly how I went about it.

Find your translators

When you receive a large translation project, chances are your existing pool of tested and trusted translators will not be enough to handle it. In my cases I had to delve into language combinations I had absolutely no experience with. But I’m good at logistics and I always find a way.

manage-large-translation-projects-proz

If you do not already have enough tested and trusted translators to accomplish the job, you should give yourself roughly a month to test new ones, choose a head translator, develop a solid glossary, perhaps even build up core translation memory, before you start farming out the bulk of the files to the remaining translators.

For this I posted the project on the two major translation portals:

There could be other ones and it doesn’t hurt to try them. You can create different email addresses for each account to give you an idea of how effective each one is.

manage-large-translation-projects-translators-cafe

Prior to this though I would put together a webpage(s) explaining about the project in detail, if I felt the need, and which would be used as a base of operations, so to speak, once the project began. For example, glossaries could be downloaded from there, instructions updated and so forth. Basically a one-stop shop where the translators can upload or download files and get the latest info on the project. New translators (I found I had to keep posting for more translators as the project progressed) could study those pages to get in the loop. Or you could have a special section only to introduce the project to new translators, where translators who are in and have passed the tests might require a special login to access the project pages. What is important though, before launching into such large projects, you really need to sit down and brainstorm for a few hours or even a day, to plan things out well.

manage-large-translation-projects-brainstorm-plan

For each of the portals you post your project on, you can use a different email address or intro webpage to keep track of which translators responded to which portal in order to help you decide which ones are the most effective. Note that I would be happy to help you with all the technical particulars. Just email me so we can discuss.

If using the email address approach, I would create an autoresponse explaining the basics of the project, perhaps with a link to a webpage, and ask the translators to apply to my agency through the automated application form, and submit a translation sample. I can also let you use my application form and the various webpages I have developed over the years to automate as many processes as possible.

manage-large-translation-projects-translator-application-form

I found that a 100 word sample was a fair request to ask for a free translation sample. You do not want too large of a translation sample, because this could discourage a lot of translators from applying (especially the better quality ones who tend to have enough work), and it will cost you that much more to have assessed. And besides, this is only an indicative test and assessment. It is possible that the translators will try harder or consult with others for the test, so the real testing will begin once they start translating. Pick a 100 word sample which accurately reflects the project, but something more difficult to truly test their skills.

manage-large-translation-projects-submitting-sampleApplicants are able to submit a translation sample to any number of projects.

Now that you have a steady stream of applicants, you will want to go through the applications to pick out the cream of the crop. Study their information, perhaps their rating on the portals by their customers, and get an idea who you think the best ones are (assuming you do not already have tried and tested translators that you trust in those language combinations). The system I have set up allows to download all this information, which I then paste into an Excel file, which I can then easily add comments to offline, colouring the individual cells to visually help me get an idea of the quality of each translator.

manage-large-translation-projects-rating-translatorsNumerical ratings are on the right with the name of the assessor in the column heading. To the right of each rating is a comment, if the assessor left any. Purple is where the assessor assessed their own sample (unknowingly).

Once I have chosen someone who I feel is qualified to assess the quality of the translation samples, I ask them to log into the system to assess them. Once they are done I download their ratings and paste it into the Excel file I have created. I like to use a 20 point grading system, with 1 being the lowest quality and 10 the highest, but half points possible, such as 9.5.

Now that the first assessor’s ratings have been pasted into a column showing their numerical assessment of each translator (a second column would be reserved for their comments, if they felt a need to mention something), I have my first glance at a potential overall assessment. In Excel it is easy to sort the records/rows according to individual columns, such as the numerical rating. The header of each assessment column would show the user number of the assessor. You would be surprised how they often assess themselves, not knowing it was their own translation. Easy to forget when you assess dozens of samples.

After this first assessment I would have a clearer picture of who the better translators are. In conjunction with my study of their profiles, I would start to pick out other translators for a second and further assessments. It should only take a few hours to assess a lot of samples, so this process can be quick.

manage-large-translation-projects-proz-profileTo help choose quality assessors, you can refer to the assessment of their submitted translation samples, the data they submitted when applying to your agency, and their online presence. Such as my proz profile above, where you can see ratings by previous customers, or contributions to the Kudoz glossary terms. 

In the end I would usually pick at least three assessors, often up to six, or whatever is needed for me to feel confident about the quality of the samples. Lets say you end up with about six assessments for each translator. When you compare them next to one another, you might find that three of the translators’ samples have been highly graded and that each of them have assessed the translators with a consistent grading, while some of the assessors’ ratings seem sporadic and inconsistent. At this point I might decide that some assessors are not doing a good job and stop asking them to assess more samples, as they continue to flow in. By now you will start to get an idea who the good assessors and translators are, and begin to form a team of core quality translators, and eventually the lead translator.

Start building the glossary

Once you feel confident that you have found a quality translator/assessor, you can begin working on the glossary and translation memory.

manage-large-translation-projects-star-transit

When I received my first large translation project to manage, I spent some time trying to decide which translation memory tool to use. After some research and consultation, I ended up deciding on Star Transit. It seemed the most powerful from a translation project management perspective, while the individual translators were able to use the free version. Here are some of the reasons why I chose this particular software:

  • the translators could use the free version, easily downloadable
  • it uses RegEx (Regular Expressions) to protect certain segments from being tampered with by the translators. For example, one large project I worked on was the localisation of a game. It was created in some software and then exported into a text file to be translated, but it was littered with special characters, such as <+3> that could not be changed, otherwise the software would not run properly. By being able to tag such character strings to protect them, they could not be changed by the translators and was understandably a strict condition by the software developers in order for me to take on the project. Otherwise, for projects in the hundreds of thousands of words, you can imagine that cleaning up any mistakes would add significant time before the localised versions could be rolled out. Be warned though that writing the correct RegEx formula can be quite a challenge, and I can help you with that as well.
  • during the proofreading phase, as the project advanced forward, an increasing amount of the translated text was already translated and proofread earlier, as per the translation memory. It made no sense for the proofreaders to proofread it again, but the software allows that to be filtered out, so they end up proofreading only newly translated segments.
  • I find the software quick and easy to work with as a translator. I can scroll down through both source and target windows at the same time with the down arrow cursor, I can make global Search and Replace changes much like in Windows, and there is absolutely no lag or sluggishness to the software, like I found in other TM software I tried. More details about the free translator’s version here (these same advantages apply to the paid/full project version I use while I translate).

manage-large-translation-projects-transit-windowWhat the working environment looks like, with glossary terms marked red and a fuzzy window bottom right. There are several views you can choose from, or custom make your own.

You can use software to find out the most common terms and sort them in that order. You should also ask the customer if they can create a list of terms which they feel are important to always translate the same. In this way you can start to compile a glossary, but thankfully by now you should have a lead translator you trust to start translating that.

After the glossary is translated, you definitely want to ask at least one other quality translator (and also the customer) to have a look at it. This is the very core of your project and you want to make sure you have this right before proceeding. In the fantasy game software we localised, there were many terms, such as sword, special skills and so forth which would have to be translated exactly the same as they are used throughout the game. For this I found google docs rather useful. You can set up a spreadsheet with the source term in one column, proposed translation in other columns, a comment column, and assign viewing and editing rights to different people, so they can discuss amongst each other the individual terms through the popout comments feature and chat windows.

manage-large-translation-projects-google-docsOnline google spreadsheet, where you can set different access rights for different users (View Only, Editor, Administrator). Editors can chat with one another through a little chat window, and leave popout comments. This can be prepared in Excel offline and then uploaded.

Once the glossary has been translated (note that it is a living being and evolves as the project proceeds), import it into your TM (translation memory) software. In Transit, all glossary terms are marked as red in the individual project files. Before starting, the translators have the option to “insert all glossary terms” into their assigned file, or you can do this yourself as the project manager. This effectively automatically translates all those words in the target text, so that the translator does not have to type them out (less mistakes that way, and makes it possible to arrange for a price discount from the translators). Those terms still remain marked red in the source text window (usually the top half of the computer monitor – example two pictures above).

manage-large-translation-projects-transit-glossaryIn Transit the lead translator can make changes to the glossary, or open up a particular term, like above, to add special comments.

When translating, each translator has the option to suggest additions or amendments to the glossary terms. These amendments and suggestions are incorporated in their exported file, which they send back to you, and can be studied by the lead translator(s), who then decides if they should be incorporated into the glossary.

Start to build your translation memory base

Once you have begun to build your glossary, use the TM software to create a file of repetitive text. In our games example, one repeating segment might be “Hey, I shot you, why are you not dead?” You can get your best quality translators to start working on this. Obviously you will want this thoroughly proofread as well, because it will become your second layer core. For a project of five million words, the repetitive text could easily end up being in the hundreds of thousands of words, which will be a project in itself. Make sure it is as perfect as possible, because the other translators will see it injected within their project files, so it will serve as examples for them (not to mention that it should be perfect anyway).

manage-large-translation-projects-create-repeating-text-fileIn the project settings, you can choose to Create Translation Extract > Only with frequently recurring segments. You select this and create the extract file when you first import the text into Transit. This becomes your repeating text. You translate that first, proofread to perfect, which then gets automatically translated moving forward, wherever it repeats in the remainder of the text.

As you continue to test translators and assessors, you may bring more on board to help with the repetitive text. Use your lead translators and proofreaders to make it as perfect as possible. In your initial analysis (when you were giving your initial price quote to the customer) you should have determined how extensive this repetitive text is (I can help you with this). This is where you can make most of your profits. Not only do you not need to pay translators to translate those phrases over and over again, but you are also ensuring consistency and higher quality. On the other hand, TM software is becoming so pervasive that you probably had to include a certain percentage of these savings in the original bid price, because the other agencies bidding on the same mega project are using the same approach. Nevertheless, if you use the TM effectively, it should result in higher profits for you.

manage-large-translation-projects-file-importWhen you first import a file into Transit, you can save a report showing the fuzzies and what has already been translated (Pretranslated). This can be due to previous translations, or after translating and importing the repeating text extract. Once you know this information you can make your competitive price quote. The report can also be copied into Excel to calculate the total payment to the translators based on the fuzzies and pretranslated text.

Continue to
Part 2 of How to Manage a Large Translation Project

madmin
howdy

madmin

Head Honcho at KENAX
After translating and managing translation projects for more than 20 years, I'm happy to teach others the ropes and move on to other interests. My greatest perk from this profession is that it has given me the freedom to work when and where I want, and eventually to loosen the straps and travel freely around the world.
madmin
howdy

Latest posts by madmin (see all)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

translation CV campaign