Author Archives: madmin

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About madmin

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.

Translation memory software


The translation industry has certainly progressed during my time in it. When I first started, I remember one older gentleman who would bring me a translation scribbled onto loose pieces of paper. I had to hire a typist, who would fix some of his blatant mistakes, and then a proofreader to polish up the language.

For a long time I would have to take a 45 minute bus to the city center to deliver a nicely printed translation in a plastic sleeve with a floppy disk in it. This was not fun when the job was only three pages, but at least I had a fax, saving me from having to pick it up as well. Then the need to also have a printer made entry into the industry a little more expensive.

Eventually the big floppies were replaced by an amazing technology, a hard, smaller version. Things were progressing at lightning speed.

At that time the rage was a dos-based software called T602, a local production. It even had the amazing capability of exporting the text based file into Rich Text Format (RTF). There was no mouse and you had to press TAB a lot of times when trying to format a document.

Then along came the amazing world of Windows 3.0. Later on Windows 95. I had a computer friend back in Vancouver, Canada, and boasted over the phone how I had a whopping 256MB of memory (no, not ram). He sent me by post some programs on two boxes of disks, one of which compressed everything, even my Windows operating system, such that I could now have more than 500MB of data on my disk! I was amazed, but my friend laughed that I will use that up soon enough.

Then there came modems. I was excited at the opportunity to send files to my customers over the phone instead of taking the long bus. I taught all my customers how to use it and set it up on their computers. One of them commented I was like a missionary.

Eventually along came the internet. At this point I was still working next to a massive bookshelf of dictionaries, within arms reach as I spent much of my day fumbling through pages of different books, looking for a particular term.

Of course eventually came digital dictionaries, and I presume you can imagine the rest.

Translation memory software

Lets say you work for a real estate agency and translate a lot of rental and other contract. Such as:

Bob hereby agrees to furnish Sue with the property located at 115 Deepdene Drive, Prague, Czech Republic.

And later you get another translation job:

Tom hereby agrees to furnish Sam with the property located at 417 Sussex Ave, Prague, Czech Republic

A good translation memory (TM) software will take your translation of the plain, non-bold text and replace the bold text with the new bold text. The software does not know that they are names that do not need to be translated. And even if they were not names and did need to be translated, you would only need to translate the bold text.

Another big advantage is that the software usually has an internal dictionary which you can build up yourself, so every time a word in the dictionary appears in the source or target file, it will be marked in some way and the translation of that term shown in a little window. This saves having to go to some other software, type in the word and so on.

There are more advantages but these two are the main ones.

Different software

Over the years I have tried all sorts of software (because different agencies use different software and you are forced to install/purchase if you want work from them).

The most popular seems Trados. Easy to set up a project and quickly get statistics on a file, such as the total number of words and the fuzzy matches.

Fuzzy matches are the percentage of words or sentences in the document that duplicate, or are similar or the same to your previous TM. In our rental contract example above, that looks like it would have a fuzzy match of roughly 80% (for that particular sentence). Meaning that roughly 80% of the sentence has already been translated and you only have to worry about the remaining 20%. In our example, you would be lucky because you could just quickly look at it and realize it does not need to be translated at all, because it concerns names.

Here is a table showing the standard in the industry concerning payment of fuzzy matches:


Obviously the higher the percentage fuzzies, the less you would get paid from the base price.

A lot of agencies demand their translator to have Trados, and because of its relative ease of use, those are probably the primary reasons why it is the most popular. I tried it a few times but personally found it rather slow, comparatively to my preferred software.

When I was in the market of buying such a software, I had landed the greatest mega project < of my career. 3.5 million words in eleven languages, distributed to just over one hundred translators. I did some quick research and consultation with an expert and eventually decided on the below. I’ll go over some of its advantages and how I use it. Not as a sales pitch for the company but just to show some of the features that such software should have. It was expensive, but I was not looking for software for myself as a translator, but as a project manager, which is quite different.

Termstar Star Transit <

The main reasons I chose this software over Trados were the following:

  • much more powerful from a project manager’s point of view
  • there was a free version for the translator, whereas the translator version of Trados was still fairly expensive. I did not want to limit my pool of translators to only those who had this software

Later on when I reverted back to me personally translating, and forced to use Trados because of some customer, I found Transit overall much faster to work with, and with more tools.

Below I will list some of its qualities. Could easily be overkill considering your actual needs as a translator, but at least you can see what such a software is capable of, for your own personal consideration. On a side note, there are numerous software which work to some degree with Microsoft Word, meaning that the agency can prepare files in Word so that the translator is not forced to buy the same software.

Work on an older, slower computer


Over the years I’ve gone through a lot of laptops, trying different brands. My last laptop was a Macbook Air. While traveling I wanted to do some fancy video editing and thought I’d give it a try. I had Windows 7 installed on one half, for translation and other work, with Mac on the other half, for video and graphics work, and internet (I found Chrome worked best on the Mac “side”).

I particularly enjoyed going to cafes and doing the ol’ three finger swipe, jumping back and forth between either operating system (yes, I had them both running at the same time), always hoping for some macsnob to shudder in horror of seeing Windows running on their favourite machine.


It was a great setup, worked quickly, and lasted about six years. But my constant close proximity to the ocean, most often living in a hut or bungalow right on the beach (one of the pleasures of this online job), meant a shorter lifespan for virtually all my electronics, including even cables, due to the moist, salty and often windy air.

When my macair finally did die, it happened at a time when I had other obligations and did not want to fork out the high cost of a replacement. Nor did I really want to, because I intended to remain with a life on the beach, and wanted something that could be more easily replaced.

Acer One

After some research, I settled for this. A mere $200 and seemed to have a good reputation. For my smartphone (necessary for this job), I’ve been happy with the Samsung S5. Reasonably waterproof, overall good quality, and can be bought new on ebay also for $200.


The Acer came with only a 1.7GHz processor and the much heralded Windows 10. But after spending a solid two weeks reading many websites, tweaking and disabling as many services as possible, I finally decided that W10 is a total piece of crap. All these unnecessary bells and whistles, and I started to dream of the days when I worked on XP. Back then I noticed when I upgraded to W7, a sluggishness would soon creep in and strengthen as time went on. On my Mac, it worked fast, but I did not want to waste my time trying it on this slow machine. Which gave me an idea…

Linux Mint


I tried dabbling in Linux once before and found it quite horrifying, but this particular “dev” (development of Linux) is actually quite Windows-like and easy to use. Sure, I ran into a few bugs, but the Linux world of forums is full of enthusiastic geeks who are quite happy to help you, a result of which there is a wealth of answers already out there available for you to surf through. I’ll give you some simple tips to help you get set up quickly and hopefully problem free.

Download to USB stick or memory card


There is tons of info out there on this. The way I remember is I downloaded the Mint .iso installation file and, using Windows, created a boot installation disk on a memory stick or card – whatever free slots you have on your laptop.

You then restart your computer. In both Windows and Linux, the F8 key should get you to a menu where you can decide where you want to boot from. Choose the memory stick or wherever you create your boot drive.

Before this you should have studied and downloaded some websites explaining the various options. For example, it can boot the Mint operating system running directly from your stick. From there you can use the native browser to surf the internet. If you have enough room on your hard drive, you can keep your Windows as backup, create a partition and install the Linux. Then, when you restart your computer, you can boot to the Windows or the Linux that you had freshly installed on your system.

I started slow and had both systems, because it was somewhat scary to enter the world of Linux geeks and I wanted to make sure I could keep working.

Once I got used to the system, I was ready to start all over again and get rid of W10 once and for all.


When I first started using my Mac, there was a two month period when I was not able to access my Windows half, but fortunately it did not cost me anything because I discovered a wonderful free program called Open Office. This can be installed on Mac, Windows or Linux and is capable of opening and working with all Microsoft Office software.

The only problem was that my translation memory (TM) software required Windows.

Anyway, before my big upgrade and erasure of W10, I decided to upgrade the harddrive to ssd and pump up the ram from 2 to 4 gigs.


After some research, I found that it is best (for any operating system) to partition the hard drive into 50gig slots, keeping the main operating system on the C drive. Use only that for the operating system and your Linux software. Here is a screenshot of the disk space analyzer in Linux:


Okay, rather geeky, but just wanted to show you how pretty it can be. Here is a screenshot of the various partitions (although I did not bother with compartmentalising into 50gig sections):


Note the separate partition for the Swap. This makes the ram more efficient, so make sure you read up on that. Apologies that I did not save the websites I found, but there are many and not difficult to find an easy step-by-step explanation how to accomplish all these. Partition 1 is for the operating system and Partition 2 is for storing data or the Windows virtual machine (if I’m not mistaken regarding the latter).

It is apparently much safer and faster to break up your remaining space into smaller chunks of let’s say 50gigs. You do not need to defragment an ssd drive, but generally this is a good approach. One of the slots should be saved for…

Oracle VM Virtual Box


Note that so far everything has been free. I even downloaded the free version of Lightworks for Linux, for video editing. It can occasionally stutter, and I have to shut everything else down to conserve ram (remember, only 4gigs), but what do you expect with a 1.7GHz processor? It does the job in any case.

Within the virtual box I then installed my beloved XP. Man! what a treat it is to see how lightning fast everything is. No sluggishness at all. Found it easily enough on the pirate bay. Make sure to get the SP3 version, which is the most stable. This should be installed on one of the separate partitions.



Of course I can imagine a lot of alarm signals went off in your head. I often fantasize bragging about my system, and when average Joe hears that I work in XP, I imagine a humorous conversation commencing.

“You have internet on your system?”
“You don’t install updates?”
“Nope, and I don’t bother with any virus protection.”

You can imagine the rest. But you do have to set it up properly.


First of all, with any operating system, after you get your basics set up in your administrative account, you then set up a regular user account, which you use for your main work.

The reason for this is if you are working in a regular user account and happen to get a virus, it will not be able to access administrative privileges without you manually typing in the password for the administrative account. So just this act alone will contain the virus, preventing it from wrecking havoc throughout the rest of your system.

It also once happened that a glitch developed and I was simply able to turn off the machine, restart, load into the Linux admin account and fix the user account externally.


The wonderful thing about Linux is that there are hardly any viruses for it. Furthermore, you generally download all the software from the dev’s own “repository”. Each dev is slightly different. When installing software, you log into your admin account, activate the native Software Manager, and install new programs directly through that. This Manager accesses the software on Mint’s own site, so there is no danger of getting a virus from third party software. Very rarely do I have to go to a third party site to download some software and install it separately.

So in Linux/Mint there really is no need for antivirus software, which generally hogs up system resources and slows down your entire system, especially during occasional scans.

linux-system-resources-translation-computer-tipsAbove is a screenshot of the system resources program native to Mint. To the lower right are two additional programs I installed into the task bar. One when you click on pops up the info shown, while to the right of the cursor is a cpu bar always showing. After lengthier use the system starts to feel sluggish, usually when the Memory and Swap our pretty high. I find a quick restart (and it is quite fast) resolves this for another lengthier period of time.

Furthermore, I’d say that hackers generally respect the Linux community, so they don’t bother creating viruses for it. You are safe in the world of geeks!

The chrome browser works quite well in Linux.

The XP is fast, my translation memory software works fast, I prefer to use Office 2003, which works great, and I only have a few other software I use for Windows, such as Corel (although the simple Draw which comes with OpenOffice in Linux is surprisingly useful), and some software I prefer to work with when designing html pages (Microsoft Impressions), PHP (HTML Kit) and FTP and file management (Total Commander).


Hence, the only internet I use in XP is for uploading files by FTP to my own server, so completely safe. Therefore, there is no need for anti-virus software in the XP as well. I know, feels like a naked, vulnerable baby, eh? But it’s foolproof. Of course, set up your regular user account on the XP as well, and just for fun I keep the firewall on, but doubt it’s necessary.

For quick editing of pics I prefer to use IrfanView in Windows, but Gimp for Linux is half decent and does the job.

Other software


  • VLC works fine in Linux for watching movies.
  • I use Galculator as a calculator in Linux.
  • Nitro in Windows for creating PDF files (through the print function, any program – nothing like that exists for Linux).
  • Libre (OpenOffice) Draw in Linux can edit PDF files.
  • Dropbox in Linux for creating folders which automatically backup to the web every time you make a change to any of the files within them.
  • Gimp Image Editor for editing pics.

I see other software on my system, such as for rotating videos and so forth, but haven’t had a need for them yet. In any case, the Mint repository of free software is quite extensive. You then have your XP for anything particular you cannot find.


The above is a screenshot of the free software available through the Software Manager. Note that I had to log into the admin account (you can just switch accounts so you do not have to logout of your regular user account) in order to activate this program to install software – good safety precaution.


And now possibly for the best part. Check out GParted.


Yet more free software for Linux. After reading up on it, download it and follow the instructions to create a boot disk. Less than 16gigs total! Restart your computer and F8 boot to that to check it out. Has its own Firefox browser and has tons of little programs, even for Windows! You can use it to test your disks and other problems, in both Linux and Windows.

For me, I put in an external hard drive and simply cloned my system once I had everything set up and humming. It cloned also the Windows, so if something ever happens to your computer, a quick $200 expenditure and you’ll be up and humming again in no time.


For particular files, like your accounting, pictures or translation files, you can backup those separately, since it takes a while to clone your entire system and you cannot work at the same time. It also has a synchronisation feature so you can backup only small changes. Quite robust little system, and it will give you a little feel for Linux before committing. Note that this is a different dev than Mint.

But as mentioned before, you can create a boot disk of Mint on a flash drive, for example, to give it a test run. Note that by default you will not be able to save anything on the flash, such as your desktop settings, but there is a way around that if you really want. I believe it involves partitioning the flash drive so that there is somewhere where you can store stuff (persistent storage).

Or if you want to get really fancy, you can clone your system onto an external ssd drive so that you can plug it into any computer to F8 boot into that and translate using someone else’s computer!

Note also if your laptop decides to stop working for whatever reason, the ssd drive and ram could still work, so all you need to do is insert those into your new Acer machine. But make sure to make a full backup anyway, as it takes time to set up a new system, with the virtual box and so forth.

With the old, regular spin type harddrive that I replaced with the ssd, I simply bought an adapter with case (IDE or SATA, depending on how many pins your internal HDD has) to turn that internal harddrive into an external one, meaning no waste.


Back to translation and computer tips

Machine translation

Sometimes you get a job with a lot of individual words that something like Google Translate could do a reasonable job at. If you get a lot of such work, it might be worthwhile to get some software for this, but if it is only occasional, there are free options.

Google Translate


With Google Translate you can copy in a list of words, choose the source and target languages just above the entry boxes, and it will produce the same list in the target box, translated. In my example above I have only one word, but if you click on the translated word, you will be provided with a list of possible other translations.

In this way you could copy a long list from your source file (let’s say Word), paste it in the left/source box above, play around with the options in the translated list in the right box, and once you are satisfied, copy/paste that list back into your Word file.

Translating entire Word files

Unfortunately, sometimes the above process directly in Google Translate might not be ideal due to the specific formatting of the Word or other file. Copying the list from Google Translate back into Word could lose all your formatting and cost you extra time to reformat. In which case it is more ideal to perform the machine translation directly in Word in order to maintain the formatting.


Newer versions of Word have a built-in feature to accomplish this, or you could try a free tool that works for older versions, including Excel etc. It also has a pro version with more options. Or you could try one of many free online tools, where you upload your file and download it translated.


The first two tools would be better for files that are not entirely all single words, since machine translations generally do not do so well with sentences and paragraphs. However, they can still be useful for short phrases. Just experiment a bit, but this approach is definitely good for the occasional job with a long list of individual words or short phrases.

Incorporating machine translation with your translation memory

This is easily accomplished by creating an Alignment Project.


  1. First, copy out the long list of individual words or short phrases that you think a machine translation will be useful in speeding up your work, and paste them into a blank file.
  2. Save it as a special file, preferably in list format, the individual words or short phrases separate on individual lines (separated by a hard return – ENTER on the keyboard).
  3. Use your machine translation to translate that file, go through it to make sure it’s right, then save it as a second file with a different name.
  4. Create an alignment project in your translation memory software, aligning the source and translation file, checking to make sure that the list of words and short phrases are aligned properly.
  5. Create a new project in your translation memory software using the original file as your source file. Add the alignment project as part of your translation reference, including the usual reference files that you deem would provide translation memory from your previous translations.

This way, when your TM software comes up to the individual words, they should automatically get translated for you without a blink.

Back to translation tips

How to manage large translation projects – Part 2

Continuation from Part 1 of How to Manage Large Translation Projects

Start the project


Now that you have put together your glossary and translated your repetitions, you can begin the main part of the translation. Hopefully you will have accomplished all this during the first month or set up period, while you continue to receive and assess applications, and develop a clearer picture of the quality levels of your chosen lead translators and proofreaders. Them having already spent the month assessing samples, working on and discussing the glossary, and translating the repetitions, they have also become seasoned and more ready for main project launch. During this initial period you may also discuss extensively with the customer about terminology and other matters. This will greatly increase their confidence on your handle of things, and better prepare you for the main launch. You can also work on the webpages to explain all particulars to the remaining translators once you start to use them.

For a project of this size and calibre, I like to parcel out files with size of about 2,500 words. This should be accomplishable within about one day by the average translator. You can assign them several files to keep them busy. For such projects I set up a dedicated server with its own IP address. Project managers can log in and work with the TM software to create these smaller files. They save these files on the server, from where the translators can download them. As translators are assigned new files, their assignment can be shown on the server (visible on the internet because of your dedicated IP address, password protected if you so choose) so they can check they are downloading the right files, or use the system (explained later) so they can only download the files they are assigned.

manage-large-translation-projects-files-assignedA simple snapshot of the accounting in Excel, showing which files were assigned to whom, with the total word count for each file. But this can be easily copied into a webpage, or better yet, to use the system so translators can only download files they are assigned, to prevent any mistakes.

For example, the customer may send you files averaging about 50k words in size. You break those up into consumable 2.5k sizes (that is, 2.5k of NEW words, not including the repeating text which have already been translated during the initial phase). If the file is called Technical_details.doc, you might create files called, and so forth. This makes it easier to understand and manage, for everyone.

When parceling out files like this, you will also want to put some thought into it. Some sections of a file may be more unique than others. If you spend some time studying the material, you might find that certain parts are more appropriate for certain translators. Perhaps those translators are more technically adept. Even though they might charge more per word, you might decide it is better to invest more to have it done properly, and save the easier parts for the less expensive translators. Parcel things out strategically to produce a top notch translation.

Test the translators as you proceed

As I mentioned before, it is not uncommon that a translator produces a sample not reflecting their regular work. Make sure to warn them that you expect the same quality as their sample, otherwise penalties will result. When they send back their first translation batch, have it quickly assessed. If it does not reflect their sample quality, you can ask them to stop, have it proofread, and show them the changes made. If the changes are extensive, you can deduct those additional costs from their agreed rate. If they are not happy with that, you can pay them in full but tell them they are no longer part of the project. This can be a tricky issue. Some translators can be so brazen as to resort to google translation for a quick buck.


Once you are confident in their consistent quality, you can continue to assign them more files.

Proofread the files and import them into the TM software

As your first files are translated and start rolling in, have them proofread and finalised by the vettors as soon as possible. You can then import them into the TM software, adding to the memory. This will result in additional savings that were not found in the initial analysis of repeating text, increasing your profits. Use your filters to prevent the proofreaders from proofing text that is repeating and already proofed and finalised previously – additional savings and higher profits. This is another reason why it is good to farm out the work in smaller chunks. Not only can it be imported back into the software to reduce costs by finding more repeating text/fuzzy matches (which will only materialise when you produce new files AFTER you have imported more files), but it will keep you in contact with the translators on a daily basis and give you a clearer picture of progress and potential issues.

Communication System

One of the important aspects of a successful project is the ability for translators to communicate with the lead translators, or proofreaders, or project managers. For this I have developed a system where I can assign translators to a particular project, they are only able to download files they are assigned, and can communicate with other members of the team, according to my choosing. For example, I might make it possible for the individual translators to ask questions to the lead translator, but not be able to communicate with one other. Divide and conquer, as they say. When they communicate with one another, everything is anonymous and they do not know the email address of the person they are communicating with. I can assign my own usernames, such as Dave_LT, where LT would stand for Lead Translator, or Sam_P as a proofreader or John_PM as a project manager – to give everyone a clearer picture who they are communicating with.

All correspondence can be easily downloaded and searched for messages where translators attempt to establish direct communication with one another, if this is important to you.

Accounting System

The same system described above also has an accounting portion. When translators are assigned files, each assignment record also show the number of words, with fuzzy matches. Different fuzzy matches are usually paid different rates. I personally use the following standard.

% of pretranslated text% of payment
Remaining not translated units100
84% or less100
95% or more30

For those who do not know what fuzzy matches are, it might be where 85% of a sentence or segment is similar to a previous translation. When the translator gets to that segment, a window appears showing how it has been translated previously, with the new words in a different colour. The new words might be a different name or numbers. Such as:

Bob agrees to these conditions for a payment of $500.
George agrees to these conditions for a payment of $600.

The software automatically keeps the translation of “agrees to these conditions for a payment of” and inserts the name George and the new number $600 into the proposed translation. In this case neither would need to be changed. But if George was actually a word which needs to be translated, the translator would only have to translate that one word. 85% of the sentence has already been translated for them, for which reason they should be justifiably paid less. But because they only have to translate one word, they get paid more for their time, while you save from having the rest of the sentence translated again.

This is the advantage of translation memory software, and for such large projects, as you continue to import the translated files back into it, you will find that the fuzzy matches will continue to increase, translators will be earning more for their time spent, and you will be saving more (increased profits). So everyone benefits (except of course the translator in the sense that they will have less work, but this is simply the nature of this dynamic industry).

manage-large-translation-projects-fuzzy-accountingAgain a snapshot of the Excel accounting file showing who which files were assigned to, the fuzzy numbers, and the total word calculation in bold. A part of the calculation formula is at the top. The translation project management system will show each translator only those figures associated with files assigned to them.

So as the project progresses, each translator, when they log into their account, will see a summation of their accounting. They will see which files they have been assigned, when they delivered it, how many words and total payment (broken down into fuzzy matches etc), when they have been paid for which files, and how much they are still due. This greatly increases the confidence of each translator. If they were to have to manage all this themselves, not only would it cost them precious time they should be allocating for the actual translation, but they might feel somewhat in the dark and unsure. They can always confirm the figures themselves, but having it all displayed like this will give them the confidence to continue without hesitation. Trust me, it is not easy finding good translators, and you want the best ones to work full throttle.


This in itself can be a time-consuming migraine. One easy solution is to request that all translators accept payment by paypal, or some other service such as moneybookers/skrill. With either it is easy to create a simple text file using the accounting system above to make a mass payment to everyone at once. Some banks also offer the option of making mass payments. Using some text file that can be created from the online accounting system. Most translators these days have a paypal account and using such a system makes management a lot easier. The accounting shown to the administrator of the project would be obviously much different and more thorough than that shown to the individual translators.

Vetting and Project Management

Once the files are imported into the TM software and exported back into the format provided by the customer, they need to be vetted, to make sure that nothing is missing and that everything is according to the customer’s instructions. This is not a difficult process and I always managed to find people on the net willing to do this for around $3 an hour (I can help you with that as well). They might be located in Nepal, as some were in my past projects, where such a wage is good for them. These vettors can be assigned communication rights with the translators, or only with the lead project manager (PM). Whose job would then be to forward any messages to respective translators to fix any issues. Or possibly only to reliable translators assigned the task of finalising the files. If there are too many mistakes in a particular file, the original translator could be penalised and a file sent to them showing the changes required for finalisation. This process will keep the translators on their toes and ensure higher quality.


An example of a vetting job, comparing the final Word translation against the PDF source file. The vettor does not necessarily need to know both languages but count lines, points, paragraphs and compare numbers and formatting to make sure nothing is missing and that the formatting is correct. If something seems odd language-wise, they can tag it and send it to a trusted translator to look at.

Once the different files have been finalised, they can be pieced back together into the large file chunks originally provided by the customer. By then hopefully it is absolutely perfect. By parceling up the files into smaller chunks, you can create a rolling production where it does not take too long before you start delivering the files back to the customer. They too will want assurance that everything is top notch and on schedule. You can also show them a portion of the accounting displaying the progress, how many files are currently farmed out, how many words total are left, and how many of the remaining words are repetitions that do not need to be translated, etc. This will greatly increase their confidence, and also give them an opportunity to give some feedback to your translation early on in the project. It is perfectly normal that the customer will hire their own translators to look over your work. These translators might make some requested changes. Get them involved right from the beginning with the glossary development, and keep the customer constantly in the loop (as you inevitably issue it more invoices). It will understandably only want to pay you for delivered and finalised files, which can take some time considering all the processes mentioned above. While your translators will not want to wait long for payment of their files. It is a tricky juggling act. You will definitely want a reasonable advance payment to get the ball rolling, considering your time spent putting together the project and the glossary and TM building well before you deliver your first file. Feel free to explain the process to the customer so they understand the initial delay.


As you can see, it is not an easy matter to organise such large projects. In my early years of managing large translation projects, before I developed all the online software and got a handle on the processes and the TM software, I spent so much time emailing directly with the translators, proofreaders and vettors, paying people, figuring out accounting, that I barely got any sleep. I developed my system over many years and continue to do so. I now prefer to work on this development, as I consider it creative and challenging, while leaving the project management and other tasks to others. If you’ve taken on a project larger than you can chew, I would be happy to help you with it.


The industry is constantly evolving and long gone are the days when I first started, when I had to resort to translators who would leaf through their paper dictionaries, were proficient in their field but would produce work on a typewriter or hand written, well before the days of internet. Bringing their work on floppy disks – does anyone even know what that is anymore (the original floppy disks actually were floppy and flimsy)? It’s been fascinating watching the industry develop, but that is the nature of the free market. If you want to stay in the game, especially for such large projects, you need to utilise the latest technology and know how.

The use of translation memory software, digital dictionaries, project management software and even machine translations have made the industry leaner and meaner, but it has also provided the tools to increase quality and consistency, especially for such large projects.

How to manage large translation projects – Part 1


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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

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