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.

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