Tag Archives: project management

Give feedback to your vendors

I just received an email from a very powerful organization. We were in interviews towards an in-house position in this organization. As part of the interviewing process, I was sent proofreading and writing tests to assess my skills. To their credit, the tests were well designed. Some of the paragraphs contained errors on purpose to make detection difficult unless you spent time reading it twice or even 3 times. An excellent exercise.

But this organization failed miserably when it came to providing feedback. In their formal email, they indicated that I did not qualify for the position because a great deal of linguistic and grammar acumen are required for it. No details, no examples, just a blanket statement, which I found troubling and telling.

In the everyday discussions about QA that many translation bureaus and translation vendors have, feedback is key to secure good assets and nurture good relationships for the long haul.

On another occasion, many years ago, I applied for a position at a well-known multinational from Europe. The translation test was economics. After I sent in my test, I received a terse explanation that it hadn’t passed because I did not know some of the industry terms. Not a word about writing style, grammar or accuracy.

If you provide feedback to your translation vendor or to a candidate, be specific. Better yet, agree beforehand on what constitutes a major or unacceptable error and how many errors are allowed. Do not assume. Spanish is spoken and written in more than 20 countries, and some syntax and phrase variations are going to take place. Style is also an important component in assessing the quality of translation, but it is difficult to gauge because the customer’s reviewer may add too much subjectivity into it. Also, be open to discuss what standards your organization adheres to, whether corporate style is paramount, etc. Again, be specific because it is a way of showing respect to a professional linguist.


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Filed under Customer relationship, Grammar, Negotiations, Style, Syntax, Translation errors, Vocabulary

The distant project manager

Quick, translators! Name your favorite project manager from one of your clients.

What? No favorites? Okay, how about naming the PM that treated you most favorably. Take your time.

Over the years, I have worked with a variety of project managers (PMs) in the language services industry, from the asinine to the eager. I don’t have a favorite PM, but I do have favorite traits that I seek in the PMs I have the opportunity to work with. Since I hate lists, you’ll have to deal with just a small bunch of brief descriptions.

1. Approachability. This means grabbing the phone to talk to your translator or editor, not just shooting emails. In the current sea of email messages, a phone call or an invitation to call you is a welcome respite and it helps to build rapport, trust…and exchange a jovial note that could make a difference in your otherwise busy day.

2. Full disclosure. An element generally related to NDAs and confidentiality of information, this is more an attitude than a check mark or obligatory note. It means that you will disclose (ie, answer and volunteer) all necessary information to your translator or language professional. This may require anticipating the needs of your translator, not just talking about word count and deadlines. Take an interest in the finer details, such as “The document is targeting young Puerto Ricans. Can you do that?” instead of “This document needs a US Spanish translation.”

3. Availability. Some of you must be using a macro to print this phrase at the end of your emails: “If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to write or call.” Seriously, how many of you are quick to answer your emails, especially with project-related questions? I wonder if some PM might think: “Gee, this is a dumb question. This translator should read the instructions file I attached to the first email!” And you would be right. However, part of good customer service in any industry is the availability to answer any questions cheerfully and promptly.

4. Don’t ignore our questions. Sometimes we translators ask silly, dumb and risky questions. Sometimes we need to be put in our place because, well, some of us are just getting started in this profession and we don’t know all the boundaries. A risky or nosy question for me –as a translator– would be “Is the editor who is going to work with me a properly trained translator?” That question may be obnoxious and provocative in tone. Think for a second, however, that it just might be a request for information, not an indictment on your company’s screening procedures. If you choose to ignore our questions, we’ll keep asking them until satisfied.

5. Respect our role. We are thankful that you chose us to do this project. You sure have a good taste in translators! However, please, please do not second guess our work. We are trained professionals, we do the research, we know why we chose this particular word over that one. We appreciate that you know some Danish or Spanish but do not try to play translator with us. I personally don’t like to pull university degrees with my PMs simply because it’s gauche and just the wrong approach. I had to do it only once, however, in the past 5 years, because the PM insisted on second guessing his client and telling me how to write a certain passage in the translation. To the PMs out there who are nervously fretting over what the translator might or might write, remember: you chose us to do the translation, please do not micromanage us.

Now, I’ll do some crossover. If you liked the above content, I am sure you will appreciate the blog postings of a company owner who works with translators, Grace Bosworth, at http://global2localcommunications.com/category/blog/

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Filed under Customer relationship, Customers, Project Management, Project Manager

So you want a translation?

Maybe you are a casual visitor, a company CEO or a translation manager. You were visiting your Facebook page and found my ad. If you clicked, congratulations! Hopefully I will persuade you to try me out as your Spanish translator.

You see, translations have been reduced to mere word counts and competitive rates. Deadlines are the masters of the translation universe. As an example, I recently finished a 32,000-word health care project for an East Coast client. This was half of the whole project, which could have been awarded me in full were it not for a very tight deadline, which necessitated the asignment to be evenly split. Another translator and myself finished the job well before the deadline.

Why do you care about getting translations done? Language concerns? Cross-cultural exchange? Love of foreign languages? I am sure that yours were business-driven concerns, and bringing translations into your workflow was –and is– a way to increase sales and revenue. Not many modern-day translators concern themselves with things such as value-added translations, the business value of documentation and translating information into dollars that will bring growth to your organization.

I happen to be a different breed. You see, my corporate employment experience in four different software companies taught me that information translated into other languages better bring revenues up, reinforce customer loyalty and generate new business…or else it is not worth translating.

I invite you to contact me so that we can discuss your project: 440-409-9363 or spanisphere AT gmail dot com.

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Filed under Project Management, Rates, Tools, Trados, Translation, Wordcount

Is the word count a thing of the past?

Back in 1992, word count of a document in the target language used to be the standard practice to compute payment for the translator and/or editor. This informal standard changed in the late 90s –source language word count (English being the source language) became the new measurement of payment and timeline computing.

In the U.S.-based Spanish translation market, the surplus of translators and the outsourcing of assignments to linguists overseas have exerted a downward pressure on word rates to the point that word counts have become an expression of how unprofitable Spanish translations can be. Several of my clients have resorted to a project-based rate instead in order to survive with an ever thinner razor margin of profitability.

One of my associates, based in Los Angeles, has expressed that his customers can drop him like a hot potato over a 1 cent difference with other providers. A long-time customer based in northern Florida has been shipping assignments to Argentina and Uruguay-based translators at an average of 5-6 cents per word. This fact is on track with what many American translation bureaus are paying U.S.-based Spanish translators.

What are competent Spanish translators supposed to do? Is carving out a profitable niche in this profession still possible for us? There is not a single answer to this dilemma. Part of the solution for some is to increase sales to direct customers and rely less on translation bureaus. Another option, which I favor, is to become more productive via the efficient use of translation memory tools and other software utilities. Please keep in mind that I said efficient, as many translators and translation project managers are still in the basics training track of these tools.

Speaking of productivity, I’ll write more on this topic later on.


Filed under Project Management, Rates, Translation, Wordcount