START DOING YOUR BEST FOR THE SAKE OF YOUR TEAM AND YOUR OWN
Every Cloud Must Have a Silver Lining Series – Part 1
3 Tips to Avoid Setting Up your Editor
I know, I know--I haven’t been writing like… well, for a long while now. Still, I won’t dwell on how I’ve been so busy working that I could barely make room for my own leisure, because I never enjoy bloggers putting up their own excuses for not posting either. So let’s just say I’m back and you should all be grateful to have me here, thank you. ;)
Now, before we get down to the point, a must-read warning: this post is mainly aimed at translators. However, editors may profit from it as well by comparing and contrasting their own experience in working with translators to see if these are the kind of basic tips they would recommend to any of their co-workers, in order to make things a little smoother and fairer for everyone. So, here it goes.
Understanding the scope of your role
Whenever we work as part of a team, the ideal working atmosphere is never a matter of chance: every team member must undertake to make it happen. Just like in sports or drama groups. Each and every member has a role to play. Each and every member should be well aware of the responsibilities their respective roles entail, because that’s how they can show respect for their own job and that of others. I like to think that every team, regardless of their field of action, stands for a social mini-group operating as one single human being: if all organs don’t do their part, health is at risk.
If we apply the organicist metaphor used by Durkheim to the TEP process used by most translation agencies, we can easily see how the non-compliance of some can turn others' jobs into a nightmare. In this post, we will focus on how translators can improve their output, as well as their overall quality and teamwork skills by simply following three simple steps before and during translation.
More often than not, editors’ productivity can be either negatively or positively affected by translators’ can-help or won’t-help-even-if-I-could attitude. With a little bit of help from translators, conscientious editors can and will make the most of the translatable text, and so will proof-readers. In turn, when everyone plays their role as they should in the first place, chances are the error margin will be significantly low, and the final product is much more likely to succeed and keep everyone happy—the translator, the editor, the proofer, the PM, the client and the end-user. Happiness here equals happiness, but it also equals satisfaction and relief, which are derived from the translator, the editor and the proofer all equally submitting quality work. As we said in an earlier post, “Every job is a self-portrait of the person who did it.” So, why not “autograph your work with quality” while you can? Here are three ways you can proactively contribute to your team and, therefore, to the final product resulting from every TEP process you take part in:
1. Read all reference materials
From my experience, many translators will simply skip this step in a way that makes it seem like just an optional part of their job. This is counterproductive, both for translators themselves and for editors. If a project package contains reference materials, such as a style guide, glossaries, previous translations and/or source files for reference, you need to open and read them. In my opinion, this should not be considered a mere matter of choice. Reading reference materials is a key part of at least the first two stages within the TEP process. When you get acquainted with reference files, translation will always feel like a more doable task than if you were (blissfully) unaware of these sources. Reference materials can help you avoid tougher research regarding the target audience and client, and therefore save time for more exhaustive research on the things that could only be out there on the Internet. As well as this, if you do your homework, you can also prevent certain easily avoidable mistakes, especially if reference files include images, explanatory notes from the client or multimedia items. Additionally, reference files can certainly help you avoid formatting or segmentation issues by showing the text in its intended source or target format. In some cases, clients may also send previously translated and approved material to be used as a guide for the current project, so reading these files will not only save time and result in a number of benefits for you and your editor, but also contribute to keeping consistency throughout several projects for the same client. Finally, when a translator checks the reference files sent with a project, this can reduce the overall query margin, while downtime for all three parties doing the TEP process may also decrease. How? Since translators are the first linguists in the TEP line to work on the source text, they can quickly spot potential translation issues on an early basis, thus having the power to proactively collaborate with their team by calling the PM’s and/or client's attention to these hurdles before it is too late, that is, before the entire team has run out of time to send any queries at all. Also, because some clients tend to take their time to provide a response, which will often vary depending on the geographies you and them are respectively based, the earlier a query is sent, the merrier.
2. Always be techno-caring
I don't know why, but some translators will take it for granted that, despite the format born by the source text, they can choose the CAT tool they want to work on it and then make their deliverable to their editor using the file format exported by that tool, regardless of the one originally provided with the project package. Of course, I’m not questioning translators’ right to choose the CAT tool they enjoy using best to translate. I too work as a translator and know what it feels like to have to work on a project you like with a CAT tool you hate. What I would question here is the carelessness shown by few translators I've recently worked with who have returned the translated file to me, their editor, in the file format of their own choice, instead of sending it in the requested one according to project instructions. When you're part of a team, it is a universally acknowledged truth that you can’t simply do whatever you like without considering its potential consequences for the rest. This is a golden rule for successful teamwork which should not be overlooked in translation. So if you’re planning to translate a Word file in SDL Trados Studio when you were asked to use Trados X, don’t just deliver an .sdlxliff file to your editor: deliver a .doc file and the .sdlxliff, if you like, because part of a translator's job is to be always aware of project-specific instructions. And if you’d really like to deliver your translation in a file format other than the one requested in the assignment, ask your team first, see whether they are all equally comfortable with you making changes to the expected deliverables. After all, they have the same right as you do to choose what tool or file format they want to work on. Ultimately, it may happen that the client’s request to use a certain tool and to deliver the translation in a certain file format is final, so better be safe than sorry and ask your team, or use your best judgement and translate in the format originally provided for the project in question.
3. Don't forget tag placement!
This might seem like an obvious piece of advice for anyone who’s already been working with CAT tools for a relatively short period of time, and yet, it never ceases to amaze me how many not young translators will make avoidable mistakes regarding tag placement. Tags have a purpose in the source text, and for that matter, they should be placed by the translator paying extra care and attention within target. Whenever a tag is used in source, it is to signal certain changes in format, either regarding font size or colour, or even spacing issues, which are to be considered by the DTP team when converting the translatable file into the final formatted document. When translators forget about tags, or what’s worse, when they simply pretend not to see them, they run a high risk of creating formatting issues not just for the editor and proofer, who are their direct team members, but also for the DTP team who will ultimately be in charge of rendering the target format into that expected by the client. So never forget tags—they’re always there for a reason, and if you’re not sure where or how to replace them in target, then do your research, ask, and don’t be afraid to ask again. Remember you are part of a team, and that your PM and editor should be able and willing to help you. Oh, and don’t forget to use Xbench. Xbench is a powerful, user-friendly QA tool that can do wonders for translators and editors alike, as it compares and contrasts source and target in order to spot mistaken, misplaced or missing tags, numbers, spaces, proper names, trademarks, and other issues, among many other helpful functions.
Well, I suppose those are my top-three basics regarding translators’s job. So if you want to make sure your editor won’t get instantly mad at you, try these and see what happens. Providing quality translation services takes more than being awesome at the language pair you choose to work in—it’s also a matter of being willing to succeed as a reliable team member!
Delfina Morganti Hernández is a freelance English<>Spanish translator, reviewer and interpreter specialising in Marketing, HR, Literary Criticism, Subtitling and Digital Journalism. She recently started The Magic Pen Edits, her second blog ever, which aims to address the complex challenges faced by freelance linguists, especially editors.