Translation agencies split projects between several translators when a single can’t make the deadline requested by the client. Splitting translations is really a necessary evil. Yes, there is often no other option but to involve a team of translators. But a project manager has to go through a headache of assembling a competent team. And as if the tight deadline weren’t stressful enough, the project manager also has to deal with various “side effects,” in particular inconsistency. Let’s look at this “side effect” and some of the best practices to minimize it:
What Creates Inconsistency
When two or more translators work on a project, the resulting translation is prone to inconsistency both at the term level and at the sentence level:
- The term inconsistency means that folks translate one and the same term in a different way, usually because they didn’t care to look it up in the shared translation memory.
- With the sentence level inconsistency, entire sentences or parts thereof are translated differently. Normally, this inconsistency isn’t as bad as the term inconsistency because it doesn’t confuse the end user. But it makes the translation look untidy and unprofessional. This kind of discrepancy is caused by the translator’s failure to refer to the shared TM, as well as their personal preferences. The translator may generally prefer one phrase to another and use the one they prefer unconsciously or just for the sake of resisting.
The proven solution is to have a single editor review all pieces of translation to make sure they are as consistent as possible. For translation agencies like ours where translation review by a second linguist as an integral part of the translation process, this comes naturally and no special effort is required. For translation companies that don’t perform such review, it might be more challenging because they don’t have an established procedure and/or a trusted editor.
Due to inconsistencies, editing a translation completed by several translators usually requires more effort on the editor’s part than a regular translation project.
Other Best Practices
- We ask our translators not to translate similar parts of the internal fuzzy matches during the translation step regardless of whether such matches come from them or from other team members. This reduces inconsistency at the sentence level because translator simply leave out the similar part and aren’t tempted to translate it differently. And the editor doesn’t have to identify and unify such similar parts, which saves time. It is only after the editing is finished that the translators finalize the internal fuzzy matches, relying on the translations approved by the editor.
- I’m not going to say anything about a shared TM since it’s obviously a must for this kind of projects. What I want to emphasize, though, is the importance of maintaining a comprehensive glossary because I think that the power of glossaries is sometimes underestimated. In fact, a glossary may have more impact on consistency than a TM because translators actually have to make an effort to look words up in the TM while the glossary displays terms automatically (within a translation memory program). A lot of IT solutions are available for sharing glossaries, including a file server in case of an in-house team or Dropbox, to name just two. It’s also important to instill the love of a good glossary in your team’s culture. Building a glossary requires hard work, and without understanding that a glossary is crucial, your translators won’t be committed to taking good care of it.
- It’s also a good idea to put all queries from your translators into one file. Every time the project manager gathers a new batch of queries, they can send the file to the client. After the client answers the queries, it’s easy to share the responses with the team. As soon as a new batch of queries has accumulated, you add them at the end of the file and send it to the client again. This structured form makes it easy to manage and distribute the client’s answers among the team members.
In projects involving several translators working simultaneously, quality is at stake, but you can minimize the risk by using a very good editor to unify the pieces, leaving similar parts of the internal fuzzy matches untranslated initially, sharing a glossary, and streamlining the process of sending the queries to your client.