offering 24 hour translation service: realistic, how to set up, any experience?
Thread poster: Alexandra Davidson
Alexandra Davidson
Local time: 12:56
English to German
+ ...
Mar 15, 2004

Hi, all,

I work for a medium-sized translation agency in Germany and was asked to do some research on the feasibility of offering a 24-h turnaround service for smaller translation jobs.

This service would have to cover virtually any language combination. The average translation volume per job would be approx. 50 pages (approx. 10.000 words).

Does anyone have any experience setting something like this up/running such a service successfully? Would anyone be willing to discuss some details?

Many thanks in advance
Alexandra


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Kathi Stock  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 05:56
Member (2002)
English to German
+ ...
Be global Mar 15, 2004

I think this could only work if you have a network of other agencies/translators around the globe.
However, you stated you wanted to look into:
"offering a 24-h turnaround service for smaller translation jobs...
This service would have to cover virtually any language combination. The average translation volume per job would be approx. 50 pages (approx. 10.000 words)."


I don't consider 10.000 words as a small translation job. And I don't think that a translation of 10.000 words within 24 hours would provide top quality.


[Edited at 2004-03-15 12:37]


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Alexandra Davidson
Local time: 12:56
English to German
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Translation volumes < 10.000 words Mar 15, 2004

Hi, Kathi,

>>>I don\'t consider 10.000 words as a small translation job. And I don\'t think that a translation of 10.000 words within 24 hours would provide top quality.


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Giovanni Guarnieri MITI, MIL  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 11:56
Member (2004)
English to Italian
can only agree... Mar 15, 2004

Kathi Stock wrote:

I don't consider 10.000 words as a small translation job. And I don't think that a translation of 10.000 words within 24 hours would provide top quality.




10,000 words in 24 hours? It usually takes me a week! Unless you split the job it between many translators, but then who's going to make the text consistent? Doesn't look feasible to me.

Giovanni


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Paul Lambert
United Kingdom
Local time: 11:56
French to English
+ ...
Agree with Giovanni Mar 15, 2004

It'll be difficult to come out with a clear consistent text as you'll have to have several translators working on it at once.

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ntext  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 05:56
German to English
+ ...
No Way Mar 15, 2004

Not with 10,000 word jobs and "virtually any language combination."

With smaller jobs and a limited number of language combinations, yes; that can be done and it is being done.

But 10,000 words in 24 hours will require multiple translators plus coordinating their work. That's tricky — and only realistic for translations that are not heavy on "style" and where consistent terminology can be guaranteed in some way (glossaries, CAT platforms). Typically, only certain types of technical (and maybe financial) translations can be done like that.

To initiate such a project they will need to restrict themselves in some way — either by defining "short translation" as 2000 to 3000 words, and/or by limiting the language combinations to a few major ones, and/or by limiting themselves to a few (or one) type(s) of translation(s).

The claim "We translate anything from anything into anything" is highly suspect to begin with. "We translate anything from anything into anything within 24 hours" is just plain silly.

[Edited at 2004-03-15 16:52]


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Ralf Lemster  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 12:56
English to German
+ ...
Quality assurance Mar 15, 2004

Hi Alexandra,
I'd be curious to know how you're going to perform quality assurance in virtually every language combination, with a 24-hour turnaround.

That said, I'm as skeptical as I am curious...

Ralf


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Steffen Pollex  Identity Verified
Local time: 12:56
English to German
+ ...
I don't think this is feasible Mar 15, 2004

and, reading your post, I doubt the capability of the agency's staff. The question itself is silly.

Alexandra Davidson wrote:

Hi, all,

I work for a medium-sized translation agency in Germany and was asked to do some research on the feasibility of offering a 24-h turnaround service for smaller translation jobs.

This service would have to cover virtually any language combination. The average translation volume per job would be approx. 50 pages (approx. 10.000 words).

Does anyone have any experience setting something like this up/running such a service successfully? Would anyone be willing to discuss some details?

Many thanks in advance
Alexandra


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Edward Potter  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 12:56
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Possible - sort of Mar 16, 2004

If you restrict your language combinations and have enough reliable translators in place then in theory it is possible.

I personally would not touch a 10,000 word job due within 24 hours. There is just too much that can go wrong. Not only would my reputation be at stake but also my pride. I strive to build my good reputation, and to keep it intact. You and your company should too.

If you do find a good way to always give good quality within your proposed time frame, my hat is off to you. You'll have got lots of people beat.


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Alexandra Davidson
Local time: 12:56
English to German
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you all for your input! Mar 16, 2004

I wanted to thank you all for your valuable input!

Just to summarize:

A 24 hour *quality* translation service is basically only possible if you:

a) offer this type of service for a limited number of language combinations only
b) accept only translation job of a "managable size" (i.e., you don't want to split up the work too much --> reduced quality and project management overhead)
c) offer this type of service only for documents that are not too complex
d) have a global network of translators, if possible
e) pay those translators accordingly and/or even pay them a monthly "retainer fee" so they can take on jobs for your sponteneously.

But ideally one should try to convince the customer that good translations take time and tight deadlines usually lead to reduced quality, increased costs and possibly a lot of frustration.

Many thanks again,
Alexandra


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Evert DELOOF-SYS  Identity Verified
Belgium
Local time: 12:56
Member
English to Dutch
+ ...
This roughly sums it up, Alexandra! Mar 16, 2004

Alexandra Davidson wrote:

I wanted to thank you all for your valuable input!

Just to summarize:

A 24 hour *quality* translation service is basically only possible if you:

a) offer this type of service for a limited number of language combinations only
b) accept only translation job of a "managable size" (i.e., you don't want to split up the work too much --> reduced quality and project management overhead)
c) offer this type of service only for documents that are not too complex
d) have a global network of translators, if possible
e) pay those translators accordingly and/or even pay them a monthly "retainer fee" so they can take on jobs for your sponteneously.

But ideally one should try to convince the customer that good translations take time and tight deadlines usually lead to reduced quality, increased costs and possibly a lot of frustration.

Many thanks again,
Alexandra


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Cathy Flick  Identity Verified
Local time: 06:56
Russian to English
+ ...
Some more ideas Mar 19, 2004

A client asked me recently to do a 4000 word patent translation in 14 hrs.... at 2 cpw less than my normal minimum non-rush rate of 12 cpw (US$0.12). The project manager called me at 9 pm and wanted it back at 1 pm the next day. It was highly technical, and I told her that

1) I didn't think it was humanly possible for me to do that job that fast, even if I didn't get any sleep (well, probably especially because I wouldn't get any sleep! Efficiency does go down a tad...); it was difficult material, and I would ordinarily schedule at least 3 days for such a job to give me time to think and read/research and query and also keep up with other recurring projects assuming I wasn't already totally booked.

2) My normal rush rate (fondly called my "weekend-killer rate") was 6 cpw above my minimum 12 cpw, not 2 cpw below it .... and honestly for that kind of < 24 hrs turnaround, I thought they should offer double (i.e., I should be charging 24 cpw...), which I know translators can and do get for such overnight service.

3) Splitting the job would not be a good idea because of consistency problems and also because then the research time per word goes up for each translator (in other words, each translator gets creamed...)

4) If she couldn't talk her client into at least a reasonable rush fee, her best bet was to look for a time zone as far to the west of her (on the East Coast of the USA) as possible - maybe Hawaii in her case, so at least it would still be afternoon and the translator might be able to not lose so much sleep.

5) She also should look for a translator with a great deal of experience in exactly that area, to maximize the possibility of finding some kind soul who could process it quickly enough to do it at her rate without feeling exploited .... The material was more on the periphery of my own specializations - trained as a physicist, I could do it, but it would take me longer than someone with real engineering background.

SO for a 24 hr translation service, it would seem to me that these factors will be important:

1) Clever use of time zone differences to fit into more normal workdays

2) Very precise matching of specializations to maximize translator speed (for instance, if they paid me double for the lost sleep, in the case described above I might have taken on a straightforward chemistry doc since I'm also a chemist and that's my fastest area)

3) Having people on staff who can definitely read the source languages and also have enough knowledge of the subject area to match the doc with the translator's specializations (alternatively, outsource that chore to appropriate persons in various time zones; often project managers can't really tell what the subject matter is about or who is qualified to do it for higher tech docs, for understandable reasons).

4) Irresistable rush rates - unless you put translators on retainer, the odds are that they already have jobs to do for the next few days, so even if they do your job during normal working hours - they still will need to do evening/weekend work to catch up with the jobs they pushed aside for you; plus you need to compensate for wear and tear on body and soul, a rush job makes most of us ordinary mortals less than efficient the next day or two.

The matching problem (which will be most acute for technical work, I imagine) may mean that in addition to limiting the language pairs, you might think about limiting the subject matter as well. You might even just start with a limited subject area that is easier to match and only add gradually.

Another thought: If a job simply must be split because of unusual size, hire (in addition to the translators) an editor who is a real expert in the field and whose task it will be to make it all consistent (unless the client specifically says they don't care about consistency). But that will cut down on the time available for translation, and make the project manager's job even more difficult with a 24-hr constraint.

Peace, Cathy Flick

Ph.D. Chemical Physics/M.A. Physics/B.S. Chemistry
Scientific Translator since 1978
Russian/French/German/Spanish/Italian into US English


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