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A case to laugh and to cry over
Thread poster: Vito Smolej

Vito Smolej
Germany
Local time: 18:52
Member (2004)
English to Slovenian
+ ...
Jul 3, 2005

I write this hoping that a translation wholesaler or two will take note. By
wholesaler I mean a translation company who takes up a multilanguage project for
the client and then shares it out to retailers like me. In this specific case I
was even further down the food chain, with another agency dealing with "exotic"
languages. I know the name of the client, I dont know the other names, but in
any case it is unimportant: what I want to show is, how ghastly such big-time
projects can turn out eventually for those at the bottom of the food chain.

The project dealt with an e-learning course for product X, with a 3-day
course or two for the same, a course/field manual for the same. One would expect
a excel spreadsheet for the course time table, a doc file for the manual and,
well another doc file for the e-learning course. Now let's say between a dozen
and 2 dozens of some files.

Well, this expectations just show my total ignorance on how a real, big-time,
big-cojones projects  in multilanguage translation arena are being made. I
did just about 50% of the whole project. but I had to translate

  1. 186 XML files   

  2. 25  Transit files


for XML files (ie for TRADOS) I just got a list of terms, a lot of them
misspelled, a lot of them tagged "don't you DARE to use THIS".
The situation in Transit was better, the TERM base was included - and all the
typos as well. I showed initially some cooperative spirit and corrected the
first dozen of worst offenders, but then gave up - I realized it was my own
responsibility to spell check it all.

You may wonder how I spellchecked Slovenian in Transit. Well, I did not - I
cut and pasted into Word and corrected then manually. Twenty five times.  I
realized later on, during the proof reading phase, how ridiculous it all was:
the contents of those transit files turned up (you guessed it!) in word files(!).
All 25 of them of course.  I spellchecked them again (sigh) and in spite of
all my due dilligence, man, it was necessary.

Some of terms, however, were protected (like language-independent page,
summary etc entries), so I left them during this phase - until the last pre-DTP
checkout, when an instruction DOC turned up from the sides, showing me, how to

a) go into the file properties

b) select the global variables (a one, a two, a three ... an eleven)

c) localize them to Slovenian

... and of course do it 25 times. Correctly for all 275 manual replacements.
How did this lab mouse handle it? I wrote my own word localization macro, like
replace "page","stran" and so on. Believe me, I felt like an absolute moron
- here you have all the tools of the trade, trados, transit,wordfast,
and you screw around in word basic...

Oh well.

Here's now the story of the XML files: they were, pretty much like the
Transit files, granulated to the last atomic item in the grand design of
e-learning spirits. Has anybody thought about the fact that some poor slob has
to press 186 times the F7 to spell check? 186 times press file open and close
and save (and screw up a little, oops, back up a few files...)?  All those
files,  partly at least, ended in some ppt or bigger entities anyhow, that
could be kept from the very start, instead of being torn up to pieces.

I was not the only one to get impaled - the confusion reigned supreme
elsewhere as well. Like, I got once a shipment of 50 english-to-dutch XML files,
which I ignored without any consequences - reminds me faintly of Brasil
(Terry Gilliam's brand)...

To summarize:

  • whoever makes the grand designs of this kind, should do the first language
    him or herself

  • Wholesalers, please try put yourselves now and then in your little slaving
    dwarves' shoes

  • Quality can be designed in. And it can be designed out as well, as the
    case above shows




[Edited at 2005-07-04 20:56]


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Selçuk Budak  Identity Verified
Local time: 19:52
English to Turkish
+ ...
A minor modification or a major drudgery Jul 3, 2005

Sometimes a minor modification on the part of a client turns out to be a major drudgery for the translator in the end like the one I had to undertake recently.

A reputable agency in translation business asked me to translate a few lines in some medical related documents of a well-known medical supplier. Since it was a minor work, so I was told, they would pay a minimum rate (in fact, less than minimum rate, it was 1/2 hr job). I complied.

They send me a tagged text document (for Framemaker) containing all the revisions combined from several documents, the source and target language PDFs of previous translation, the source language PDFs of revised edition, and the corresponding Framemaker files.

I have to 1) compare and check source and target language PDFs to identify the revised texts, 2) translate revised parts ensuring that all tags are in place.

I did the translation and returned the files. It took more than one hour.

As an integral part of my job, they send me again the source and target language PDFs, and the original Framemaker files, and the tagged text file containing updated translation, this time asking me to check if the changed / revised / added parts are correctly inserted. So I have to open PDFs with acrobat, tagged text with trados and Word, frms with Framemaker, and check all documents to see if the changes are inserted properly.
I complied, first checking the page and paragraph number from the tagged text file, then pinpointing the insertion point in framemaker, then checking it against source language PDF, then checking if it is already reflected in the target PDF all running across several different files.

I returned the documents after more than 2 hours work.

Then I received another mail asking me to make the final QA check to see if everything is in place and OK, so that they can produce the final documents, and transfer the changes to their TM for future use!
I complied and worked for another 2 hours.

The whole revision project in fact involved less than 200 words of translation that took more than 5 hours! And paid for 1/2 hours.

Having to bear such a drudgery, I reminded that it would really take less than half an hour to insert 200 words directly into the original documents. But, this was their QA process, so I was told.

After this experience, I thought that translators should ask payment for the actual hours spent, and not for the volume of translation or the time as estimated by the outsourcer.


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Heinrich Pesch  Identity Verified
Finland
Local time: 19:52
Member (2003)
Finnish to German
+ ...
Combine the files first Jul 4, 2005

I would have combined all files into one, translated it and then translate the single files with Trados TE, using the TM and translate to fuzzy.
Also when using a second person for spell-checking I combine files. It makes life so much easier for all.

But I never take split projects. I wont to be responsible for the whole stuff. Last week some agency offered participation in a translation of 6000 words, to be deliverd same afternoon. I smelled a rat, expecting nonexisting coordination and bad terminology preparation and declined.


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Rebekka Groß  Identity Verified
Local time: 17:52
English to German
tell them it took a lot longer Jul 4, 2005

Selçuk Budak wrote:

Sometimes a minor modification on the part of a client turns out to be a major drudgery for the translator in the end like the one I had to undertake recently.

...

The whole revision project in fact involved less than 200 words of translation that took more than 5 hours! And paid for 1/2 hours.


Hi Selçuk,

Been there, done that, worn the t-shirt...and learned that in cases like the one you described, it's best to tell the agency that the task takes a lot longer to complete than they estimated. Okay, you might not have bothered if it took you 1 hour for the first round but you only got paid for half that time - though I would have at least mentioned it. When round 2 was announced, I would then have said, "Yes, fine, no problem, I'll do that. But having spent 1 hour before, how about I let you know how long it took so you can pay me for my time? If it's only a few minutes work, no probs but if it takes more than 1/2 an hour, I'd like to see some dosh." (Of course, I'd have phrased that less flippantly.) Same goes for round 3. Try it next time because if you work for a reputable company, they WILL accept your conditions, particularly if you're one of their regular translators for your language pair.

HTH and good luck!

Rebekka

Heinrich Pesch wrote:

But I never take split projects. I wont to be responsible for the whole stuff.


Hi Heinrich,

I agree that taking a small chunk of a 6K translation is probably not a good idea. Unless, you get a glossary, TM, style guide, the e-mail address of the other translator(s) and know that someone will review the doc to ensure consistency, quality is a real concern.

However, depending on the type of translations you do, you might not have the luxury of taking on the whole project on your own. In localisation, that's sadly usually not possible because some jobs are so huge (several hundred thousand words)that there are numerous translators involved per language pair. If that work was allocated to one person, translation would probably take a year or two and be obsolete before it was completed because several upgrades would have shipped in the meantime

Two of the localisation companies, I work for have this (in my opinion) infuriating habit of splitting translation projects between 20 und 40K, which I could usually complete on my own by the given deadline, between 2 translators. Not sure why they're doing this but I think they often underestimate how many words we can translate per day. In one case, they only allocate 2000 words per day, the other company considers 2500 words per day to be sufficient. This is annoying because not only does it mean you have to take on other work at the same time but depending on the QA process, there will always be a degree of inconsistency unless both parts are thoroughly reviewed by somebody who is familiar with the terminology, style guide etc.

It's good to vent!

Rebekka


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Vito Smolej
Germany
Local time: 18:52
Member (2004)
English to Slovenian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
concatenating hundreds of XML files? .... hm.... Jul 4, 2005

Heinrich Pesch wrote:

I would have combined all files into one, translated it and then translate the single files with Trados TE, using the TM and translate to fuzzy.


Yeah, thought this one up a little too late. Otoh, I just dont know what kind of soup one would get by concatenating 100 plus itsy bitsy XML files...

Well, there's surely one way to prove it;)

smo


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Vito Smolej
Germany
Local time: 18:52
Member (2004)
English to Slovenian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
No way to take on the whole project Jul 4, 2005

Heinrich Pesch wrote:
...But I never take split projects. I wont to be responsible for the whole stuff....


One more comment, Heinrich: My part, a little over the half, amounted to 36.000 words. I don't think I would be able to handle all 60.000, even if I had time.

And the multilingual quality ... the principal is in Germany, the top of the translation food chain is situated in Spain, the excel spreadsheets come from Switzerland, the east is served from Sophia...

Sapienti sat (auf deutsch gelesen - satt;)

Regards

smo

[Edited at 2005-07-04 20:53]


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Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 18:52
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
Always tell the agency! Jul 5, 2005

I always send the agency my comments about a job. If it's a routine job for my regular clients it may not be more than a Smiley and thanks, but if there are problems I explain in detail.

Otherwise they will just do the same thing again. The agencies I work for regularly send feedback to the end clients and try to find a solution (or a more technically-minded translator, if necessary - I'm no IT-freak).

It may take an hour to describe things calmly and in terms they can understand, (i.e. removing the hidden expletives...) but believe me, it's worth it!

And the agencies do come back with more jobs.

Have a nice summer!

Christine


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darkokoporcic  Identity Verified
Slovenia
Local time: 18:52
Member (2005)
German to Slovenian
+ ...
Of customer's ruthlessnes and translator's dignity Jul 5, 2005

[quote]Vito Smolej wrote:

I write this hoping that a translation wholesaler or two will take note. By
wholesaler I mean a translation company who takes up a multilanguage project for
the client and then shares it out to retailers like me. In this specific case I
was even further down the food chain, with another agency dealing with "exotic"
languages. I know the name of the client, I dont know the other names, but in
any case it is unimportant: what I want to show is, how ghastly such big-time
projects can turn out eventually for those at the bottom of the food chain.


Hi!

I am sure that the end customers (i.e. the consumers or B2B users of equipment etc.) will always make the ultimate judgement. Buyers of luxury watches or BMWs will not tolerate cheap CAT auto-translations and mass produced 5c/word projects. And the same goes for any reputable manufacturer or service provider.

So, it is basically on us translators to make the selection and refuse jobs that do not match our minimum standards. I do so on a regular basis. For instance, I am a great fan of hobby machining and have about 30 power tools in my garage. But, despite my awareness of the fierce competition in that branch, I will not accept their typical translation projects, since my prices and quality standards are completely out of match.

I know that some trade distributors and retailers are hiring students offering them a workplace, a computer and 4 EUR/hour for the translation of user's manuals. Is anyone interested? Anyway, the marketplace will either eliminate them or accept them at a suitable price. I actually doubt they can afford to pay more than that, if they sell a powerful drilling machine for 20 EUR incl. VAT. OK, but not with myself in the food chain.

To summarize, dignity always comes at a certain price. Sometimes we can pay that price, sometimes it is too high and we are forced to swallow the bitter pill and hope for the better times to come. And they do.

Regards,
Dare


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Vito Smolej
Germany
Local time: 18:52
Member (2004)
English to Slovenian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
I'll start doing it as well... Jul 6, 2005

Christine Andersen wrote:
I always send the agency my comments about a job.


Excellent point. Thanks.


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Vito Smolej
Germany
Local time: 18:52
Member (2004)
English to Slovenian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Oh well, dignity... Jul 6, 2005


So, it is basically on us translators to make the selection and refuse jobs that do not match our minimum standards.
...
To summarize, dignity always comes at a certain price.


Zivjo, Dare:

Re refusing, it's difficult to do it after the fact. I'll just have to sort my suppliers on the basis of experience and ... terminate some of them.

Re dignity: everything we do, deserves respect. It's more the stupidity of the undersigned when it comes to making deals.

And, oh yes, students translating manuals ... No wonder so many handies just dont work, the way the manuals are saying they should (g).

Pozdrave

smo


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