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Just started in translating subtitles but ...
Thread poster: Salima Post

Salima Post
United States
Local time: 02:05
English to French
Jan 4, 2008

Hello all,

First off, I would like to say that I love this forum. I have been reading it for months and I read a ton of valuable information. Keep up the good work. Thanks.

I worked for a while as a PM and for the past few months, I decided to do what I always wanted to do in the first place, be a translator. So, I started to send my resumes to agencies, I have been ignored, I have received emails with tests, failed some tests and finally I passed one for a subtitling agency. I was very much excited: when I did my first project, it was a legal document. Then, they sent me two other projects: translate their subtitles for bonus tracks over the holidays. They were mportant projects with very tight deadlines and I was very much excited to translate them. However, I had problems to go to their site and open their files; we had a mix-up with the biggest project which had other 50 pages and of course I was unable to meet its deadline but was able to return it the same day but later that day. On the other hand, I realized later that I missed to delete some of the English subtitles and missed to translate a few other subtitles. Even though they use a proofreader, I felt that I didn’t give them a “clean” file. I did send them a cleaner file the following day explaining what happened.

A few days later, I sent them an email explaining that because these two projects were my first ones ever, I would hope they could send me the guideline of subtitling, or at least the basic rules for the translator to follow. I am sure some of my translations were too long. I have not heard from them since. It has been a week. I really feel like I failed.

Do you think I burned my chances with that agency?


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Juan Jacob  Identity Verified
Mexico
Local time: 01:05
French to Spanish
+ ...
I think so, yes. Jan 4, 2008

And your response is in your text:

"I would hope they could send me the guideline of subtitling, or at least the basic rules for the translator to follow."

How can you do something you ignore?
Subtitling has very specific rules.
In my opinion, and not only for subtitling, read de guideline before.
Best of lucks.


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Nicole Schnell  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 23:05
English to German
+ ...
Hm... Jan 6, 2008

Just one question:

When you were a PM, did you expect your translators to work in such an unprofessional manner as well? Or did you routinely send your translators a multi-page instruction telling them how to do their job? I doubt it.

A few minutes of online research would have revealed an abundance of articles containing basic know-how and guidelines. How about a quick phone call to a local (DVD production) company? (That's what I did when I accepted the first subtitling job) Or call an experienced colleague? Takes 10 minutes.

"I am sure some of my translations were too long." By not asking the outsourcer beforehand, you made them believe that you knew everything already. Not very flattering.

I wasn't quite a hero myself when I started translating. When I did my first website I hired a local web designer who helped me copying my translation into all those tags that at that time looked like Egyptian hieroglyphics to me. I hardly made a cent with this job but that's how I learned it.

Agencies can be very forgiving in regard to technical screw-ups. After all, we are translators, not technicians and our job is to provide brilliant writing.

However, I doubt that the translation was of heavenly quality in this case. Dealing with technical issues while dealing with an aggressive deadline doesn't leave time enough to produce satisfactory results. Especially the fact that parts were forgotten doesn't quite indicate a non-interrupted logical flow of speech.

Please forgive me that I am not quite bursting with compassion.

After all, it's usually the PMs who declare that the translator's pay will be cut because the translation sucketh, so I heard.

Good luck,

Nicole


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Salima Post
United States
Local time: 02:05
English to French
TOPIC STARTER
Well... Jan 6, 2008

I would have agreed with you if... I had received the guidelines at the time I received the project. My mistake was not asking for them before starting the job. I had spoken to the PM and she agreed to postpone the deadline. So she was aware of the situation.
“How can you do something you ignore?”
As mentioned in the beginning of my initial posting, I wrote: “I have been reading it (this forum) for months and I read a ton of valuable information. Keep up the good work. Thanks.”
I did not ignore the rules of subtitling as I read almost everything you posted on the past forums including this one: http://www.proz.com/topic/39624
I also read articles written par Fotios Karamitroglou including this one: A Proposed Set of Subtitling Standards in Europe

I tried my best to be informed and read as much info available on the web about subtitling. I passed their test and to me, the test was relatively easy.

The fact was that I was offered the job on Friday afternoon before Christmas with a deadline for Dec 26 at 9 am. I told the PM that I needed to see the files before I would accept. Nothing was available at the time. Then, I told her that I would not be able to meet the deadline of Dec.26 because of Christmas Day. The new deadline was pushed back to Dec.27. Soon after, I received the .ftp file. I saw the video and was told I will receive the word files by the end of the day or first thing Monday morning. In those conditions, I could work the week-end and meet the new deadline if files received by the end of the day. I had accepted the job.
On Monday (Christmas Eve), I spoke again to a different PM and was told that the English transcriptions of the video were not ready yet. The files arrived the end of the day on Christmas Eve. That’s when another problem appeared. I found out later that I worked on the wrong files. The only way I could open the .ftp file was through Windows Explorer and not Internet Explorer. For unknown reason, the .ftp file did not “update itself” and I was still on the first .ftp file that I received. So I finally received the word document and had 24 hours to translate 54 pages. It was not hard but time consuming with references to cut and paste (they have been previously translated but still need to look for them in the document) and a few videos to watch for other references to use (those references were also previously translated). I was not provided the material that refers to them and could not find them all online.

When I said that “1) I missed to delete some of the English subtitles and 2) missed to translate a few other subtitles.”

1) I meant I translated the English subtitles but forgot to delete them afterwards.
2) I had written down the French translation but missed to insert in them the word document. It was a reference of four subtitles
I forgot to highlight them as part of my list of references to check.

I hope that now you understand a little bit better what happened and the reason why I posted this in this forum. I didn’t want to make a fool of myself or to look like an ignorant and unprofessional in front of the whole community. I wanted the advice of professionals.

If I blown my chances with this agency so be it. I did what I could with what I was given. I can only blame myself and learn from this experience. Maybe I am not made to be a translator:(


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Gisela Greenlee  Identity Verified
Local time: 01:05
German to English
+ ...
FTP sites Jan 6, 2008

I just want to make one comment regarding FTP sites. It has been my experience (at least with the FTP site one of my agencies provides) that if you accessed the site once already in a given day, it will not display any updated files unless you press F5 to refresh it, which may be what happened to you. Small, but crucial detail to bear in mind with FTP sites.

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Salima Post
United States
Local time: 02:05
English to French
TOPIC STARTER
My answers...to Nicole Jan 6, 2008

[QUOTE] When you were a PM, did you expect your translators to work in such an unprofessional manner as well? Or did you routinely send your translators a multi-page instruction telling them how to do their job? I doubt it.
[QUOTE]

In some instances, I had some guidelines that the translators needed to follow and were required by the client. But you are right, I didn’t send them multi-page instructions. But you know, sending some instructions to remind the translator about the job never hurt anyone.

[QUOTE]A few minutes of online research would have revealed an abundance of articles containing basic know-how and guidelines. How about a quick phone call to a local (DVD production) company? (That's what I did when I accepted the first subtitling job) Or call an experienced colleague? Takes 10 minutes.
[QUOTE]

I would have loved to do it but this was around Christmas Day. Calling an experienced colleague? Who will be kind enough to accept phone calls? I don’t know on a personal level, anyone who does subtitling. See my last posting. To tell you the truth, I haven’t seen any experienced translators who will offer any "mentoring" to a less experienced translator. Yes, it will takes 10 minutes to do do the research but how long will it take to get an answer from a colleague especially around the holiday seasons?

[QUOTE]"I am sure some of my translations were too long." By not asking the outsourcer beforehand, you made them believe that you knew everything already. Not very flattering.[QUOTE]

Of course, I didn’t make believe them that I already knew everything. That will be pompous of me. I told the PM this was my first project. Some of my subtitles were long, I give you that. I think a lack of communication on my part was one of the reasons today I feel so uncomfortable about the whole situation. The lack of time, the rushing didn't help me.

However, I did not have the information until I found this a few days ago.
"The number of text lines between two key numbers on the left of the page in the English file and the French file need not be the same. For example, you could have 3 lines in English and 5 lines in French. But if you edit the text to make it as compact as possible, in most cases you will have fewer lines than the English file. That’s even better for the viewers. They can read the subtitles more easily, since there is less to read.”

Can you explain it to me please?

[QUOTE] I wasn't quite a hero myself when I started translating. When I did my first website I hired a local web designer who helped me copying my translation into all those tags that at that time looked like Egyptian hieroglyphics to me. I hardly made a cent with this job but that's how I learned it. [QUOTE]



[QUOTE] However, I doubt that the translation was of heavenly quality in this case. Dealing with technical issues while dealing with an aggressive deadline doesn't leave time enough to produce satisfactory results. Especially the fact that parts were forgotten doesn't quite indicate a non-interrupted logical flow of speech.
[QUOTE]

See my last posting. I was talking about the references. Believe me, they didn't have an impact on the flow of speech.

[QUOTE] Please forgive me that I am not quite bursting with compassion. [QUOTE]

You are entitled to your opinion and to tell you the truth, I was looking for some compassion when I first posted my story. Unfortunately, it didn’t happen.
Maybe I should have kept it to myself but I thought the aim of this forum was to share good and bad experiences, get advice from more experienced translators... to better ourselves and avoid these bad experiences. This was the reason I posted it, I needed to hear the good and the bad. So far, I heard the bad

[QUOTE] After all, it's usually the PMs who declare that the translator's pay will be cut because the translation sucketh, so I heard. [QUOTE]

This was never an option for us. But I cannot speak for all the PMs. Our translators were professional and when problems occured, we talked. I was a PM and I know how the other side of the job worked. Mistakes happened. I always treated my translators fairly and would have done anything for them. Without them, nothing could have been done. “Treat others as you want them to treat you”.
In my case, we will find out.

The last thing that I asked them was to give me some feedbacks but I didn't hear from them. Good news? Bad news?


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Juliana Starkman  Identity Verified
Israel
Local time: 02:05
Spanish to English
+ ...
I will keep this short. Jan 6, 2008

I agree with many of Nicole's comments, especially those concerning researching one's project or task properly.
Having said that, life marches on, and saying that you are not cut out for the job is a cop out. If you are unwilling to put in the extra time and effort (such as posting here, asking questions, and generally opening yourself up for what is sometimes harsh but generally very useful information), then perhaps it's not the job for you.
If however, you pull your socks up (as my father says), take a deep breath and say "My first job was a disaster. Let's make a list of everything that stank, figure out what SHOULD have been done, and review all the basics before it happens again", you'll find that the work pays off.
Someone said in another posting a while ago that translation is about not giving in to your ego. A little squashing goes a long way when you're starting out.
It really will get better.
Hmmm...that wasn't so short after all.


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Juan Jacob  Identity Verified
Mexico
Local time: 01:05
French to Spanish
+ ...
Whatever. Jan 7, 2008

Whatever Christmas Day, wrong files, tight dealines, etc.
If you don't know how to do something, learn how to do it first and then, maybe, sell your product.
I will never translate a contract, a divorce agreement, a blender user's manual. I don't know how to do it. If I were interested, I'd first learn how to do it and then, maybe, if I like it and I'm good at it, sell it.
Translation for subtiling is always considered as a "funny hobby" any translator can do. That's "fancy" because you translate what Harrison Ford says in Blade Runner and see a lot of motion pictures and knowning what's going on in Hollywood... No way.
As said, I'm a translator.. of what? Motion pictures dialogues. Time In, Time Out, number of characters, secuencies, slang... and most important of all: we must resume.
Yes, translation for subtitling is the only translation specialty in wich we MUST ABSOLUTLY NOT translate everything. We don't have screen time for that. Odd, isnt'it? That's the way it is. Very often, we must transmit only "the sense" of the dialogue because characters are speaking too fast. It's called "synthesis capacity". Not "What he said", but "What he ment". Not obvious.
Best of lucks.






[Editado a las 2008-01-07 03:08]


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Salima Post
United States
Local time: 02:05
English to French
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you Juliana Jan 7, 2008

Thank you Juliana. I agree with you and I am certainly not giving up.

I just wanted to shake those feelings of discomfort; this is not the first time, I translated but I have never been in that situation before and I needed opinions from colleagues.

I have been using proz.com for a couple of years and was never disappointed by the help I received.

I really enjoy translating and this is what I want to do. I will roll up my sleeves and continue …

This time, I kept it short.


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Salima Post
United States
Local time: 02:05
English to French
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you Juan Jacob. Jan 7, 2008

With all due respect, I will quote you:" And, well, yes, it's true... we often try to discourage people to get into business!". Is it what you are doing with me?

In the same posting you wrote: " I accepted ONCE to translate a picture without seeing it, in my beginnings. Gee, when I saw the picture at the cinema, I wanted to hide under my seat and die right there! Never, never translate a motion picture without a screening."

This was my beginning. What happened through your mind when you accepted the job? It was unfortunate but it happened. As for me, I was able to watch the video so that was not an issue for me.

In addition, I don't do it because it is a "funny hobby" and it sounds good when you tell anyone about it but because I like it and I know I can do a very good job.

Right now, I just want to focus on translating the subtitles then later I will look into simulation, subtitling per se. One step at the time. So I agree with everything you said. EXPERIENCE, EXPERIENCE, and EXPERIENCE.
Personnaly, I watch DVDs with French subtitles if available but also in English even though I am bilingual. Another way to learn!

I appreciate all your comments Juan Jacob and if you can be my mentor for one year, I will be more than happy! Thanks.


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Salima Post
United States
Local time: 02:05
English to French
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you Giselrike Jan 7, 2008

Thank you very much for this comment.:) I told the agency about it and the PM didn't understand what I was telling her so she sent me the word files instead. I will keep that in mind.

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Nicole Schnell  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 23:05
English to German
+ ...
Hi Morgan Jan 8, 2008

None of the postings above are serving the purpose to discourage you.

There is however a difference if a newcomer is totally new to the industry - or, in your case - has actually been a project manager at a translation agency. Which makes a lot of colleagues, including yours truly, wonder "Who are PMs actually?". I was offered a PM position by a long-term client (I declined), so I automatically assumed that only PMs are hired with a proven record of own translation experience.

I made a lot of mistakes - ha! - I used to open html- and all kinds of interesting files in No, No!-software to look at them. I am sure that various IT-people on various (thank God, far away) continents were more than willing to bite my head off.

The worst mistakes I committed, I did to my first client. I truly made them suffer. This client is still my No. 1 after all those years and they invested a lot of time in teaching me all kinds of stuff, recommending software and what not. But whenever I entered new fields I let them know beforehand, not when it was too late. BTW, it was this very customer who offered the PM position.

Your next job will turn out so much better!

Best,

Nicole


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Sylvano
Local time: 08:05
English to French
In our dreams... Jan 8, 2008

Nicole Schnell wrote:
I automatically assumed that only PMs are hired with a proven record of own translation experience.


ah-ah


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Nicole Schnell  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 23:05
English to German
+ ...
Yeah... Jan 8, 2008

Sylvano wrote:

Nicole Schnell wrote:
I automatically assumed that only PMs are hired with a proven record of own translation experience.


ah-ah


Sigh. No further comment.


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Salima Post
United States
Local time: 02:05
English to French
TOPIC STARTER
Hello Nicole Jan 8, 2008

Thank you very much for all your comments. I am so glad that we are able to talk openly about our good and bad experiences.:-)

I am originally from France and earned a BTS in Travel and Tourism. During those two years of study, I have had several work placements in travel agencies that lasted months altogether.

When I moved to the States, we lived in Hawaii for years where my husband was stationed; my French diploma didn't help me much to find a job even though we were living in Hawaii. I had to adapt myself to a new situation, a new country.

So I went back to school. I earned a degree in Cultural Studies and a Certificate of Translation. I tried to find a job as a translator but with no experience, who would hire me; no one. So I worked as a PM but I didn't have any experience. I was lucky enough to find this job because I spoke several languages and had a degree and a Certificate of languages... I learned on the job and with the help of the translators. Being open-minded helped me a lot.:-)

So I don't know what the requirements for a PM are in order to work in a translation agency. Nevertheless, I do know one PM who has the same background, she is now a translator; another French translator who is a PM today. I did learn things but there are still more to learn. One other thing, I heard from one German translator that there was a big turn over with Pms. I don't know how true it is but the truth is that PMs are not trained as well as you may think.

I have been working as a translator for the past few months doing translations. I accepted jobs that I have never done before (articles, birth certificates, certificates of naturalization, divorce…) but I used proofreaders to correct my work or used KUDOZ to find the right translation. However, I always accepted those jobs because I knew I could do them and I told my clients about it and that I will use proofreaders to check my work. So far, everybody has been happy with my work. I ask the proofreaders to give me their feedbacks.

Only experience will give me this opportunity to say I can translate, not my Certificate of Translation or my degree. Otherwise, how I can better myself if I don’t try, right? This is America, the land of opportunity…

And I am glad to hear that your first client, even after the mistakes you made, had faith in you, invested in you and now, they are your Number One client. This is what you needed.

What I need for myself and for all newbies in this field are support, help, understanding… from experienced colleagues. Then, I think we can improve the quality of work, work ethics, professionalism...We are wasting time and energy to blame them for their mistakes. They know they made a mistake since they acknowledged it as I did. Let’s move on and do better next time.

In conclusion, I want to let you know two good things:

1) I spoke to the agency and the feedbacks I received were not bad at all. I need to shorten my subtitles and make sure to delete the English subtitles. Deadlines are crucial if I can't meet them, to let them know... which I did.
They sent me a compared file to give me a good overview of what was changed and help me with my future assignment. In addition, I can request the instructions beforehand as they are different with each studio.

2) A a very kind translator offered to help me if I needed, which I accepted. So far, she was the only one who offered to help when I see that these postings have been read by hundred of translators but nobody else stepped in. Aren’t we supposed to help each other????


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