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Some colleagues have questioned the consulting approach to translation I advertise on my Proz profile:
"What is there to consult about? I get a business agreement, a book or a white paper on something technical, an instruction manual, a product catalog, a web site, a video for dubbing or subtitling, whatever, and I translate them. What else is there to do?"
Well, quite often nothing. But sometimes the client doesn't know what they need, and the translator is one of their chances to get information and add value.


I had a recent case which involved more than one "consulting" skills. No, I didn't consult on the client's business, but on the whole process where the translation was just the first step.

The setup was geographically complex. The client, on the US West Coast, hired a translator (not me) in Central Brazil, initially to add subtitles in Spanish to a video available in English, for a product launch in yet another country in South America. The original job itself, however, was apparently simple: subtitling a video.

So this fellow translator from Central Brazil hired me, in Southeast Brazil to do the subtitling. As I work ENPT, she would provide me with the EN>ES translation. Pretty simple: time-spot the subtitles, burn them onto the video, and it's done.

Was it really that simple? Though it could have been, in this case it was not. I'll point out the lessons on the way.

She sent me a 320x240 WMV file. The size didn't seem that good for subtitling.

LESSON 1: ASK QUESTIONS

So I asked: What do they intend to do with the video?
(I didn't know at the time.)

LESSON 2: GIVE OPTIONS

If they wanted to make it available from a web site, there might be issues with different versions of Windows Media Player. Also, if I converted it to Flash FLV, it would require a browser plugin to be downloaded once and for all, but the file itself would be smaller. I still have no idea on how broadband has widespread (or not) in that country, so it was better to play it safe.

The answer was that they intended to use it at a product launch in that other South American country. By "use", at that time, I surmised they wanted to show it to an audience.

LESSON 3: CHECK WHAT YOU GOT

The video seemed to be some very skilfully crafted 3D animation, and the presentation, viz. the sequence of animations, had with some obvious PowerPoint effects.

LESSON 4: TEST WHAT YOU WANT TO PROPOSE

I checked for quality, and yes, it would render very sharp images on full screen. So I suggested enlarging, and got an okay to do it.

LESSON 5: BACK YOUR PROPOSAL WITH GOOD REASONS

Thinking of an American from their headquarters flying down there with his/her notebook, to be plugged into local projection equipment made me wonder about possible compatibility issues, leaving aside the availability of drivers, plugins, codecs, whatever, in that computer. Chances of something going wrong with that presentation were high.

LESSON 6: THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX

DVD nowadays is universal, except for region codes, which I didn't intend to use anyway. So, in view of the previous concerns, I suggested them to have the presentation on a DVD. The end-client liked the hassle-free idea.

Approval came together with the information that they'd like to give one copy if that DVD to each of the 150 foreseen attendees, together with some other stuff (that was none of my business).

LESSON 7: BE PREPARED TO SOLVE PROBLEMS

I withheld this information from you so far, but I had watched the video, of course. It had some nice musical background, but nothing else on the audio track. All the information had already been subtitled with white letters on black shadows, the US standard for subtitles.

My subtitles, Brazilian standard, are yellow letters on black shadows. And some screens there were crammed with text. So if I overlaid my subtitles on the existing ones, the video would look as if it had been splattered with overdone scrambled eggs!

If I could get hold of the original PowerPoint presentation instead of the video file, I might be able to remove the English subtitles and add new ones there. But there was no time to ask them to look for it.

So my solution was to DUB, in other words, to get that translation narrated in Spanish.

LESSON 8: BUILD TRUST

By this time, the end client no longer had such a clear idea of what they would be getting. Bear in mind that all the communication with them was through my fellow translator in Central Brazil. However after so many issues, reasons, and options, they felt reassured that it would be a good solution, in spite of not being sure on how it would look.

LESSON 9: HONOR THAT TRUST

Okay, I'd have to get someone to record that narration in Spanish. A minor catch: I am in Brazil, the only Latin American country where Portuguese is spoken instead. I learned to speak Spanish rather fluently in several international events I organized, however it serves just for communication. Furthermore, I am not a recording speaker, not even in my own language.

So I searched the voice banks on the web for samples of locally available native Spanish speakers. Most of them were visibly native, but had developed a Brazilian accent strong enough for me to notice.

I eventually found one accent-free speaker, but the telephone provided was his agent's. I understand the inconvenience of leaving home to some studio, to record the 8 minutes I had, as well as the agent's need to survive. But that one would cost a fortune!

So I called one video production studio I often translate for, and asked them about it. They said they had the ideal person to do it, and he would be there to record something else on the very next day. So I called the speaker on his mobile, and arranged everything for a mutually adequate cost.

LESSON 10: IF YOU HAVE IT, KNOW HOW TO USE IT

So I converted the video, enlarged it to 720x480 DVD standard, and got the recorded narration. Then I clipped the latter into segments, and mixed them with the existing musical soundtrack at the right spots. Got a perfect video, and authored the DVD.

Fine, so where should I send it for duplication? As far as I knew, they needed 150 copies.

“Duplication? We thought of a clerk in our local office where the product launch will take place making the copies with his computer.”

In this meantime, had I found out that the courier would take 3 days to get whatever I sent to that venue. And the deadline was getting closer and closer.

I made a rough estimate that a plain desktop computer would take some 40 hours, to record those 150 DVDs. Assuming that clerk working 8 hours per day, it would take 5 days! And we should assume that s/he would be printing the labels as well. No way!

LESSON 11: IF YOU DON'T HAVE IT, KNOW SOMEONE WHO DOES

That same video producer is geared for mass duplication of disks. I contacted them, and the bottom line is that they made all the 150 DVDs, with printed labels in just two hours, for a very affordable charge.

LESSON 12: DON'T WASTE RESOURCES

I asked the client whether they would be able to get adequate individual packaging for all the disks locally, at the venue. Since their answer was positive, I shipped them on two spindles, so they wouldn't have to pay courier freight for something that could be obtained at the destination.

LESSON 13: CHECK CUSTOMER SATISFACTION

Yes, they were very satisfied.

It was not just a subtitling job as they had initially imagined, and it didn't come out as cheap as initially estimated. However considering the investment they had at stake in launching that product, the additional cost was a drop in the bucket.



Okay, this game is over. Is this all? The 13 lessons?

Not at all! You may use any, some, all, or none of them any time. And you should develop your own for each specific case.

The strategy is about first giving your customer what they want.
If they hired you just because you came out cheapest in a reverse auction, neither you nor them have any budget left to add value. Giv'em just what they asked for, get your pay, and fare them well.

However if they hired you because they think you are the right person to do that specific job, prove it! If you really are, you can certainly add value to what otherwise would be just another translation gig. But it will be up to you to find the value you can add.


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ProZ.com - http://www.proz.com/translation-articles
The consulting approach to translation - a case study
http://www.proz.com/translation-articles/articles/1517/1/The-consulting-approach-to-translation---a-case-study
Author: José Henrique Lamensdorf
Brazil
English to Portuguese translator
Platinum since May 24, 2013
http://proz.com/pro/19091 
By José Henrique Lamensdorf
Published on 11/24/2007
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