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PMs making translators take over part of their tasks
Thread poster: jmadsen

jmadsen  Identity Verified
Local time: 01:12
Jul 6, 2007

In recent years, I have noticed a gradual and disturbing development in the sense that project managers leave project management tasks to the translators instead of doing the job they're supposed to. And I am not talking about agencies outsourcing project management to freelancers.

Often you get the notion that some PMs just act as middlemen forwarding emails from the clients and leaving the freelancers to solve all the problems. Sometimes I am surprised to see how little some PMs know about the task they're employed to perform and how little they know about what they are asking the freelancers to do.

I have had several PMs who were lost when I started talking about cleaned and uncleaned files. I have had PMs sending me huge xls files containing software references to be adhered to, the problem being that the files had over 50 tabs with 15 language columns and most tabs containing less than 10 terms. They didn't even realise how much time it would take to search for terms. I have also had terminology documents sent to me in PDF format, 10 separate PDFs containing loads of irrelevant information making it very hard and very time-consuming to search for words. Some PMs on multi-translator projects zip a large number of reference documents in one big zip file and expect freelancers to download multi megabyte files, eventhough each freelancer only require a fraction of the files zipped.

Many agencies demand the indication of PO numbers on the invoices we send to them. Fine, but some PMs fail to send the POs out completely. Then we have to ask the PM to send the PO and then submit the invoice. But that is not how it is supposed to be. POs should be sent out along with the files for translation for the freelancer to accept before starting a job. And some PMs even have the nerve to change the POs, even after delivery.

As freelancers, we are the small fish, and many agencies expect freelancers to be easily pushed around. But there must be a limit. Some freelancers out here must really be putting up with a lot of s***. No, give me bilingual terminology files in csv or a similar format, and I'll adhere to them. Give me a PM who knows what he or she is doing, and most of all: Give me decent working conditions, and I'll bend over backwards, perform miracles, work evenings and weekends, and translate 1,000 words an hour to deliver the high-quality translations I know I am capable of.

May the force be with you...


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Jack Doughty  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 00:12
Member (2000)
Russian to English
+ ...
Not such a new problem Jul 6, 2007

I have been freelancing for over 40 years, and have dealt with many such project managers in that time. I have even been sent texts in Greek because the agency thought it was Russian.
But it's worse nowadays, because of all the IT developments, and they are sometimes even more clueless about such things than I am.


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Rosa Diez Tagarro  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 01:12
Member (2003)
English to Spanish
+ ...
not new, but annoying all the same Jul 6, 2007

Some of the PMs I work with are great, but others really behave as middlemen, never doing their part of the job...

What happens, in my case at least, is that I'm always willing to lend a hand to the professional ones and reluctant to help at all when it is one of the others... Pity, but it is certainly annoying to us freelance translators to have to do somebody else's job.


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Jenny Forbes  Identity Verified
Local time: 00:12
Member (2006)
French to English
+ ...
It all looks like Spanish to some ... Jul 6, 2007

Jack Doughty wrote:

I have been freelancing for over 40 years, and have dealt with many such project managers in that time. I have even been sent texts in Greek because the agency thought it was Russian.
But it's worse nowadays, because of all the IT developments, and they are sometimes even more clueless about such things than I am.


I've occasionally had the same experience - texts in Italian, Portuguese or Catalan sent to me as Spanish. I've even been asked if I couldn't translate them anyway - to which my answer is "not if you want a decent job".
As for all these ghastly technical files one gets nowadays - how time-consuming it all is - not to mention the so-called "glossaries" (translator MUST use) that rarely contain the problem words one needs, but often contain mistakes ...
Sigh,
Jenny.


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megane_wang  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 01:12
English to Spanish
+ ...
I have been lucky up to date... Jul 6, 2007

Hello,

Yes, I have been lucky up to date, maybe because some of the things that annoy you don't bother me so much.

But I suffer from this point too often:

Jenny Forbes wrote:
............... not to mention the so-called "glossaries" (translator MUST use) that rarely contain the problem words one needs, but often contain mistakes ...


I agree with Jenny. This is a real nightmare .

Unfortunately, sometimes the PM cannot do much to prevent it... But the worst case is: THE CUSTOMER provides the glossary!

I just completed a job with one of those, with a real error inside. After providing proof of it, the customer PM agreed with me, but, ayeee!! he told me that this is going to be like that "in my part..."...

TGIF!!!!

Ruth @ MW

[Edited at 2007-07-06 13:59]


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Vjedogonj
Local time: 01:12
English to Serbo-Croat
+ ...
My opinion Jul 6, 2007

Jack Doughty wrote:

I have been freelancing for over 40 years...


I have been freelancing for 47 years now, and I never failed to watch my back! Don't be a slave of semi-literate yahoos and don't feel uneasy to call them names!
The reason they exist is because they have fresh flash to feed on (there are always natural slaves out there who do the job of others and for others). In order to kill them, stop providing your added-value services! Or charge additionally for it. Be MASTERS!


[Subject edited by staff or moderator 2007-07-06 15:20]


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Rodrigo Mencía  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 01:12
English to Spanish
+ ...
The other way round too Jul 6, 2007

My 2 cents... I am a freelance translator but not long ago I left the freelance world to become a full-time Project Manager at an important Spanish agency, and I used to receive “translations” from people who didn’t know how to do their jobs. Sometimes I found myself at 11:00 p.m. translating into BERBER or RUSSIAN (certainly not my languages) because someone forgot how to follow guidelines (such as “remember to use the spellchecker, please” or “Please deliver the file in X format”) . Of course I was not perfect and sometimes made big mistakes, but fortunately, when I left, 90% of the freelance translators I ‘d worked with congratulated me for my professionalism and said I ‘d always given my best helping them.

Unprofessional people are everywhere and doing all kinds of jobs. There are great and foolish PM, as well as great and foolish translators. Name one job in which this doesn't happen.


[Editado a las 2007-07-06 17:30]


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Astrid Elke Witte  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 01:12
Member (2002)
German to English
+ ...
They often seem to expect the translator to take over the formatting Jul 6, 2007

I find it a regular problem that the PM "converts" a document into Word with Abbyy Fine Reader in a few seconds, and then sends the result to me without any formatting whatsoever, expecting me to spend hours tidying it up before I begin.

Worse still, I usually even have to specifically ASK FOR the .pdf, so that I can see how the document is supposed to look, or discover what the nonsensical strings of letters are in fact supposed to say.

Astrid


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xxxJon O  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 01:12
Dutch to English
+ ...
. Jul 6, 2007

I've twice been sent Danish texts instead of Dutch, it seems more than one language beginning with the letter D is too much for some...

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Evija Rimšāne  Identity Verified
Latvia
Local time: 02:12
Member
English to Latvian
... Jul 6, 2007

Jon O wrote:

I've twice been sent Danish texts instead of Dutch, it seems more than one language beginning with the letter D is too much for some...

the same for me: Lithuanian instead of Latvian. Letter "L" is a big problem for some as well


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Vito Smolej
Germany
Local time: 01:12
Member (2004)
English to Slovenian
+ ...
+ Jul 7, 2007

Jenny Forbes wrote: ... - not to mention the so-called "glossaries" ...
Oh my, Jenny, you're bringing it all back again (sigh). And when you prove to them, that their treasured Glossary is a pile of sh*t, no feedback. They´ll send it again with the next order.

... And, adding insult to the injury, send me Slovak translations to correct:

a) they have no clue about Slovak vs Slovenian
b) they have no clue who's been doing what


PS: a sign of hope: some of them do go bankrupt. So make sure, your take PAYS your invoices.

[Edited at 2007-07-07 01:04]


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Rodrigo Mencía  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 01:12
English to Spanish
+ ...
Just wanna know... Jul 7, 2007

How many of you have worked as a Project Manager?

As I said before, it's easy to blame a project manager for something we know 100% about our language... but I wonder... what would happen if you did the same job?

When I was a project manager, I had to find translators from and to Urdu or Berber and definitely those are not my languages. If a client comes and tells me "this is in Urdu, please translate it into Spanish", how am I to know if that Urdu is really Urdu without asking the translator? Why should I think the client's clueless or simply ignorant? Do PMs have to know everything about every language? The same with the glossaries... I remember a client who sent me a huge glossary (very interesting, by the way) which ended up being useless cuz the translator found only two words there. At least, there were two words! The client had compiled that glossary from years of translation, but in this particular translating, most terms were new. Who is to blame there? The PM too? The client? I simply don't understand why we should blame someone.

BUT don't misunderstand me... THERE ARE reckless projects managers who send QuarkExpress translations to a translator and tell him or her "Translate it and format it in Quark", of course there are. The same with those who ask you for your rates and keep bargaining, which, in my opinion, is a complete lack of respect towards the translator. And there are many many more who don't know how to do their job. But as a project manager, I also met hundreds of translators who sent me messages telling me "the file you sent is a .RAR file, I can't open it" or didn't dare to send me their queries, difficulting the proofreading process. As I said before, I'm sure in some of the cases you mention the PM's to blame for what happened. But in others, I believe it's a matter of "now knowing what the other person does or was coping with by that time".

Translators can't blame PMs for everything. PMs can't blame client's for everything. Client's can't blame taxes for everything

When I was a teenager I remember I used to call and blame teleoperators for everything that happened to my DSL line. And you know what? My first real job was as a teleoperator. I had to deal with thousands of clients at a time, and the Company kept telling me to lie, or simply leave them waiting until they hang up. NOWADAYS, whenever I call a Call Center, I understand what these people are doing and never blame them for what happens (except in some cases in which it's crystal clear that they need a brain transplant).

And last but not least, keep in mind that some project managers have to deal with more than 20 projects at a time (at least, in my case) and that they have to stick to the rules of the Company (therefore, they can't pay more, or they have to bargain a bit, etc.) So, next time you pick up the phone or receive an email, remember that the person on the other side is not a robot, that he or she can make mistakes and that the percentage of reckless project managers will be reduced if we just say NO to their abuses.

Astrid Elke Johnson wrote:

I find it a regular problem that the PM "converts" a document into Word with Abbyy Fine Reader in a few seconds, and then sends the result to me without any formatting whatsoever, expecting me to spend hours tidying it up before I begin.

Worse still, I usually even have to specifically ASK FOR the .pdf, so that I can see how the document is supposed to look, or discover what the nonsensical strings of letters are in fact supposed to say.

Astrid


Now THIS is what I consider a clueless or reckless PM. A complete lack of common sense (at least he or she could correct the document and use the spellchecker before sending it to the translator!).



R.

[Editado a las 2007-07-07 09:27]


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Evija Rimšāne  Identity Verified
Latvia
Local time: 02:12
Member
English to Latvian
... Jul 7, 2007

Rodrigo Mencía wrote:

If a client comes and tells me "this is in Urdu, please translate it into Spanish", how am I to know if that Urdu is really Urdu without asking the translator?


Hi Rodrigo,
As for beginning, I have worked as a PM and I definitely know how challenging that work can be.

However, when I was talking about problems with distincting Latvian from Lithuanian, I didn't mean that a PM had to know both of the languages (I completely agree with you that a PM cannot know all the languages in this world!). What I meant was that some of the PMs don't even pay attention to name of a file, where it is clearly written for example "xxxxxx_Lithuanian.doc", and in the subject of the email they write "Translation LT-EN" (LT stands for Lithuanian and not Latvian), but hey -- in body of their email they write something like that: "Could you please translate this file from Latvian into English?" Or another exampe: sending me a translated file into Lithuanian (with "Lithuanian" clearly visible in name of a file) and asking me to review it. This is what should be improved a bit.....
However, I have to admit that it does not annoy me, mostly it is even funny. And I understand that an exhausted PM can make such mistakes. Though, when such things happen too frequently, I am getting a bit tired of explaining the situation. So maybe companies have to improve their management systems or hire more PMs in order to keep things running smoothly and not make their PMs too exhausted?.... That's another topic.


Cheers.

[Edited at 2007-07-07 10:32]


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Marion Rooijmans
Netherlands
Local time: 01:12
English to Dutch
+ ...
Another former PM Jul 7, 2007

Yes, I've worked as a PM as well, and I can tell you it's not an easy job.

As Rodrigo says, sometimes you have to deal with quite a lot of projects at one time. If the client sends you an email saying 'Please translate into FIGS-NL-DA-NO-SW-LT-HU-PO', and you have several clients calling you every five minutes, new emails coming in every few seconds and translators calling you to ask questions, you tend to just assume that LT stands for Lithuanian, Latvian or whatever other language you can think of with LT.

Most of my clients were very friendly and helpful. I had a colleague however, who received jobs from a client that would just scream at her over the phone. No matter how hard she tried to help this guy, it was never good enough. That eventually influenced the way she treated translators. I'm not saying it's OK, but I definitely can understand. (And this guy probably was under a lot of pressure from HIS boss...)

And don't forget the big boss at the translation agency. Mine would just let us work 60 hours a week without paying overtime. We certainly didn't have that many translators for some languages, but there was no time to search for new ones. Others were too expensive and we were told not to send them any jobs. If our regular translators weren't available, we had to do the job ourselves AND work as a PM at the same time. My boss offered some ridiculous low rates to some clients and it was very hard to find professional translators to work for even lower prices. We had to accept jobs in formats we had never even heard of before and then were told to find out how the software worked or just send it to the translators without looking at the files.

I don't want to blame the boss for everything. I sure made some pretty stupid mistakes and I know that I could have put some more effort in some of the jobs I took care of. But, as Rodrigo says, we are all human and we all make mistakes.


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José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 22:12
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Characters recognition Jul 8, 2007

Jack Doughty wrote:
I have even been sent texts in Greek because the agency thought it was Russian.


I can't recall exactly how it got to me, but once there was a desperate agency in the UK, unable to find out what was the language used on a document they had been hired to translate into English.

They had already ascertained it was none of maybe a dozen Far Eastern languages. As it had only three pages, they sent me a PDF to have a look.

Though I can barely read Hebrew "with dots", a familiar shape caught my eye. So I discovered that whoever had scanned that document into a PDF - for no explainable reason - had not only mirrored it, but also turned it upside down! After I reversed this "spell", it was in plain handwritten Hebrew. Of course, I couldn't read a word of it, but they were able find a suitable translator.

Incidentally, I can tell apart Greek from Cyrillic, but it stops right there; can't read either, nor discern a language using Cyrillic chars. So it's quite possible that there are people around who can tell apart Chinese from Korean or Japanese (which I can't), but that's just as far as they are able to go.


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