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Poll: Should a project manager necessarily be a former translator?
Thread poster: Staff Staff
Local time: 05:57
May 5, 2010

This forum topic is for the discussion of the poll question "Should a project manager necessarily be a former translator?".

This poll was originally submitted by Irène Guinez. View the poll results »


Gianluca Marras  Identity Verified
Local time: 14:57
Member (2008)
English to Italian
no, but it can help May 5, 2010

well it is not necessary, as to be a project manager you need also othere skills, but I think it can help.


Marjolein Keyer  Identity Verified
Local time: 14:57
English to Dutch
+ ...
No, but... May 5, 2010

Not necessarily, but I'm convinced it will help.


Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Local time: 14:57
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
It is a completely different job May 5, 2010

I know several really lovely project managers who have no ambitions about translating themselves.

One says directly that she does not have the patience to look things up, check spelling, check grammar and terminology and usage, find the phrase that fits the occasion - everything I think is fascinating about my job. She says she would be quite lost without translators to do ´all the boring stuff´ icon_rolleyes.gif

Yet she has the patience of a saint with clients, negotiating better deadlines and finding really good support material, or sorting out files so that I can open them in Trados... and fixing them afterwards for the DTP department... all the hassle I hate, and she enjoys it!

If people like that don´t have time to translate or are not good at it, what of it! They are far better PMs than the wannabe translator types who are enviously dreaming of taking over my job at the first chance.

PMs should understand the languages they work with at least to some extent, and appreciate what is involved. Maybe some of them would be good interpreters, but a good translator is not necessarily a good PM. Keep me away for a start. icon_biggrin.gif


Constance de Crayencour  Identity Verified
Local time: 14:57
Member (2009)
German to French
+ ...
I totally agree with Christine May 5, 2010

All the more so as lots of wanabee translators (juste graduate translators for example) are often asked to be a PM instead of a translator as they do not have experience enough in translation. And guess what ? They are often frustrated and want to quit because they realize that the job of Project Manager is much more related to Customer Relationship rather than to linguistic, and thus it requires skills that a trained translator does not necessarily have.

[Modifié le 2010-05-05 09:17 GMT]


Lingua 5B  Identity Verified
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Local time: 14:57
German to Serbian
+ ...
It is a different job but.. May 5, 2010

.. but sometimes, during a project, an issue can arise that requires the PM to know linguistics/translation process in order to solve the issue and facilitate the project realization. Or else, the translator must spend hours explaining to a clueless PM why the project should be re-organized in order to get a more successful outcome.


Rebekka Groß (X)  Identity Verified
Local time: 13:57
English to German
necessarily? - No May 5, 2010

But speaking another language might help them understand some of the translation issues that crop up.

On the other hand, it's all down to experience. Even without speaking another language an experienced PM won't dismiss translation issues brought to their attention.

I personally prefer it if an in-house translator is the project lead for linguistic issues and the PM takes care of project management. But depending on the size and structure of a business that is not always possible.

[Edited at 2010-05-05 09:52 GMT]


keelin feeney  Identity Verified
Local time: 13:57
Member (2007)
Spanish to English
+ ...
It is ideal May 5, 2010

The ideal situation is a project manager that understands languages and translation work because that way they are aware of what both the translator and client requires.

Nevertheless, I also know a few project managers that are absolutely lovely and totally professional, so I would not say that it is essential.


Alexander Kondorsky  Identity Verified
Russian Federation
Local time: 16:57
English to Russian
+ ...
Translator = all in one May 5, 2010

Not only project manager, any professional should be a former translatoricon_smile.gif)
I'm joking, of course. But every joke has a grain of truth!


Jenn Mercer  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 08:57
Member (2009)
French to English
A close contest May 5, 2010

I am not sure when I have seen a ProZ poll with so thin a margin. It is currently at 47% and change for both Yes and No. I think that a good project manager would have some of the characteristics of a translator such as knowledge of multiple languages and excellent grammar and spelling capabilities, however I do not think that a PM actually needs to be a former translator. I think that the difference between a really good PM and a translator is more a matter of personality than ability.


Cristina Heraud-van Tol  Identity Verified
Local time: 08:57
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Absolutely May 5, 2010

I sometimes get jobs from companies which are excellent, but the Project Managers aren't. They often lack translation knowledge, or don't know the ins and outs of the job.

Sometimes they think they only have to assign you a job and then they expect it back. But what if text is missing, if it contains mistakes, or is illegible, or if you have a problem with your CAT tool, if they sent you the translation in InDesign CS2 and you normally work with CS4? (Some of the few things that have happened to me). Many times they don't know how to solve these and have to get back to their clients to ask.

If they were translators themselves, they could come up with ideas or good solutions, because most likely it has also happened to them in previous jobs. There are so many issues that arise and if they are not keen in translation, they don't know how to solve them. A project manager who is also a translator is the best you can get.


Michael Harris  Identity Verified
Local time: 14:57
Member (2006)
German to English
I said yes ... May 5, 2010

because they should have an understanding of languages to also be able to provide arguments to the customers in event of queries.
I find working with PM´s that have translating backgrounds are easier to work with than "just" administrative people.


Parrot  Identity Verified
Local time: 14:57
Spanish to English
+ ...
I said no May 5, 2010

but it helps. Some of the best PMs I've dealt with understood my job perfectly because they did it too.

On the other hand, there are those lovely persons like the ones Christine describes - they love doing what I don't, and I'd be quite lost without them.

I've also worked with PMs who weren't that happy with their jobs and quit to become translators...

But it's a different job, really.


Local time: 20:57
English to Indonesian
+ ...
Former translator… No, but bilingual person Yes May 5, 2010

Plus managerial and leadership skill, so he/she can do the right things and do the things right


Stephanie Mitchel  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 08:57
French to English
Not necessarily former May 5, 2010

Perhaps current, concomitant, whatever you want to call it (anything but 'simultaneous translator' - ha) but yes, I don't think a PM can do the job well without some idea of what goes into what s/he's asking of a contractor. I was a PM while I was getting my fledgling translation career off the ground, and that's why I understood what ridiculous demands we were making of themicon_smile.gif

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