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Poll: Do you think having experience in translation is a must for running a translation business?
Thread poster: ProZ.com Staff
ProZ.com Staff
Local time: 22:27
SITE STAFF
Feb 23, 2012

This forum topic is for the discussion of the poll question "Do you think having experience in translation is a must for running a translation business?".

This poll was originally submitted by Youssef Taha. View the poll results »



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Paula Hernández
United Kingdom
Local time: 06:27
English to Spanish
+ ...
No Feb 23, 2012

Is it? No. Should it be? Of course!

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Veronica Lupascu  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 07:27
Dutch to Romanian
+ ...
I guess Feb 23, 2012

I guess that all translators with 15+ years of experience voted yes and all younger translators like me voted no

Unfortunately 'experience' doesn't mean always quality and good business practices. I had to proofread translations made by 'experienced' translators with good reputation here on proZ and decided I have to rise my rates, because what I deliver to my clients is definitely much better than what I had to proofread.

I also had to be a client of an experienced translator (more than 40+ years in translation business) and got the worst customer service ever, with 3 weeks delayed translation and no relevant excuses.

Everything above was about freelancers.


If the asker had in mind translation agencies... then also no, but the PMs must have at least some translation experience. Otherwise everything is a mess, from communication, instructions to payment.


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Isabelle F. BRUCHER  Identity Verified
Belgium
Local time: 07:27
English to French
+ ...
Do you think having experience in translation is a must for running a translation AGENCY? Feb 23, 2012

I think the question is "Do you think having experience in translation is a must for running a translation AGENCY?". Otherwise the question does not really make sense. It it is the case, would it be possible to change the poll question? Otherwise answers will not be relevant.

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xxxInterlangue
Angola
Local time: 07:27
English to French
+ ...
No Feb 23, 2012

Veronica Lupascu wrote:

I guess that all translators with 15+ years of experience voted yes and all younger translators like me voted no



Though I have an (occasional, then part-time and full-time) experience of 35+ years in translation, I do not consider experience in translation is a "must" to RUN a business (translation or any other kind); otherwise, nobody would ever have a chance to get started!

Experience in translation generally improves your translation skills if you make it a point to deliver only top quality.
It helps (us translators most of all) when a PM has an experience in translation because he/she is more aware of the potential difficulties and problems.

IMO, business management skills, common sense, conflict management skills and affinity with the commercial aspects of the business are far more important than experience in translation to RUN a business, translation or other.


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Ilze Berzina  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 01:27
Latvian to English
+ ...
No, it isn't Feb 23, 2012

I am an experienced translator, but my translation business has been run by my assistants whom I have trained. They do all the work from office management, online communication with clients and issuing invoices. If I had to do it all by myself, I did not have enough time to translate. At the same time, had I employed translators, they would use my contacts for carrying out their own translation business.

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Muriel Vasconcellos  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 22:27
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Absolutely Feb 23, 2012

I have had a lot of experience, but I formed my opinion on this subject decades ago. There is NOTHING worse than PMs and agencies that don't understand the translation process. The public is poorly served, and when translation work is misunderstood, translators can be exploited.

Here's why. Translation businesses, unless they are nonprofits, are required by law to show a profit, and when managers don't understand the process they are very likely to put unreasonable pressure on their translators in terms of both money and time. This ends up hurting their customers and giving translation a bad name. Once good translators get wise to them, they are stuck with the bottom of the barrel, which perpetuates the problem.

Let's start with matches and fuzzy matches. Any translator with experience knows that not all matches are equal. In fact, few are. The context often determines how a word is translated, even within the same document. Try and tell that to an agency owner or a PM who wants to save a few bucks.

As for word counts, I once ended up generating a translation from Portuguese to English that was twice the length of the estimated WC. It turns out the manager had run the OCR to get a word count and didn't realize that, because of the quality of the image, words were getting smooshed together so that they were being counted as one instead of the two or three words that they really were. He had given his customer a quote and agreed on a rate with me, and now he had a loss to eat.

Don't get me going on "proofreading." To save money, many agencies hire entry-level translators to do the first translation and then offer senior translators a pittance to go over their work. Sometimes the review takes more time than it would take to translate from scratch. They don't save money, and everyone loses, because the good reviewers don't come back.

Then let's look at deadlines. They are often hilarious. PMs often make promises to clients that can't possibly be fulfilled and still maintain quality, because dividing up an assignment requires extra time to make it uniform. They often think everyone translates the same and a job can be divided up without a problem. We all know that that requires a lot of extra work, either providing a list of preferred terms in advance or paying extra to have it consolidated.

When I left my job as head of a translation service, I was replaced by a person who spoke two languages but had no idea what's involved in translating. To meet deadlines, she kept telling translators "Lower your standards!" She thought that the translators were taking more time because they were doing unnecessary polishing, unaware that it takes time to get the meaning right and no sane translator is going to spend more time than necessary working on a translation.

Then there's the feedback. I once had a manager call me on the phone from another continent in the middle of the night to ask me why I hadn't translated place names and street addresses. Meddling by someone who does't know what they are doing is a waste of everyone's time.


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DianeGM  Identity Verified
Local time: 08:27
Member (2006)
Dutch to English
+ ...
No ... Feb 23, 2012

but I consider it a must for successfully running a good agency.

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neilmac  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 07:27
Spanish to English
+ ...
Other Feb 23, 2012

I'd say it's not mandatory, but an understanding of the hassles translators have to deal with as well as the clients' concerns would be a plus.

I suppose it depends what you mean by "run", and how you define a "business"...


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Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 07:27
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
In theory bumble bees can't fly... Feb 23, 2012

... according to a Danish proverb. But they don't kknow that, so they fly anyway. The sun is out today, and in a month or two the garden will be humming with bumble bees.

Nothing is mandatory in this business!

Many things probably should be, and experience certainly helps, but perhaps luckily, some agencies get along until they gather the experience they need, like the lone bumble bee queens in spring looking for somewhere to nest.

I remember one agency that started round the kitchen table, so the story goes, with the neighbour's fax until they earned enough money to buy their own!

It became a really big, efficient translation agency, never losing the human touch. Then instead of celebrating its thirtieth anniversary... it went bankrupt. That was not from lack of experience at any rate.



[Edited at 2012-02-23 18:53 GMT]


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C.O.  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 07:27
Member (2010)
German to Italian
+ ...
Managing a translation agency... Feb 23, 2012

....is not writing a translation. The director has to know the sector, this is for sure, but he must have different skills.

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Hege Jakobsen Lepri  Identity Verified
Local time: 01:27
Member (2002)
English to Norwegian
+ ...
i've had the unfortunate experience in working with a local agency Feb 23, 2012

where neither the owner nor some of the PMs had translation experience, and the lack of understanding of the process (and basic grammar rules), convinced me that I really, really don't want to do that again.

[Edited at 2012-02-23 23:05 GMT]


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Mario Chavez  Identity Verified
Local time: 01:27
English to Spanish
+ ...
A translation agency is a translation business Feb 23, 2012

Isabelle Brucher wrote:

I think the question is "Do you think having experience in translation is a must for running a translation AGENCY?". Otherwise the question does not really make sense. It it is the case, would it be possible to change the poll question? Otherwise answers will not be relevant.


Call me a hair splitter, but I disagree on the semantics here.

Most poll questions are biased in one way or another, anyway.

Paraphrasing Muriel Vasconcellos, experience in the translation process should be a requirement to start or head a translation business, be it an agency, a larger language company or some hybrid.

But first we have to agree on what a translation process is all about. Most people —including seasoned translators— think of the process as the outward tasks, such as typing or wordprocessing the text, preparing files, creating a glossary, doing research, proofreading, etc. That only scratches the surface.

When I talk of translation process I think of the brain processes going on that make translation possible. Now, that's a good topic for a poll or a discussion.


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xxxInterlangue
Angola
Local time: 07:27
English to French
+ ...
What keeps you... Feb 23, 2012

Mario Chavez wrote:

When I talk of translation process I think of the brain processes going on that make translation possible. Now, that's a good topic for a poll or a discussion.


... from suggesting the poll question?


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Williamson  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 06:27
Flemish to English
+ ...
No,the director has to be a manager. Feb 23, 2012

Carla Oddi wrote:

....is not writing a translation. The director has to know the sector, this is for sure, but he must have different skills.


The director has to be a manager, who is able to set his/her targets and have some knowledge of operations management (not in the sense of translation-management) to be able to calculate how much turnover much be achieved and by which processes. Big agencies don't work only with human translators. In a company, the CEO sets out the broad guidelines, his/her sorbordinates (purchasors, vendors, marketing people, finance people, translators) do the job.


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