Split projects
Thread poster: Heinrich Pesch

Heinrich Pesch  Identity Verified
Local time: 11:51
Member (2003)
Finnish to German
+ ...
Jan 23, 2011

I'm sure I'm posting again in a wrong forum but I couldn't find a better alternative.

How would you judge the following procedure:

A big agency gets a rush job of about a hundred thousand source words and needs to deliver after three days, end of week.
The PM sends out job offers to all translators she finds in her database that work in the required language pair, also to those who do not specialise in the required field (finances). I'm among them. The mail describes the job shortly (pdfs attached). "Please tell me how many words you can take and I'll send you the PO".

I looked at the source files and thought this would be an opportunity to test my ability to translate finance related material. Up to then I had never worked on a project split into more than two translators. I offered to take a few thousand words and at the same evening got the PO. But no other material. During the two working days I was on the job there was no co-ordination between us translators, even though my chunk of text started in the middle of one chapter and ended in the middle of the next chapter. I would guess at least a dozen translators shared in the work without any co-ordination.

Those of you who have been working on split projects could you please share your opinion on the above scenario. Is it normal to work isolated on large projects?



Soonthon LUPKITARO(Ph.D.)  Identity Verified
Local time: 15:51
Member (2004)
English to Thai
+ ...
Legal requirements? Jan 23, 2011

I did many split translation projects from a New York translation agency. The output were used at legal courts to meet with special requirements (e.g. documents must be in English to submit to the courts successfully). I understood that many translators did not synchronize the jobs at all. Time frame took priority and nothing was said about translation quality at all. My performance was only demanded many times a day.

Soonthon Lupkitaro


Emma Goldsmith  Identity Verified
Local time: 10:51
Member (2010)
Spanish to English
Enjoyable for a change Jan 23, 2011

I really enjoy taking part in split projects from time to time if they are well organised (and yours clearly wasn't).

If there is good coordination between the translators and willingness to cooperate on all sides you can learn a lot from the others. But the coordination is essential, either through chat (messenger etc.), emails, google live doc, or by sharing a TM in real time (such as XTM). I must admit that the last option wasn't a success when we tried it a week ago for a project, but that's where the future lies, I'm sure.

Of course, a reviewer is essential to ensure consistency.

The whole process can't be rushed (and unfortunately a short deadline is usually the reason for splitting the project to begin with) because it is more time-consuming for 2 or more people to agree on terminology than making those decisions yourself.
"I'm translating x as y, what do you reckon?" "I prefer z. Please check this link. Do you agree?". This all takes time.

I also try to look ahead to see what might crop up during the project and make some quick agreements about style before we all begin (US/UK spelling, names of associations, etc.)

In short, split projects are more time-consuming but enjoyable for a change.


Dassé Théodore, Ph.D  Identity Verified
Local time: 09:51
English to French
It happens Jan 23, 2011


It happens that one works on split projects without any cordination at all. In such cases, the agency knows how to harmonise everything before delivery of the translation to the client!

Of course in your case, cordination would have helped your improve on your translation. Did they at any time complain about the quality of your work?


Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Local time: 10:51
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
It can be done with the right tools Jan 23, 2011

In a split project like the one you describe, good organisation is key I think. If I was to arrange such a project, I would:
1. Use a translation system that allows working in a group with the same memory and drawing from the same central termbase online.

2. Choose a core team of expert translators/proofreaders people who can work for at least 5-6 hours establishing the main terminology and starting a memory that is good for concordance searches. Access to the memory would be allowed after this initial jumpstart. Only one or two of these expert translators will be allowed to add to the termbase, after careful consideration.

3. Arrange penalties depending on the ability of the translator: the lead translator will have a very little penalty, whereas people with less experience in the matter have a higher penalty. The idea is that the reused segments tend to be those from the more experienced people.

4. After the jumpstart stage, arrange things so that only proofread segments are reused in other people's work. Non-proofread segments will have a penalty, whereas proofread segments will have no penalty. Of course, proofreaders would need to be working on the files at the same time as the translators. Translators working off-line would need to synchronise their files at least once every two hours to deliver the new segments and receive the proofread ones.

5. Arrange one proofreader/checker person who will be checking the translations against the termbase, fixing incorrect terminology and also implementing project-wide edits along the line when needed.

There is software around that allows you to do these things quite well. For instance, in MemoQ Server you can do all this very easily indeed.

Any other arrangements sound like prone to disaster to me!


Heinrich Pesch  Identity Verified
Local time: 11:51
Member (2003)
Finnish to German
+ ...
Time zones Jan 23, 2011

I should have added that the PM was in quite a different time-zone from probably most of the translators, so this would represent another obstacle to coordination of work.


Local time: 10:51
English to Hungarian
+ ...
Botched job Jan 23, 2011

At the bare minimum, the PM should have set up a shared glossary in a Google Docs spreadsheet that everyone can view and edit concurrently, instantly getting all updates, plus they should have made some steps to ensure the exchange of translated material. Ideally, they should have provided the basic terminology, but even a blank glossary is very useful if the participants are professional enough and populate it as they go along.

Translators may not all work with the same CAT and some of them may not use a CAT at all, so formats can be an issue, but there is no excuse for failing to at least put translators in contact and set up some sort of simple glossary management system. Last time I was offered a similar job (very pressing deadline, multiple translators, no intention on the PM's part to do anything to help terminology coordination) I politely declined.
If I were to accept such a job and the material was technical, I would set up a Google Docs spreadsheet and send the link to the PM with the request to circulate it to all other translators involved, and send everyone an email list as well.


Simone Linke  Identity Verified
Local time: 10:51
Member (2009)
English to German
+ ...
Thanks, but no, thanks Jan 23, 2011

From my experience, such requests are a big red exclamation mark telling me to run from this agency as far as I can.

There are some really professional agencies that handle split projects quite well. If they ask me to join a split project, they usually tell me right away what "subprojects" (how many words) they have created, what kind of glossary/TM is available and that there will be a proofreader to ensure consistency amongst all translators. Such projects are really enjoyable.

However, when people approach me with "We have 100,000 words due in 3 days - how many words can you do?" this means
- the agency has accepted such a huge job without knowing whether its expert translators will be available at all
- the agency hasn't thought about how to split up the project
- the agency hasn't really planned any proofreading / quality assurance
- the agency doesn't care about quality (because requests are sent to all translators in the database)
- the final document may contain lots of non-expert translations that may (in the worst scenario) be attributed to me even though I had nothing to do with them.

These are all things that I don't consider professional and that I don't want to be involved with. Particularly the last item worries me, because I've once been shown a document that had been handled by several translators of different quality: some sections were fine, had been spell-checked, etc. But then, other sections were full of awkward translations, had spelling errors etc.
Can you guarantee that people later still remember which parts were yours? In the end, you might have to take the blame for the agency's poor management (e.g., if the client proof-reads the document and tells the agency it sucked, the agency might decide not to give you any more jobs, refuse payment, or whatever).

And also, from my experience, there's a strong correlation between "We have XXX words; how many can you take?" and "We can only pay $0.04 per word for this job..."

To me, there are enough reasons to say no to such job request.


Heinrich Pesch  Identity Verified
Local time: 11:51
Member (2003)
Finnish to German
+ ...
Thanks for your comments Jan 24, 2011

I share your concern about quality issues, but that's how this international agency works and prospers. My rate was quite adequate, they have paid punctually before.


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