How to Build Healthy, Long-Lasting Relationships with Project Managers – Part 2: Quality
By Alaina Brantner, MATI Board Member
As stated in the first installment of our series focusing on the translator/agency relationship, translators’ main goal is to deliver high quality texts that are accurate, error free, and stylistically consistent. But if your Project Managers are not able to read the target language of your translation, how do they check your work for quality? Read on for some tips on features of language deliverables that agencies look to as indicators of the overall quality of a text.
Focus on Packaging. If consumerism has taught us anything, it’s that packaging can be just as important as the product it contains. As freelancers, we must therefore be aware of the message we send through our product’s appearance.
- File names. As translation technology shifts toward more streamlined file passing, file names are often generated to tell technology what to do with that file. For this reason, make a habit of not changing file names. If you must alter file names, use a simple and consistent system. For example, you may simply add the ISO language code for your language to the end of the file name (e.g., “My File.doc” becomes “My File_ES.doc”).
Stylistics. Any guidelines provided by the agency/client should be considered a set of instructions that must be followed for the project. When reviewing your deliverables, PMs and internal review teams will ask themselves questions like: Were instructions followed for the treatment of proper nouns? Were acronyms treated correctly in the target? Make sure the answer to those questions is YES!
- If you are not provided with any guidelines on stylistics with your project package, make a list of questions about how certain textual features should be treated in the target during your initial review of the file. You may be able to answer many of these questions yourself, thereby creating your own guidelines on style that you can follow consistently throughout the translation. For any questions that you cannot answer yourself, ask the PM early on in the project life cycle. Early is the operative word here; don’t wait until moments before a deadline to ask if all measurements should be converted, which will cause concern about your ability to deliver on time. For any questions the PM cannot answer, she will ask the client, ensuring said client gets exactly what they want in their product, which will likely equal more future work for everyone!
- Want to really wow the PM/agency? Be even more proactive, and develop your own checklist of textual features that you often need further instruction on for your translation projects, and for each new client, go through this checklist and provide them with a style guide.
Glossaries. Even if PMs and in-house reviewers cannot read your target language, they have likely been trained to spot terminology inconsistencies within files. Do the section titles listed in the Table of Contents match the section titles used in the file? Is a particular tagline translated consistently throughout a translation? Using consistent language throughout a file demonstrates your attention to detail to an agency.
- If you are provided a client-approved glossary, follow the terminology within even if you think there’s a better translation. Client glossaries have likely gone through several stages of approvals to ensure that the terminology corresponds to their stylistic needs. However, if you strongly feel that the glossary contains an error, such as a typo, communicate this to your PM to improve the glossary moving forward.
- If you are not provided a glossary, take some time during your initial viewing of the file to jot down repetitious content from which to create your own glossary. Many CAT tools have easy-to-use glossary creation features. With memoQ and Wordfast, for example, you can import Excel glossaries. Even if you are not using a CAT tool, creating and following a glossary is still a good practice. And you can still manually check that glossary terms are followed in your final deliverable using the “Find” or “Find and Replace” features of Microsoft Office products such as Word.
Quality Technology. Most CAT programs have built-in quality check tools, including spell check. These tools can be used to generate alerts about potential issues within a file, such as mismatched numbers between source and target, glossary terms not being followed, and even extra spaces within a segment.
- Use QA programs and tools to check your translation before delivery. Really impress your PM by delivering a “clean” quality report along with your deliverable.
- Run a spell check before delivery. When you’re in a hurry to meet that rush deadline, it may be tempting to forego this step to save yourself some time. But the extra five minutes is worth the extra assurance that there are no spelling errors in your final deliverables.
- Proofread your files for objective errors like incorrect numbers or the misspelling of company and product names. These are the areas of a foreign language document that your PMs and clients can check, so if they find errors here, they’ll wonder how many errors there are that they can’t see.
Formatting. When translating in MS Word because you are working with a source PDF or because you don’t have CAT tools, basic formatting skills can go a long way toward demonstrating your commitment to the overall quality of a file.
- Beware of OCR! Do not OCR PDF files in lieu of manually creating the formatting structure. There are many programs out there to perform OCR (Optical Character Recognition) and recreate an MS Word copy of a file, a process by which text and formatting within a PDF file is made editable and then converted into MS Word format. While this may seem like a good solution for avoiding the time necessary to build the format structure of a file, translating in an OCRed file can cause problems with textual features like font types, kerning (the space between characters), incorrect character recognition, and line breaks that cannot be fixed/altered. OCR programs should ideally only be used to obtain estimates for word counts in PDF files.
- When recreating a file, use tables and other formatting features like adjustments to margins, rather than spaces and/or tabs/hard returns to replicate tables and textual flow. Using tabs and hard returns when replicating a table is problematic because if a PM or internal reviewer needs to change the font size of a document, for example, line breaks may shift, and she will need to manually adjust all tabs in order to re-match the line items to the formatting of the source. Use tables instead! And if you really want to produce a file that exceeds the agency’s expectations, take the time to adjust items like the borders and fill of the table cells to better match the source.
- When completing a translation in MS Word, turn on the “Show/Hide Paragraph Marks” button (the ¶ button on the “Home” tab). This will show you all of the normally hidden formatting features of a text, and allow you to clean up spacing before delivery to the client.
The take-away: consistency, following instructions and providing good-looking deliverables are key when striving to convey the overall quality of your translation product to those looking at your translated files—whether they are able to read your target language or not!
Alaina Brantner has worked as a Project Manager for two language services providers and is a Spanish to English translator. She holds an MA in translation from UWM and has served on MATI’s board since 2012.