Monthly Archives: February 2014

A Day in the life of a Project Manager

The great thing about working as a Project Manager for a small translation agency is that one never knows at the start of the day quite what challenges the day will bring! So much of our work relates to analysing the client’s varied and specific requirements for each particular task and selecting the most appropriate person to meet those requirements.

As I open the morning batch of e-mails, in pops a message from a regular client, a legal firm dealing with transport claims. The attached pdf file reveals the rough handwriting of a Russian lorry driver’s report. A quick phone call to our favoured Russian translator who is best able to deal with semi-legible scrawls, rouses him from his bed (he’s a man of nocturnal habits!) and after examining the text he asks if an improved source text can be obtained, as some words cannot be made out at all! After we’ve done a little work on enhancing the contrast, he promises to give it his best attention for delivery the following day. This eye-witness account may prove crucial to the case, and we know our translator will give an accurate rendering of the driver’s words. We are lucky this time that the reports are not in Kazakh or Tajik, which also use the Cyrillic alphabet, and so are not easily distinguished by the uninitiated!

The phone rings. A young woman needs a certified translation of her German birth certificate. The source document and the certified translation need to be presented to the American Embassy in London in just two days’ time. We arrange for the document to be translated, certified, and sent by Special Delivery in order to reach her in time.

In the meantime, a 6000 word financial report has been delivered by our Danish translator. This is part of a batch of jobs for translation into several languages, due back to the client by the end of the day. It will need careful checking to ensure that all facts and figures match the source text. We will go through it systematically, line by line, checking each figure, as well as doing a spelling and grammar check. We are expecting the Portuguese, French, German and Norwegian texts to come in during the course of the day, and each will be checked with the same meticulous attention to detail. If independent proofreading is required, we will liaise between the proof reader and the original translator over differing forms of words, but ultimately the original translator will have the final say on the wording which is adopted.

Another regular client contacts us with some updates to a product manual. The new text needs to be translated into 5 languages, Russian, Polish, Czech, Greek and Turkish, and it is best if it is done by translators who have worked on the text before. In fact they need to be users of Trados and have the relevant Translation Memory to match the new text to the old. Translators are contacted, deadlines established and Purchase Orders raised in double-quick time, so that within an hour we are able to report to the client that the project is underway.

An English translation of a Polish medical report is needed as part of a job application. It includes both numerous medical abbreviations and some semi-legible handwritten text. We have a strong pool of reliable Polish medical translators to call upon, but because they are often very busy, we may have to contact several people before finding someone who is available. After several e-mails and phone calls, a satisfactory deadline is achieved for the client.

Each of our translators has their own special strengths. An English translation of a Portuguese text comes in from one of our oldest translators. He is a real wordsmith, the master of the apposite phrase. He produces reliable and trusted translations of complex legal texts. Unfortunately his eyesight sometimes fails him when faced by arrays of figures, so we prefer to use him for continuous text, giving jobs which are dominated by figures to a younger translator with good formatting skills.

It’s 2.30 pm, and a client in Canada has started work for the day. He wants a Chinese translation of a medical text proofread for start of business tomorrow. The job will involve some four hours’ work. Working across different time-zones creates particular problems.  It’s a conundrum: most Chinese native speakers are based in China, where it is already 10 pm! We try our UK-based contacts, but they are all very busy and would need more time. As the clock ticks by, tension mounts. Can we find an appropriately qualified and available translator in the time we have? Fortunately one of our contacts in China is working late and picks up our message. With a medical degree and extensive medical translation experience he is ideal for the job. Grace works overtime to get the project in place.

A request for interpreters for a multilingual conference requires careful negotiation on times, prices and general requirements. Will interpreting be consecutive or ad hoc? Is there likely to be any equipment available? Additionally, access to the venue and travel arrangements need to be established. A full day’s session may require more than one interpreter per language to allow for breaks and ensure efficiency. To confirm the bookings, signed terms of agreement need to be acquired from each interpreter.

Out of the blue, and coming up to closing time, a request for a Mongolian translator comes in. This is not a language for which we experience frequent demand, but we willingly turn our minds to the task of finding a UK-based Mongolian speaker. Whilst it is generally preferable that translators should work into their own mother tongue, the difficulty with less common languages is that they are seldom studied by English native speakers, so translators are likely to be non-native speakers. Extra special attention has then to be paid to the quality of the English translation, and if necessary individual phrases are double-checked to ensure accuracy.

Before we shut down the computer for the evening, we make sure all outstanding projects have been safely delivered, any queries from the clients have been answered, and all Purchase Orders have been sent out to translators for the next round of jobs. What will tomorrow bring?

Written by: Sarah Wright

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