Updated: Oct 26, 2021
When I started working as a freelance translator, one of my biggest concerns was the fact that I would be managing and working on my translation projects on my own. In my previous job as an in-house translator, I was part of a multilingual team that helped each other in many ways: managing tight deadlines, sharing translation solutions, tools and tips and helping each other out with technical issues. Now, though, I was a one-woman team, or so I thought. After a few assignments with various agencies and direct clients, I was happy to realise that some agencies worked with translation teams.
Why create a translation team?
Let’s imagine that an agency or freelance translator has an important client that sends them high volumes of different content to be translated within a relatively short period of time. In digital marketing, this could be general website content, product descriptions, SEO texts, newsletters or social media. So, what does the agency do? Just split the work among different translators and… job done! Well, it’s not quite as simple as that, for many reasons such as consistency, terminology, tone of voice (TOV) and repetitions, to name just a few. Ideally, if it is a regular client, the agency/freelancer will invest in creating a team of reliable translators and editors in the field, who have been trained specifically for that account, and will assemble a series of resources to ensure the final work is cohesive.
The unification challenge
How can 20 people sound like just one voice? To tackle this humongous unification challenge, it is vital to create a range of resources, use specific tools and establish good communication channels. As we mentioned in a previous article, the client should have a clear idea of their tone of voice and style; so, in a perfect world, they would provide the translation team with a brand guide. With that in mind, the agency/freelancer and translation team can now start work on the following resources:
➼ Brief: This will be the project’s bible. It should include all the requirements, guidelines, approved examples, specifics about TOV and target audience, forbidden and preferred terminology etc.
➼ Style guide: The style guide focuses on specific language-related aspects, such as stylistic preferences, grammar rules and orthography. It might also include useful references to external resources.
➼ Glossary/Term base: This might be relatively small at the beginning of the project and keep growing as the team translates and incorporates recurrent terms in the term base or glossary.
➼ Translation memory: In recent years, it has become very common for translators to work cloud-based translation systems, such as Lokalise or Memsource, to help agencies deliver more consistent, accurate and unified translations to their clients. For translators and reviewers, it is easier to see previous translations, even by other translators, which helps them maintain the same style and terminology.
➼ Sharing tools: I’m a huge fan of Google Drive (as all my teammates at Launch in Translation can tell!) for helping the team share Excel or Word files and consequently have them at hand at all times.
➼ Holding regular meetings or webinars, giving feedback and having conversations and discussions in chat tools, such as Skype or Slack, will help ensure all members of the team are on the same page and encourage collaboration among them.
Who’s who in the team
Depending on the workload and frequency of requests, the agency or freelance professional might want to build a smaller or bigger team to make sure they have enough translators and reviewers when an assignment comes in, to avoid too many last-minute surprises!
The lead linguist/lead editor: The captain
They are the brave professional linguists who decide to organise collaborative projects or to take the lead of a project in an agency.
➼ Along with the project manager, they are responsible for writing and gathering the resources that will help the team deliver a unified, cohesive job.
➼ Communication and organisation skills are crucial for this role, as they will act as the intermediary between the PM or client and the rest of the team. They should also be very easy-going and approachable, as they will be the go-to person for the other members of the team for any style and terminology queries.
➼ I like to think of them as opening and closing the translation project circle, as they set all the bases for the project before the translation gets underway and then, with the final QA, make sure that the end translation meets all the relevant requirements and is good to go.
The editors/reviewers: The eagle eyes
These highly experienced linguists never miss a thing and have a well of knowledge you can benefit from.
➼ These experienced linguists know the brief and style guide by heart. They will scan the text to check that the translation meets the brief, nails the tone of voice, sounds natural and reads well. No typo, grammar mistake or illogical sentence will escape their eagle eyes.
➼ In the case of long-term projects, especially at the beginning, I find it is essential to provide the translators with constructive feedback. This optimises the workflow, because it means that the editors will not need to waste time rewriting, amending or changing, over and over again, the same mistakes and free them up to focus on other issues that might be less obvious, such as readability or tone of voice.
➼ They can help with linguistic queries regarding terminology or style, as they might be more experienced or specialised than the translators. This way, the lead linguist will have an army to rely on and everyone will feel that their questions are heard and handled.
The translators: the storytellers
They know how to go that little extra mile to make their content flow and wow, and keep their audience interested.
➼ They are creative, good researchers and have a sixth sense to convey all the nuances of the source text in their target language. They excel at combining all the linguistic and non-linguistic requirements in the brief, as well as all the details in the original text to create a final story that sounds natural to their intended audience.
➼ Their ability to apply the reviewer’s feedback will help their future translations and the general project workflow, too. I know that I have always been very grateful to receive any such corrections, comments and suggestions, especially for the first projects I worked on, as this has helped me grow as a translator.
The benefits of teamwork
With this kind of translation process, clients are guaranteed to receive better quality on a regular basis, as they can count on a team that knows what they’re talking about and that can deliver consistent translations. While agencies might need to invest more at the outset to create all the resources and train the team, in the long run, they will have an autopilot workflow with well-trained translators and editors. And for the linguists, too, collaboration has countless benefits: networking that might result in working together on future projects, constructive feedback from editors to translators and from lead editors to editors that will help them grow professionally and inspiration from each other to be more creative, accurate and flawless.
We’d love to hear about your experiences, be it as a freelancer or an in-house linguist! Do you prefer working as part of a team, or would you rather be a lone wolf with more independence in your work?