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Structuring Collaborative Translation 2.0 - Less Delivery Time, Better Quality

Structuring Collaborative Translation 2.0 - Less Delivery Time, Better Quality



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Published by James O'Reilly

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Published by: James O'Reilly on Jul 24, 2008
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www.multilingual.com2008 Resource Directory & Index 2007
ranslation has traditionally been viewedas a craft. Today, as technical and busi-ness content increases logarithmically,language service providers are required toramp up their productivity and through-put without jeopardizing quality.
Common Sense Advisory contends that the challenges of global business require a systematic re-thinking of the transla-tion process. Think of the web plus real-time collaboration asthe avenue to higher throughput and consistent quality. Trans-lation as traditionally practiced will be replaced by technologyand process that allow a swarm of translators, editors and sup-porting cast to concurrently work on a translation.
Translation as it always has been
In the antediluvian days of Translation As We Knew and LovedIt, companies would translate, edit and then proofread (TEP). TEPis based on Gutenberg’s printing requirements, where the author submitted the manuscript, someone typeset it, and somebody elsereviewed the galley proofs as many times as necessary to makesure that no typos made their way to the final print run. Mosttranslation agencies still operate this way — it works, it pays thebills, and everyone knows what his or her role is.
Renato S. Beninatto & Donald A. DePalma
It does, however, have a few basic flaws that lead to deg-radations in quality, and we all know that quality is the major differentiator for most translators:
Knowledge imbalance.
People downstream in the productionchain usually have less information than people upstream. If the editor knows less than the translator, he or she is likely tointroduce errors instead of correcting them.
Lockstep rotation.
Each individual works on a task beforehanding it off to the next person in the process.
Process-driven fanaticism.
This approach creates highlycompliant processes with lots of documentable steps, but verylittle added value. Quality improvement methodologies such asSix Sigma teach us that adding steps to a process only increasesthe probability of adding errors.
Ex-post-facto error correction.
The TEP process finds errors atdiscrete checkpoints or at the end of the project. At that point inthe project, it may cost a lot of time or money to fix the problem.
The seeds of collaborative translation
Translation doesn’t have to work this way. Years ago sometranslation agencies began experimenting with a differentmodel to replace this Gutenberg-based, time-motion Taylorismprocess model of TEP. We call it “plan, coordinate, translate,and publish” (PCTP), although we are still looking for a moreeuphonious acronym. This model relied on a few keyprinciples for self-correction that worked on simpleNetware networks in the 1990s. These same simplepractices become supercharged on today’s broadband-distributed collaborative networks.In the collaborative translation model, projectsrevolve around communities that come together for each project: 1) The project manager sets up a project
 C  omm en t   
Renato S. Beninatto (left) is vice president of consulting, and Donald A. DePalma is the chief research officer of Common Sense Advisory.DePalma is also author of 
Business WithoutBorders: A Strategic Guide to Global Marketing.
2008 Resource Directory & Index 2007editor@multilingual.com
in the community, runs the original document against transla-tion memories (TMs), optionally uses machine translation (MT)to pre-translate the text; 2) uploads material to be translated; 3)checks vendor database for the best resources and invites themto join the project community: translators, consultants, clientreviewers, desktop publishing (DTP) workers; and 4) monitorsthe performance of the community to ensure that questionsare answered, files are available, and deadlines are met. Thebig differences are in how these communities interact as theytranslate jobs:Lots of translators work asynchronously. PCTP pioneersput 20 translators on a project for five days rather than fivetranslators for 20 days. They rely on each translator to proof and case-harden the others’ work.Non-translator subject-matter experts vet the translations.The PCTPers hire non-translator consultants with subject-matter expertise to answer terminology and conceptual questions upfront.By focusing on doing things right the first time, the PCTPinnovators eliminate the editing stage. Total quality is knowingwhat needs to be done, having the means to do it and thendoing it right the first time, every time.
Transitioning from TEPto collaborative translations
None of these points is new or revolutionary, and nothingrequires major investment. What is required is a change of mind-set, an acceptance that there are no dogmas and that anything canbe challenged for the sake of providing better service.Collaborative translation is a natural work method for the younger generation who is used to using instant messagingand online communities to do their homework. It is the currentgeneration of managers who needs to accept and promote thechange or it will be made obsolete by new competitors.
The people: optimizingclient-vendor relations and staff roles
In today’s TEP translation environment, companies adopt asequential process where — in its simplest form — the work passesfrom the client to the vendor, who in turn hands it to the transla-tor, who returns it to the vendor, who sends it to the editor, whoreturns it to the vendor, who delivers it to the client. In a collabo-ration-enabled environment these hand-offs become redundant astasks need not be completed to be transferred to the next agent.Now the client becomes part of the project community. Allquestions and issues are addressed in real-time by all the partiesinvolved in the process.The project manager facilitates. Instead of just shufflingfiles and acting as a single point of failure, the project manager becomes a facilitator — the person who builds the team, keepsit on task and brings into the community the resources requiredfor each phase of the project.The editor and reviewer disappear. These functions goaway. Real-time shared TMs, automated style guides, andsubject-matter experts coexist and contribute to final transla-tions in the first pass.
Enter the real-time subject-matter expert. This newaddition to the team serves as the expert, consultant, “answer-man” or project sage. His or her job is to answer questions ina timely manner so that translators don’t have to leave ques-tions for editors and reviewers at the end of the process. Theprofessionals who are willing to ask for directions and advicewhen it still matters might have a slight advantage here.The lead translator segues into other roles. Good planningand project coordination will have taken care of standardiza-tion and stylistic issues before the project starts, so there’s lessof a need for a person to unify the style after the fact.The function of vendor manager emerges with a vengeance.Instead of sourcing linguists based on their constant availabilityand low price (read that as “trusted translators”), companies needthe best professionals to populate their project communities — lin-guists who can translate right the first time, on time, and who cancontribute to the performance of the community. Vendor manag-ers will supercharge today’s simple databases of professionals withinformation about their performance, timeliness, compliance withstyle guides, and other critical metrics.Teams form and disband by project. Translation commu-nities will organize on a project-by-project basis instead of thetraditional language-based organization of projects.Today, there are communities like Aquarius, ProZ.com andTranslatorsCafé.com where translators can post their questions,but all of these are outside the control of the agency and the pro-cess. These loosely coupled associations demonstrate the power of broadening projects beyond single languages and projects.
Conventional WisdomHow Translation Will Happen
Traditional developmentteamsScrum — small cross-function teamssimilar to a rugby scrumClient > Vendor > Translator> Vendor > ClientClient > CommunityProject manager Community facilitatorEditor and reviewerProject consultant, answer-man,project sageLead translatorCommunity of translatorsLanguage communitiesProject communitiesIn-country reviewIn-country consultant Vendor qualification/trustedtranslatorsBad translators “voted off the islandby the community”Translators selected on the“sales” skills to the vendormanagerTranslators selected based on theirrelationship to the communityTable 1: People-related issues for collaborative translation.
Source: Common Sense Advisory, Inc.
Process: improving projectmanagement through communities
Thomas Edison said that genius is one percent inspirationand 99 percent perspiration. In the language business this meansthat brute force, silver bullets and superheroes account for the

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