High-volume translation projects. Working across time zones. Short turnaround times. These are all things that give many translation agencies nightmares.
But Asian Absolute regularly handles large-scale translation projects for companies in every industry. We’ve put a great deal of effort into working out what works and what doesn’t when it comes to large-scale translations.
If you have a high-volume translation project on your hands – whether as a translation company or a potential client of one – here’s everything you need to know about handling this kind of challenge:
How large is a high-volume translation project?
A very rough rule of thumb says that a skilled translator can translate 2000 words of text per day.
This might vary widely depending on the type of project. For example, highly technical content would likely take longer to translate. Content which needs to be re-imagined – transcreated – often will too.
But with higher volume projects, usual best practice is to assign a team of translators. Working together, a team may be able to handle:
- Up to 10 000 words per day or more
- Between 100 000 to 200 000 words per week
- Between 1 million and 2 million words per month
Where do high-volume projects come from?
Large-scale translation projects can appear for all kinds of reasons. Some are planned. Some, less so. For example, a large-scale project can come about through:
- Unexpected delays – caused by software bugs, advertising campaigns which failed to begin when planned or when communication lines between content creators and other departments have become strained.
- Unplanned variations at scale – companies which operate on a large scale often see unplanned variations simply because of the scope at which they operate.
- Seasonal changes or planned releases – being fairly predictable, are easier to plan for.
Tips for handling high-volume translations
When faced with a high-volume project requires translating, we’ve found that it’s best to:
1) Make a plan
Any given high-volume project has its own list of potential problems and pitfalls associated with it. Some will be the same for every project. You will always need to know how to put together a team quickly and have the right workflows in place, for instance.
But each project should be assessed for its unique possible risks too. Then contingency planning can begin, allowing you to anticipate those pitfalls and what will be done in the case they arise.
2) Use the right tools
Most translators these days use Computer-Assisted Translation (CAT) tools to speed up the translation process.
Some will use Content Management Systems (CMS) – or even Component Content Management Systems (CCMS), which break a given text down into even shorter, highly manageable sections for swifter translation.
These tools allow teams of translators to work together more easily and allow project managers to oversee the entire project usually from a central place no matter the size. They are particularly useful for modular content such as web pages.
3) Make sure you assign enough resources
In an ideal world, you would only want a single translator working on a single project. But with high-volume translation projects, this isn’t usually possible.
You will still want to select translators with highly relevant experience. For example, at Asian Absolute, we only ever assign linguists with Masters degree-level qualifications and/ or five or more years of experience in the same industry or field as the project. They also need to be native speakers of the target language, of course.
But, for a larger project, you will also need to have the ability to increase the size of your team at short notice. Asian Absolute accomplishes this by having a global network of talent to call on. We know which linguists we’ve worked with successfully for given industries, project types and language pairs before.
Having pre-vetted expertise like this dramatically shortens the timeframe required to locate and onboard the relevant team.
4) Balance the workload
It might be tempting to prioritise one translator’s work as much as you can. But – as long as you have proper communications and a thorough review process (more on these in a moment) in place – you’re actually often better off balancing the workload of a high-volume project between linguists when multiple translators are involved.
5) Complete pre-project work before you start
It may sound like an obvious point, but it’s surprising how many projects we hear about which began without having the proper resources in place.
Here, we’re talking about translators having to begin work without having access to any glossaries of terms, Translation Memories and other reference materials. That is to say, the very things which any translator needs to create a truly accurate translation.
Especially with large-scale projects, any need to re-translate sections of a project which were worked on without full access to necessary resources is a huge time sink. Always make sure you assemble all of the necessary resources before a project starts.
You will also need to handle file preparation to ready the project to be worked on by multiple translators. Again, this needs all to be set up so your translation team can hit the ground running.
6) Consider the option of Machine Translation
Depending on the type of project you have on your hands, Machine Translation (MT) might be a viable option.
Asian Absolute specialises in training MT engines for specific purposes. It requires a great deal of properly “cleaned” bilingual data (which has been checked by a professional translator for quality and is from the same domain as the project) to train an engine.
But for projects which have high turnover and include content with short lifespans – things like customer reviews, for example – Machine Translation can solve most of the issues involved in high-volume translation projects in one fell swoop.
How to ensure consistency in high-volume translations
Perhaps the greatest challenge in any large-scale translation project is ensuring consistency throughout.
Because translation is a science. But it’s also something of an art. This means that one translator may translate even a relatively simple sentence differently to another. When a whole team of translators are working on a project, this can result in differences in style which need to be polished back into cohesion before the project is ready for publication.
There are several important steps you need to take if you want to ensure your final project is going to be delivered at the highest quality levels. We have found these to be:
1) Ensure clear communication
Clarity of communication is vital in any translation project. But it’s absolutely critical in high-volume ones. You need to guarantee clear communication:
- Between translators working on a project – most modern CAT tools include things like shared workspaces, live chat channels and other methods for allowing translators to keep in touch with one another. If not, using a comms platform such as Microsoft Teams or Slack is going to be necessary in order to allow linguists to discuss translations and terminology amongst themselves and for decisions to be made regarding them.
- Between translators, project managers and client – it’s a good idea to build in an understanding of good communication practices right from the very start. For us, this means ensuring our client understands the need to be available to discuss things like the way critical terminology or branded terms have been translated. The results of these conversations then need to be transmitted to the entire translation team.
- On the subject of time frames – we are always upfront with our clients about what can and cannot be achieved in certain time frames. Although we use our global network to work on projects 24/7 until they are completed, the existence of rough and ready tools like Google Translate has given some non-industry experts a slightly warped idea of the translation process. Clarity on this subject is always important. Firstly, so that your client knows what to expect. Secondly, so that you don’t overload your translation team by agreeing to impossible deadlines.
2) Request reference materials
Part of your pre-project set-up will always include the gathering and organisation of reference materials ready for your team to use. If your client doesn’t know to automatically provide them, it’s a good idea to ask for reference materials such as:
- Translation Memories or glossaries they have had produced for other projects
- Other text they’ve had translated
- Resources relevant to the specific project
- Anything which provides context about the project
- Information about project goals and desired outcomes
3) Create a glossary of terms
Armed with those reference materials and a few more things besides, you will need to create a project-specific glossary of terms.
It’s smart practice to assign a content manager to be responsible for creating a given glossary. It’s their job to build and maintain this as a complete point of reference for everyone involved in the project. Your content manager will create a glossary based on materials such as:
- The reference materials given to you by your client
- Glossaries you have created for this client previously
- Your own pre-existing terminology databases for specific industries
- Any conversations you have had with your client regarding accepted translations
Ideally, you will want your client to be given the chance to review your glossary of terms before it is used on their project. Once it has been approved, it can then be distributed amongst your translation team by your content manager.
This glossary will be added to as your translation team works on your project and as they use the clear lines of communication you have established to discuss options with your client, usually via your project managers.
4) Don’t forget the formatting
Formatting checks are some of the most important to be carried out on a completed translation. Especially if that translation is of a larger than average size.
If the text is a single lengthy document, consider that some amount of time may be necessary to “reassemble” the sections which may have been split between different translators. Your CMS or CCMS should aid you in doing this. The time required to reassemble multi-document projects is likely to be much longer unless you are using the right tools.
Final formatting checks include things like correct page numbering and accurate listing of those numbers on content pages, glossaries and the like. This is usually the job of the proofreader.
5) Always leave time for extensive editing and proofreading
The more linguists who are involved in a project, the more important the roles of Quality Assurance experts become in ensuring that consistency is maintained throughout the project – and often with other projects too.
The roles of the editor and proofreader assigned to any translation project, no matter the size, are different from each other. And here it’s important to point out that a single one of each specialist is preferable even on large-scale projects if you want to maximise consistency.
i) The role of the editor
An editor will review the project looking for things like:
- Language errors
- Inconsistencies in language or the way it is used
It’s their goal to increase the overall quality of the translation, make it more precise, less ambiguous and improve the flow and readability of the text.
ii) The role of the proofreader
After the editor has done their work, the proofreader will come in to check for things like:
- Typos and grammar errors
- Correct localisation (e.g. Castilian Spanish versus Argentinian Spanish)
- Fidelity of final translation with the project brief
ii) Final comments
At Asian Absolute, we also like to give – even on larger projects – the linguists involved a chance to offer comments on the thinking behind certain translated terms or the project as a whole before the translated text passes to the final review stage.
Again, this is a part of maintaining open communications between all of the experts involved in a project.
Getting the most from your own high-volume translation project
If the high-volume translation project you need to deal with is your own, there are a few things you can do to ensure your Language Service Provider (LSP) gives you the kind of results you’re looking for:
- Choose an LSP with the right specialism – for example, Asian Absolute only ever assigns linguists who have qualifications and/ or experience in your particular field.
- Provide previous translations and glossaries – if you have any materials created by other translation agencies, handing them over to your new LSP is a good way to encourage consistency.
- Get in touch as soon as possible – even if you aren’t sure exactly when a project is going to go ahead, it’s a good idea to get in touch with your chosen LSP as soon as possible. We can then start to assemble the ideal team of linguists and begin to lay other groundwork for your project.
- Understand the translation process – be aware that high-quality translation can take time even with a globe-spanning network at your disposal. If you need to know more about how translation works, just ask. If they’re anything like us, your LSP will be glad to help.
Still need to know more about high-volume translation from the client-side?
Let’s talk. Asian Absolute has already completed large-scale translation projects for businesses in every industry – publishing, manufacturing, law, journalism…
Get a free, no-obligation quote on your project or simply ask a few questions about how it would work any time you need to.