ROAR – Speedbumps
Episode: Issues at the End of the Chain
SALIM: Welcome! And thank you for listening to ROAR: Speedbumps. I’m Salim. I’m currently a graduate student at Middlebury Institute of international Studies at Monterey. I study localization and translation project management. I also work remotely as a part time localization coordinator. Between school and work, I’m basically employed full time.
If you are unfamiliar with ROAR, we are a student led podcast designed to address “speedbumps” or challenges that exist in the localization industry. We speak with industry students, professionals, and educators to learn about these speedbumps and discuss possible solutions.
Today we have with us Chiyo Mori. Chiyo is an interpretation professor in the Japanese translation and Interpretation program at the Middlebury Institute and is an active freelance linguist.
CHIYO: Hi, I’m Chiyo.
SALIM: Thank you so much for agreeing to be interviewed today. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
CHIYO: Ok, so I’m a visiting professor at MIIS in Monterey. And I teach interpretation classes, but I also work as a professional interpreter and translator. I’ve been working as a professional linguist for over 10 years now.
SALIM: That’s really impressive. How did you start off as a translator?
CHIYO: I went to study English after I finished by college degree in Japan because I thought acquiring English is a really essential skill in any field. Then I went on to study at different graduate schools to master English language. And then I wanted to use both of my languages, Japanese and English, as a professional. So being a professional interpreter/translator is sort of a perfect solution for that.
SALIM: Also, you have a degree from MIIS.
CHIYO: Yes, yes. In have a Masters degree in Conference Interpretation.
SALIM: Other than your interpretation work, you translate freelance. You get work from localization companies. Do you specialize in something specific? How do you market yourself there?
CHIYO: I do mostly Science related, Science or Engineering related because I have a BA in science. IT, engineering, space engineering, automobile engineering. Those are my strong fields.
SALIM: Ok that’s super cool. That’s a lot of specialized language most people don’t get to use.
Alright, well, thank you for sharing. Now I wanted to ask about speedbumps or challenges you’ve seen in the localization industry. Since you are a freelance linguist and not a project manager, you’re basically at the end of the chain. You’re sort of a victim of any of the problems that may occur higher up in the chain. On your end what are some speedbumps that you’ve experienced?
CHIYO: There are several levels or layers of issues or speedbumps that we might experience. The really basic one is when you receive a request, they don’t specify anything about the text or the file type to deliver the final product. Or sometimes they don’t specify the deadline, the font type, the font size, any of that. The first obstacle we have to overcome is to understand what they want us to do.
After that, we start looking at the original text. Sometimes they give you really detailed instructions in the text itself. So you have to go through the text before you can actually use any CAT tools to start translation. For example, I recently received a long Power Point document which had specific instructions on each page and extra text boxes. You don’t want to translate those text boxes so you have to either delete that and upload the file or you have to just upload everything and compare what you see in the CAT tool segments with the original Power Point document so that’s kind of time consuming.
I think the problem is that the people who require those translation jobs, they don’t really know how to give you instructions. They think they need to tell you every little thing. What to translate and what not to translate. That probably can be solved by… I don’t know, I don’t want to say educate the client, but I guess that’s the term.
SALIM: (laughs) That is the term! That is a very important skill we learn in our program but when we talk about it, we talk about educating the client company that’s outside the localization industry. Teaching them what a translation is. On your end it’s still applicable because the LSP is a client to you and sometimes you get bad LSPs or just a bad project manager. So you have both problems where maybe you get way too many instructions. Incomprehensible, no one’s going to read them. Or too few instructions, still incomprehensible, but you did read them and still don’t understand.
I think in my experience as a coordinator, I only know what works and what doesn’t when I get emails back asking questions or specifically saying what went wrong or what they didn’t understand. Have you tried doing that? Telling them “this doesn’t work.”
CHIYO: Yes, I have done that both for my translation and interpretation work. And It’s surprising that some LSPs don’t even know the difference between interpretation and translation so they would ask me to do some translation work on site on this day so I have to ask if it’s interpretation work or translation work. (laughs)
And also, when they don’t specify what they want at the end of day. So if they don’t specify file types or format or if they want just the translated document closely resembling the original document, I just replace language. But sometimes they want, after you’ve submitted that file, they say “Oh sorry, we actually wanted the bilingual file” or “we wanted both languages in the same column in this Excel file” so you have to go to the original Excel and then copy and paste everything you’ve translated into that to submit that file. So if they can specify what they want before we see it, that’s a faster way we can approach that.
SALIM: do you read instructions as soon as you receive a job, or do you wait until you start?
CHIYO: I read instructions to avoid wasting time. (laughs)
SALIM: So let’s say you sent them an email and asked them for clarification, but they haven’t replied and you’re supposed to submit this job by tonight. Do you just send back whatever you could do? I mean at that point they chose not to reply.
CHIYO: Right, I usually await until I know for sure what they want. And if they say “just give us the translation back,” I’ll usually give them the translated file in one language, but then they say “actually we wanted this format” so I actually have to do it again. Sometimes I’ll charge them for the time I have to work.
SALIM: Yeah, right. That’s extra time that you have to revisit this project.
CHIYO: Yeah, for sure.
SALIM: it’s interesting because in their mind, they just assume that they’ll get back a clean and easy one-to-one, source-to-target file for whatever you produce, but if they don’t specify, that’s not clear.
CHIYO: I think it’s important that the LSPs understand what their end clients really want and how they’re going to use the translated documents. Without knowing that, without having that sort of deep conversation with the end client, they can’t be a good middle person to explain what needs to be done with the translation to the linguist. I heard you do that with your clients.
SALIM: Asking for what is the purpose of this document?
CHIYO: And how are they plan to use it.
SALIM: Yes, who’s going to see it? Why are they going to see it? Does everything need to bet translated? That kind of thing. And when we look at that from a much bigger perspective, we actually can sort different files into different categories. Like, this one doesn’t need to be reviewed, this one doesn’t need a good translator, this one can be machine translated. Or on the other side of the spectrum, “this is really important, we need everything for this file, multiple eyes on this, plenty of time.”
But we will sacrifice quality when time is important. So what has been your experience when getting rush jobs?
CHIYO: *laughs* Yeah, sometimes they give you 10,000 words for one day. And although I have a team of really competent linguists that I can turn to for help, it’s still really demanding. I usually communicate to the agencies the same thing, that the quality suffers if there’s a really short period of time to finish that. I think it’s really important that the LSPs communicate that with the end client. If they’re ok then we’re ok.
SALIM: So do your clients, do they know that you outsource the work to other linguists?
CHIYO: No, they don’t. *laughs*
No, they don’t need to know. No on really needs to know. It’s just physically impossible or unreasonable to expect one person to finish 10,000 words. And oftentimes, if I ask if it’s ok to form my own team, they’ll say yes if they think it’s just way too much.
SALIM: Right, especially if they don’t know any better. It makes sense, it might just be easier to do whatever you need to do instead of educating them, especially on a rush job, they’re not open to being educated on the right procedure.
I was just thinking, I don’t know if my linguists for my company are doing the work themselves or if they’re splitting it between their colleagues.
CHIYO: Right, so I think as long as the end product has consistency and high quality and whoever you ask, the source linguist is aware of the quality issue, I think it doesn’t really matter. I don’t know if it’s that critical to have just one linguist do all the actual footwork.
SALIM: So long as it gets done and gets back in time, it’s probably all that client cares about.
So yeah, there’s lots of feedback issues here. Or maybe they’re feedback or maybe it’s education. But feedback would help, that would be a good solution.
CHIYO: Right, right. It’s for the interpretation agencies too. Sometimes they receive resources from the end client, but they took two days off, so they weren’t in the office to forward those documents to you. So every time we encounter something like that, I try to write feedback for the agencies.
SALIM: Alrighty, thank you Chiyo. Thank you for taking the time to talk about experience today. That’s all the time we have today. Thank you all for listening to our episode of speedbumps. Have a great day.
CHIYO: Bye, thank you.