Multi-Media Translation Projects
Screenshot Miplaya
Spanish Website
(click to enlarge)
Multimedia Project Management
The main objective was to coordinate a web translation project from a remote location. The list of participants included six translation students from the University of Las Palmas, three Scottish exchange students at the same school and two project coordinators from the Johannes Guttenberg University at the faculty in Germersheim. The goal was to translate various texts from a Spanish website into English. The six Spanish translation students were to translate the texts; the three Scottish students were to edit/proofread the texts; and the project coordinators were responsible for quality control and group direction. A facilitating interface, internet space, where all the files were uploaded to, was provided by the project initiator.

Screenshot Xdrive
Screenshot Xdrive
(click to enlarge)
Some Helpful Tools
For most group projects translation tools such as Trados are requested by the client and can be a wonderful tool to save time, to keep the terminology consistent, despite the fact that the end product is completed by several different language technicians, and can also save the translator from tedious repetitious work. In this particular project no such tool was incorporated. However, there were two tools that were used on this project, which are worth mentioning: the "Track Changes" ("Änderungen nachverfolgen" in the German version) function from MS Word, and Xdrive, an internet based business network.

The tracking function in Word is a valuable tool, which allows several people to work on and edit the same document, all the while keeping track of what changes were made and by whom. It also saves time since anyone who works with the edited document can accept or reject the changes that were made with a single click of the mouse.

Xdrive is an ingenious idea that gives all the participants in the group 24 hour access from anywhere in the world with internet access to a private network. This was a great idea, which facilitated the organisation and coordination of the project and also allowed the project coordinators to track the progress.

Screenshot Corrections
Screenshot of Corrections
(click to enlarge)
General Difficulties
The two coordinators were invited onto the project after the project was already initiated. It was therefore necessary for the project coordinators to gather information about the project, which was not covered in the brief introduction, i.e. deadlines, previous procedures, job descriptions of the participants, etc. It soon became clear that the responsibilities of the participants were not clearly defined. The clearest illustration is demonstrated by the role of the three proofreaders/editors. Their initial title, as given to them by the project initiator, was that of a proof-reader, although it was expected of them that they perform the role of an editor. The difference being that a proof-reader's responsibility is to correct errors in syntax, orthography and grammar, but an editor is responsible for text cohesion and coherence in semantics and content, and each title carries with it different liability. Clearly the three proof-readers were not certain of what their function was; usually they proof-read the texts, at times they edited a sentence or two, and in all cases they produced unacceptable work. In the end it was up to the two coordinators and the project initiator to re-edit and in some cases to retranslate the texts, which led to an imbalance of work.

The difference in language competency among the participants appeared to complicate the process. The six translators were unable to produce acceptable translations due to their deficiency in the target language. This created an, at times, unbridgeable gulf in the work chain.

Despite the modern communication methods of both e-mail and an internet interface, Xdrive, the communication was lacking. One coordinator suggested that each participant should send a carbon copy of each e-mail message to the other participants, who were indirectly involved, in addition to his original message to the recipient. However, only a few participants complied, while others did so occasionally or chose not to. In the cases where the participants complied, information was shared and solutions were often supplied by those participants who were not the direct recipient of the message. Where the information was not shared, it led to unnecessary, repetitive work; there were two cases, in which a text was independently translated by two different translators.

Some Useful Tips for Effective Group Work
Some of the conditions for successful group work are rather obvious: participants should be able to work in a team. They should be able to communicate problems, but also ask questions if necessary.

There are also conditions that might not come to mind immediately, although they seem very obvious: participants should have at least similar language skills. Otherwise the text as a whole might not turn out to be very fluent. A similar choice of words makes the translation look more like one unit. Similar knowledge of computer tools, background information and experience in team work help make the teamwork a lot easier.

Knowledge of translation tools is also a plus. That way participants can swap files a lot easier. A term base and translation memory can be created and updated frequently in order to keep everyone up to date. A style guide can help make the text look as if it had been translated by one single translator.

Screenshot 'Track Changes'
Screenshot "Track Changes"
(click to enlarge)
When is Group Work Advantageous
Group work is appropriate if a project is too large and the deadline too tight to be handled by one translator. Group work should only be chosen if translation tools, term base, translation memory and style guide are available to all of the translators involved. Furthermore, each of the translators should have internet access at least several times a day and on weekends as well as during the week. That way communication will be fluent and questions/concerns will be answered regularly. If necessary, all emails should be forwarded to each group member at all times.

When is it Better to Work Alone
It is certainly more effective to work alone if the volume can be handled by one single translator and if the other potential participants are not on the same level as far as language, writing skills, communication and equipment are concerned.

If you are someone who prefers to be in charge of everything, who makes his own decisions and doesn't like to communicate every detail to several people all the time, you probably shouldn't consider working in a team.

If the project needs to maintain a consistent style and terminology and it isn't possible to communicate information all the time, or it is difficult to keep an overview of the whole project while parts of it are being distributed to several translators, the text probably shouldn't be translated by a group of translators, but rather by one single translator.

While group work can be an effective way to reduce the project completion time and increase the quality of the product - and in many cases, when the work load is too high, it is simply unavoidable - it can also be very inefficient when certain conditions are not met. In this particular experience the main obstacle was a lack of language competency and sadly, in contrary to the objective of the project initiator, an apparent lack of real work awareness. It should have been clear to the proof-readers, native speakers of English, that their end product was unacceptable for any paying customer, or any readership for that matter. But they regarded their work as completed any how. That would seem to suggest that they did not have their actual client nor their readership in mind. Despite the project initiator's effort to simulate a genuine work scenario, even paying the student staff for their work, the students did not appear to develop an awareness of the needs of the client. Perhaps this was due to the fact that they were paid by the project initiator and not directly by the client, removing the actual role of the client and thus distorting the client-translator relationship.

Both project coordinators agree that they would not choose to be involved in another group project of similar nature. However, if the conditions are suitable for group work, if all the participants can fulfil their roles competently, and the allocation of responsibilities is clearly defined, then future group work can be even desirable.

Some Useful Links
Leo Online Dictionary
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