Translation is a very competitive business. Globalisation and the internet has increased the demand for translation, but also facilitated outsourcing at the same time. Many translators I work with live in South America or South Asia, enjoying better living standards than in Europe or in the US.
For a project manager, this appears to be very handy for overnight projects – but, how do you coordinate your team building and team motivation activities if your freelancers are scattered over 4 different continents?
The first step I did as Le Loup’s manager was to create a company identity. I am not offering ordinary translation jobs: the documents we deal with are current and hot topics such as climate change, hunger in Africa, wars in the Middle East, and so forth / on. By translating these types of texts, translators get direct information from the field about what is happening in Haiti, Burundi, Syria, Nepal, etc. And this becomes noticeable in their daily life, speaking with friends and family about the last natural hazard. I know Le Loup’s translators appreciate this and the fact that we are indirectly supporting projects focussed on the “common good” – projects that benefit people and the world around them. I often hear that they would rather cancel a better paid project to get the opportunity to work for Le Loup, because “it is more important”. And this allows for a good team atmosphere. I usually mention in the PO that the document is interesting (if it is) and that I believe it will be fun to translate (because it usually is).
The second and more difficult step is to create some respect for the proofreaders. Without face-to-face contact, the road is paved for misunderstandings. Translators can frequently take corrections very personally and reject the entire proofreading: a very unproductive outcome for the project manager, the company and the client. The best solution is, in my opinion, to track the important changes only, and to comment or suggest instead of crossing out. Stylistic changes don’t necessarily have to be shown to the translator; they are mostly a matter of taste and can be added in the final version. But the important errors must be underlined and sent back to the translator in order to create an environment in which they can still learn and develop. By suggesting a better option in a comment, or (even better) by asking for their thoughts on a suggested change, the translator will be much more inclined to accept the changes or to rephrase / correct by him/herself. And this will create a trusted and professional relation with the proofreader.
Last but not least, create a personable relationship with your translator. Asking about holiday destinations, hobbies, family and small talk is good. Taking the time to call them once in a while is better. Visiting them if you get the chance is best. Remember translators are usually alone in front of their computer; they will be happy to share and talk about their job.
Mael Le Ray
Founder and Manager
Le Loup Translations