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The ‘traditional’ translation cycle

We have touched on what the process of translation looked like in the past. Even fifteen years ago, there was often no other option than to work with hard copies of documents, and re-type the finished translation. Apart from the inevitable Luddite fringe, there are few people within the industry who would recommend a return to those dark days.

More recently, in pace with the development of CAT software and the increasing prevalence of DTP, the translation cycle was reformulated. However, the basic workflow which emerged from this reformulation was still severely limited in terms of the efficiencies it made possible.

Prepare yourself.

The ‘traditional’ process involved up to five parties. The first was the person or team who produced the content. This would then be passed to the project co-ordinator, who would check it and hand it on to the design team. Once the layout had been completed, either the design team, the co-ordinator or the translator had to extract it ready for translation. This done, the translator(s) went to work, putting the document into the TM and then sending the first version of the translation to the co-ordinator, who passed it on to the reviewer. The reviewer’s corrections were then sent back to the translator to be incorporated. Next, the final version of the translation had to be reinserted into the original layout, with all the headaches this involves.

Throughout all this process, the text underwent a variable number of quality control checks, depending in part on which (if any) stages of the process were outsourced. Once all these had been done, and the co-ordinator was satisfied that both the translation and the design work were of a high enough standard, they would send it on to the manager who had to sign off on the project. We all know what this means – the manager in question, who had not been party to all the tiny, involved decisions and changes that went towards producing the finished document, would make a couple of small modifications which, more or often than not, meant going back to square one.

Head spinning? It should be.

This way of going about things is horribly complicated, stressful and open to human error, which then spreads like a ripple through the entire process. It is the classic model of modern inefficiency: a relatively straightforward task (producing a user manual, for instance) involves three or four people, each with highly specialised skills which none of the others possess or even really understand. What’s more, the complexity of it all gives rise to the need for another specialist, the project manager, whose art is more than anything else in holding all the different aspects of the project together.

In our next post we will look at the modern approach to translation, as espoused by QuickSilver. Watch this space.

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