Quality! A chat with Patricia, our Language Specialist

Patricia! Can you introduce yourself and tell our clients a little bit about your background?

Hi, there! I’m Patrícia, the main Language Specialist at TextTrans. I live in Porto Alegre, in the southernmost state of Brazil, and I work remotely. A fun fact about my story with the English language is that, when I was a kid, I did great in all subjects at school, except for English. So, my mother put me in a language school specifically to learn English.

I fell in love with the language right then and made my life decisions based on it. I went to Canada for an exchange program; at university, I enrolled in a language and translation course; and all my work experience involves English: from English teaching to translation.

During my undergrad studies, I mainly worked as an English teacher, but I also did an internship in a company focused on the translation of academic texts and translated some books for a prestigious publishing house in Brazil focused on technical books. I graduated in translation in 2013 and have worked in different translation companies since then.

I try to keep my eyes open to clients’ needs and expectations at all times. This made me want to research how executive functions and translation experience might relate to literal translation of collocations, and that was the topic of my master’s dissertation in Psycholinguistics in 2019. I am still researching the translation of colloquial speech for my PhD studies, but now my focus is on Corpus Linguistics.

Tell us about your role in TextTrans, what are your main responsibilities?

I have several ongoing responsibilities. One of them is creating and maintaining guides that aid translators and reviewers in their work. You can learn more about these guides here. I  also review, since this enables me to keep an eye on translators’ needs and clients’ expectations. Thanks to this I can contribute to the constant improvement of procedures and internal files. I try to be available daily to help our PMs with doubts, issues, feedback or anything that they might need that is related to language and translation. Another ongoing responsibility is evaluating translation tests of our candidates.

Some of my other responsibilities vary with time, based on the company needs. This year, most of my efforts went to creating a test specifically for candidates who want to be reviewers. I also evaluated the tests and then created and delivered a course to the candidates who were approved. Their feedback was great, and we are all positive this will make the review process smoother and more consistent. We already see a tendency for proactivity and interaction from the new reviewers, which is completely in line with TextTrans’ belief of being a people-centered company.

What do you think the biggest challenges are with regard to Language Quality in 2021? (and how does TextTrans approach them?)

To me, the biggest challenge today is balancing quality with price and time constraints. This has been true for the past few years, and I believe it will continue to be a challenge for quite some time. The search for new reviewers and their training is one of the ways we have been tackling this need. Translators and reviewers need our support to know what is expected of them and to learn procedures that will help them in achieving this.

Do you think client needs are changing, in what way?

For quite a few years now I have seen a raise in the expectation for ‘natural-sounding’ language in translation. Perhaps because machine translation has evolved and produces good enough results in terms of meaning in many cases, it seems the expectations for human translation have increased, especially in terms of style. Our industry is still trying to figure out a way to treat fluency more objectively, and I believe this discovery and definition process will continue for a long time, and that we will have to adjust continuously to new expectations and standards.

How has increased adoption of MT changed things, has it made things easier or more difficult?

It changed a lot of things. As I mentioned before, it took some years for MT to provide good enough results, but some are finally able to do it. However, there is not an ideal MT mechanism for all translation projects. It seems the industry is still learning MT is not going to solve all problems and speed up all translations, because the MT must be tailored to specific areas and text types to provide good results. And this tailoring requires time, money and expertise. My impression is that this isn’t considered by many of the industry players, who expect great results in little time. So, MT had the promise of speeding things up, but this is not always a reality.

TextTrans is an agency specialized in Portuguese, but how do you maintain high quality across a range of domains, some of which are extremely specific?

We make every effort to assign specific domains to specific translators. Knowing about the subject and being familiarized with specific clients is key to ensuring consistency, ongoing quality and smooth working conditions for linguists. We do not expect all linguists to excel in all domains, so we focus on matching them appropriately.

Do you think it helps that our PMs are native speakers of Portuguese?

I think it helps in several ways. One of them is because our PMs and linguists share the Brazilian culture. The remote work involves a lot of communication by email. In this context, “little” things turn out to be extremely important: the way to greet people, express difficulties, explain things… Each culture has their own way to express this. And being able to communicate with the PMs and linguists in a harmonious way is beneficial to all involved.

What about large and rush projects, how do we guarantee quality when under pressure or localization at scale?

Large projects usually do not come isolated. It is more likely for them to appear after we have seen an increase or consistently large projects from a client. For these clients, we prepare ourselves by having a team of linguists, with main translators and reviewers and also backup linguists. Communication is key, so the PMs are our secret weapon here. They let the linguists know of our expectations regarding the account, inform them about the account references, keep track of who read what and of linguists who consistently work for the account etc.

Are you seeing more requests for Transcreation or adaptation style projects, how are these approached differently?

What I notice is that the expectations for translation have changed. Some clients expect translations to be “free” from the source, adapted to the target culture. What I mean is that I have not noticed an increase in “transcreation projects” or in “adaptation projects” per se. However, some clients expect translation projects to include some adaptation. Perhaps the separation between translation, transcreation and adaptation will become less clear with time.

Tell us about some of the quality and training initiatives you are running?

As we are over 20 years old now, TextTrans now relies on over 100 translators, but not many reviewers collaborate with us. So, this year, our focus is on increasing our database of reviewers. We worked for several weeks in the creation of a test dedicated exclusively to candidates who want to review and have experience in this task. Our Resource Manager, Fabiana, advertised the position in Proz.com. It took us a few weeks to evaluate the tests. It also took us some time to develop a training for new and current reviewers. We were very happy to finally deliver the training in May. It was a five-day training, and the reviewers participated actively. It was a great opportunity to exchange information, solve doubts and have ideas for further developments.

If you were to give advice for any translator wanting to work with TextTrans, what would it be?

Be proactive. Since we work remotely, it is hard to find out what people need. For this reason, it is a pleasure working with translators who come to us when they have doubts, who share things that might be useful to colleagues, who are clear about their availability etc.

And for our clients, how can they make things easier, in terms of providing them with the results they would like?

It is incredible how clients can expect a range of different things. So I believe the tip to them would be “never assume anything”. While it may seem to them that an expectation is obvious, this is not always the case. We want to adjust to every client’s individual demands, but they must be clear about them so we can meet their needs. And this always works best when clients are clear from the start, because this avoids negative feedback and frustration.