A Good Management in Translation, Why?

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By Joaquín Muñoz
If we want to know in which consists the translation industry, we must understand it needs to face the same conditions of any industry.  So its management just is other critical area, as terminology, translation software and others are, because of this situation both linguistic as well as non linguistic aspects must be considered.

First of all, we must define what is our translation project, without a right idea we can’t know what to do, and our management of this project won’t be correct.  A project should be real, not impossible to achieve.  Linguistic aspects don’t help us much because they are limited.  Basically, as the modern world is very active, the translator has no time or, at least, has not enough time, so every translation project must have “yes or yes” a beginning and an end (this means satisfied customers); the modern world also is specialised, what does the translation project needs a specified outcome, because otherwise it will not reach the desired target, therefore, the customer can look for another translator later; perhaps, the most important part of a translation project is the quality, a translator must know what is the level stated by the customer to have a right performance (a crucial aspect about the performance is the kind of translation that the customer asks for, that is, it is necessary to use the correct terminology as well as the correct style, this is a linguistic aspect depending on non linguistic ones -the translation can have a very high quality, but it isn’t accurate if the cultural aspects, the necessity of the customers, and others are not considered-), and, finally, the budget represents a simple, but critical part of the translation project, many times a translator must decide between quality or economic return because the customer doesn’t wish to pay for a good job, in this point, linguistic aspects become secondary because who defines the budget is the customer.

As mentioned above, translation is an industry facing the same condition of any ones what means a translator or a translation agency must know how manages a project.  A translator can be a wonderful linguistic professional, but the quality of the translation project can be deficient if he/she isn’t able to understand all non linguistic aspects.

One of the most important non linguistic aspect is the management. But is it? It’s a technique to understand the problems, needs and controlling the use of resources, cost, time, scope and quality.  From this definition, it’s easy to draw the conclusion a good translator manages not only linguistic aspects, but also non linguistic ones.

As any company, all the translators must use project management to achieve good results.  A translation agency -or even a translator- is an organization that needs to handle projects because it can lose the control over them, and then doesn’t satisfy its customers.  It’s a simple concept, but to define the project and agree with the customer the conditions of this is critical, and it isn’t understood sometimes -if this stage isn’t considered, a translator can work unnecessarily-.  Although a translator knows both the source language and the target language, perhaps he/she isn’t able to achieve a good management because a project must be planned to define its stages, beginning, and end; to assess resource needs also plays an aim role, that is, to consider, e.g., if additional translators are necessary, what is the correct software, and so forth.  The cost of the project must be estimated to know if the project is feasible because otherwise it can become a problem for the relationship between the translator and his/her customer; it’s necessary to have an alternative budget to make a proposal.  To face the challenge to complete a translation project, it’s necessary to design activities organising the work the project demands, that is, a good plan or schedule given by the management.  The resources are a topic in any project, without to import the kind of it or its size, then the allocation of these gets critical because it determines the what, how, when or where the resources are used; the right time to complete the project is crucial for the customer, so the translator must consider this factor to design the allocation, and subordinate linguistic aspects to non linguistic ones to complete the project at the right time if necessary.  Another critical topic are the risk and failure points, the translator must have an alternative plan, but this plan can damage the linguistic quality to achieve a text everybody is able to understand, e.g., perhaps one standard language might lose to their local variants.  Finally, a project can requires a good team, but this must be led and has a good communicate, so a translator also should be a leader, if the members of the team aren’t able to work together, the translation project can have problems as delay, low quality and others.

To sum up, we can see both linguistic aspects as well as non linguistic aspects play a crucial role in the translation management.  The main idea is the linguistic know-how isn’t enough to achieve a good performance because the translation industry becomes more and more complex, so it requires much more than knowledge, but a good management.
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