Guest post: Counting volumes in translation projects Reply

Nancy Matis is the author of the book How to manage your translation projects, originally published in French and translated afterwards into English.

Nancy has been involved in the translation business for around 20 years, working as a translator, reviser, technical specialist, project manager and teacher, among other roles. She currently manages her own translation company based in Belgium and teaches Translation Project Management at three universities. She also ran seminars at numerous universities across Europe and was involved in some European projects, designing and evaluating training materials for future translators and project managers.

You can find more information on her website.


Nancy is a ProZ.com professional trainer and the author of this guest blog post

I recently added a section on counting volumes to my Translation Project Management courses. During the two-hour session, we review the countable production unit types that can be taken into consideration for linguistic tasks (characters, words, lines, pages) and for technical tasks (pages, illustrations, animations). We also discuss the challenge of estimating hours, especially for some specific production steps. I feel future professionals should master this subject so they can analyse their own projects properly and work on a good basis for budgeting and scheduling. Although counting volumes does not generally pose many issues, in some cases it can turn into a finicky task that needs to be examined carefully.

Highly common projects, such as documentation localisation, sometimes include technical tasks, for instance desktop publishing and illustration localisation. All the unit sub-types should be meticulously counted, since productivity is not usually the same when working with different programs. For example, quantify the number of slides to reformat in Microsoft PowerPoint on the one hand and the number of pages in the Adobe InDesign files on the other. As the production effort will probably vary between these two tasks, unit rates and metrics must be adapted to arrive at a correct budget and schedule. Besides this point, although some discussion might arise on whether to include blank pages in the count, most of the time, counting pages is not a big deal. As far as illustrations are concerned, the first step is to identify those that need to be changed, since some might not require any translation or adaptation. We divide images containing text into those whose text can be extracted or overwritten and non-editable illustrations, which are more time-consuming. Screenshots are counted separately as the task involved is not the same as illustration translation.

Technical tasks that cannot easily be associated with countable source units, like software testing and debugging, multilingual website creation, animation rebuilding, etc., might become problematic as time estimates vary based on many factors (source material, clients’ requirements, guidelines, context, resources involved, etc.). This can sometimes lead to endless discussions with clients or subcontractors as everyone tries to justify the number of hours or the budget arrived at. Unfortunately, no single process can calculate the volume of working hours needed for those specific tasks. While underestimating will result in profitability issues, overestimating might frighten clients away to seek proposals with lower costs and shorter timeframes. Only in-depth analyses, assistance from senior staff and experience can help paint a realistic picture. But it is hard to prevent misestimates on technical tasks. If you have established a trusted relationship with your clients, you can potentially make an approximation, talk openly about it with your requestors and propose to fine-tune the planned working time after performing a certain percentage of the task.

When it comes to text to be translated or revised, however you quote, at some stage, you need to check the volume you have to deal with. You might use this information to prepare your quote, plan the time you’ll need and even assess your profitability. Or you might have to share this data with your clients, employees and sub-contractors. Even though counting characters or words is fairly easy in most cases, in some projects, this task can become quite complex. If you receive the source text on paper or in a scanned format, some pre-processing might be needed to determine the volume. Rough estimates could sometimes be enough, for you or the other stakeholders, but in many cases, an accurate count is preferred. On some occasions, source programs don’t contain any statistical features displaying the number of words or characters to process. Some translation requests might also involve audio or video files, for which the amount of text is not easy to count. Some text files might contain content not to be translated or not directly accessible, like scanned sections or embedded documents. Finally, when using the analysis features in Translation Memory (TM) tools to count words or characters, you might face problems such as document corruptions, lack of support for specific file formats, or even content not well processed or tagged. All this could cause some confusion and make you lose time or money.

During the course on volumes, I also explain to my students that people using different tools or methods, or even working on other computers, can get inconsistent results. To exemplify the problem, I created a Microsoft PowerPoint presentation, adding lots of shapes, frames, effects and animations and used various methods to count the source words. I launched an analysis on my own machine with a TM tool and asked some colleagues to do the same, using other TM tools or the same as mine. One of them even used the same version as my own tool. The results were not surprisingly quite varied. The table below shows the figures we obtained, considering only final word counts:
TM tool 1: 537 words
TM tool 2: 473 words
TM tool 3, version 2011: 648 words
TM tool 3, version 2015: 619 words
TM tool 3, version 2014 – on machine 1: 648 words
– on machine 2: 621 words
MS PowerPoint statistics: 553 words
Manual word count: 524 words

Due to the variation in the tools’ word counts, I decided to count the words manually, slide by slide, since, in my opinion, a manual word count could represent reality better. It was rather intriguing to see that one tool, whatever the version, was far above my own word count (from 18.1% to 23.6% more). I also found it interesting that the results of the MS PowerPoint statistical feature were close to the manual figure. In fact, I remember cases in which the TM tool analysis was much higher than the statistics shown in the layout program, which caused some conflicts with clients referring to the MS Word feature.

When I tried to understand the reasons for these differences, I found that (not exhaustive):

  • The Master slide in my .PTT file contained 10 words to be translated which had been extracted 12 times by TM Tool 3.
  • The translatable content of 2 frames had not been extracted by TM tool 2.

We know that tools use different word counting schemes. Nonetheless, when faced with a client asking us to justify why we have quoted 648 words when they counted 553, explaining that this is due to the tools we have chosen to use is tricky. Especially if we previously convinced them that those tools increase productivity and reduce quotes ;-). Obviously, this mainly occurs for files with heavy formatting, but it could still prove annoying.

You could overcome this problem by removing volume details from your quote, quoting per hour or indicating a lump sum. Nevertheless, you should be aware of potential issues that might, at times, create uncomfortable situations or erroneous estimates. Similarly, when using TM tools, making sure that all the translatable content has been properly identified is critical. You can double-check the target file to make sure nothing has been missed, but it is by far preferable to spot this before launching the translation process. Some file preparation might consequently be needed and, in some cases, I even recommend comparing the source text appearing in the TM tool with the content displayed in the source format to make sure everything has been properly extracted. Last tip, if available, cross-check the statistics in the source program against the final word count displayed in the TM tool.

Regardless of our role in a project, counting or checking volumes is essential in our daily management tasks. If you are the only person responsible for this task, being considered reliable is preferable, so you should ensure your counts are fair and the methods used easy to clarify. Being aware of potential issues is equally important. If you receive count data from end clients or translation agencies, be cautious and double-check them all before starting any work. Not everyone is trying to fool you, but they might have left out some important aspects of the project, failed to spot some file corruptions or were simply distracted. Whatever your case, knowing how to estimate volumes for your own work and possible pitfalls should normally help you deliver as promised and, hopefully, remain profitable.


Interested in learning more from Nancy about translation project management? Check out her following upcoming sessions (available in French):

Guest podcast: Sharing the small world of interpreting through podcasts Reply

LangFM won this year's best interpreting-related podcast.

Alexander’s LangFM series won this year’s best interpreting-related podcast.

In keeping with our guest blog series from winners of this year’s ProZ.com community choice awards, it’s only fitting that we feature the recipient for best interpreting-related podcast with, well, a podcast. Alexander Drechsel, whose LangFM series won the award in this category, is a professional conference interpreter working for a large European institution. He regularly blogs about language, interpreting and technology, particularly Apple and Android tablets.

In this guest post, Alexander discusses the increasing popularity of podcasts among language professionals, and offers a few worthwhile podcast listening suggestions of his own.

Click on the play button below to to give this guest podcast a listen:

Direct link to podcast: https://blogproz.files.wordpress.com/2015/11/proz-podcast-1.mp3


alexander_drechselI hope you enjoyed this post, and many thanks to Alexander for sharing it with us!

Be sure to check out the LangFM podcast series to hear more from Alexander as he talks to fellow interpreters about their careers in languages, as well as their passions beyond the confines of the booth. You can also find Alexander on Twitter as @adrechsel, his personal account, and as @tabterp, where he shares all things related to using tablets for interpreting.

This is the third post in a series featuring recipients of this year’s ProZ.com community choice awards. See the previous posts in this series here:

Guest post: How to practice interpreting? Stop interpreting 4

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Andrew won the community choice award for best interpreting-related book.

Experienced interpreters and students alike may be able to learn some valuable tips in today’s guest post from ProZ.com community choice award winner Andrew Gillies. Andrew is a freelance conference interpreter and trainer working from French, German and Polish into English at the European Parliament, the European Patent Office, the European Space Agency, the European Commission, and for private clients. He has been training interpreters since 1999 in universities throughout Europe: at the University of Łódź, WLS Warsaw, UJ Cracow, UAM Poznan, FHK Cologne, ISIT Paris and EMCI Lisbon, and for the European Parliament in Brussels. He also trains interpreter trainers for AIIC.

Andrew has published a number of books and articles on conference interpreter training, the most notable of which being Conference Interpreting: A Student’s Practice Book, which won this year’s community choice award for best interpreting-related book. In this post, Andrew shares some interesting strategies for practicing interpreting by not interpreting.


In this short post I’d like to show why interpreting is not necessarily the best way to improve your interpreting and suggest a few ways of practising that are not interpreting.

andrew_gilliesIt’s natural enough to think that best way to improve your interpreting is to interpret. Student interpreters might think so for a number of reasons – 1) they’ve done very little of it so far; 2) they’re told repeatedly how important experience is in interpreting; 3) they want to interpret as much as possible because they like doing it. Professionals on the other hand may think that all the interpreting they are doing in the course of a working week is enough to bring continued improvement of itself.

However, interpreting is not the ONLY way to improve your interpreting. And indeed, when practise means only interpreting it’s not even the best way to improve any more.

“How expert one becomes at a skill has more to do with how one practices than with merely performing a skill a large number of times. An expert breaks down the skills that are required to be expert and focuses on improving those skill chunks during practice or day-to-day activities, often paired with immediate coaching feedback.” This quote is Wikipedia’s description of the work of psychologist K. Anders Ericsson – a pioneer in the field of deliberate practice. Ericsson is not specifically talking about interpreting, of course, but it still applies, based as it is on some sound empirical evidence.

So what does that mean? Well let’s take an everyday analogy: my Great-Uncle drove a car every day for 60 years – so he had plenty of experience – but he was a bad driver and never got any better at it because 1) he wasn’t trying to get better; 2) he didn’t practice the things he did less well, like changing gear, in isolation and 3) he certainly didn’t ask for any feedback on how he was driving! (He did give a lot of ‘feedback’ to other drivers, but that’s another story!)

So can interpreting be broken down into sub-skills and how can we address them individually? Well this is only a short post, so let’s stick to consecutive interpreting.

Daniel Gile identifies the following sub-skills for consecutive in his book Basic Concepts and Models for Interpreter and Translator Training: Listening, Analysing, Memorising, Taking notes, Coordinating between sub-skills in a first phase and then in a second phase, Speaking, Reading notes, Recalling information, Monitoring your production.

Any of these skills can be practised in isolation, without actually interpreting. You just need to find the right exercise. And the practice will impact positively on your future performance of the whole interpreting skill.

Let’s take ‘analysis’. Speeches are not uninterrupted streams of consciousness (despite what we sometimes might think!) The speaker will have created a speech with distinct sections separated by topic, chronology, line of argument etc. Identifying those sections is a useful part of the analysis sub-skill in consecutive (and also simultaneous). And it’s a skill that can be practised without interpreting. For example by only listening to a speech and indicating when you think the speaker has moved on to a different part of the speech. The classic exercise is to count the sections on your fingers¹, but you could equally note down one word per section². You can also work from the transcript of a speech³. (First ask someone to remove all the paragraph breaks from the transcript so the speech is just a block of text. Then read the speech and hit ‘return’ wherever you think it moves on to a new section). And for each of these exercises compare your version with a colleague or a teacher. After all, if you can’t identify these sections when only listening, or when reading a text, how will you recognize and communicate them when interpreting?

Another related exercise⁴ practises your understanding of how the parts of a speech fit together. Get a colleague to print out a short speech, or part of a speech (5-10 paragraphs). Ask the colleague to cut up the speech – so you have one paragraph on each piece of paper – and shuffle the bits of paper. Now your job is to read the different parts of the speech and put them back in the right order. You will notice – because the exercise forces you to notice – that certain elements of language and information exclude or impose a certain order of the sections. You will start recognize how a speaker signals a new section, or how two sections relate to one another, or how speeches self-reference. That in turn become very useful to you when you are interpreting and better understanding these things yourself will help you communicate them better to your listeners.

conference_interpretingProfessionals may feel that basic exercises like these are too simple for them. But it’s worth trying them out to check that is the case. If it is, then instead of isolating a sub-skill entirely they can focus on a sub-skill while interpreting⁵. For example, by setting a goal as a complement to the interpreting task. Something like, ‘today while interpreting I’m going to focus on clearly separating the sections of the speech for my listeners’. Then record and listen to yourself to see if you managed to do that. Focusing on a sub-skill in this way is also more effective than simply interpreting without any specific goal.

To conclude I’d like to make one more important point and again abuse the example of my (fictional) Great-Uncle to do so. As I said earlier, his driving didn’t improve because he wasn’t trying to improve it. Most student interpreters are trying to improve already, so part of the battle is won. My Great-Uncle though had another issue. He wasn’t trying to improve because he mistakenly thought he was doing it just-fine-thank-you-very-much. Interpreters can make the same mistake. Don’t be one of them! There’s always room for improvement, so keep practising, and thinking about how you practise, long after you graduate from interpreting school!

These exercises, and more, can be found in Andy Gillies’ book, Conference Interpreting – A Student’s Practice Book with the following references – 1 C31; 2 C103; 3 C39; 4 C40; 5 A5.


Many thanks to Andrew for sharing this post with us.

Interested in learning more tips on honing your interpreting skills? Be sure to check out Interpreter Training Resources, a website dedicated to this subject. Conference Interpreting: A Student’s Practice Book is also available for sale via Routledge and on Amazon.

This is the second post in a series featuring recipients of this year’s ProZ.com community choice awards. The first post in this series can be found here:

Guest post: Teaching translation project management 2

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Nancy’s e-book won this year’s award for best translation-related book.

As promised, I’m happy to present the first installment of our guest blog post series featuring recipients of this year’s ProZ.com community choice awards. First up is Nancy Matis, who won the award for best translation-related book for her e-book entitled How to manage your Translation Projects. The print version, available in French, can be purchased here.

Nancy has been involved in the translation industry for about 20 years, working as a translator, reviser, technical specialist, project manager and teacher, among other roles. She currently manages her own translation company based in Belgium and teaches translation project management at four universities. She has conducted seminars at numerous universities on this subject across Europe, and has also been involved in designing and evaluating training materials for future translators and project managers.

In this guest post, Nancy discusses some techniques she uses in teaching translation project management to her students, and explains why this is a useful skill for project managers and translators alike.


TPM_checklistTeaching Translation Project Management (TPM) is really thrilling. One of the aspects I most enjoy is that the majority of my students are highly interested in this topic. The challenge lies in the breadth of the subject and the wide variety of translation requests it encompasses. Every project is different, every company (whether an end client or a translation agency) has its own management methods, and every project participant has their own concerns depending on the role they play.

The way I approach TPM with MA students is to describe the theoretical life cycle of a translation project, and in-between, to add as many counter examples as I can. The goal is not to teach them just one way of managing their projects, but to open their minds to this vast area while pushing them to know how to adapt to any situation, as project managers or translators, and as employees or freelancers.

TPM is not only useful for future project managers. All participants in a translation project have to manage their own tasks. That’s why it’s essential to include concepts that apply to all of them and to target explanations at specific job profiles.

For instance, the subject that students find the most appealing in the main is pricing. I usually start by showing them several examples of price grids and explaining that, as project managers working in translation agencies, they will probably have to refer to grids to prepare new quotations. This gives me an opportunity to illustrate any rate variations based on source and target languages as well as the project domain (legal, medical, economics, etc.), style (technical, marketing, etc.) and category (documentation, software, multimedia, etc.), and the tasks involved (not only translation and revision, but also desktop publishing, illustration mock-up, testing, etc.) according to their level of
complexity. From there, we explore how translation companies establish their rates and how these future professionals can define their own and present them in a customised price grid. We talk about prices based on estimated costs and briefly introduce the notion of gross margin. Afterwards, we check in detail how to set up rates based on expected productivity. At this stage, we discuss profitability, which gives us the chance to think about what is and is not acceptable. Depending on how much time I have with the class, we can then go as far as drawing up tables with multiple productivity metrics, several expected hourly (or daily) fees and the resulting word rates. We can do this for translation alone, deciding whether to integrate the use of CAT tools (or even machine translation) or not, or we can include other linguistic steps in the calculation, such as revision and LQA (linguistic quality assurance). Sometimes, we repeat the process for some technical tasks, for example DTP (desktop publishing), focusing on rates for units such as pages and illustrations. We can also end the topic by discussing when we should apply extra charges and increase unit rates, or even debating whether the price reductions some clients require are legitimate.

The goals of this approach are multiple:

  • Make the students understand how rates are set up in translation companies.
  • Prepare them to fix rates as freelancers (even when subcontracting to others).
  • Enable them to decide if they can accept the rates imposed by some clients or translation agencies.

During the course, I teach most of the other TPM topics (project analysis, quotation, scheduling, launching, monitoring, closing, etc.) in the same way, i.e. from various perspectives to ensure I cover as many roles in as many project types as possible. I don’t generally limit myself to successful cases since, whenever possible, I share my experience of some project failures too so we can analyse how these situations could have been avoided. This helps students become aware of the importance of risk management. Examining a range of cases is certainly the most enriching side of teaching project management. As I work in parallel on new projects in my other day job, I can constantly update the examples and exercises I give my students. That’s why the Translation Project Management programme is constantly evolving.


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Nancy Matis, author of this guest post

Thanks for sharing this post with us, Nancy!

For those interested in learning more about this topic, be sure to check out Nancy’s website, which is dedicated to the subject of translation project management, at: http://www.translation-project-management.com/

The How to manage your Translation Projects e-book is also available for purchase in the ProZ.com books section: http://www.proz.com/books/91/How-to-manage-your-translation-projects

Stay tuned for upcoming guest blog posts featuring winners of the 2015 ProZ.com community choice awards. Feedback on this blog post and suggestions for future posts can be made below or tweeted to @ProZcom

And the winners are… 1

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The results are in! In case you missed the buzz on social media, I thought it would be a good idea to highlight the winners of the 2015 ProZ.com community choice awards here. This initiative is held by ProZ.com on an annual basis (2015 being the third year) in an effort to recognize and celebrate those language professionals who are active, outstanding, or otherwise influential in various media throughout the industry. Results are split into two categories: translation-related and interpreting-related. Nominations, voting, and winners are determined entirely by the ProZ.com community.

So who did the community choose as this year’s award recipients?

Translation-related winners:

A special congratulations to Marta Stelmaszak of WantWords who took home an incredible 7 awards this year, beating the record she set last year. Congrats, Marta!translation_tiles


Interpreting-related winners:

*Categories marked with an asterisk indicate tied results.

Aida González Del Álamo won the award for best interpreting-related blog for the third year in a row. Congratulations, Aida! I am also pleased to announce that 2015 marks the first year that sufficient votes were received to select winners in every interpreting-related category. interpreting_tiles


Congratulations again to all the winners, and a special thanks to everyone who nominated, voted, and spread the word to make the 2015 ProZ.com community choice awards the best year yet. Stay tuned for guest blog posts featuring some of this year’s winners…

I hope you enjoyed this post! Comments, feedback, and suggestions for future blog posts can be made in the comments section below or via Twitter @ProZcom. For more information about the ProZ.com community choice awards, see:

List of 2015 ProZ.com community choice awards winners »
Announcement of winners in the Translator Coop »
Past community choice awards winners »
ProZ.com community choice awards FAQ »

Look who’s talking about the ProZ.com community choice awards 4

Just a few days remain in the voting phase for this year’s installment of the ProZ.com community choice awards. Cast your ballots and help pick this year’s winners before voting ends on September 22nd here: http://www.proz.com/community-choice-awards/nominations. Nominees and winners are determined entirely by the ProZ.com community.

Now, as the purpose of the ProZ.com community choice awards is to celebrate those who are active and influential in different media throughout the industry, I thought it would be fitting to share some of the social media responses to these awards here.

Here’s a sample of what people have been saying about this year’s awards:

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Carol’s Adventures in Translation – a blog by Caroline Alberoni of Alberoni Translations – is in the running for “Best blog” among the translation-related finalists for this year’s awards. Congratulations and best of luck, Caroline!

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Laura Hargreaves has done a fantastic job of covering this year’s ProZ.com community choice awards both on her blog – LanguagesByLaura.com – as well as via Twitter @LanguagebyLaura. Thanks for the support, Laura!

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Translators Anonymous – an anonymous (and hilarious) translation blog – were the original winners of the “Best blog” community choice award. I had a lot of fun interviewing them on that win here: The ProZ.com community choice awards: Translators Anonymous. They are in the running this year as well for best blog, Facebook page/group, and the “other social media” category. Good luck, admins!

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The awards have been mentioned on a variety of different social media platforms, including this Pinterest pin by Chiara Bartolozzi of One Sec Translations. She also wrote a post about the event in her blog here: #ProZCCA: Community Choice Awards 2015 hosted by ProZ.com. Chiara is a nominee in a few different categories including best Twitter, blog post, and “other social media”. Thanks for the mentions and best of luck, Chiara!

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Erik Hansson – owner of the Things Translators Never Say Facebook group – has promoted the awards, as well as his group’s nomination in the best Facebook group/page category, throughout social media. Be sure to check Erik out via Twitter @erik_hansson. Good luck, Erik and the Things Translators Never Say group!

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Pieter Beens has been nominated in two award categories this year, including best article and best blog post. You can see both of these nominated posts on Pieter’s website, Vertaalt.nu. Congrats and good luck, Pieter!

Did I leave anyone out? Use the comments section below or tweet me @ProZcom with a link to your social media post on the 2015 ProZ.com community choice awards.

This year’s winners will be announced on International Translation Day, September 30th. Come celebrate the day with ProZ.com by attending our annual virtual event! And don’t forget to spread the word about the awards on social media using the hashtag #ProZCCA.

Questions, comments and feedback on this post are welcome. Happy translating!