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Importance of communication

The situation


One of translation agencies I work with on regular basis contacted me asking if I could undertaker an urgent project for their client. The client – large multinational company wanted to conduct telephone interviews with their Polish clients.

They concluded that there would be many similar sentences in their script and that using variables would save them a lot of work. To that end they asked a member of their staff to prepare this script with variables. Clearly this person spent a singinificant number of hours diligently working on this task.

The resulting script for their interviewers contained text and variables in a form of code meant to insert specific words and phrases depending on the context. For example, there could be sentences like this:


`Hello, this is [code] from [code]. We are conducting a survey on [code].`


The variables in brackets were supposed to be replaced by the appropriate words depending on the interviewer, the company, and the topic of the survey.


The problem

The client had hired an agency to translate their script from English to Polish. Unfortunately, as the project was very urgent, the agency did not obtain full information on the client’s goals and consequently wasn’t able to advise them that the variables in the code would cause grammatical errors in Polish. In Polish, the automatically inserted text must be used in proper grammatical form (gender, case, etc.) depending on the sentence structure. For example, the sentence above would have different endings for the words “company” and “topic” depending on whether they were masculine or feminine nouns.

The client was not happy with the translation they received from the agency. They noticed that the resulting script for interviewers contained grammatical mistakes and sounded unnatural and unprofessional.


The solution

I offered to review the final clean copy of the script and correct the grammatical problems.


Potential better solution

In slightly different circumstances and with better communication, the end client could save the work of the employee who prepared the script for translation and assign this person more productive task.  The objective of reducing the workload associated with translation and leveraging repeating or similar sentences could be achieved at the stage of translation, by means of applying a CAT (Computer Assisted Translation) tool like the SDL Studio. This software allows me to create a translation memory that leverages similar sentences and offers a significant discount on sentences that differ only slightly. This way, I could save them a lot of work and money while ensuring grammatical correctness and naturalness of the translation. Moreover, I could have created a short glossary for them in the form of a term base that could be used along with the CAT tool. This would help to ensure consistent and accurate terminology throughout the entire script. In fact, from the financial point of view, they would achieve a result just as good as the one intended with the work of their staff member, but the resulting text would be much better.

I delivered their revised script within their deadline and budget. I also explained to them why I made the changes I did and how they could avoid similar problems in the future.

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