The Personalization of Translation

Imagine this situation: a diner arrives at a restaurant. Upon being seated, the waiter asks him what he wants to eat. To the waiter’s surprise, the diner looks at the menu and says: “I want the chicken with orange sauce and the arugula, tomato and brie salad, but instead of chicken I want it to be duck, also, please change the orange sauce to mustard sauce since I’m allergic to citrus. I want the tomatoes in the salad to be cherry tomatoes, and seedless, please. Oh, and if you can replace the brie cheese with avocado, that would be much better. I would also like to add a poached egg, but don’t make it too soft because it’s harder to eat it that way. Would it be possible to have this ready in 15 minutes? I have to get back to work soon.” The waiter writes everything down, despite the total reconfiguration of the menu. He will do his best to pass all these details on to the kitchen staff, but he is aware that it will be quite a challenge to prepare all of this in record time.

Translation projects have similar challenges, although they don’t occur so often in a typical day in the life as a Project Manager, who would be “the waiter” in this analogy. Whenever possible, projects are always carried out using a “CAT tool“, a translation tool that recognizes and analyzes the texts for the translation to be faster and more efficient, as well as with the help of a translation memory (TM), and terminological bases.

But in some cases, clients need to apply very specific changes—complete Excel tables in multiple languages, leave some untranslated terms, use reference materials and instructional guides—all of which involve manual work without the help of a translation tool, in order to be able to deliver a personalized project to suit the needs of the client. It is important to communicate every detail to the “kitchen” staff, that is, the translators, editors, designers, etc.

It’s these types of projects that test the problem-solving capability of the translation team, which can sometimes seem like a very complex mission, but at the same time make it so the job is never boring or routine.