I keep thinking about these two clients

mysterious woman with greasepaint on face
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The two similar customers

Both of them had intricate business applications, and they were looking to have these applications localized into multiple languages. They both opted for the same translation tool, which, by the way, provides fantastic support for translation queries. They both had having their translations reviewed and chose to work with a boutique agency. They both selected me as their Czech reviewer and paid me similar rates.

You’d naturally expect that they would end up with similar translation quality. But they didn’t.

Here’s how it all played out:

One of the clients put together a stable and exclusive team consisting of just me and one translator. We had the opportunity to exchange contacts and collaborate closely. They even granted me the authority to create a glossary (though they had the final say on terms, and we could discuss them). I could make fixes and ensure consistency across the entire application whenever needed. While the translation tool could suggest machine-generated translations, the translator had to consciously decide whether to incorporate any of it. The icing on the cake? I had unrestricted access to the application to check for context, and I could leave queries right in the translation tool next to the text in question. The agency made sure the client always replied and that reviewers for all languages are notified. Whenever the client provided feedback, I’d get an email notification with a link directly to the relevant section. Implementing replies to translators’ queries took no time. Plus, my confirmed strings were linked to my username, making me accountable for my work. This also made it easy for the client to distinguish between texts I had given the final nod to and earlier versions. Work assignments were consistent and arrived weekly, which meant I knew what to expect each week, even though the workload might vary.

Now, the other client had a different approach. They assigned short-term licenses for the translation tool along with translation tasks on an as-needed basis. I wasn’t aware of other individuals working on the same language. Each time, I received a link to a specific set of strings, strictly defining the scope of my task. These strings could come from various files and contexts. There wasn’t a project glossary maintained, which led to inconsistencies in key terminology. I tried my best to ensure consistency based on what seemed most common, but there was a risk that prevailing usage could change next time around.Making matters more complex, I couldn’t differentiate my work from others’, as the same username was used for multiple contributors as required. To make things even trickier, some strings were clearly machine-translated, resulting in a rather chaotic revision process. The translation tool also contained queries from translators, some dating back years but there were no responses. I’ve never got to see or test the final application product itself. Tasks would come in unexpectedly, always with the tightest possible turnaround, although the agency was willing to negotiate deadlines when necessary.
The other client assigned short-term licenses to the translation tool along with translation tasks as needed. I didn’t know other people who worked on my language variety. I always got a link to a specifically filtered set of strings, strictly setting the scope of my job. The strings may have come from different files (and contexts). No one kept any project glossary, so key terminology remained inconsistent. Though I was trying for consistency with what seemed prevailing usage, next time the prevailing usage could be different. I could not distinguish my previous work, as the same username was assigned to multiple people as needed. Some strings were clearly machine-pretranslated, so the bundle arriving for revision tended to be a mess. The tool contained queries from translators, some years old, with no attached responses. I have never seen or tested the final product – the application. Tasks arrived unexpected, always with the minimum turnaround time possible, though the agency was always prepared to negotiate the deadline when I needed.

Similar products, similar budgets

Can you guess whose product ended up with the better translation?

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