In a recent interview with Mimeo, Peter Argondizzo and Michael VanNorman of Argo Translation talk about what their firm does and offer insights on how to handle specific translation needs. Here is the full Q&A from our conversation:
Q: Is your firm able to handle educational content for the medical industry?
A: We definitely handle materials for all areas of the medical and medical device industries. We are very proud of our ISO 13485 registration. To earn this registration, your company must follow a very disciplined quality assurance process and document any instances where an error occurs.
The typical translation projects we handle for educational content are e-learning, informational handouts, and training materials. An example of the training materials would be a series of e-learning modules and handouts to help train sales reps on the proper use and applications for a new drug or device.
Q: You mentioned a few of the certifications that Argo has earned. Could you expand a bit more on what type of certifications I should be taking into account when looking into vendors?
A: A language services provider would typically at least carry the ISO 9001 registration. The ISO 9001 registration focuses on the manufacturing sector. The other two essential registrations would be the ISO 17100, which is specific to translation companies and their processes, and the ISO 13485 registration, which is specific to medical devices.
Having these registrations shows a commitment to a proper quality management system, which includes reporting of any errors, a robust continual improvement process, and the willingness to undergo an annual audit to prove the system is effective.
If you want to learn more about the company’s quality management system as it relates to translation, you can ask to review their quality assurance manual and their essential processes.
Q: My need would be for a translation of a Java-based app that is accessible via a web browser. So it’s not a website, per se, but it goes beyond that. What are my options for localized language translation? If it matters, this is the parts catalog for a heavy machinery manufacturer, so the translations would be for the graphical user interface (GUI) in general, which doesn’t change too much, and then for the individual parts descriptions.
A: This type of translation project is a perfect candidate for the use of a translation memory management system. When you do the initial build on an application, that feature set is probably the base version, and it won’t change much over time other than improvements and additions.
All of the translations from that first project will be committed to the translation memory database so that future updates will only focus on new strings. Any previously translated strings are discounted. The use of the translation memory database to leverage already translated strings will yield cost savings, shorter timelines for updates, and greater consistency across releases.
The other advantage is that the list of translated strings will help with the translation of any user documentation. Since all the strings are in the translation memory database when those strings are referenced, the translators will get the exact match from the database. Proper referencing of the software strings will help the users learn how to use your product quickly. One of the most annoying issues with documentation is when the software strings don’t match what is actually on screen!
Q: Since most translation companies pull from the same pool of linguists, is translation quality likely to vary much between translation companies? And what’s more important, the tools the company uses or the linguists and the quality of the linguists that they employ?
A: Translation agencies tend to dip from the same pool of linguists. We are built and powered by subcontracted translators, and there’s a reason for that because all of us handle projects that are very different. One day we might do something that relates to instructions for a cardiac stent; the next day, we might be doing an IEP plan for a school. Those translation projects require two very different skillsets.
In my opinion, consistency in the assignment of the subcontractors is essential and something that you won’t find across all agencies. Many agencies run their projects using something called crowdsourcing, where, in other words, they’re too lazy to use the same translator or don’t have a strong enough relationship with the same translator. So they toss the jobs out into the ether and say, “All right. Whoever raises their hand first gets the job.”
One of the things we do when we have new engagements is we’ll say, “Listen. Do you want to review a couple of samples so you can pick your favorite translator?” And then we stick to that translator. That becomes your lead linguist. The second person you choose becomes your editor, and that’s your team. Not all agencies do that. So I would say ask about consistency.
In other words, “If I’m happy with the translation, can you please use the same team?” And hopefully, it’s a truthful answer in response.
The tools are also important. You have to make sure your translation provider is using proper translation memory tools. That set of tools should also be used across all types of content in your organization.
The translation memory is a vital asset for your company. Every translation project should be fed into the translation memory database to maximize your potential for future discounts.
Q: Any advice or tips for finding a vendor for translating patient medical records from other languages into English?
A: HIPAA and data privacy are essential topics in any conversation with prospective translation vendors. So I would ask how the company stores their files, who has access, how they will exchange data, and how are users removed from the system upon termination.
I would also make sure they have some experience in handling patient medical records for other clients.
Q: I hear Trados is the Microsoft of the translation vendor industry, as in the most widely used platform. Is that accurate, and should we look for a company who uses a Trados tool?
A: Trados is one of the market leaders and oldest tools out there, but that shouldn’t be a requirement. The actual program they are using isn’t important. I would make sure the company is using translation memory technology, and I would make sure that you get assurances that the translation memory is your property and that the agency will export into a TMX file upon request.
There is a lot of parity across the software companies making translation memory tools. Some of the more prominent names are Trados, Wordbee, and memoQ. The reason you would need this assurance is so that, if you ever part ways with your translation provider, you would take that TMX export and provide it to your new provider. That will allow you to pick up where you left off in terms of leveraging previously translated materials.
Q: How would your process change to handle rush translations?
A: This will depend on the type of project and the risk associated with the project. If the project is small, there isn’t a significant change to the process. The project manager has to move priorities around to expedite the translation and work with the translator and editor to make sure the timeline is clear and acceptable. If the volume of the project is more than a typical translator can handle in the allotted time, the project manager has two choices – cut steps out of the process or add linguists.
Adding translators can add the risk of inconsistency and cutting steps out of the process can add the risk of an error.
The most important part of this discussion is honest communication between the project manager and the customer. Everyone needs to be on the same page about the level of risk that is acceptable for the project to meet the expedited timeline. Any good translation provider can help you mitigate the risks. Just make sure that you have an open discussion on the mitigation steps.
Q: Any tips for translation vendors for the aviation industry, specifically around training content?
A: A great deal of material for the aviation industry is in an XML file format called DITA. I would make sure your vendor has experience in XML and providing DITA compliant translation. I would suggest asking them to do a round trip test of a sample file to make sure they can adhere to proper XML translation.
If your training project is in a more typical e-learning or training file format like Articulate, Lectora, or Captivate, I would ask the company to review their process for e-learning projects. Those projects are complex and require voice talent, audio engineers, e-learning content implementation, etc. You will want to make sure the company has one this type of work and that they can handle your timeline. I would also insist that they do an in-context validation of the final e-learning modules.
Q: Can you share best practices for when you have frequent updates or even updates in the middle of a translation project?
A: That is a great follow-up question to the training materials question. Rework is the enemy of any good translation process and workflow. Translation memory technology makes updates easy to manage. Translation memory mitigates the cost, especially if you’re just building off of a previous release. But I would just warn against changes that happen midstream in a project.
The translation vendor can handle the changes without issue, but those changes could kill your budget. The translation provider will quote a specific number for the original budget, and then you have rework. Multiple changes equal the frequent starting and stopping of the entire translation team. These changes could swell your budget and the timeline. This situation is especially dangerous if you have a large number of languages in your project.
If your process requires multiple changes during production, I would say communicate often! If your translation provider knows changes are coming, they can make accommodations in the workflow to minimize the impact.