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The issue of whether to use an agency or individual contractors
for localising your documentation is usually decided on the basis
of the following factors:
1. How many languages are you intending to translate into?
You will have to spend a certain amount of time project managing
the translation no matter what route you go down. If you hire
individual contractors you will increase your project management
time substantially, as one of the major benefits of working with
an agency, who will deliver multiple languages, is that they take
over the project management on an individual language basis,
so that you only have to answer one set of queries, send one set
of materials, track deliverables and status from one source.
If you are translating into more than one language, use an agency.
You will also probably get a better price from an agency than from
a set of contractors.
2. What DTP package and platform do you use to build your doc. set?
If you are using FrameMaker or Interleaf, can you be sure that
you can source translators who are also DTP experts? And who
own their own copies of the software and know how to use it? How
complex is your doc.? Are their machine specifications high enough?
If you work on a Unix or Mac platform, can you dedicate personnel to
convert files to and from Windows?
If your doc is built using MsWord on a Windows platform, you can be
fairly confident that you can find individual contractors who know how
to use it, but make sure that they know how to format.
If you use any other platform or package, use an agency. Most of them
should be able to cope with any package - exception here being Interleaf,
there are many agencies who do not have Interleaf capability.
See also point 3 below for issues with file formats and Computer Aided
3. Do you require simultaneous shipment with Source language version?
Managing a simultaneous shipment of multiple language versions
with the Source language version can be absolute hell. Your translators
will start off working on draft documentation, and will have to cut and
paste their translations from the last rev. into the latest as soon as
newer drafts arrive. This can be a nightmare, as well as being extremely
In a project where multiple updates are expected during the life cycle,
it is really necessary to use a Computer Aided Translation (CAT) system.
These systems work, (this is a very brief description), on the basis
that the source language is read into a database segment by segment.
A segment can be a sentence, or just a phrase or word. As the translator
works, the translation of the segment that they create is added to the
generating a translation memory for that language. When the updated files
are received, the translations that are contained in the memory are leveraged
into the new source files.
There are many CAT systems on the market, and each one works in a
different way. Many of the translation memories which are produced by
one system can be used with another system. One common factor is
that they are all fairly expensive, and are of most use in an environment
where several translators are working simultaneously on the same project.
Another issue with CAT systems is that whilst most of them allow you
to create a TM (Translation Memory) from most DTP packages, some
of the environments in which the translators work can be a bit unfriendly.
Very few individual contractors will have access to a Computer Aided
Translation (CAT) systems or a Machine Translation (MT) system.
4. Will there be updates to the project, or is it a once-off?
If you are intending to produce updates to the documentation, you are
strongly advised to use a CAT system. Each translator has a different
style to the others, in the same way that each writer has a different style.
You can produce a style guide, but can you guarantee that the contractor
you hire to do the update will adhere to the style guide? Remember, too,
that the productivity of the same contractors being available for future
updates is fairly low.
If you are intending to translate future updates, use an agency that works
with a CAT or MT system.
5. Is there artwork and/or screendumps in the doc.?
Will the translators be expected to localise the artwork? Who will
take and place the screendumps if there are any in the doc.?
Translators are trained in the art of translating and localising, they
are generally people who are interested in language, and although
many of them become technically expert in other areas of documentation
building, you cannot expect that they are also expert in graphic
If there is artwork and/or screendumps in your documentation, you
will most likely be better off using an agency, most of whom have artwork
departments along with their DTP departments, who will be able to satisfy
There are many other factors involved in making this sort of decision,
I have tried to give you a brief overview. Another salient point is, however,
where do you find an agency who will meet all your requirements, and
how do you assess their capability? This is another topic altogether,
but if you would like me to give you some pointers on this, please feel
free to e-mail me. Also, if you would like any more information about
CAT systems and which one I like best, e-mail me, and I'll reveal all!!
Good luck with your endeavors!!
sarahc -at- indigo -dot- ie