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inforMATIon Blog

The MATI blog features articles pertaining to translation and interpretation. Subject matter includes issues pertaining to the field in the form of explorations into language, methodology and technology, book reviews, biographies, notes on presenters and meeting summaries. The views, opinions and statements expressed within each posting do not necessarily reflect the position of MATI as a whole.
  • 11/23/2016 4:59 PM | Thais Passos Fonseca (Administrator)

    Marian Greenfield on “Ramping up Your Freelance Business”

    By Thaís Passos, MATI Director

    In her presentation “Ramping up Your Freelance Business” at the 13th Annual MATI Conference, Marian Greenfield emphasized freelancers are business owners and must think like business owners.

    She talked about the importance of having a business plan to set earning goals, forecast required purchases, choose targeted specializations (or “verticals”), develop marketing strategies, set work hours, and, of course, to set prices.

    According to Marian, some differentiating factors that should help your potential clients decide to hire you instead of another translator/interpreter are: specialization in your language pairs and subject matter, keeping your language skills up-to-date by staying in close contact with all your languages, making use of top-notch research skills and resources, solving your clients’ problems by doing whatever it takes to get the job done well (including referring colleagues if you are not best qualified to do the job), using top-of-the-line hardware and software, and leveraging CAT tools to increase the quality of your translations.

    Greenfield reminded us to be more efficient by knowing our strengths and weaknesses and outsourcing tasks that others can do better, cheaper or faster than us, such as: accounting, bookkeeping, technology support, project management, sales, editing, formatting, and marketing.

    One of the highlights of the presentation was the importance of marketing effectively. Greenfield said that making use of virtual networking is crucial, but “having a face makes a huge difference”. Good examples of how to put our face out there are: networking in online communities, participating in professional associations, presenting seminars and webinars, attending trade shows, reaching out to chambers of commerce, having a good website, and volunteering in general.

    Greenfield’s final message was for us to focus on service and good client relations by maintaining a positive attitude and cultivating a healthy business atmosphere.


    Thaís Passos translates from English and Spanish into Brazilian Portuguese. She holds a Master of Arts in Latin American, Caribbean & Iberian Studies with a focus in Translation and a Master of Science in Agroecology, both from the University of Wisconsin. She also holds a Bachelor of Science in Veterinary Medicine from the Universidade Estadual Paulista in Brazil.

  • 11/23/2016 4:55 PM | Thais Passos Fonseca (Administrator)

    Anthony Perez, “Humanizing Machine Translation”

    By Abigail Wright


    Anthony Perez, Vice President of Global Sales at, gave a presentation at MATI 13 titled “Humanizing Machine Translation,” dedicated to clearing up misconceptions concerning Machine Translation (MT) and shedding light on how we human translators can make it work for us. Perez affirmed that while MT is here to stay, clients still want a human face, because “people buy from people.” While some translation jobs have been lost to MT, on the whole, demand for human translation has actually increased with the winds of rapid technological change.


    Perez dubbed 2016 the “Era of Mass Translation,” explaining that in any given minute, millions of posts appear online and billions of messages are sent across the globe. The majority of users of such top Internet properties such as Google, Microsoft, Facebook, and Yahoo! are international. Smartphone use in Asia has skyrocketed. This has all come together to create a global “on-demand economy.” In a world of Snapchat, GrubHub, and Uber, people want translations instantly—just like everything else.


    In accordance with this demand, Perez explained, MT has evolved from a rules-based approach that generated translations based only on word-to-word matches and naturally required heavy human correction to its present statistics-based model. Current MT works with phrases instead of words, taking its cue from bilingual glossaries, translation memories, and feedback from its users. The future of MT, however, lies in a deep-learning, neural model based on the human brain itself. This model, which is still in development, relies on a main engine which processes an entire sentence, paragraph, or document, while a subnetwork processes source sentences, keywords, grammar, and word meaning.


    The goal, of course, is to create the best possible raw MT output. Post-editors use their knowledge base for everything from correcting minor punctuation and capitalization errors to retranslating whole words and expressions. The Translation Automation User Society (TAUS) advises post-editors to use all the raw MT they can while aiming for a semantically correct text, never adding or omitting anything, editing offensive or inappropriate content, and leaving their clients with no stylistic worries. Human translation is still necessary, Perez acknowledged, particularly for advertising, legal texts, contracts, marketing materials, and human resources documents.


    Perez closed out his presentation with a Wizard of Oz analogy and several pieces of advice for human translators in the age of MT. We can choose, he explained, to be the Scarecrow, carrying on as usual; the Cowardly Lion, skeptically (and hopelessly) wishing for MT to die; or Dorothy, pursuing opportunities and learning from the journey. To help make Dorothys out of us, Perez advised the following courses of action: move fast, create new business models around MT, be open to learning new platforms, and give feedback on MT quality to language service providers to help improve MT engines. We should also invest in networking, find new ways to make money, and above all, laugh, because “life is short.”


    Abigail Wright is a freelance Spanish-to-English translator. She is a 2016 graduate of the Master of Arts in Translation and Interpreting program at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and recently started her own company, Wright Translations, LLC. She has been a MATI member since 2015.

  • 11/23/2016 4:53 PM | Thais Passos Fonseca (Administrator)

    Martin Mirza, “Contract Linguists Using Language Proficiency and Cultural Expertise in the FBI”

    By Abigail Wright


    Closing out the 13th Annual MATI Conference was Martin Mirza, Supervisory Foreign Language Program Coordinator at the FBI. Mirza gave an overview of the role of contract linguists in the FBI and the rigorous selection process to become one.


    The first major expansion in the FBI’s contract linguist hiring came at the end of the Cold War, when various countries that had conducted government business in Russian while part of the USSR promptly reverted to their own native languages, thus increasing the need for linguists in those languages. Since 9/11, the Bureau has seen a second revolution in language needs, and it now employs hundreds of linguists who work in the various dialects of Arabic and the various languages of Afghanistan, among others.


    Mirza explained that contract linguists work on a part-time, as-needed basis, with the possibility of eventually becoming full-time “language analysts.” Like FBI agents, their mission is to defend the USA. Language analysts work on the 6th floor of the FBI, which Mirza referred to as the “Tower of Babel,” characterized by the sounds of many different languages and the fragrances of various cuisines.


    Mirza enumerated the manifold duties of an FBI contract linguist: analyzing and translating audio, interpreting crucial suspect interviews, testifying as to the accuracy of information in investigations, monitoring live wiretaps, and providing agents with cultural knowledge based on their lived experience. Mirza regretted he could give no examples, but promised that, should any audience members join the FBI, they would be rewarded with many. He did relate one particular challenge contract linguists face, which is that FBI agents sometimes lack the cultural knowledge needed to even identify the language for which they require assistance. For example, Arabic linguists have been summoned to lend their expertise, only to discover that the language the subjects are speaking is actually Farsi.


    The requirements to be an FBI contract linguist are stringent. According to Mirza, they are lucky if three out of every 100 candidates they evaluate prove to be suitable. To serve in this position, one must be a US citizen, have lived in the US for three of the last five years (unless employed by the US government overseas), and be willing to undergo language proficiency testing and a background check. Immediate disqualifiers include a felony conviction, default on a government-backed student loan, drug test failure, drug use, low language proficiency, limited availability of work in the applicant’s language, and an unwillingness to travel and work a minimum of 30 hours a week.


    While contract linguists are assigned to one office, they may have to travel to another to assist there, particularly if their language or dialect is scarce in that region. Mirza gave the examples of Chicago, which has a greater number of Iraqi Arabic linguists, and Boston, which has more Lebanese Arabic linguists. They assist each other regularly.


    The application process is intense and costs the FBI approximately $50,000 per applicant. With at best only three successful applications out of every 100, Mirza joked, “Is it any wonder why we don't have money?” Further complicating matters, the process can take years, at the end of which, even if a candidate is offered work, he or she may not still be free to accept it. Mirza himself waited three years for hiring approval.


    Applicants who make it through the process and accept the offer receive six months of training, including a two-week class at Quantico and, if needed, further language instruction to improve the linguist’s Interagency Language Roundtable (ILR) conversation level. When dual citizens become FBI contract linguists–or join the FBI in any position–they are required to surrender their non-US passports to the FBI for the duration of their employment.


    Upon Mirza’s conclusion, the audience was immediately full of questions, and if the long line surrounding him at the post-conference reception was any indication, also full of aspirations. Perhaps, in the not too distant future, we may see familiar faces at the FBI table at ATA.


    Abigail Wright is a freelance Spanish-to-English translator. She is a 2016 graduate of the Master of Arts in Translation and Interpreting program at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and recently started her own company, Wright Translations, LLC. She has been a MATI member since 2015.


  • 11/23/2016 4:50 PM | Thais Passos Fonseca (Administrator)

    Dr. Enrica Ardemagni, “The Changing Interpreting Landscape in the United States”

    By Abigail Wright


    For the third session of the 13th Annual MATI Conference, we had the privilege of hearing from Dr. Enrica Ardemagni, interpreter, translator, and professor emeritus at Indiana University and Purdue University. Dr. Ardemagni is a founding member and past president of MATI, and current president of the National Council on Interpreters in Health Care (NCIHC). Dr. Ardemagni asked her audience to make scorecards and to assign ourselves points throughout her presentation, based on our awareness of information she would highlight. In a clear illustration of the need for such highlighting, the best score in the room was 16 points...out of a possible 30.


    Dr. Ardemagni described the former interpreting landscape as “dreary,” citing deficiencies in areas of consumer knowledge, education and training, industry standards, payment standards, and, in the case of less commonly spoken languages, employability. She asserted that there has, however, been more progress in these areas than is generally assumed.


    Historically, these problems have manifested themselves in the use of ad hoc interpreters, who often aren’t really interpreters at all, but a patient or client’s friends or family, or perhaps students whose training remains woefully incomplete. This is the result of, among other things, a lack of hiring criteria and poor performance measurement systems. If, for example, patient satisfaction surveys are the only measure, they can be misleading. A patient will certainly rate his or her Spanish-speaking brother highly, but that does not mean he is actually a good interpreter. This lack of standardization and accountability could lead, and has led, to disastrous consequences, from patient deaths to incorrect verdicts and inappropriate sentencing in court.


    However, as Dr. Ardemagni explained, there has been improvement, with both external regulation and internal professionalization bringing slow but certain change. External regulation has come in the form of legislation, beginning with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, to a 2004 mandate by the Department of Health and Human Services that requires patients of limited English proficiency to be notified of available interpreters, to 2010’s landmark Affordable Care Act.


    Within the profession, improvements have come in the form of codes of ethics, standards of practice, an increase in curricula and training programs, and the creation of numerous organizations: the American Translators Association (ATA), the National Association of Judiciary Interpreters and Translators (NAJIT), the aforementioned NCIHC, the Massachusetts Medical Interpreters Association and the International Medical Interpreters Association (MMIA and IMIA), the California Healthcare Interpreting Association (CHIA), the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID), the International Association of Conference Interpreters (AIIC), The American Association of Language Specialists (TAALS), the Certification Commission for Healthcare Interpreters (CCHI), the National Board of Certification for Medical Interpreters (NBCMI), Federal Court Interpreter Certification (FCIC), the National Center for State Courts (NCSC), National Interpreter Certification (NIC), the newly created Center for the Assessment of Sign Language Interpretation (CASLI), and the Court Interpreter Training Institute (CITI).


    For each of these organizations, Dr. Ardemagni provided first the abbreviation or acronym, then instructed audience members who knew the full name to assign themselves one point. Those who were members of the associations and/or certified by them earned an additional point for this. Naturally, with so much variation and specialization, no one was going to earn that additional point for all of them, but now, thanks to Dr. Ardemagni, individual audience members of greatly varying specialties and niches all have a better idea of where to go to receive their proper qualifications and find their community.


    Abigail Wright is a freelance Spanish-to-English translator. She is a 2016 graduate of the Master of Arts in Translation and Interpreting program at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and recently started her own company, Wright Translations, LLC. She has been a MATI member since 2015.

  • 11/23/2016 4:48 PM | Thais Passos Fonseca (Administrator)

    MATI 13th Annual Conference

    By Meghan McCallum, MATI Director


    MATI held its 13th Annual Conference on Saturday, September 10 at the University Center in Chicago. Translators, interpreters, students, and other language services professionals from across the Midwest gathered to enjoy a day full of continuing education and networking opportunities.


    After opening remarks from MATI President Elizabeth Colón, the first session of the day was “Ramping Up Your Freelance Business,” presented by Marian Greenfield, a freelance Spanish, Portuguese and French into English translator and past ATA President. This session provided helpful tips regarding marketing, networking, technology, and other aspects of running a freelance business.


    Next up was a technology session from Anthony Perez, Vice President of Global Sales at “Humanizing MT.” Perez highlighted technological progress in language services and discussed the role of machine translation in today’s world of ever-increasing online content.


    After a lunch break, translator, interpreter and past MATI President Enrica Ardemagni presented “The Changing Interpreting Landscape in the United States.” This session focused on recent improvements to the professionalization of interpreting in the face of past challenges.


    The conference then had a short interlude highlighting the world of literary translation. Special guest author José Castro Urioste gave a reading in Spanish from his novel ¿Y tú qué has hecho?, while Enrica Ardemagni read the corresponding sections in English from her translation of the novel, published as And What Have You Done?


    Concluding the lineup of presentations was Martin Mirza, Supervisory Foreign Language Program Coordinator at the Chicago FBI Field Office, with “Contract Linguists Using Language Proficiency and Cultural Expertise in the FBI.” Mirza discussed the importance of language services in the FBI and described contract and full-time employment opportunities within the FBI for language professionals.


    The conference provided a wide variety of educational opportunities for attendees. In between presentations, conference participants had opportunities to network and meet conference sponsors in the exhibitor area. Representatives from Atlas Language Services, Metaphrasis, CPG and were available to meet with attendees throughout the day.


    Conference closing remarks were given by MATI Vice President Joseph Wojowski, who thanked the presenters and sponsors and encouraged conference attendees to continue participating in the many networking and educational opportunities offered by MATI year-round. The popular networking and hors d’oeuvres hour followed, in which attendees, presenters, and exhibitors had the opportunity to socialize over light refreshments.


    MATI would like to thank all conference attendees, sponsors and presenters for being part of the 13th Annual Conference. We look forward to seeing you at additional professional and social events in 2017!



  • 11/23/2016 4:39 PM | Thais Passos Fonseca (Administrator)
    MATI Member Spotlight: María Conde-Barwise

    Language Pair(s): English<>Spanish


    Degree(s)/Certification(s): Master of Arts in Linguistics; Bsc. Computer Science; U.S. Certified Court Interpreter; Texas Master Licensed Court Interpreter; New Mexico and Indiana State Certified Court Interpreter; English into Spanish Certified Translator (The University of Texas at El Paso, UTEP); Minor in Translation (UTEP); Diplomado in Translation and Interpreting (University of Ciudad Juárez, México).


    How long have you been a MATI member? A bit over a year.

    Where do you live and/or work? I live in Indianapolis, IN. I work as a freelance interpreter & translator in Indianapolis for the Marion County Superior, Juvenile, and Small Claims Courts through a local interpreting agency. I also provide my interpreting services to some of the Indiana, Kentucky and Ohio U.S. Courts.


    How did you acquire your B language(s)? I slowly began acquiring English as a child living in Mexican cities bordering the U.S. Then, while in college, I learned how to read it and expanded my vocabulary as most of my computer science textbooks were only available in English. Finally, what helped me become more bilingual and bicultural was the fact that I lived, studied and worked on the U.S.-Mexico border for over 22 years.


    How long have you worked in your field? Almost 20 years.


    How did you get started in the field of translation and/or interpretation? I began in the field when I applied for a job as a software programmer/systems analyst and the position was no longer available. This was at a manufacturing plant in Ciudad Juárez, México. They told me to wait for a position to open, but they also asked me if I would be interested in helping translate several key production floor software tools in the meantime. I said yes, and I discovered I loved the job! That was back in 1995, and I realized I had found what I had always been looking for—my true calling. I forgot about trying to go back to computer science and programming jobs, etc. and dedicated all my efforts and energy to study and learn more about translation and interpreting. After that job ended, I would only apply to jobs/projects that had to do with translation and interpreting, holding several full-time/in-house translator and interpreting positions until I became a freelancer. 


    What is your favorite thing about working in this field? My favorite thing about working in the interpreting field, specifically in court interpreting, is the fact that I feel that I am serving two nations: the U.S. and Mexico. As a long-time resident on the U.S.-Mexico border, I have learned to love the two countries I feel I am a part of: Mexico and the United States. Also, that I equally get to serve both countries by helping my compatriots understand what happens in a courtroom and by providing the courts with services that are backed up by experience, formal education and skills.


    Describe an especially memorable or fulfilling professional experience. After a bit over one year of hard work interpreting for a Japanese consultant in a manufacturing plant where the work was done in English<>Spanish, he once told me, “María, now that I come to think of it, after more than one year, there has not been a single misunderstanding or misinterpretation of anything that I have said to either a production operator, supervisor or manager and the other way around. I don’t think a single mistake has been made arising out of all of the information I conveyed and/or received through you.” I just smiled, and thought to myself, “Exactly!” I was glad to know someone was able to see that I always tried my best to help people understand each other. I needed no other compliment or comment about my performance. That’s been one of the best things I have ever heard about the job that I do and that I love doing!


    What is your favorite part of the workday? Type of job? Type of client? Aspect of your profession? There are many things I like about my profession and these are just a few: learning new things; meeting new people and people from all walks of life; listening to polite, professional, flexible, objective and articulate professionals like attorneys and judges, etc.; and feeling challenged when interpreting in a trial or any other proceeding.


    What do you do in your free time? I love going to the movies, dancing, meeting with friends, going to concerts and museums, seeing new places, etc.


  • 08/10/2016 12:59 PM | Meghan McCallum

    Annual Business Meeting

    MATI directors and members met Saturday, August 6 in Milwaukee for the Annual Business Meeting. The MATI Board of Directors officially swore in several new members: Elizabeth Colón as President and Amanda Bickel, Marina Ilari, Kristy Brown Lust, Thaís Passos Fonseca and Ghada Shakir as Directors.

    Reports were also submitted from the Membership, Communications and Programs Committees in addition to the financial report. As MATI’s board continues to incorporate new programs and features that benefit our growing membership, all committees are seeking volunteers to support in the delivery of new and ongoing services. Please visit the Committees and Chairs page on the MATI website for a description of MATI’s committees and the responsibilities and tasks that fall under the purview of each.

    The board also discussed plans for the upcoming annual conference, to be held Saturday, September 10 in Chicago. The event includes an exciting lineup of presenters, a special literary translation reading session, and the popular networking and hors d’oeuvres hour. Registration is open at Sponsorship opportunities are also available; please see for more information.

    In closing, President Colón expressed her dedication to her new role as President. She is eager to listen to and provide support for all MATI members, and welcomes your feedback and participation in the organization. MATI is looking forward to another successful year!

    MATI’s 2016-2017 Board of Directors

    Executive Committee

    President: Elizabeth Colón (IL), 2016-2018
    Vice President: Joseph Wojowski (IL), 2015-2017
    Secretary: Amy Polenske (WI), 2015-2017*
    Treasurer: Katarzyna Jankowski (IL), 2015-2017*

    Board of Directors

    Amanda Bickel (WI), 2016-2018
    Marina Ilari (WI), 2016-2018
    Kristy Brown Lust (WI), 2016-2018
    Meghan McCallum (WI), 2015-2017*
    Thaís Passos Fonseca (WI), 2016-2018
    Ghada Shakir (WI), 2016-2018
    Tyann Zehms (WI), 2015-2017

    *Denotes second consecutive term. Per Article 5, Section 5.2 of MATI’s bylaws, “Officers may be re-elected and serve for a maximum of two consecutive terms, but may run for office again after a full two-year term out of office.” For a complete list of all present and past directors of MATI’s Board, please visit Board of Directors.

    To Our Outgoing Board Members: Thank You!

    Our outgoing board members, listed below, served their maximum two consecutive terms on the MATI Board of Directors from 2012-2016. We thank them wholeheartedly for their commitment to our organization. MATI has made great strides in the services it provides to its membership, and we thank our outgoing board members for helping us get to where we are today!

    Christina Green, President, 2012-2016
    Alaina Brantner, Director, 2012-2016
    Susan Schweigert, Director, 2012-2016

  • 08/10/2016 9:17 AM | Meghan McCallum

    Some Fundamentals of Project Management

    By Alaina Brantner, MATI Member

    My professional experience as a project manager includes positions at three translation firms of varying organizational maturity. In those positions, not only have I managed projects of varying complexity in over sixty languages, I’ve also had the opportunity to model my own work as a project manager off of the strategies of some amazing professionals. Below I share a few of the fundamental skills and practices I have seen implemented consistently by the successful project managers with whom I’ve had the pleasure to work.

    Knowing Your Partners

    While collaborating with colleagues from around the globe is one very exciting and rewarding component of the job, the need to know as much as possible about one’s partners is compounded by a work environment in which collaboration takes place almost exclusively online. For example, if you send a translator in Japan a file format with which they cannot work, you’ll likely lose an entire working day coordinating to get them the correct format due to time zone differences. In an industry in which turnarounds of yesterday can be the norm, proactively establishing project parameters around knowledge of a translator’s programs, capacity, location, etc. is therefore one way to ensure smooth project launches.

    Overall, the information that seasoned project managers endeavor to know about their translators includes location (time zone) and contact details (i.e. landline, cell, Skype, Whatsapp, or other messenger IDs—the more the better); operating systems and CAT tools; specializations, degrees, and certifications; other commitments and capacity, in addition to general knowledge of the translator’s strengths and weaknesses.

    On top of knowing this information about each of the translators with whom they work, as they become more experienced, project managers also become more and more aware of factors affecting the language pairs with which they regularly work as a whole. This includes things like periods in which availability in certain language pairs will be greatly diminished due to vacation trends and national holidays, cost of living in target markets and its effect on language costs, degree equivalencies between target and source markets, etc. Building this kind of working knowledge on individuals and cultures is an ongoing process, so above all, project managers develop and rely on a network of colleagues and a repository of resources to which they can turn for all sorts of on-the-fly answers to language questions.

    Since project management is largely about big picture facilitation, project managers rely on the individuals at each stage of the translation process for micro-level feedback on performance, processes and potential improvements as well. For example, as a project manager, I look to translators for proactive feedback on localization issues and problems that have popped up during file preparation, such as character or symbol corruption, etc. I rely on internal DTP specialists for information on compatibility issues between desktop publishing file formats and CAT programs. I turn to the subject matter experts in quality control with questions on appropriate stylistic treatment of textual features, along with feedback on the translator’s performance, conformance to style guidelines, and how instructions could be improved. Maintaining open and constructive dialogue with all participants helps to ensure that any issues that arise are caught and resolved as quickly and smoothly as possible. Additionally, this ongoing positive collaboration amongst all stakeholders to overcome small challenges can have a big impact on overall work satisfaction and the realization of greater overall efficiencies as a result.

    Managing Expectations

    As I’ve learned the hard way, a deadline of “tomorrow” may mean September 1 to me, but on the other side of the globe (in China, for example), by the time a translator reads my email message, that same “tomorrow” deadline will mean September 2 to her, due to time zone differences. At its most basic, managing expectations is therefore about proactive, clear and explicit communication. Asking to receive a translation by tomorrow, Thursday, September 1 at 9:00 AM CST communicates my delivery expectations much more explicitly than “tomorrow” does. This communication style helps to ensure timely deliveries and facilitates project timeline planning as well.

    Managing expectations is also about showing respect to one’s partners in the collaborative translation process. If a translator emails me proactively to let me know that they will need some additional time to complete a project due to unforeseen issues, I manage the expectations of the other providers in that process by letting them know of changes to the timelines so that they can adjust their schedules accordingly. The same goes for scheduling any unexpected project reviews. If file updates or revisions are necessary, for example, I can alert the translator and request that they maintain a window of availability to respond to any questions or review changes to files. This proactive communication of changing project parameters within a dynamic environment in which multiple projects are being completed simultaneously by all providers in the process helps to ensure that resources are available as steps become available. Most importantly, this keeps projects on track for final delivery.

    The concept of managing expectations is also very important to the establishment of project scopes with one’s clients. The client may send over three files for translation, for example, while their request email only references two. Better to ask up front whether they have accidentally attached an extra file than to find out upon delivery that content has been translated that the client neither wanted nor needed. Conversations with the client surrounding project expectations may include more delicate topics as well, such as how rush turnarounds increase project costs and decrease quality, and how failure to make appropriate project investments up front is more likely to result in situations that require expensive and inefficient rework—and in which all losses will likely not be recoverable. Approaching these kinds of topics certainly requires delicacy, and sales representatives rely on their translation teams to provide informative and realistic feedback to clients on project parameters. While difficult, this sort of consultative approach has both long-term benefits with specific clients and for the profession as a whole. As clients become more aware of the intricacies of the translation process, they are more likely to approach that process more critically, with an understanding of the investments necessary to reach translation goals. And they’re more likely to return with their translation needs to those providers that have a positive track record for successfully managing expectations as well.


    Project managers follow multiple projects simultaneously of various types and with varied processes. On any given day, a project manager’s task list may include project launches, queries from the quality team for the translator, quotes, questions from clients on new languages or services, questions from management on new translation technology, post-production TM updates, etc. More experienced project managers have therefore established systems for tracking outstanding tasks, and they prioritize tasks based on the overall objective of project management: to keep projects moving through the production process.

    When I arrive to the office in the morning, I may have three high priority tasks that all need immediate attention. My general strategy will be to cross those items off my task list which I can complete most quickly, so that I can concentrate on any more time-consuming items. For example, not only does passing a translation delivery to the quality team take just a few minutes, but by making this pass right away, I’ve ensured that the project has not stalled between the translation and quality stages. I may also be working on finalizing a multi-language quote and initiating a new quote. While CAT analysis runs on the new quote, I may therefore follow up with any translators from whom I have not yet received a quote for my multi-language project. I’ll keep bouncing between the two projects until I am able to deliver the multi-language quote to the sales team, and send the processed files to the translator for the new project quote. This sort of multi-tasking means that process-orientation is an important skill for project management. While project managers’ focus is often monitoring the overall big picture status of projects, they must also be able to break down each stage into the individual actions that will move—sometimes inch—projects forward and follow through with those actions.

    Prioritizing, however, is also about understanding at what points in the process to make time investments, and a good rule of thumb is that front-end investments often yield the greatest efficiencies on back-end processes. For example, when launching a project, establishing clear instructions on the treatment of stylistic features (acronyms, proper nouns, measurements) will be beneficial at every stage of the project that follows. During translation, the translator won’t have to pause to make a treatment decision for each new stylistic feature they encounter. During quality review, the reviewer will have a translation product in which measurements and acronyms are treated consistently, so they will be able to review the content more quickly and request less changes. During DTP, less changes will be required, cutting down on project revisions during formatting. During post-production TM updates, less changes will need to be implemented into the bilingual file, cutting down on the time for that as well. By taking the time on the front end of the process to establish stylistic guidelines, the project manager has therefore generated time savings at every subsequent stage.

    Still, project managers are also realistic, and they understand that no matter how carefully a project has been planned, surprises are bound to pop up as new versions of programs become available and generate new bugs, as deadlines are inadvertently missed, and revisions to the source file are sent over mid-project. Ultimately, project managers are therefore flexible, and when problems arise, their immediate reaction is to establish plan(s) B (C, and potentially D, depending). Only after a project is back on track will they take the time to reflect on what went awry and what improvements can be made next time around to avoid similar issues.


    Overall, implementing the strategies outlined above can help project managers to achieve a positive domino effect within their organizations, in which happy translators lead to happy reviewers and desktop publishers, which leads to happy clients as project costs decrease, happy sales teams as clients request more work, and happy managers as a result. Beyond these skills, and as with any professional, a healthy amount of curiosity also goes a long way, as does identifying the individuals within your organization who work hard and have the know-how and sticking with them!

    Alaina Brantner is a Project, Vendor and TM Manager and a Spanish to English translator. She holds a Master of Arts in Translation and served as MATI Director from 2012 to 2016.

  • 08/09/2016 10:08 AM | Meghan McCallum

    Meet the MATI Board: Kristy Brown Lust

    MATI Director Kristy Brown Lust works from French to English. She holds a Master’s degree in Translation.

    Why did you decide to join MATI? I joined MATI for two reasons: First, I wanted to connect with other translation and interpreting professionals to build relationships so we can learn from each other, troubleshoot challenges, and celebrate successes. Second, I believe it’s important to improve the visibility of translation and interpretation professionals. We do crucial work that helps make the world a better place, and MATI gives us a strong collective voice.

    What is your favorite part of the workday? My favorite part of the day is when I’m in the midst of translating an interesting document.

    What do you do in your free time? In the summer, I can be found most often outside reading on my back porch.

    What are you most looking forward to about your participation on the MATI Board? I’m excited for the opportunity to meet more translators and interpreters and support them through strong communication and advocacy.

  • 08/09/2016 10:05 AM | Meghan McCallum

    Meet the MATI Board: Ghada Shakir

    MATI Director Ghada Shakir works between Arabic and English. She holds a Master’s degree in Computer Science and a Bachelor’s degree in Translation and Interpretation Studies.

    Why did you decide to join MATI? Passion, knowledge and expertise! Having worked in the field for so long and having had the the chance to work with multinational clients at different levels, I feel I am at a point where I can share this knowledge and expertise and pass it on to a new generation of translators and interpreters.

    What is your favorite part of the workday? Project management sums it up!

    What do you do in your free time? I’m a pretty active and social person, and in my free time, I enjoy long bike rides, stand up paddle boarding or just taking a stroll. I also enjoy cooking and entertaining friends and family.

    What are you most looking forward to about your participation on the MATI Board? Having a technical background, I look forward to bringing new ideas on how to stay connected and on the essential nature of having the technical know-how in today’s cyber world—ideas that will help increase productivity, minimize cost and ensure on-time delivery. 

Midwest Association of Translators & Interpreters
A chapter of the American Translators Association

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