RE: Translation of Op. Manuals (long)

Subject: RE: Translation of Op. Manuals (long)
From: "Glenn Maxey" <glenn -dot- maxey -at- voyanttech -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 9 Jan 2001 10:50:26 -0700

> -----Original Message-----
> From: bounce-techwr-l-58477 -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com
> [mailto:bounce-techwr-l-58477 -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com]On Behalf Of Linda
> Hughes
> Sent: Tuesday, January 09, 2001 7:50 AM
> Subject: RE: Translation of Op. Manuals (long)


> <small rant> I have to disagree vehemently with Glenn Maxey's
> suggestion to assign this task to a junior tech writer. Some of it, maybe,
> depends on the scope of your project. Honestly, if I were the junior tech
writer handling
> an (easily) $100,000 budget and all the responsibility that goes with it,
> I'd be asking for a raise and a promotion and running out the door a year
> later to the first company that offered me a job as a translation manager.
> </end rant>

I can certainly see Linda's point about not giving this to a junior
technical writer. There are many reasons why I suggested this, though.

The person doing the coordination does not have to be a subject matter
expert. They don't have to know the terminology. They don't have to be good,
experienced writers. They don't have to know the languages that are being

The main reason, though, is that from a writing and creative perspective, I
think that translation coordination is BORING. There is nothing new except
the same old documentation in another language. It is what it is in all
languages. It is hard to attract an experienced writer to a position that
involves no writing other than e-mails to clarify things with the
translation agency. Depending upon the department's budget, there could be
lots of boring, tedious tasks that are done in-house, such as converting
from FrameMaker to MIF, running the STagger to get RTF files for TRADOS,
cleaning the RTF files, going backwards from RTF to FM, formatting and
producing the FM manuals in those languages, managing the translation
databases, and most tedious editing images with the translated text or
creating screenshots in those languages. In some cases, they might even run
the first fuzzy-match pass on the documents (assuming that the documents
didn't change much and translation memory exists).

To support Linda's position, the translator coordinator does have to be well
organized. If they know the tools of the trade (e.g., FrameMaker, HATs for
online help, graphics packages, etc.), it can only help them. If they get
involved with the software at all, they'll have to be exceptionally sharp.

However, a junior technical writer coming out of a technical communication
program has the tools skills that they need to be successful (if they aren't
messing with the software). The coordination process helps them become more
familiar with the entire documentation suite. It helps them become more
proficient in the subject area so that they can later contribute as writers.

Concerning the budget, whoever does the job is going to have to get buy-off
from managers who do control the budget. The size of the project in terms of
dollars isn't important. Afterall, don't technical writers work on projects
with development costs in the millions and individual unit sales costs that
approach or exceed the $100,000+ that a former company spend on a
translation into Japanese. The money really isn't the issue; all of the
details are.

My comments had less to do about what the translation coordinator will get
paid and more to do with what tasks they will assigned and the skills
required. Unless a technical writer is looking for change in activities
and/or is willing to do this temporarily just to get the process started to
then hand-off to a new employee (at possibly a junior level), that person
may quickly tire of being the translation coordinator. Afterall, they won't
be working on any new material; they'll be constantly revisiting the
existing material, although in another language; they'll be doing the same
tasks over and over (e.g., the same screenshot but in x-different languages,
the same file conversion steps).

So, whoever you hire to do this job should be mature in character and
professional, but should expect to have to deal with lots of mundane tasks
that are inefficient to assign to an experienced technical writer with tons
of product knowledge. (A balance between Linda's comments and mine.)

Glenn Maxey
Voyant Technologies, Inc.
Tel. +1 303.223.5164
Fax. +1 303.223.5275
glenn -dot- maxey -at- voyanttech -dot- com

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