Thursday, October 14, 2010

A 12-Step Program for Large Projects

I just completed a 3-week-long translation project that consisted of one 700-page long source file (63,000 words plus screen shots). In the process, I learned a few lessons on how to handle such mega-projects more efficiently. Here are my 12 steps for working on such projects:

  1. Read the text in its entirety (on screen to save trees) and note important/recurring terms in an Excel spreadsheet or Word table
  2. Research the terms you noted above and fill in the spreadsheet/table. This is your own glossary.
  3. Divide the source file into smaller files. When doing so, make both the table of contents and the index separate files.
  4. Import the glossary spreadsheet into your translation memory software and translate the table of contents and index. Add all terms in these two files to your glossary.
  5. Translate your first source file, revising your glossary terms, if necessary, and adding any new terms you encounter.
  6. Edit that translation before going on to the other files. This way you will have a solid basis for recurring text in the other files.
  7. Translate the other files, one by one. If you change your mind on a term, add it to a list of changes to make to previous files.
  8. After translating all files, edit the translations one by one. Make the term changes you noted above while you are editing.
  9. Now convert each of the translated files back to MS Word (or whichever format is used for the deliverable).
  10. Check that the formatting isn't too egregiously off in the Word documents and nothing is garbled.
  11. Combine the Word documents back into one large file, checking for missing/duplicate text at the points where the files are joined.
  12. Send the completed translation off. You may need to use a service, such as You SendIt or Dropbox, to transfer the file back to the client, if it's too large for e-mail.

One more thing I learned from this project: electrical engineering is actually quite interesting. Maybe I'll pick up an "Electrical Engineering 101" book one of these days ...


  1. Thank you for sharing these valuable tips. I have had trouble in Trados Studio with large projects (crashing) so dividing up the large files into smaller ones is a great idea.

  2. Thanks for these ideas. Certainly in smaller documents I often leave translating tables of contents (which could be described as terminology out of context) until the end, by which time I've been exposed to the full text and can make a definite decision as to which of the potential alternative translations for these terms is best in the light of all the occurrences.

  3. Hello,
    thanks for sharing these tips,

    As for translating Table of contents and indexes, they are most of the time generated automatically by MS Word, why translate them? (of course, everyone has come across some "exotic" documents with "manually created" ToC and indexes.


  4. Hi Fred,
    You are right for some project. This particular file had been converted back to MS Word from a PDF, so nothing was automatic. But even if TOC and index are automatically translated, I'd click on each item in these two tables and translate it at the source (e.g., the headline within the manual), then regenerate the table of contents and index. That way, you have much of the terminology already up front.

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