A peek in the "machine room" of a multilingual communications agency

JuanitaMy guest: Juanita Helsloot, project manager translation at Presence, Netherlands office

The interviewer: Peter Van Den Steene, CEO of Presence

Welcome Juanita and nice that you accepted to be the first to provide our readers with a “sneek peak” into what you are doing in your daily job.

I am very happy to talk about this as it is true that clients very often ignore what effort and time go into solving their problem or into dealing with a last-minute request.

Before we start, what made you want to do this job?

Well, I started out at Presence as a trainee and I liked it very much.

I have always been a very social person and I need to have daily contacts with my colleagues and with the outside world. Staying locked-up in an office job, doing lonely tasks, is not for me.

At Presence, I immediately felt at ease and I discovered that the job also gave me a lot of fun! What more to ask for?

I am also very interested in the events world and I would like to evolve more into this part of the activites of Presence in the future.

Let’s talk about what happens behind the scenes every day.

Can you give us an example of a case that stuck in your mind?

Most clients expect fast delivery times, but there was this one time where I was asked at 16h to provide a translation from Japanese and Swahili into Dutch and to deliver it by 9AM the next morning!

After getting off the phone with the client, the real work started and adrenaline was pumping.

First, you have to understand the source text and the subject matter.

Is it specialized?

Is there a lot of jargon?

Are there tables or graphics?

Next, you have to find the translators with the necessary expertise which is not a small feat in these language combinations.

Luckily we have a large pool of translators some of whom are also prepared to work during the night so that enabled me to service the client.

I can imagine that agencies who do not have this extensive database will find it next to impossible to deliver within these deadlines.

Are there cases where you really cannot deliver?

Well, of course: even Presence has limits!

If we get very large volumes of text to be translated in 1 day and if they are highly specialized on top: that’s not possible!

It also depends on the nature of the document as quality just takes time, it’s as simple as that!

If you want the translation to be perfect, you need a copywriter to proofread the entire text and good copywriting often takes even more time than the translation itself!

Of course, today there are many technical options that enable translators to speed up the process and some translators use speech recognition software and other tools.

Again, whilst speech-recognition software may allow translators to work faster, the final text still needs to edited manually and that just takes time.

So, what to tell a client who expects the impossible?

Actually, once you can get the chance to explain to the client what a good translation entails, they usually understand that what they ask is not humanly possible.

After all, the source text was also not written in 1 day!

But how do things normally happen?

Is it always a matter of rushing?

Thank God most jobs are “business as usual” where clients are aware of deadlines and do not expect the impossible!

That’s what makes the job worthwhile: with every client and with every text, we have to deal with something entirely different.

This is very enriching at the personal level.

Juanita, thanks for the chat!

My pleasure.