“Wait, how many words?”

Working on large projects with tight deadlines…
By Jack Brian Robinson

Introduction to Working on Large Projects

Working on a large project, a book

As a translator you occasionally get asked to work on large projects in a short space of time. Last year, this very thing happened to me. The renowned author Denis Murano had just completed his latest book “Selezioni Inumane” in collaboration with David Buonaventura and wanted to release it in English in late March.

I received the request mid-February. An entire book. Over 70,000 words. Was it possible? I had no idea. As a freelancer, you can have some “quiet” periods in which work isn’t coming in as regularly as you’d like. This was the situation I was in and, with bills to pay, I accepted this ambitious assignment.

Over the next three weeks I spent over 12 hours a day, 6-7 days a week in front of the computer tackling this translation in order to meet our strict deadline. Blood, sweat, and tears weren’t exactly shed, but it was a physically, emotionally, and mentally demanding process.

I like to avoid missing deadlines, but I will also insist on sending something late if I’m not 100% convinced of the quality. I’m a perfectionist and if something feels like it can be improved, I can’t bring myself to submit it to a client. An entire book (as you would imagine) takes quite a while to proofread, especially when it’s all you’ve done for around 80 hours, 3 weeks in a row.

Will I make it?

Of course I ended up missing the deadline, but only by a few days. I was happy with my work, and (above all) extremely relieved to be finished. I was able to pay my rent and help an up-and-coming author to reach a wider audience. The client was happy and in April 2021 the English version of the book was released through Amazon. Now that I think of it, I still need to get myself a copy!

I wanted to write an article covering this period of time, working on large projects, and I also wanted to ask some of my colleagues here at Best Translators Online about similar experiences that they’ve had. I first spoke with our Malay translator, Yuni.

Interviewing Yuni

Yuni working on large projects

 Hey there, Yuni. I’m just wondering… What was your most difficult project?

Hey Jack! My most difficult project was translating 3 recipe books (around a hundred pages for each book), covering different types of diets such as vegan, pescatarian, and regular- something of a health and beauty niche.

There was a lot more variety in the English cooking instructions than there would usually be in Malay. I needed to study the meaning of quite a few English terms/expressions in order to find the most appropriate translation. I watched numerous YouTube videos and read many articles to ensure the words I chose in Malay best conveyed the meaning and context of the original English.

I can only imagine how difficult that was! And what did you take away from this experience, working on large projects?

I learnt that I need to be super careful with my choice of words and expressions when translating cooking-related texts. This is in order to avoid making the recipe sound ridiculous and unfollowable. It’s always a good idea to do research and ask questions regarding the topics we are translating.

Translating reminds me that there’s still a lot of things in this world that I don’t know. When I get a translation task, I treat it as a learning experience. There’s a great a sense of achievement whenever I finish a translation task and send it to the client. I feel glad that I can be of help to someone out there.

Fantastic. Thank you again, Yuni.

Yuni’s take on translating really got me thinking. We are exceptionally lucky to do this job. Not only do we get to be privy to various exciting projects before everyone else, but we also get to play a fundamental role in our clients’ successes. It’s a great deal of responsibility, yes, especially when working on large projects, but it’s ever so rewarding also.

Next, I spoke to our Hungarian translator, Orsi.

Interviewing Orsi

Orsi working on large projects

 Hey Orsi, what was your most difficult project?

My most difficult project was translating an online betting page. Fortunately, the relationship and communication between myself and client were excellent. He knew from the beginning that this was a difficult job for everybody involved. He didn’t expect us to be experts in this field from the get-go.

I don’t bet (never have) so it turned out to be fairly complicated. It took me a couple of days to familiarize myself with the whole process, the different sports, and the various betting methods, etc. I needed to do this in two languages (being English and my native tongue), and, since this involved a wide range of terminology, I could only proceed once I was confident with the material.

What did you gain from this experience?

I love reading and learning about new things, therefore I’m glad to have accepted this job. I gained lots of confidence from it and it opened up many other opportunities. The thing I love about translating is that I can learn new things, read about different topics and challenge myself. Every project is different, so it’s impossible to get bored. 

Thanks a lot, Orsi!

My Conclusion about Working on Large Projects

Well, there we have it, I wasn’t completely alone. We all face challenges here at Best Translators Online. And in Yuni and Orsi’s recounting of their experiences, we find precisely what makes a good translator working on large projects.

It’s about striving to do the best possible job, even while initially lacking all of the necessary terminology. It’s about being committed to research and studying the various things that will aid us in our goal of producing a perfect translation. And lastly: it’s about persistence and an unwillingness to give up. The answers are out there somewhere, and we will find them.

Thank you for reading. Please feel free to leave some of your own stories/similar experiences in the comment section below.

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