Translation and Collaboration

by Felicity Pearce

Last week I attended the exciting Translation as Collaboration Symposium at the University of Westminster, to hear a number of speakers discuss different interpretations (see what I did there) of the idea of “translaboration”. I thought it only fitting to share some thoughts from the day here, as the Deep End blog is a result of collaboration among translators, and the event was at the University where we all met. For more information about the translaborate group, click here.

Knowledge sharing image on the front of the University of Westminster welcome pack

Knowledge sharing image on the front of the University of Westminster welcome pack

As a translator, I am positive about the profession and my place within it, but a greater awareness and understanding of the professional job that we do is still sometimes lacking. I’ve noticed recently that “translate” has been captured and is being used as a business buzz-word (similar to “synergy” and “reach out”) and I have sometimes wondered how we can make this work in our favour. Any translation process in business (as far as I understand, people usually want things to translate into results!) implies work and effort, which may be highly skilled and time-consuming, but which seamlessly delivers the desired result. Sound familiar?

Christiane Zehrer, from the University of Hildesheim, presented on “Translaboration in Technical Communication: A Case for Knowledge Communication”, and explained how writers of user manuals and other technical communication were previously employed by the company and worked on-site, being some of the first people to see and touch a new product, in order to effectively write such material. Apparently this applied to translators too! Some companies have changed these practices, but it is clear that knowledge communication is the key to the best end product. The more the writer or translator can communicate with all of the staff involved in developing the product, the better their understanding of said product will be, which will help the end user enormously.

One point that came up is that clients are sometimes concerned about sharing too much information with translators. I think this is where the recognition of membership of professional bodies is key and in this sense the great work of institutions such as the Chartered Institute of Linguists and the Institute of Translators and Interpreters in recent years has facilitated a great deal of progress. I would also hope that we will see more knowledge communication between professions, as we have seen in recent years with the rise of CPD events that are based in other fields but open to translators.

Personally, my favourite translation jobs have been the collaborative ones. Collaborating with a client on exactly how they want their message conveyed and working alongside other translators on large projects (more on that in my next post).

Unfortunately I was on mother duty so I had to rush off and missed the last session (and the drinks!), but I was following on Twitter, and I think this quote from Ros Schwartz sums up the mood of the day, and that of most translators:

“Collaborating in translation equals professional development”


2 thoughts on “Translation and Collaboration

  1. Christiane Zehrer says:

    Hi Felicity,
    I’m happy to read that you liked my contribution at the Translaboration symposium. And I love your positive stance towards the profession. Thank youalso for bringing up the “translation as a buzz word”-issue. I do believe this can help us better explain why and how we work professionally.
    As for the translators/technical writers: especially the latter have long been conceived as being “the first test users”. Unfortunately, some companies are skipping this step more or less completely, saving costs by going to crowdsourcing platforms or by contracting unqualified/not-yet-qualified writers (who do the job for a rate that cannot possibly pay decent documentation work) . Other companies, however, are moving in the opposite direction, and “embed” (don’t like the term for its origin in the 1991 Gulf War!) techwriters in (agile) project teams. A master’s student of ours is presently researching how this works out in practice. At present, I fear it’s mostly putting all the work and effort on the writers’ side. That’s why more research is needed: to professionalise the research and interaction that are necessary prerequisites for writing, as we have done with writing.

    All the best,


    • Felicity Pearce says:

      Thanks Christiane for your comment and for expanding on this issue. I hope that increased understanding and recognition will be the way forward, and, as was hinted on the day, perhaps the route for companies that undervalue these skills will suffer in the future. Good communication is the key to everything!
      Thanks again for a great talk!


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