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One of the things that sets Gengo apart in the translation industry is that we accept short and informal texts, like Tweets. We have no minimum word limits, so we’re available to anyone with a paragraph, a sentence, or even a word that needs translating. But these short jobs bring their own challenge: namely, a lack of context.

 

So what kind of jobs are we talking about?

You might encounter a range of jobs with a low word count. Here are some of the most common:

  • Tweets: Organisations often request translation of their Twitter posts, in order to reach followers in new demographics. If a job is specifically identified as a Tweet, ensure you keep your translation within the 140 character limit and leave Twitter handles (@username) untranslated. You’ll find more information in Gengo’s Tweet Translation Guide
  • Survey Responses: We’re seeing increasing numbers of jobs that contain responses to online surveys. These are generally ordered automatically through Gengo’s API function, which means you can’t contact the customer directly with queries. Focus on staying as faithful to the source text as possible, whilst “ironing out” any spelling or grammar mistakes in the source text (which are often common in these jobs)
  • Instant Messages: When dealing with dialogue from instant messaging transcripts, ensure that the tone (e.g. informality) is reflected in your translation. It’s also important to keep the formatting consistent and include any emoticons from the source text.

 

What about the context?

The big problem with jobs of just one or two sentences is working without context. If you’re having trouble and the customer hasn’t included sufficient background in the comments section, there are a few tricks you can try:

  • Ask your customer: Use the comments feature to get in touch. Often, a quick exchange will give you all the background you need
  • Check for similar jobs: Short jobs are often one of several orders by a particular customer. Check the Dashboard to see if any of the available jobs help with the bigger picture
  • Search Twitter: If you’re translating Tweets, a quick Twitter search will reveal which user the source came from. Scroll through their feed to get a feel for the topics that interest the author and learn more about their style
  • Decipher typos: Short texts are often written in a hurry, and that means typos! If you don’t recognise a word, there’s good chance it’s a typo or spelling mistake – what other terms could the author have meant, which would fit with the context of the job?
  • Use contextual tools: Websites like linguee.com use translation memory to assist with your work. These often include colloquialisms and can help you unpick new terms

 

What other types of short jobs have you come across? Do you have any examples of particularly fiendish translations that you’ve been able to solve?

 

 

17 comments

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    mirko

    Of course... So, on top of earning breadcrumbs for tiny (rush) jobs, we should also spend an indefinite amount of time looking for context ourselves. Just brilliant.

    If a customer wants a cheap, fast translation, and can't even be bothered with grouping small jobs together or with providing context for them (and often not even with answering questions), why should it be the translator who has to go out of their way to try to solve the mess? Please don't shift the responsibility of customers' lack of judgment/helpfulness on translators, especially NOT for small, underpaid jobs. Thanks.

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    Sunnysailor

    I totally agree with Mirko....

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    Sarah

    Exactly. If the job is only worth a few cents, spending extra time doing research is like paying the customer for the privilege of doing it.

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    carla m.

    Now, given that these are all things any serious, proficient and (why not?) intelligent translator should do, I agree with the other colleagues here. It's just not worth it, not even as a challenge (I like challenges, I like doing research but hey, there's a limit...and there's also a time limit...). What I found very amusing, though, is this:

    "Check for similar jobs: Short jobs are often one of several orders by a particular customer. Check the Dashboard to see if any of the available jobs help with the bigger picture."

    Ahahaha, as if jobs stay on the dashboard long enough for me to check them out! Please...

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    sue.hajdu

    The big problem with context tip #1 is that customers can take so long to reply (if ever) that for these types of short jobs that pay cents, it is simply not worth waiting around, so this is really no practical solution. Other translators have raised good points here, so maybe this "forum" should be more about new things that gengo will do guide / prep customers when placing this kind of job to ensure that translators do get content that they can actually accurately work with. That would result in both speedier translations and happier translators.

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    Sarah

    CM is quite right about the checking out other jobs aspect. What other jobs to check?? I have actually been known in the past to write a note far longer than the actual translation explaining the different possibilities because, as Sue says, customers often don't reply, or certainly not within the time allowed for a very short (sometimes even a much longer) translation. I think they need to be made aware that they get what they pay for in this case and shouldn't expect translators to spend much time on research for the sake of a few cents.

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    Lara

    I agree with what has been said. For jobs that pay cents, extensive research is just nor worth it. Asking the customer would help if they replied, but sometimes they don't.
    And, in the past, there have been customers who get angry at the fact that they are asked for context and reply that "It is *your* job (the translator's) to find the context." (literal quote.) 
    No, it is not our jobs as translators to find the context (which is impossible anyways, when there are multiple possibilities.) Our job is to translate the text accurately into another language, so it is only fair that the customer collaborates providing enough information. 
    I am with Sue, Gengo should be focusing more on what needs to be done to guide / educate customers on how to place an order and provide the necessary information to get optimal results.

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    Sarah

    I agree with Lara and Sue. More onus should be placed on the customer to help the translator, including submitting jobs appropriately and not expecting to pay standard rates for pro-level jobs. At Gengo prices they are still getting a bargain with the latter and they should not expect to have complex texts translated for peanuts. They should also be asked to be available to answer questions at the time the translator is working or risk receiving a translation with unanswered questions. We have strict deadlines we must adhere to and we cannot be expected to produce quality work every time when the requirements of the job are not clear and the customer doesn't answer us.

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    mirko

    Agreed. I read things like:

    "Context is crucial in getting a timely, accurate translation. You can add reference material, context, background, etc. to your order by adding a comment. You can add a comment before, during and after you've gotten your translation. Please also use comments to communicate with translators with any questions or concerns." - https://support.gengo.com/entries/20803833-Comments-instructions-and-communication-with-translators

    And, for API users (using Gengo as a white-label service): "The most important step in providing translation to a customer is soliciting the right information about the content from them. For example, if you were to develop a platform for translating a Twitter feed, it would be important to ask your users about the tone of the content (e.g. formal or casual), the end purpose of the translation (e.g. business or personal) and a description of the feed/business itself. All of this content can be passed on through our API and helps our translators understand the context of the content." - http://developers.gengo.com/

    Well, be consistent with that. Instead of "advising" us to waste our time for a few cents, tell them clearly they will get a translation which reflects not insomuch the amount they paid for it (that should go without saying), but particularly the info they provide and the "quality" of the source itself. You can't really expect someone to spend 10-15 minutes (or more!) frantically looking for context to translate a "Tweet"-like job (which is approx 20-30 words, so less than $1 or $3, based on the job tier). And I'd like to stress the "We have no minimum word limits, so we’re available to anyone with a paragraph, a sentence, or even a word that needs translating" in the original post, which is probably the thing that ticked me of the most. Try asking a translation agency how much they'd charge to translate a 10 words job within 1 hour and having to look for context themselves...

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    mistymikes

    The nice thing about Gengo is that there's nothing forcing you to accept a job. Or if you accept it, there's nothing keeping you from then rejecting it.  :) I try to be careful what I accept, but if I do accept a job and it turns out to have some problematic term that would be more trouble than it's worth for the pay rate, I just reject it again.  Either someone else will work on it, or it will sit on the dashboard until the problem gets ironed out.  I don't consider it my job to iron out problems like this when neither Gengo nor the customer has given me the tools to do so.  And if I choose to work at that rate, then I can't really complain if the pay is poor.  

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    sue.hajdu

    "They should also be asked to be available to answer questions at the time the translator is working." This is a very good point. Too often, one asks questions and there is no reply. I often feel that this lack of reply is due to an impression having been created of some "automated" system, where you put something in, then a translation gets spit out at the end, like some Dr. Seuss machine. Language and meaning, not to mention culture, simply do not operate like that. It's not a 1:1 equivalent. I feel that more effort needs to go into educating clients (particularly in language groups where second language acquisition or multi-cultural consciousness is rare) to understand this and providing appropriate information when they place their jobs and yes, being on hand to answer questions promptly and work *with* the translator, who simply wants to create the most accurat and elegant translation that they can.

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    mirko

    If everyone applied the "no one is forcing you to do X" argument (which basically translates as "anything goes") to the deadlines curtailing case (for instance), now we'd have unreasonably short deadlines, but you'd still be absolutely free to only accept those assignments you thought you could complete within the new deadlines (although even that kind of evaluation would take time...).

    Refusing jobs that we think "are not worth it" – like, I dunno, having to read a style guide, a glossary of terms and check a website to translate a single phrase... – is certainly very sensible advice, and, despite the lack of jobs in my pair, it is something I do myself, but that's not the point here. The point, IMHO, is Gengo's stance in this, which can be quite easily inferred from the OP. Personally, I find it disturbing that an outsourcer should say something along the lines of: "Since we offer our customers the chance to translate stuff without any restrictions, even single words, and without any minimum fee, and since those customers often don't provide any context, we *suggest* that you look for that context yourselves (with everything it entails)". That's not a matter of being or not being "forced" into doing something, but of what that stance implies, what it says about the outsourcer and the way they see, consider and treat their customers and their service providers. That's what I'm talking about, and I thought it was worth making the point.

    In other words: Is it reasonable/fair that you, outsourcer, tell translators they should follow your "101 TODO list of context hunting" even for small/one word jobs instead of holding the customer accountable for such lack of context/responsiveness in the first place?

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    carla m.

    Everything Mirko just said, and more. I am about to lose a nice little Pro job 'cause the dashboard is gone nuts, keeps telling me to refresh the page, which I do only to stare at a screen seemingly frozen in teh "loading" stage...(the problem is not my connection, obviously, and the link contact customer support doesn't do anything). Not very happy at the moment.

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    mistymikes

    @cm: Have you tried clearing your cache?  That has cleared up an identical problem for me in the past.

    If you've already completed the job, be sure to take a screen shot as proof, just in case you lose it somehow.  My experience with Support is that if you've already done the work and lose it due to a glitch, they will pay you for the work, even if someone else has picked it up after you.  But it's only happened to me once and it was some time ago, so don't quote me on that.  :)  It's worth contacting support, either way!  

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    carla m.

    @mistymikes: after almost 15 minutes I was able to work on the dashboard, fix a few things and submit the translation...now I'm getting some lunch ready ;-) I'll keep your suggetion in mind though.

    P.S. I noticed a couple of silly mistakes in my previous post...what can I say...never work/type on an empty stomach! :-)

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    damien.etourneau

    There is a thing that has always surprised me about some small jobs.

    I don't know if Amara only ask jobs for every pairs or just from English to French (my pair), but they like to put from times to times some very tiny jobs (3 to 4 words) in a row. Sometimes, when I refresh my page, I do have 20 jobs (10 standard, 10 pros and sometimes other hidden waiting for the 20 first to be completed) of 3 to 4 words. Sometimes more.

    What has always surprised me is that some jobs are like... "Lovely Garden Slippers", "Lovely Garden Trousers", "Lovely Garden Cushion", "Lovely Garden Poncho", and so on. And, 99% on the time, in the comment, you have this stated: "This product appears on a page which is not yet live, so no url is available.".
    In other word, there is absolutely no context and you may google it... you won't even find this items.

    So, what is "Lovely Garden"? Is that a brand? Is that a logo? Is that an image that appears in every single of these items? Well, let's imagine that we have found these items on the Internet and that we realised that "Lovely Garden" is an image on these items. As all these jobs are separated, all the translators could translate it in a different way. There is not a single translation for "lovely" and we could imagine a dozen alternatives for the translations. What does Amara do in this condition? They just take all these translations and put it on their site... with absolutely no consistency. In this case, why the "Lovely Garden Trousers" would have a different translation for "Lovely Garden Slippers" if the image is exactly the same? Do they choose the translation they think is the most suitable?

    And, well, as it has been stated, looking for the context of "Lovely Garden" when you will get paid 0.24$...

    I've been on Gengo for a little less than a year. Amara seems to be here longer than I do. So, the system seems to please them. But, I would be curious to know how they deal with the hundreds of jobs they send per day.

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    mistymikes

    @cm: Sometimes it resets on its own!  :)  If it happens again, definitely try clearing your cache!  I'm glad it worked out for you!  

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