The manager of Skrivanek Translation Agency on the theory and practice of quality translation
What is the perfect translation? Generations of translators and readers have pondered this question, and the advance of machine translation in the 21st century made it even harder to answer. Skrivanek Translation Agency is a place where the perfect translation is not a concept, but an everyday practice. Established 23 years ago and a part of the international Skrivanek Group, the agency offers the full range of translation services and is a golden standard for quality translation into 45 languages. How is this possible? We talked to Evelina Iotzova, manager, to find out.
Skrivanek has been on the market for 23 years now. How did the work of a translator change since then?
Twenty-three years are quite a lot, aren't they? During this time, a lot of things changed for Skrivanek and Bulgaria. Bulgarian became an official language of the European Union, everybody in the country now speaks some English and, in our profession, like in so many others, high technologies came to stay. You will now rarely see printed dictionaries and reference books on the translator's desk. The Internet has become a necessity, we cannot imagine life without it. We work at cosmic speed compared to 23 years ago. Machine translators are being created, and are getting smarter and better. Apparently, nothing is as it used to be.
Yet, the crucial things have not changed. It is still important to be a master of your mother language and to use it in its entirety and beauty. It is still important to know the language and the culture of the nation, country or region with which you work as a translator. The quality of accurate translation remains sought after and valued.
What do clients seek nowadays?
Clients are interested in quality and quick service at a competitive price. This principle was established a long time ago and is valid for all fields of the economy, both in services and industry. Nowadays, when everything is designed to be comfortable for the user, our work requires more responsibility than ever – we have to identify and satisfy our clients' true needs.
For example, if you want to translate your company webpage, you seek not only a translator, but also a specialist in the terminology used in your field and someone with good knowledge of the culture of the country you are targeting. The texts should appear to your future business partners as if they were written by a native speaker. You will probably also need technical help to create webpages in this new language. So, in this case you are not looking for a mere translator, but a partner to whom you can entrust a crucial part of your work.
How are you able to offer services and quality that are always adequate to the clients' needs and the market's trends?
It is not hard at all. A matter of honest work, high professional standard, a passionate team that loves their vocation. We respect our partners' trust and we require that they respect our work.
We, at Skrivanek, have set rules and values and we stick to them. We listen carefully, we analyse consistently, we check carefully and share honestly. Skrivanek has worked around the world since 1994. In this time we have created traditions, we have learned to adapt to the market's expectations and we have built a huge network of colleagues and contributors across Europe. For more than 20 years now, on an annual basis we confirm our ability to manage the quality of all of our processes in accordance with the ISO 9001 standard. We also maintain 4 other standards for translation, machine translation editing, environment protection and information security in accordance with ISO/IEC 27001.
Skrivanek also developed its own system for neural machine translation. The advantages and disadvantages of machine translation are well known. Our internal NMT technology is improved by using the translation of thousands upon thousands of pages. It was developed by Skrivanek's own language experts and scientists and experts in different fields. Our NMT saves you time and money, keeps your information safe and will help you avoid repetition when working on a text. NMT has its limitations, but the gaps are filled by Skrivanek's team of professional linguists. Today translation is still in the hands of the humans, for now their knowledge, skill and brain have the upper hand.
What is the most common mistake clients of translation services make?
The client is always right. But they can be misled. This is why we strive to understand in depth our clients' needs and offer them the best solution. In 2000, we had to translate a short text on the ingredients of a hand cream into 12 languages, mostly from the former USSR. Suddenly, we discovered that there were no translators from the Latvian in Bulgaria. An experienced colleague advised us to translate the text into Georgian instead. I was shocked. But when I mentioned this in passing to the client, he embraced the idea. For him, this solution provided a new direction for business development, and saved him time and money.
This taught me that the purpose of translation is crucial for everything. This information determines the quality, the deadlines and the budget of the project and, ultimately, the client's trust. My advice is to provide the translators with all the information about your project. Their task is to present you and your project to the world, they need to know how you want the world to see you. Give them enough time to work. They will be calmer and for you, it will be cheaper. Last, but not least, you cannot expect a beautiful translation if the original text has not been properly thought over. Give yourself time as well. People often forget this.
How do you select the translators at Skrivanek?
Very carefully. We check their papers, experience and our translators' recommendations, and invite them for a short test on their technical and linguistic skills. Then we sign a contract, a non-disclosure agreement and, if needed, train them to use our software. After this, we start working. We check each colleague's skills and quality of work repeatedly and in great detail. An editor or a proofreader checks all texts, regardless of who has translated them: an experienced translator or a beginner. Our approach is to always respect our colleagues' preferences about the thematic field, terminological area, programmes and other translation preferences. I am proud of the fact that in our industry Skrivanek is considered a prestigious workplace.
What is the greatest challenge you face as a leader?
Each manager finds both their greatest worries and joys in the people on their team. The challenges are what makes life worth living, without them there would be no growth and development. We, at Skrivanek, have the specific advantage of working as part of an international corporation, but in the cosy environment of a small Bulgaria-based company. We are like a family and we enjoy mutual trust and respect. Our offices in Sofia and Plovdiv work together and help each other, each colleague has their tasks and special skills inscribed in our shared road to success. We have been like this for 23 years, I am confident that the environment in Skrivanek will remain the same.
Sofia Office: 90 Vasil Levski Blvd, phones: +359 2 944 3363, +359 889 294 098, firstname.lastname@example.org
Plovdiv Office: 11 Mladezhka St, phones: +359 32 626 707, +359 889 294 053, email@example.com