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In-house translation: the unit heads

When it is decided that a translation will be done inside the Translation Service, it is passed to the unit responsible for translation into the language requested. The Unit Head is responsible for seeing that the translation gets done, and coordinates the work of the unit. He may also do preparatory work for the translators, for example by making sure that files are in the right directory and so on. His colleagues consult him with problems and questions. The amount of actual translation done by the Unit Heads varies from unit to unit. Some will intervene to deal with very urgent documents, of which there may be many, others would like to do more but are forced by constant interruption to concentrate on the occasional short translation which can be finished quite quickly. Most do a lot of revision.

When they are translating or revising, there does not seem to be any great difference in working methods between Heads of Unit and translators, so we shall subsume discussion into the section on translating, concentrating here on the special features of the Unit Heads' work.

All of the Unit Heads emphasized their need to know exactly what the state of work in the unit was on a day-to-day basis, and several spoke of a need for local management tools, such as local versions of SUIVI. One had constructed his own management data base using PC tools. A few said that it would be useful to be able to know what was happening in other units, and would like any local workflow management tool to make this possible.

It was noticeable that many of the problems that were mentioned by the Heads of Department and their planning staff were repeated by the Heads of Unit. For example, many Unit Heads emphasized the need for documentation and for electronic archiving, and talked about the problem of version control. Several thought that the secretarial staff could be trained to do more preparation of texts, and mentioned that using the EUROLOOK standard was of great help. Some did not use EUROLOOK because their requesters did not use it. Others returned documents in EUROLOOK whether or not they had received them in it. Some unit heads pointed out that translators often put great emphasis on respecting the formatting of the original document, for example changing fonts or font size so that the original pagination can be kept. This can be important when a document has to be discussed with the author over the telephone. In this context, too, preparing the original documents in EUROLOOK was said to be very helpful. It should be noted though that the idea of separating logical structure and contents by using an SGML type markup language is still quite novel, and still meets with some resistance. It is quite hard to explain to someone who is used to document-processing on a system where he can himself insert all the bold face he requires or change margins and fonts when he wants that there is an advantage in inserting tags instead, especially if he finds that the markup tags tend to make the text on screen less readable or aesthetically displeasing.

When a deadline cannot be met, or when other work coming in changes the priorities which previously existed, the Head of Unit may contact the requesting service to renegotiate a deadline or perhaps to propose a solution other than a complete high quality translation. He may also, as we have already noted, contact the requester to obtain reference material or to check modifications.

Apart from trying to ensure that the translations are done on time and are of appropriate quality, the Unit Heads also carry substantial administrative responsibility. It is their job to plan leave and absences, to propose the marks to be awarded on the staff grading scheme for the members of the unit, to propose plans for further training where appropriate and to make sure that the members of the unit have access to that training, to prepare proposals for promotion twice each year and deal with personnel matters. They also make sure that their unit is satisfactorily provided with terminological support, with documentation and with computer support. They represent their unit, for example in meetings of the department or in language coordination meetings and assist and advise the Head of Department in fulfilling his tasks.

Each Head of Unit has a deputy, who follows the work of the unit closely enough to be able to step in for the Head of Unit when necessary without loss of continuity.

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