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Lost (The Job) In Translation

, , , , , | Working | December 16, 2021

I work for a large multinational company that provides software worldwide. As a result, documentation, embedded help screens, and the like are required to be available in dozens of languages.

While my team is multi-lingual, we can’t cover all supported languages within the team, and we’re not really supposed to. That’s why there is a dedicated translation team to support all software teams in this endeavor.

We dutifully sent off the text to be translated, and our department was charged for the use of the translation team as agreed. We waited and waited. We were getting up to the release date and no translation files had been provided. We escalated further and further up the management chain and finally got our files.

Those of us that could read other languages quickly checked the files we could understand, and then all the files were loaded into the software and shipped out.

And then, a sales rep from a country for which none of us spoke the language reached out. He found that the translation files for his language were horribly mangled. One screenshot he sent us had translated the name of the operating system to “Microscope [local name for a pane of glass],” instead of treating it as a proper noun.

Turns out the manager of that department did not retain the proper staff to cover all the languages required, didn’t want to pay the fee to hire an external temp, was sick of his management pressuring him to deliver on things they were being paid for, and had just tossed the text into a really cheap translation program without telling anyone.  

He ceased to be the manager of that department. Fortunately, the client who contacted the sales rep thought the whole thing was hilarious and did not cancel his purchase order.

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