Team translation – pros and cons

Team translation

At first sight, translation would seem to be your typical “solo” job – yet, this is quite far from the reality. While translators work independently, making the best use of their language skills and tools, the truth is that, in certain situations, help from other people is very welcome.

Find out how teamwork can result in a more efficient translation – and how many heads working together can often complicate a task! So what are the pros and cons of teamwork in translation?


The tasks can be done more quickly when they are split between team members

No matter how professional a translator is, there is a limit to the amount of work they can do in a set amount of time. When a team of language professionals works on the same text, the job can be split up between them to work on simultaneously – which is also true for machine translation and revision. Doing this makes it possible to drastically reduce the time it takes to finish a translation, which is very useful when working on large projects with a lot of content.

It allows translation into more than one language
It is very rare for a translator to work effectively in more than two or three languages. On the other hand, customers quite often need their content to be translated into several languages. A team of language professionals can easily translate a text into dozens of different languages in the time it takes to translate it into just one or two languages. This need generally arises in the translation of product labels, technical manuals and software localisation, etc.

Technical translation becomes less complicated…
Many technical translation projects, particularly in law, health and engineering, require very specialised knowledge. It is normal for a technical translator to be faced with texts that are beyond their experience, so their lives are made easier if they can count on support from other specialist translators, particularly if they are also professionals in the technical field in question (it is not uncommon to find lawyers and engineers who also translate) – this way the revision of the content and its technical validation are ensured. 

… as does localisation!
Software and website localisation projects demand specific language skills, as it is necessary to adapt the content for a range of socio-cultural sensibilities that change with the target market – as well as to adapt and modify the final content to ensure it is consistent with a website’s visual appearance or with the app’s interface. On such occasions, it is certainly advantageous to count on help from an IT technician and/or a translator with a lot of localisation experience.

A team is also a good place to learn!

Working in teams produces dynamics that inevitably lead translators to develop new skills. The more senior and experienced team members will help train their less experienced colleagues while the whole team atmosphere helps enormously with the exchange of knowledge that will in the long term be reflected in the quality of the work done.


Team working complicates schedules.
It is always much easier to manage your work than to schedule your availability to work with a team of colleagues. It is essential to understand at just what point the logistics of combining a team’s schedules and deadlines become counter-productive and a hindrance rather than a help.

Not all translators are more productive in teams.
Because some translators like to work and approach their tasks, it is not uncommon to find those who prefer to work alone, giving them the freedom to focus on their research, translation, revisions, and calling for help only when they cannot resolve problems themselves. The productivity of these professionals can fall when they work in teams. Consequently, it is important to determine, from the beginning, which is the best method to use to complete the project.

The logistics of remote team working are complicated
When remote working is increasingly common, a range of new logistical and technical challenges have emerged: with digital tools and computers now being essential for translation, it is possible to have to work with team members who use different- and often incompatible – software. Remote working over the internet also results in greater communication and team organisation difficulties.

Work is not always shared out equally.
Productivity would shoot up if each team member concentrates on the tasks they can do well while receiving the same amount of work as their colleagues. But work is not shared equally. Some people end up overloaded, which can lead to reduced motivation and a drop in the quality of the translations.

Different profiles lead to different results
It is always difficult to manage teamwork. One translator who receives a task might be able to organise it easily and establish a plan that will maintain the consistency of the translation. However, a team comprises people with different aptitudes and abilities – with each team member offering different solutions to the same language problem. Problems can arise if there is no coordination or harmony within the team: dividing the work into blocks can result in inconsistencies in the terminology or translation, while some of the translators might not be specialists in the technical area in question and may need training and coaching. All these factors can reduce the quality of the translation and could compromise deadlines.