The ATA Chronicle - September/October 2020 - 31

BUSINESS PRACTICES

BY MARINA ILARI

Query Sheet Management for
Project Managers and Translators

E

veryone will probably agree that
one of the most important aspects
of a successful translation project is
communication-with the client, project
manager, and linguistic team. To facilitate
organized and effective communication
between everyone involved in a project, a
query sheet will sometimes be provided.
These sheets are especially important in
large, complex projects where there needs
to be a central location for all questions
and comments. The most important
benefit of having a query sheet is that
translators are provided with an organized
system for asking questions and receiving
answers from the client, thus promoting
collaboration and communication.
The query sheet is usually an online
form or spreadsheet that can include
columns with heading such as:
■	

Project Number

■	

File Name

■	

Segment Number

■	

Language

■	

Source Text

■	

Proposed Translation

■	

Questions

■	

Client Feedback

■	

Status

Because multiple people can collaborate
on a query sheet, there are some
important aspects to consider to design
a sheet that's well organized and useful.
The following are some tips for designing
effective query sheets for both project
managers and translators.

FOR PROJECT MANAGERS
Use the Cloud: The first aspect that
should be considered is to make the
query sheet available as a collaborative
document in the cloud using a tool such
as Google Sheets. With a web-based
spreadsheet, you can collaborate with

anyone you grant access to and see their
changes automatically in real time. This
is particularly important when there are
more than two parties involved in the
project. You'll want to avoid sending and
receiving the same files over and over
again. Not only is this time consuming
but sending files back and forth multiple
times increases the chances of information
getting lost.
Create a Single Collaborative Sheet for
All Languages: If you're managing or
participating in a project involving several
linguists and multiple languages, I highly
recommend creating a sheet in which
translators can see everyone's questions.
Depending on the scope of the project, I
would discourage creating a separate sheet
for each language involved. It's useful
for translators to be able to see all the
questions in one place so they don't ask
something that's already been addressed.
If there's something especially obvious,
like an error in the source text or lack
of context, it's likely that every linguist,
regardless of their language combination,

will want to ask about that. Sometimes
you'll see an answer to a question that
you either forgot or didn't think to ask.
By creating a collaborative sheet for
all languages, everyone can learn and
apply what others are asking. You'll also
avoid having to answer the same type of
question more than once.
If the query sheet gets too long and
difficult to sort, I recommend adding
filters so you can easily show or hide
information. The filters can be added
in an online sheet or in Excel: select the
row you want to filter and chose a filter
per value, color, icon, etc. Some of the
fields to consider filtering would be the
language and the status of the query
(e.g., open or closed).
This is a good way to keep everyone
in the loop regarding different aspects of
the project and for translators to learn
how their colleagues are approaching
the translation. A query sheet also makes
it easy to see which changes have been
made and by whom and allows for a more
organized system.

FOR TRANSLATORS
Catch (the Correct) Phrase: As
translators, we first and foremost
must keep in mind what the query
sheet is used for: asking questions.
It's important to always structure your
query as a clear and concise question.
I've seen numerous times that these
sheets are used by translators for
making comments such as "This is
untranslatable," or "This would make
no sense in the target language." As
language specialists, we should phrase
our concern in a way that's helpful to
the client, perhaps even providing some
guidance and advice. For example,
if we encounter something that's
"untranslatable" we could say, "This
sentence would not make sense in the
target language for X reason. Would it
be okay to transcreate it entirely so that

Business Practices will alternate in this space with "The Entrepreneurial Linguist." This column is not intended to constitute legal, financial, or other business advice. Each individual or company should
make its own independent business decisions and consult its own legal, financial, or other advisors as appropriate. The views expressed here are not necessarily those of ATA or its Board of Directors.
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American Translators Association

31


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The ATA Chronicle - September/October 2020

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