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How to get the most out of a project manager–linguist relationship

Published on October 10th, 2013

As the language services industry prospers, effective communication between linguists and project managers becomes ever more essential to guarantee the smoothest possible translation process for the client.

We are proud of our linguists and value their work highly, so we wanted to share some ideas with you on how to optimise project manager <-> linguist communication.

As a project manager I believe that project manager <-> linguist communication is most effective when both parties are able to empathise fully with one another. This requires understanding of, and a positive attitude towards, each other’s work. Many project managers in our team are experienced translators and interpreters themselves, so we can use our expertise to empathise with our linguists and to manage our projects in the best possible way.

The question is – how many linguists have ever worked as a project manager? Those that have will appreciate the complexity of our work, common challenges we might face and “how many plates we spin at once”!

If you wish to know more about our work then please read our article A day in the life of a project manager for a detailed insight.

A project manager is the head of each project, so we need to be able to see and hear everything that goes on. Open communication is crucial in order for us to know what progress linguists are making with a translation and to be able to solve any queries they have before deadlines approach. I’ve found it has always been the most helpful when I’ve been aware of any struggles to meet a deadline as early as possible. It is often the case in this modern age that people have become telephone shy, but in these instances I believe a phone or Skype call or is so much better – and nicer for both parties. If a delay is caused by genuinely extenuating circumstances, then a project manager would be much prefer to speak about it in person.

If a delay is imminent but we are informed as soon as possible, then any negative impact will be considerably reduced. We can plan around it and come up with a collaborative, pragmatic solution, and in good time. Honesty is always the best policy to avoid any “nasty surprises” later in the process and to find a fast solution to any delay. We take deadlines very seriously and there is an excellent reason why each deadline is so specific: meeting the deadline is crucial to enable us to move on to the next stage of the project, such as internal or client review and file processing.

The use of e-mails is invaluable; however, sometimes a phone or Skype call can vary the communication and can be a much faster way to exchange necessary information. It is also great to be able to put a face to a name, so we encourage our linguists to pop into the office one day to meet the team! If our linguists are passing through London, we would be delighted for them to drop by and say hello to their most regular project managers. It certainly gives a personal touch to e-mails.

To summarise, communication between linguist and project manager should be open, honest, efficient and regular. It also helps to vary the communication from time to time and both parties should always endeavour to empathise as much as possible with one another. If all of this is achieved, then each project will be a pleasure to carry out and together we can deliver the best possible product to our end client!

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Posted on: October 10th, 2013