English Translation at the Edgar Co-op: The A-Team Experience

14 April 2022

By Edgar


Elizabeth Birdsall

Hello there! Now that Edgar Inc. has become the member-owned Edgar Co-op, we thought it might be interesting to write a few blog posts about what a workday looks like for the translators, revisers and other employees who make up the Co-op. I’m a French-to-English translator in the English division (or the A-Team, as we like to call ourselves).

So what is it like to be a member of the A-Team?

Most of the people working for the Edgar Co-op are English-to-French translators, so the English division forms its own little bubble within the Co-op. This means two things. One, we’re a tight-knit team! And two, we’re all generalists, because everything the Co-op translates into English comes through us.

What does that mean in practice? Well, the Edgar Co-op’s other translation teams get most of their work from a small list of regular clients. These teams also generally translate within a specific domain, like finance or health care. Obviously, there’s still variety, but within a smaller range of more focused specialization. For us, though, every day is different! We do have plenty of regular clients, and we get very familiar with their styles, audiences and preferences, but every A-Teamer handles work for something like 80–90 clients in an average year. Luckily, we’re all on this team because that’s exactly the kind of thing we enjoy. Variety is the spice of A-Team life!

So, on a given day, when I log in to our system in the morning and take a look at what’s on my docket, I might see 600 words of interior design marketing tweets, a revision of a teammate’s translation of a customer complaint and a highly technical grant proposal for biomedical research. Or maybe it’ll be 250 words of applesauce packaging, 900 words of a nature centre’s monthly newsletter, a 12-word tagline for a brand’s new promotion and then a guide to electrical installation that’ll take up most of tomorrow as well. You never know! Or maybe I’ve spent the last week steadily chipping away at a massive publication, and I know I’m going to spend the next two weeks working on it—but I also know that after those two weeks, I’ll probably get another smorgasbord of shorter texts in all kinds of domains as a chaser.

Whatever it is, I know I’m going to be working on it with at least one other A-Teamer. We all revise each other’s work, so every document is going to be seen by at least two of us. Sometimes it’s more—huge jobs or rush requests might be split between translators, and something particularly sensitive or complex might get extra revision or proofreading—but most of the time, there’s one other A-Teamer who’s going to be working with me on any given text.

That means we all get to know each other’s work very well. We’re continually revising and being revised by each other; we know each other’s strengths as well as the areas that need a little extra attention. It also means that we have very little ego tied up in our individual contributions. You improve a sentence of mine today, I’ll improve one of yours tomorrow or the next day; it doesn’t matter who wrote which bit, as long as the final result is something we can all be proud of and something the client will be satisfied with. It sounds corny, but it’s true! We have a vibrant group chat going, since some of our team was remote even before the pandemic made working from home the new normal. We use it to ask each other questions, get help with a tricky sentence, or just share a bad pun or a cute cat picture.

This is where I have to give a shout-out to our fabulous workflow manager, Caeli, and the rest of the Assignments and Coordination team. Caeli does a ton of work juggling things so that we all end up with reasonable deadlines and a reasonable workload, and so that we get to work on things we’re interested in whenever possible. Obviously, some texts are always going to be more interesting than others. But those examples I gave are taken from requests I’ve worked on (with details changed for the clients’ sake)—and that reflects the fact that I’ve told Caeli that I like health care, science and marketing work, so she tosses some of it my way. I don’t like highly technical financial work, though, so I see less of it. I do enjoy those massive publications that take weeks of steady work, so when Caeli has some, she thinks of me. We all have to pitch in and do whatever needs doing, but overall, we get more of the kind of work we prefer and as little as possible of the kind we don’t.

Translation and revision are our bread and butter, but they’re not the only way we spend our time. One big “extracurricular” is professional development. It’s definitely one of the strengths of the Edgar Co-op! We have access to both organized group trainings (many of them led by François Lavallée, our director of quality and training, who not only has decades of experience but also has literally written the book on the subject) and one-on-one coaching. Every so often our team lead, Manu, will pick a text we’ve translated or revised and go over it with us, pulling out word choices and phrasings that work well or could have been improved or are just worthy of discussing and digging into the nuances of. On top of that, we have a lot of past trainings on video to use for self-guided learning, along with the opportunity to do our own reading or other training research.

And then there’s client communications. That’s mostly the job of our fantastic Coordination team, but we get involved when we need to check with a client about a translation question. (Can they explain this internal acronym? Do they have an existing job title for this gestionnaire de XYZ position, or do they want us to translate that?)  Again, teamwork is our watchword. If I run into any issues or questions, I can always check in with Coordination. And if I want a native speaker to make sure my French email is hitting the right professional note, I’ll ask a colleague to take a look over it, just as they might ask me to look over their English another day.

In addition to training, some people sit on co-op committees, write the occasional blog post, or help out in other ways. And that’s about the size of it! No variety-craving translator could ask for a better team, in my opinion. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got some recipes and a bicycle user manual to get back to…

Want to join the team? Send us your application at carrieres@coopedgar.ca. Have questions about the Co-op? Don’t hesitate to contact us! We’ll be happy to give you more information.