September 2004 was long before machine translation started to become usable. Nowadays people claim to do 30,000 words a day, and have teams working 24/7 around the world - back then, for quality work we'd generally estimate 1000 words a day, with further delays for long projects or those involving multiple languages, proofreading, complex formats, and so on.
We were asked to take on a very rushed project, translating over 66,000 words of presentations, exercises and documentation into Japanese for a course being delivered to American Express by Zircon Management Consulting Ltd, through the agency of Rainbow - Language in Business. We formed a team of seven translators to tackle it, and after it was all over, Zircon sent us the following feedback:
We are writing to thank you for organising the translations. Our colleagues in Japan were pleased with the documents and were impressed with quality of the translations. Particularly because the concepts were difficult to understand and were very technical and loaded with psychological jargon.
We at Zircon were impressed that the formatting of the documents was professionally taken care of and the materials were ready for the client when emailed. This was important because we could not open the files to check them before they were sent to our client in Japan.
Due to the high quality of the translations, Amex have not needed to rewrite the materials and on only a few occasions needed to re-translate the definition of the words. 99% was translated correctly and only in the behavioural questionnaire (where the meanings of the sentences were not explicit) were there some more significant changes.
When debriefing with my client, I also asked if whether they could tell the difference between the translators used and their quality. They could identify the difference between the translators, however given the fact that you got the translations done so quickly within just a few days we are more than happy with the results.
Your amazing speed at turning the materials around in under 2 weeks, meant that we were able to deliver the 1 week training course in Japan - thank you.
My client stated that your work 'exceeded their expectation'.
They came back a couple of months later and asked us to coordinate the translation of a further 60,000 words into French, Spanish and Italian and a 2000-word questionnaire with complex formatting into Chinese (both PRC & Taiwan), Thai, Swedish, German & Dutch (12 translators). This too went smoothly, to the customer's total satisfaction.