This September, all roads lead to Curitiba! Reply

Today’s guest post author is Sheila Gomes – a freelance translator with over 20 years of experience who currently specializes in software localization and video games. Sheila is the manager of Multitude – an online information portal for translators and interpreters, and is one of the founding members and organizers of  TICWB – a networking group for local industry professionals.

Along with fellow freelance language professional and industry contributor Isabel Vidigal, Sheila is the co-organizer of this year’s ProZ.com regional conference in Brazil, which will take place this September from the 23rd to the 25th in the city of Curitiba. She shares her post today in Portuguese.


Minha primeira conferência de tradutores e intérpretes foi no Rio de Janeiro, em novembro de 2011: a III Conferência Brasileira de Tradutores do ProZ.com. Como foi a edição com o maior número de participantes até então, imagine o assombro da pessoa perdida entre mais de 300 colegas, com dezenas de apresentações e outras atividades para participar. Acabou virando a primeira de uma série: o bichinho dos eventos T&I tinha me mordido e hoje vou a todos que posso. Até chegar ao ponto de organizar em conjunto com a Isabel Vidigal o nosso evento do ProZ.com. A Isabel é veterana de eventos, já organizou inclusive a primeira Conferência do ProZ.com no Brasil, junto com a Rosana Malerba, em agosto de 2009. E agora o evento vem pra Curitiba, num dos poucos casos de saída do eixo Rio-São Paulo. Nesta minha cidade do coração, que acabou virando um polo de referência para tradutores e intérpretes por causa do trabalho ativo que temos aqui com iniciantes e veteranos, em vários projetos e ações. Estamos ansiosos e com vários planos para receber os colegas!

Assim como é para muita gente, o ProZ.com foi meu primeiro passo para conseguir clientes internacionais e fez uma grande diferença na minha carreira. Claro, é um grande recurso, mas funciona de verdade quando fazemos nossa parte, depois de estarmos preparados, de ter pesquisado o mercado e aprimorado as qualificações profissionais. O próprio site oferece uma série de ferramentas para isso, e tentei aproveitá-lo o máximo possível para aprender e também contribuir. Assim também é com a VI Conferência Brasileira do ProZ.com, que estamos organizando aqui em Curitiba entre os dias 23 e 25 de setembro: tentamos devolver um pouco do que conseguimos por meio do portal e oferecer outras oportunidades de fazer networking, receber treinamento, estabelecer discussões e momentos de socialização, para tradutores e intérpretes, iniciantes ou veteranos, e outros interessados na área.

Creio que uma das ações mais eficazes para mudar o mercado é dar acesso a iniciativas educacionais aos profissionais em formação e outras pessoas interessadas em ingressar nessa nossa área tão rica, mas também ainda pouco conhecida do grande público. É por isso que o desenvolvimento profissional inspira o tema do evento, “Boas práticas e caminhos”. Além de palestras e mesas-redondas, o evento oferecerá atendimento especializado individual ou em pares, na forma de miniconsultorias, para profissionais já atuantes e estudantes que buscam informações para se profissionalizar. E como a descontração é importante para estimular a integração dos pares, além do próprio evento, teremos encontros informais e passeios culturais.

Aliás, Curitiba é ideal para encontros assim, especialmente para tradutores e intérpretes, pois o que mais temos por aqui é: café! Espaços simpáticos, pitorescos, convidativos a cada esquina, dos maiores e festivos aos menores e aconchegantes, não faltam lugares para todos os tipos de grupos ou apenas para um bom papo entre duas ou três pessoas. E para quem vem, mas já sabe que pode ter que trabalhar também, praticamente todos os espaços oferecem wifi, além de alguns outros espaços de acesso gratuito como a biblioteca pública (a uma quadra do local do evento) ou algumas praças. Isso sem contar restaurantes, bares, espaços culturais e outros eventos para conhecer e investir no networking até fora do evento.

É por essas e muitas outras que esperamos você aqui: em setembro, todos os caminhos levam a Curitiba!


Meet Sheila and all of the excellent speakers who will be present at this conference – like keynote speakers Marta Stelmaszak and Paula Ribeiro – by registering today on the main event page: http://www.proz.com/conference/686

Registration fees can now be paid in the local currency! The early bird price has been extended so those who are interested in paying in reais at this discounted price may do so. Don’t delay! Prices increase in just a few short days, on July 23rd. More information about paying locally can be found on the event page under the “Opção de pagamento em reais” heading.  

Want to learn more about what to expect at this conference? Program highlights are featured in this short video:

Making the right motions at industry events Reply

“One needs to make the right motions in order to get the right emotions.”

– Hans Fenstermacher


It is always advised to attend in-person industry events in order to sharpen one’s skills and recharge. Establishing relationships with potential clients and other translators at in-person events will always prove to be mutually beneficial. Networking gives translators the chance to exchange experiences, ideas, and support each other, not to mention it can also be another source of jobs. There is no way to move forward in one’s career without learning, networking and enjoying one’s life.

This summer, translators had the opportunity to learn, network, and relax at the Ukrainian Translation Industry Conference al fresco.

As one of the participants, I also enjoyed my stay at the conference, meeting translators who I only knew from Facebook or blogs, and learning from experienced translators and established business owners.

One of the first ideas that really resonated with me personally was shared by Hans Fenstermacher. In his talk, Hans raised a question about the changing landscape of the language industry. His presentation touched on the needs of the industry and its customers, as well as the need for translators and other language professionals to adapt and work together in new ways to meet those needs. He emphasized that having the best or newest tools does not necessarily mean you have something really special, as only humans can make decisions, analyze, and have empathy.

Speaker Inga Michaeli at UTIC-2016

Speaker Inga Michaeli at UTIC-2016

Trying to navigate among three tracks, I finally chose to attend the Art of Translation track, which featured one especially great talk with Inga Michaeli on the topic of specialization. It’s amazing how easily and humorously Inga touched on painful situations in the life of a freelancer, like when a translator stops getting new projects and an important questions comes up: “So what now, despair or diversify?” Inga translates fiction, non-fiction, DK and LP travel guides and is always ready to share outstanding ideas with those who are ready to diversify their language services.

Oleg Rudavin, another notable speaker present at the event, shared his vision on freelancing as a business form, a way of thinking, and even a philosophy. Freelancing is quite often viewed purely and solely as a business organization form, and in that respect it hardly deserves any special attention. What is much more interesting and worthy of investigation, as Oleg noted, are those relations – often conflicting ones – that emerge when the freelancing approach seeps across the borders of business and into other spheres or attitudes, such as those relating to government, or even to oneself.

All presenters – teachers and mentors, agency owners and freelance translators, and software developers – shared their best knowledge with fellow colleagues in order to develop the industry and bring it to a whole new level.

Thanks to everyone for a great time spent at the conference! After getting the right emotions, I hope we are all ready for the right motions.


If you’re ready to continue developing your skills and networking internationally, please join ProZ.com on September 3rd and 4th for the site’s 2016 international conference in Stockholm, Sweden, where presenters will be shedding some light on the human side of the translation industry. Inga Michaeli and Oleg Rudavin will be there to share their knowledge with us, as will a host of other fantastic participants like keynote speaker Maya Hess, DVÜD e. V. president Tanya Quintieri, Erik Hansson of the Things Translators Never Say Facebook group,  and many, many more.

I will be giving my own presentation at this event on effective ProZ.com strategies to develop your business online.  Find out more on the session page, and in the video invitation to the event below. I hope to see you there!

Guest post: The 3 myths about selling translations and how to make it work for you Reply


Today’s guest post contributor is best-selling author, speaker, and business owner Andrew Lawless.

This is Andrew’s first post in a two-part guest blog series on selling your translation services.


Myth 1: It’s about price, speed and quality

Translation can be easily viewed as a commodity business. The competition is huge and fierce. Many translators believe that they can only survive if they offer the lowest rates, better quality and quickest turn-around times – preferably all three at the same time.

It is true that many buyers of translation services look at translation like I see electricity. They want it cheap, instantly and of good quality. They simply just ask several translation service providers how much they charge per word and choose the lowest bidder.

It is also true that translation is not that two-dimensional, just as color and price are not the only factors in buying a car.

This is evidenced in a recent survey by Slator. It surveyed all 75 US government-certified language providers and discovered the cheapest average per-word rate for English-to-Spanish translation has a low of USD 0.08 and a high of USD 0.30. The priciest language pairs, English-Japanese and English-Korean, have offers ranging from USD 0.14 to USD 0.57.

So, why would someone pay USD 0.30 for a word translated into Spanish when they can get it for USD 0.08 from another vendor? In the end, it’s all about how you market and position yourself to your prospect customers.

For one, experienced buyers value a good translator, like a many of us value a plumber who shows up on time, is friendly, listens, does a great job as agreed, and leaves without leaving a mess behind. Experienced buyers pay a premium for translators that save them time, money and frustrations.

The Sankt-Hedwig hospital in Berlin, for example, would have welcomed better translations when their surgeons improperly transplanted artificial knees in 47 patients. Instead of using a procedure in which the artificial joints are being cemented without a shank or shaft, they were implanted without any cement. This happened because the term ‘non-modular cemented’ was wrongly translated as ‘zementfrei’, which means ‘does not need cement’ in German. So, surgeons put in the knees loose and patients needed a second surgery.

The secret is to build a list of customers who value the benefits that you bring and then foster a relationship with the people on that list. It’s not the quantity of people that are on your list. Otherwise, everybody in localization could buy a list of names from a database acquisition service and be a millionaire in no time.

That’s why in my workshop ‘Build your marketing machine to sell translation services’ I will show you how to build a relationship with your audience, so that it becomes natural to buy from you.

Myth 2: Digital marketing is only for big LSP

Years ago, this statement might have been true. Today, not so much. Forrester Research Inc. reports that by 2017, 60% of sales will involve the Internet in some way, either as a direct e-commerce transaction or as part of a shopper’s research. Buyers of both products and services are online, connecting with other buyers on social media and evaluating options on their tablets and smartphones. As a result, modern customers are 65-90% of the way through the purchase decision process before they contact sales.

That’s different from 10 years ago when we were dependent on a sales person to show us what they thought were our best options. Today, buyers have all information upfront – and you will need to deliver that information to them.

While it is true that the higher your budget, the grander your digital marketing campaign can be, don’t assume that you need tens of thousands of dollars to get started. In fact, in my workshop ‘Build your marketing machine to sell translation services’ I show how small-budget marketing campaigns can be very successful.

Many pitches from translation vendors are all so similar, it’s nearly impossible to discern the differences. The constant use of digital buzzwords can make it difficult to tell vendors apart. But asking a precise set of the right questions can make finding the right customer much easier. It’s like in job interviews – always good when the candidate has the right answers, even better when he or she asks the right questions.

What also leads to this most common myth about digital marketing is that many small businesses and freelancers believe that they have to generate and post new content every single day.

But the simple concept of dividing campaigns in marathons and sprints will keep your material fresh and readers interested. That’s why I focus on developing a consistent schedule where new material is published two to four times a month.

Remember, 96% of 18 – 29 year olds are online… and so are 93% of people 30-49, and 81% of 50-64. Your customer base is online – and if they can’t find your business… they’re probably looking at your competition.

Myth 3: Webinars don’t sell

Most business owners and freelancers view webinars as just a means to present a product or service. If you are one of them, you might think that webinars attract a lot of your competitors that want to learn more about you and copy one or the other thing from you. You might attract a few customers to view the webinar, but you won’t sell.

However, presentation of a product or service is only about 15% of an entire, well-integrated webinar strategy.

A truly effective webinar strategy involves 5 key stages (planning, pre, live, post, automated) and there will be cash exchange at the end of your presentation. A webinar is more than just showing a set of slides, a product demo and a Q&A session at the end.

Specifically, great webinars include strategic content that precisely aligns with your paid services or products. It also includes list building, email marketing plan, user engagement, and much more. And most importantly, there will be an exchange of cash at the end. A webinar strategy gives you the opportunity to grow your business at will.

I always highlight the importance of webinars in my workshop ‘Build your marketing machine to sell translation services.’ Many students in my course are stunned to learn how many opportunities a webinar can create – even if they do not have or own any content.

You can use webinars for Q&A sessions, inviting people to come ask you questions around a specific topic. Topic like ‘Grill the Consultant’ or ‘The Roast of the Translator’ can produce wonderful results. So can topics, such as, Best Kept Secrets, Common Mistakes or What’s Working Now.

What counts is that a webinar provides value to the audience. Great webinars solve a problem.


Interested in learning more from Andrew about selling your translation services?

On June 7th Andrew will be hosting a free webinar on “Three no-cost list building strategies.”

Learn more and register today »

5 reasons to attend ProZ.com’s 2016 international event Reply

It’s that time of year again! ProZ.com’s 2016 international event is coming up in just a few months, and over 100 people have already registered to attend. This year’s conference will take place in Stockholm, Sweden on September 3rd and 4th.

Below is a list of five things that attendees can look forward to at this event:


5. The social activities

The pre-conference powwow will include a private tour of the Nobel Museum.

The pre-conference powwow will include a private tour of the Nobel Museum

Let’s face it: learning is only one reason (albeit a very important one!) to attend a conference. Translation events also provide an opportunity for language professionals to get together and talk about their work and their lives, exchange tips and advice, form new professional relationships, and even make friends. This is especially important for freelancers, most of whom work from home or in an isolated setting. This year’s international event will provide plenty of opportunities for attendees to network while taking advantage of their stay in Stockholm, during activities like:

  • A guided sightseeing tour of the Old Town district
  • A pre-conference powwow at the Nobel Museum
  • A three-course gala dinner on Saturday night
  • A post-conference dinner overlooking the harbor

See the “Social” tab of the event page for complete details on these activities. Attendees will also have many chances during the conference to chat, like at lunch, during coffee breaks, and in a business card exchange.

4. Visiting Stockholm

Tour Stockholm's Old Town district, or Gamla Stan

Tour Stockholm’s Old Town district

In addition to networking opportunities, industry events are also a great excuse for language professionals to do something they love: experience new and different places, languages, and cultures. If you’re planning on attending this year’s international conference, you’ll have the chance to enjoy a few days in the heart of Stockholm, the capital of Scandinavia. The city is surrounded by water, uniting the vibrancy of a metropolis with clean air, sparkling water and green spaces. An incredibly walkable city, Stockholm combines cutting-edge Scandinavian design, art and cultural attractions with striking natural beauty, spread over the 14 islands that make up the “Venice of the North.” Check out the city’s official tourism website for more information on getting around the city, places to stay, and attractions to visit to get the most out of your time in Stockholm.

3. Getting certified

For the first time ever, ProZ.com will be hosting an ATA certification exam as part of its international conference package. This is an excellent opportunity for translators to certify their skills at a rare European sitting of the exam. Space is limited to only 20 people, so be sure to register soon if you are interested!

2. A one-of-a-kind keynote speech

Maya Hess will deliver the keynote speech

Maya Hess is the founder and CEO of Red T, a U.S.-based nonprofit organization that advocates worldwide on behalf of translators and interpreters in zones of conflict. As a forensic linguist, Maya provided language support and expert witness services in many high-profile terrorism trials, among them those related to the US embassy attacks in East Africa, the World Trade Center bombing, and the New York City landmarks conspiracy. At ProZ.com’s 2016 international conference, Maya will be giving a compelling keynote speech on protecting language professionals who work in high-risk settings. Read more about Maya’s keynote speech and register to attend by visiting the session page.

1. The sessions

In conferences as in marketing, everyone knows that content is king. That’s why this year’s international event features a wide panel of fantastic speakers who will be delivering quality content to attendees at every session. Some of these speakers are renowned trainers and mentors like Irene Koukia, experts in their fields like João Roque Dias, published authors like Oleg Rudavin, current or former heads of translators associations like Inga MichaeliJohn Richard Stokbak Sciaba and Tanya Quintieri, or social media experts like Gala Gil Amat and Erik Hansson. And these are only some of the great speakers who will be presenting during this event! See the full list of conference speakers, including familiar faces and new ones, at: http://www.proz.com/conference/683?page=speakers


In addition to the points listed above, attendees at ProZ.com’s 2016 international event will also have the chance to receive discounts on site membership and training courses, participate in a one-on-one workshop with site staff on tips and tricks for getting the most out of ProZ.com, as well as qualify for 10 ATA Continuing Education credits. New attendance benefits are added regularly, so be sure to check out the “News and updates” section of the main conference page for the latest event news and announcements.

Register today and save!

The special early bird discount to attend this conference ends in just 18 days, so be sure to book your seat now while this offer is still available. Just click one of the “Buy now” buttons on the left side of the main event page: http://www.proz.com/conference/683. Special discounts are also available for students, site moderators, members of the Certified PRO Network, and members of the SFÖ.

Any questions?

Don’t hesitate to get in touch via email at conferences@proz.com, or contact the local organizer, Erin Lyons. You can also find this event on Facebook, and on Twitter using the hashtag #StockholmConf.

Hope to see you in Stockholm!


If you plan on attending this event, what are you most looking forward to?

If you’re not sure if you’ll be able to make it to the conference, let us know what you would like to see at this and future ProZ.com events. Simply post in the comments section or via Twitter @ProZcom

Guest post by Paula Ribeiro: Interpreting the present to translate the future Reply

Today’s guest post was written by Paula Ribeiro – president and co-founder of the Portuguese Association of Translators and Interpreters (APTRAD). This organization will be holding its first international conference on June 18th and 19th in Porto, Portugal.


APTRAD, the Portuguese Association of Translators and Interpreters, was established in February 2015 by a group of freelance professionals in response to a perceived need for a modern, creative and innovative approach in order to achieve greater cohesion and exchange of information at a national level within the profession. After almost one year of hard work we are proud of achieving some of the important goals we initially set.

APTRAD’s motto – Interpreting the present to translate the future – reflects the Association’s aim to promote and foster the growth of its professional members, and to support the integration as professionals of all future translators and interpreters into the market.

Pursuing this thought, APTRAD is holding its first International Conference on June 18-19, 2016. Taking advantage of the main festivities of our city in that month, we will try our best to turn this event into a big party, welcoming all translators, interpreters and linguists in general to join us in our beloved hometown – Porto.

The theme of the conference will be “Stages in the career of a freelancer” and will tackle the different phases in the career of a professional freelance translator and/or interpreter and what’s expected and required at each stage. We will have renowned speakers who will certainly inspire all of us with their knowledge and experience in several areas of our profession.

The organisation of this event becomes much easier with the valuable help of our partners in which ProZ.com is included as an essential reference in the career of so many professionals. A big thank you on behalf of APTRAD.

Feel free to visit our website at www.aptrad.pt and more specifically the conference website at www.aptrad.pt/conference/conference and drop us a line if you need help from us. See you in Portugal, in June!


About Paula RibeiroPaul Ribeiro

Paula Ribeiro started translating in 1997, and since then she knew that this was the career she wanted to pursue! She graduated in 2006 with a Master’s Degree in Specialized Translation and Interpretation with English and French as her working languages, and later Spanish as her third language. She is currently pursuing a postgraduate degree in Computer Assisted Translation.

In 2010, Paula decided to create her own company – Crossingwords – and to undertake translation and interpretation as her main occupation, always maintaining her education and training as a key part of her professional and personal development.

As an event organizer, Paula has planned several conferences on both a national and international scale, including the 2013 ProZ.com International Conference.

Since February 2015 Paula has been one of the founders and the President of APTRAD, the Portuguese Association of Translators and Interpreters, a formally constituted non-profit organisation based in Porto.


Did you know?

You can find APTRAD’s international conference listed on ProZ.com’s translation industry events calendar, along with dozens of other language and translation-related events that are scheduled to take place this year, ranging from workshops or seminars, to powwows, to regional events, to major international conferences.

See the announcement: http://www.proz.com/topic/298930

Translator training: You have the knowledge, ProZ.com has the tools Reply

proz-101-events

Translators and interpreters make intercultural communication possible through language, sharing ideas and concepts with people throughout the world. It is important that they understand the substance of translated material, use up-to-date software and platforms, and keep an eye on new tendencies in the industry.

The ProZ.com training platform helps beginning and  experienced professionals alike to develop their skills and reach new levels in their careers. Sessions are offered one-on-one, live, or on-demand for greater flexibility in delivering content to translators, interpreters and language professionals. ProZ.com trainers are experienced freelancers and outstanding members of the ProZ.com community who have decided to share their knowledge and expertise with their colleagues through the site’s training platform.

More than 30,000 site users have participated in training sessions proposed through the ProZ.com training area. One of the most beloved training formats – webinars – are always of interest to translators as they allow site users to communicate with the trainer directly and get answers to their questions live. Webinar attendees also enjoy unlimited access to the video recording of the session as well as any course materials. Participants are awarded certificates of attendance after these sessions, some of which can be verified as credentials at ProZ.com.

Another great source of knowledge for translators and interpreters are tutorials on ProZ.com, as well as videos recorded during the site’s free webinar weeks. You only need an Internet connection and a headset/speakers to attend, and videos, can be watched in your free time and at your own pace.

“Being a trainer helps me in my own professional development. It is a great opportunity to share what I know with other translators.”

Over the past few years, trainers from 45 countries have generously shared their knowledge and expertise through ProZ.com’s training platform, on topics ranging from business skills and marketing to software and translation tools, services and specialization, project management, industry trends, and more. Among these trainers are experienced and well-known conference speakers; experts in medical, legal, technical, literary, and environmental fields; experienced marketing specialists; and technology aficionados. Despite their varying backgrounds and specialties, these trainers all share a passion for the translation profession, endless curiosity, readiness to take a risk with a new service, and a willingness to share what they have learned with their colleagues.

“I have been a trainer at ProZ.com since 2010 and have enjoyed it immensely. The ProZ.com Training Department provides an intuitive webinar platform as well as feedback and ideas for trainers to ensure success.”

Becoming a ProZ.com professional trainer requires no previous knowledge or experience with e-learning technologies, and the course creation process offers helpful tips and comprehensive guidelines on how to create an effective promotional page for a new training.

“The amount of support I get from the ProZ.com team is what has kept me as a trainer here for 5 years, even though I have my own web-based school.  I love the ease of the communication, the extraordinarily good suggestions, the initial in-depth discussions we had when I was just starting, and the intelligent comments I receive today. Thank you for encouraging me to  become a trainer, making it possible afterwards, providing the specialized platform and technology support, creating the marketing packages, and – best of all – giving me the opportunity to work with an amazing team!”

The new year has come bringing a lot to the translation industry. Let’s learn together about new tendencies and tips for translators through training at ProZ.com.


About HelenHelen

Helen Shepelenko is a ProZ.com staff member working out of the site’s office in Kharkiv, Ukraine. As the manager of ProZ.com’s training area, Helen oversees the recruitment of new site trainers, and reviews proposals and suggestions for courses offered through the platform. If you are an experienced language professional and are interested in sharing your knowledge with the ProZ.com community, please contact Helen through the Trainers section of the site: http://www.proz.com/translator-training/trainers/

Post-editing: Blessing or curse for translators? 1

This is the second post in a two-part guest blog series by ProZ.com professional trainer and conference speaker Federico Gaspari. The first post in this series can be found here: “Machine translation: Cause or solution of all evils?”


One is unlikely to make many friends among translators talking about machine translation (MT) – unless the conversation is restricted to deriding its stupid mistakes and emphasizing its uselessness. A related topic that is possibly even less popular than MT among translators is post-editing (PE), also because it’s less easy to come up with funny stories of hopeless mistakes. Let’s face it: while pretty much everybody with at least a modest knowledge of two languages can be amused by the sarcastic appreciation of what is lost in (machine) translation, deriving pleasure from blunders occurring when post-editing MT output is a rather more subtle activity, whose enjoyment requires much more effort. This post discusses some issues concerning MT, translation quality and PE, focusing on some current trends in the translation industry of interest to professional translators.

Translators, MT and PE

Surprising though it may seem, there are dozens of threads on MT in ProZ.com’s technical forums, and one finds a mixture of (mildly) positive and (extremely) negative opinions, depending on the experiences of the community members who have posted their views. One of these forum threads, entitled “What’s your opinion on machine translation and quality?” has attracted one of the largest numbers of replies (more than 130) and views (over 16,000) of all the threads in ProZ.com’s technical forums. This incredibly popular thread is particularly close to my heart, because Daniela Zambrini initiated the discussion to announce an invited talk on MT and PE that I was due to give a few weeks later at the  ProZ.com 2014 International Conference which she organised in Pisa, Italy.

I’m under no illusion that I was responsible for the amazing popularity of the thread: in fact, Daniela’s well-intentioned post attracted replies which mostly ranged from outraged to exasperated, so much so that I was having second thoughts about whether I should actually go to the conference and give my presentation on MT and PE. Making many new translator friends had not been a consideration in accepting to give a talk at the conference a few months before (I already have quite a few of them, and we normally avoid discussing MT and PE…); but as the event was getting closer, I didn’t fancy the prospect of facing a particularly hostile and aggressive audience of angry professionals. As it turned out, my 45-minute talk at the conference in Pisa was rather well-received (in fairness, I smoothed over some of the contentious points that were likely to get on my listeners’ nerves…), and it was followed by a very civilised and interesting Q&A session at the end.

I even enjoyed some one-to-one conversations with translators who had listened to my talk and approached me during the rest of the conference: on the whole, they were genuinely curious about MT and PE, and I appreciated their honest questions and comments on these inevitably sensitive topics. In addition to a general curiosity to understand how MT works, several delegates at the well-attended ProZ.com 2014 International Conference in Pisa showed a keen interest in learning more about PE. As part of these conversations, some translators reported that they had been approached by LSPs and agencies as well as by direct end clients with requests for quotes for PE. As a result, these professionals were considering whether they should start offering PE services in addition to “standard” translation jobs, but they had no idea of the skills required and of the rates that they should charge. This blog post gives me the opportunity to discuss some issues related to PE that can be of interest to a wider audience of professional translators who are at least open to the prospect of securing PE jobs.

Post-editing MT output is different from translating and revising

At the risk of stating the obvious, it should be made clear that PE is very different from translating and revising translations done by (junior) human translators. The main reason for this is that MT systems make mistakes that are very different from those made by professionals, including relatively inexperienced ones. In addition, MT systems come in many shapes and forms: alongside the traditional rule-based approaches, statistical architectures are now particularly popular; these two basic types can be combined to obtain hybrid systems, and some researchers are now experimenting with neural MT, a new paradigm that seems to hold great potential for substantial improvements in output quality. Each of these types of MT systems is more likely to make certain kinds of mistakes rather than others, calling for different PE interventions.

In addition, different resources are required to develop MT systems with these approaches, and their output varies dramatically depending on the amount and quality of the available resources. A related crucial variable is the language pair involved: in principle, some approaches to MT system design are more promising for certain language pairs than others. However, the technological expertise and resources available for MT system development are unevenly distributed: while abundant human and technical resources can be tapped into for some languages (e.g. English and other widely used European languages as well as, increasingly, a few additional major world languages such as Chinese and Arabic), most languages are not well served at all by MT due to the lack of appropriate resources. There are techniques to deal with these shortcomings, but they are not always very effective.

One case in point are the huge sentence-aligned parallel corpora required for the development of statistical MT systems, whether they belong to the phrase-based or to the syntax-based category; while LSPs and freelance translators possess vast translation memory databases containing high-quality translated texts for certain language pairs, the data sets available for many others are far too small to offer the critical mass needed to kick-start the development of effective statistical MT systems. In practice, this means that the quality offered by MT systems (whatever their design) for several language pairs cannot yet be acceptable. This in turn determines whether PE is a reasonable proposition for the language pair under consideration or not. A closely related variable has to do with the text type in question: for some particularly challenging text types (even within the technical and specialised fields, say medical reports and legally-binding rental contracts) it may still be impossible to develop decent MT systems, e.g. due to the lack of relevant training data such as in-domain sentence-aligned parallel corpora in digital format, which can be very difficult to come by for certain language pairs in highly specialised and sensitive technical domains.

Many forms of post-editing

One common, but erroneous, assumption is that there exists only one type of PE; however, this is far from the truth. In fact, various PE levels can be appropriate for different purposes, given specific circumstances: at one extreme, light or minimum PE involves fixing only major errors, e.g. those that make the MT output incomprehensible or misleading (vis-à-vis the input in the source language), whereas stylistic nuances or relatively minor imperfections can be tolerated and do not require any correction – in other words, one is prepared to accept a less-than-perfect final target text, which can be good enough, for instance, for ‘gisting’ or information-gathering purposes; at the opposite extreme, there is complete or maximum PE: in this scenario, on the other hand, every inaccuracy in the raw MT output must be corrected, polishing up all minor details, i.e. the aim of complete PE is to obtain a final target text whose quality is equivalent to that of a professionally translated text. Note that, while professional translation invariably aims at delivering top-quality target texts, (light/minimum) PE can be carried out with the much more modest ambition of providing a final text that is usable in certain circumstances, accepting that it may be (very) far from perfect.

While this division may sound intuitive in theory, applying it in practice is quite complex. First of all, there are many intermediate cases between these two extremes of light/minimum and complete/maximum PE, and one has to determine which level of PE is most appropriate to a specific scenario, depending on the needs and expectations of the translation’s end users. This is a function not only of the time available for the PE job, but also of the initial quality of the raw output that is offered by the available MT system: even obtaining a final post-edited target text of average quality may require extensive PE interventions, if the initial raw MT output is particularly poor – in the end, the effort involved may not be worthwhile, compared to translating everything from scratch. Conversely, there may be cases where the raw output of a particularly effective MT system for a specific language pair in a well-defined textual domain requires only minor PE interventions to be brought to excellent final quality.

In short, the language pair and the text type in question, the design and quality of the MT system, the characteristics of the raw MT output and the intended use(r)s of the final revised target text interact in complex ways to dictate the actual level and effort of PE that are required. But this equation still leaves room for uncertainty from the post-editor’s perspective, as it is quite common for machine-translated texts to display uneven quality: for example, in a 10,000-word translation project, 10% of the raw MT output may be (nearly) perfect with little or no need for improvement, 30% may be impossible to salvage even with extensive PE (i.e. one would be better off re-translating those entire passages from scratch), and the remaining 60% may require different forms of intermediate PE (say, within the same paragraph one preposition must be changed in a sentence, a final ending agreement in another, but a whole dependent clause turns out to be wrongly translated and completely incomprehensible elsewhere). It is easy to see that PE can become a demanding activity, and the effort it requires in terms of skills and time is often difficult to predict and convert into clear rates that can be charged to clients with a transparent pricing scheme.

Factors to be considered when offering post-editing services

Still, with the increasing adoption of MT in professional translation workflows, the demand for PE is rising, so much so that many translators are considering whether they should offer PE services in addition to standard translation jobs. This is more likely, at least in the short term, for in-house translators of large LSPs that have the resources and expertise to develop their own customised MT systems for domains with constant demand from major clients, thus requiring some of their staff to take on PE roles in dedicated projects incorporating MT. But interestingly, some companies specialising in translation technology offer cloud-based “do-it-yourself” or self-service MT solutions that are accessible to freelance translators who are willing to invest in this area: this approach does not require extensive technical skills, because the training and set-up of the MT systems are guided in a step-by-step fashion for users with fee-paying accounts and managed at the back-end by the companies themselves. There are anecdotes of naïve clients looking for easy discounts who generated garbled output with free online MT systems, asking translators to fix the inevitable errors at cheap rates; however, since free web-based MT services are not customised to specific domains, but they are one-size-fits-all systems, this approach is unlikely to be successful: it is rather pointless, if not counter-productive, to carry out PE if the initial quality of the raw MT output is very poor.

Hence, even before considering the possibility of offering professional PE, one must be sure to have at least a decent-quality MT system available. Although it is very difficult to generalise, all else being equal (e.g. the domain and level of technicality of the source text, the quantity of language resources available for system training and development, etc.), MT into English (from, say, German, Russian or Chinese) tends to give better results than the opposite translation directions, i.e. from English into these target languages. As a result, in principle technical and specialised translation projects into English should be good candidates to explore the potential benefits of combining MT and PE. Although techniques for MT quality estimation are improving, it is still very difficult to accurately predict in advance the quality of raw MT output that will be obtained for a specific source text, and especially if this will be viable for subsequent PE. One must try and see whether PE (at the level required to obtain the expected final quality) is faster and more efficient than translating from scratch, e.g. with translation memories in a standard CAT environment. If they are open to this possibility, translators are well placed (more so than their clients) to gauge whether incorporating MT followed by PE in the translation workflow for specific projects can result in time gains and, potentially, in more competitive rates.

Open issues with PE

Some LSPs and freelance translators (including ProZ.com members!) have started to offer PE services, admittedly of the complete/maximum type, where the explicit goal is to deliver a final revised target text of excellent quality. Their pricing schemes vary depending on the language pairs and technical domains involved, and one open issue is whether PE should be charged pro-rata based on the regular translation fee, or by the hour: a quick survey of the online profiles of professionals offering PE services and of relevant discussion forums on ProZ.com shows huge variation in this regard, and there does not seem to be an industry-wide agreed approach yet. One crucial attraction of PE is that, given substantial volumes of MT-friendly technical material, one can in principle speed up turnaround times without sacrificing quality. With CAT tools and translation memory software increasingly integrating optional MT engines to process null matches, the practice of PE as part of technical translation projects is spreading quickly, and it may not always be easy to distinguish it from the editing of low fuzzy matches retrieved from translation memory databases: this in itself suggests that an honest discussion of the potential benefits of PE is timely and may prove in the interest of professional translators, so that they can offer clear and fair rates for their services, without relinquishing their negotiating power to budget-oriented clients.

Translators of today, post-editors of tomorrow?

Many translators are worried about being forced to become post-editors, falling victims of the seemingly unstoppable process that drives down quality and worsens working conditions to save on increasingly casualised professional services while reducing turnaround times. Now that nobody in professional translation would dream of working in technical and specialised domains without CAT tools, MT and PE are arguably the greatest source of anxiety among professionals. But it is important to recognise that a good translator does not necessarily make a good MT post-editor: PE requires quick thinking and the fast adoption of effective error fixes, and a constant monitoring of the trade-off between effort (i.e. time spent on PE interventions) and benefits (i.e. real, noticeable improvements in the final target text). In addition, with the exception of complete/maximum PE (where a perfect final target text must be delivered), post-editors must often settle for less-than-perfect translations, e.g. if quality is not paramount but must be sufficient for information-gathering purposes – this is something that can turn out to be particularly difficult and uncomfortable for translators, who tend to be perfectionists.

Quite understandably, not all translators are inclined to work as post-editors, e.g. because they feel that their professionalism would not be recognised or that they would not perform optimally having to revise MT output of variable quality; just like some translators are more familiar with certain technical domains, but struggle in others, or they may enjoy working on their own on large projects, but hate revising and editing the work of junior colleagues. Whatever your own strengths and weaknesses, opportunities for PE services seem set to grow in the coming years, especially because one can expect an overall improvement of MT quality in an ever expanding range of language pairs and technical domains. If you are looking forward to continuing your happy career as a language professional, it seems wise to at least consider whether you might benefit from also adding PE to your portfolio of translation services. At t he end of the day, investigating this area before your clients come asking for PE services might put you in good stead to discuss the pros and cons of this activity with them, without having to accept unfair rates imposed on you for a job that you hate or, possibly even worse, losing your clients to less scrupulous competitors.


eventsLearn more about the advantages of using machine translation and performing post-editing  as a service by attending one of Federico’s live or on-demand  ProZ.com training sessions on the subject. The full course list is available here: http://www.proz.com/translator-training/trainers/1315/courses

Federico’s next live session, Maximize Your Productivity with Effective Machine Translation Post-Editing,” will take place on February 8th at 14:00 GMT. You can reserve your seat in the course by visiting the session page and clicking the “Purchase” button in the top right corner under “Course registration”.

Did you know?

It is now possible to declare post-editing as a service you provide in your ProZ.com profile. This also means that outsourcers can search the directory for language professionals who offer this service. See the announcement: http://www.proz.com/topic/294136

Do you perform machine translation post-editing as a service? Why or why not? Comment below or tweet @ProZcom