Guest post: 10 things translators need to know about machine translation 3

Meet Gwenydd Jonesa freelance Spanish to English translator and professional trainer. She has two MAs, the first in Translation Studies and the second in Legal Translation, and the DipTrans (CIOL). With 10 years’ experience, Gwenydd specializes in business, marketing and legal translation. She is also a copywriter.

Learn more about Gwenydd and some of the courses she offers by checking out her blog,

I don’t know about you, but I spend much of my life going from one translation project to the next. I want to learn about translation technology, but am always putting it off. Not my idea of fun. For me, m1074712_r55e018418b6a3achine translation is like the hologrammatic elephant in my home office.

Last June, I had to prepare a talk for the conference in Stockholm. Finally, an opportunity to confront the elephant. I set out to find answers to my questions, hoping to put my worries to rest. I wanted to find out: what is going on with machine translation? Is it a real threat to human translators? And if it is, what should we be doing about it?

In my webinar Your Essential Machine Translation Briefing, on 8 Feb, I’ll share what I found out. From the perspective of a technically challenged freelancer. In the first half, I’ll give you a summary of what is currently going on in machine translation. Then, I’ll share the strategies I’m employing in my work, to make sure I develop alongside automated translation. See you there!

In the meantime, here are a few things freelance translators need to know about machine translation.

  1. ‘Machine translation’ isn’t the same as ‘translation memory’ or ‘CAT tool’

Sometimes translators get these terms muddled up, which is understandable. A computer-assisted translation (CAT) tool is an application where you can write your translations. It uses translation memories (TMs) to keep a record of all your past work. Don’t confuse that with a machine translation (MT) engine. An MT engine is an application that automatically translates a text. You can integrate MT with your CAT tool, but they are two different pieces of software. They have different functions.

  1. Machine translation is more effective with certain text types

Since computers rely on data and rules, the more predictable a text, the better the output will likely be. Formulaic and simple texts work well. Creative and complex texts don’t. Life sciences, finance, IT and other technical genres lend themselves to machine translation. But while financial accounts are formulaic, an accountant’s blog is far less predictable. With the second, you may well be faster on your own, particularly if you use voice recognition.

  1. Machine translation engines get better results when they’re customised

Translators and companies that are serious about machine translation aren’t using Google Translate. They get their own machine translation engines and train them for a specific domain. They do this by inputting their translation memories. After that, they input more data on an ongoing basis, so the machine keeps adapting to them. This is how they get more accurate output. Then they post edit it and feed the final translation back into the machine. With a suitable text type, this helps them finish the translation faster than if they did it from scratch.

  1. Neural machine translation is a major change in the translation industry

The world of machine translation is starting to harness deep learning. This is based on neural networks. Neural networks have lots of uses in artificial intelligence. Language processing is one of them. So, computer scientists can use them to improve machine translation. Companies that are using neural machine translation include: Google, Microsoft and Facebook.

  1. Google Translate is now using neural machine translation in some language combinations

Google recently announced that it is using neural machine translation in Google Translate. For now, it is limited to certain language combinations. They rolled it out with a total of eight language pairs. All are to and from English, combined with French, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Turkish. It’s free, but remember the data is public, so you can’t use it if you’ve signed a confidentiality agreement. Google Translate isn’t customised (see point 3), but it has lots of data. The jury is still out on how good the updated tool is.

  1. You can subscribe to your own machine translation engine and train it

You may not realise that companies that develop machine translation engines sell subscriptions. You can even pay to train your own engine using your translation memories. Post-editing isn’t just about an agency sending you texts. You can learn how to post edit, get a customised engine and then do whatever you want with it. The profits and control will be all yours.

  1. Companies that sell machine translation are battling for your business

If you want to try machine translation, you have to go shopping for a provider. The different companies that offer machine translation solutions (including SDL, Lilt and Systran) publish data to show how effective their software is. It’s all quite technical and confusing. And it can be biased. You can go to TAUS and the eMpTy Pages blog, for unbiased information.

Perhaps, like me, you prefer to see for yourself. One way of doing this is to observe yourself for a month in your work, and see how many words you average per hour. Then, pick whichever machine translation software takes your fancy and use it for a month. Track your turnover to see whether your hourly average gets faster or not. Then you’ll have your own data to tell you whether it’s worth continuing to invest.

  1. Machine translation isn’t currently replacing human translators

Improvements in machine translation don’t mean we’re all out of a job. But, it may mean our jobs will start to change. Commercial translation is often about getting an acceptable translation as quickly as possible. You can complete some texts faster by using customised machine translation and post-editing. And sometimes that is what the customer wants. As machine translation continues to get better, we can expect demand for post-editing to grow.

  1. Machine translation pricing isn’t set in stone, yet

While machine translation has a long history, it’s still being consolidated in our industry. Lots of translators and translation agencies are struggling to get their heads around it. Some translators are concerned that post-editing means lower pay. Certainly, ruthless agencies will try to use it as another way of driving prices down.

But, that doesn’t mean smart translators can’t use it to increase their profitability. Why shouldn’t we earn more on the days we work as post editors? If we learn about it, and talk about it, we’ll soon know how we want to price it. We’ll know when to refuse a job. Translators can choose to accept post-editing jobs only when they’re going to make more money for their time.

  1. Freelance translators have options regarding machine translation

We don’t all have to go running for the hills before the robots attack. Becoming a post editor is just one option open to us. If you like the idea of it, you could post edit for agencies. But, you could also subscribe to your own engine and use it in your work. If you don’t want to post edit, there are a host of specialisation and diversification options.

Whatever path you end up choosing, now is a good time to get informed and come up with a plan. If major changes do take place in our industry, I for one will be ready for them. Ready to adapt. To continue being the one who controls my career. To protect my rates, serve the direct customer competitively, and understand the jobs (and prices) agencies offer me.

I encourage you to join me at my webinar on 8 Feb, Your Essential Machine Translation Briefing. I’ll share everything I’ve found out about machine translation, in simple, unbiased terms. I’ll also tell you the strategies I’ve come up with, and am now employing in my work. Sign up here!

Leaving a linguistic trail: An interview with Mariagrazia Gerardi Watson on Watson’s Wine Glossary 2

Giles Watson, creator of Watson’s Wine Glossary

Mariagrazia Gerardi Watson is the wife of the late Giles Watson, a long-time member and advocate, the site’s first keynote conference speaker, and the creator of Watson’s Wine Glossary, an English-Italian specialized wine glossary so extensive that it includes over 3,800 distinct terms.

With the help of a team of volunteers (including Hall of Fame’s Angela Arnone), Mariagrazia has now undertaken the task of maintaining this massive resource.

In this interview, I had the pleasure of asking Mariagrazia a few questions about Watson’s Wine Glossary: how it started, what she plans to do next, and what other wine translation specialists can do to contribute to this project.

MK: First of all, thank you very much for participating in this interview with me. Can you tell me a little bit about how Watson’s Wine Glossary first began?

MGW: Giles and I were introduced to the wine world by a friend and colleague of mine who was one of the most important figures in the Slow Food movement. Thanks to him, we got to know many wine producers in our region, who showed us the meaning of wine making and the close relationship between this activity and the territory, the traditions and the history of a place. Giles was really fascinated by this world and started to read, study and research. Some of the producers wanted to make their wines known abroad and asked Giles to translate their leaflets and websites. This is how the whole thing began. As you know, Giles was a very precise and professional person, and he dedicated a lot of time to improving and extending his knowledge and competence in the wine field. His translations were recognized as very good and he was often asked to various events to teach how to make a good job of wine translating. After a while, quite a number of his colleagues started to ask him for advice and tips on the correct terminology to use, so he decided to start the glossary to share his experience and expertise. On the website, an introduction explains the purpose of the glossary.

MK: Did you ever envision that it would grow to this size?

MGW: I don’t think that even Giles expected the success of the glossary and he was very happy about it, and he certainly would have continued to improve it.

MK: Is it possible to contribute terms to the glossary? What does that process look like?

MGW: Yes, of course. This is what Giles wanted: to have a tool built up by all the people interested in it and not only by a group of experts. On the website, there are detailed instructions on how to get involved.

MK: How can other English-Italian wine experts help preserve this glossary, apart from contributing terms?

MGW: Using it, contributing to it, but above all, I think, sharing experiences and ideas, suggesting different approaches, points of view, in short: keeping it alive. The words of Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Do not go where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail” may well represent the real spirit of the glossary.

MK: What are your plans for Watson’s Wine Glossary in the future?

MGW: What I would like to do, apart from continuing the implementation of the glossary (thanks to the help of friends and experts like Angela Arnone) is to create a dedicated area in which to publish some of Giles’s work, such as translations, presentations, articles, and interviews not only related to the wine field, and also links to events which were part of his interests and in which he would have loved to participate. Of course, as Giles would have approved, I will always be open to any suggestions.

A very special thanks to Mariagrazia for taking the time to talk to me about Giles, who was certainly a very well-known and much loved member of the community. His many contributions to the site remain visible for the benefit of all.

A forum thread was created in Giles’s honor shortly after his death, which can be found here: teams up with TM-Town Reply

proz_tmtown_merger_final (2)Since 2014, TM-Town creators Kevin Dias and Nate Hill have sought to provide translators with tools to better manage their linguistic assets and meet clients who are looking for language professionals in their specific areas of expertise. These kinds of services are at the core of’s mission statement to give translators the resources and opportunities to grow their businesses and improve their work. The team is happy to announce that as of April 13th, the site will be joining forces with TM-Town in the hopes of better serving translators. See the announcement »

On behalf of, I want to welcome Kevin and Nate to the community. TM-Town’s platform is constantly being improved and updated with better tools designed with language professionals in mind, and we are excited to see what will come next.

Welcome to the team, Kevin and Nate!

Are you ready for free webinar week? 1

It’s that time of year again! From November 2nd to the 6th, will be hosting a week-long series of free webinars, giving attendees the opportunity to sit in on workshops and informational presentations on CAT tools and other translation technologies.

Across Personal Edition for NewcomersAcross Personal Edition for Newcomers
Time: November 2nd at 13:00 GMT
Trainer: Andreas Rodemann

Have you downloaded your free Across Personal Edition and would you like to start translating right away? This webinar will provide you with the needed basic skills for a successful jump-start. We will give you a brief overview of the main features and explain the first steps with Across in a straightforward way. Among other things, you will learn how to set up relations and languages, use the translation memory and terminology system, set up translation projects, work in the translation editor, and check out finished documents. Armed with these basic skills, you will quickly get accustomed to your Across Personal Edition and will have no problems processing your first translation projects.

A beginners guide to SDL Trados Studio 2015A beginners guide to SDL Trados Studio 2015
Time: November 2nd at 15:00 GMT
Trainers: Ed Flower & Emilie Shannon

This webinar will include an overview presentation and a live demonstration of SDL Trados Studio 2015:

  • A basic introduction to Studio 2015
  • A walk through of the user interface
  • How to create and add a Translation Memory
  • How to create and add a Termbase
  • How to add an AutoSuggest Dictionary and get the most from the new AutoSuggest 2.0 feature

Atril – Unleash the potential of Déjà Vu X3 CAT toolAtril - Unleash the potential of Déjà Vu X3 CAT tool
Time: November 3rd at 15:00 GMT
Trainer: Claudio Duarte da Costa

Déjà Vu X3 Professional helps you achieve high-quality translations easily, quickly and efficiently. Join us to discover or improve how you can take full advantage of the potential of Déja Vu X3. We will go over the technology that exists only in Déjà Vu: DeepMiner, AutoWrite, Fuzzy Match Repair and File compability and Interoperability. In addition, we will cover some classic features: Alignment, Analysis, Pre-Translation, AutoTranslate, AutoPropagate, and AutoSearch.

TM Town – Getting the Most out of Your Translation MemoriesTM Town - Getting the Most out of Your Translation Memories
Time: November 4th at 13:00 GMT
Trainer: Kevin Dias

This webinar will go over how to get the most out of your translation memories through TM-Town’s unique translation platform. I will demo different features of TM-Town including:

  • Loading your work into TM-Town’s safe and secure system
  • Creating new multilingual termbases from terms automatically extracted from your text
  • Productivity analysis tools
  • Automatic text alignment
  • Searching your TMs
  • Selling your terminology glossaries on TM-Town’s Terminology Marketplace

MateCat - a free online CAT tool which integrates collaborative TM and MTMateCat – a free online CAT tool which integrates collaborative TM and MT
Time: November 4th at 15:00 GMT
Trainer: Alessandro Cattelan

Learn how to use MateCat – a completely free and online translation tool for LSPs and freelancers that handles 100 languages and most of the file formats used in the industry, including scanned images. Disrupting the current status quo: Offering for free what used to be charged thousands of dollars.

memoQ tips & tricksmemoQ tips & tricks
Time: November 4th at 17:00 GMT
Trainer: István Lengyel

memoQ is well-known for its unique productivity boosters. In this webinar was designed for freelance translators and reviewers, and the following features & concepts will be discussed:

  • Drag & Drop with default project template
  • The one TM and term base per language pair is a really helpful initiative for new users of memoQ and dragging and dropping files to do this makes it even easier
  • Using LiveDocs alignment
  • Using reference files in LiveDocs – If using this show how a translator can see the context of the file by right clicking on it
  • Using MatchPatch
  • Sharing TMs through LT

What makes CafeTran unique?What makes CafeTran unique?
Time: November 5th at 13:00 GMT
Trainer: Hans Lenting

This webinar will guide you in:

  • Creating a first project
  • Opening a legacy TM
  • Adding glossary entries
  • CafeTran’s unique Finding and Replacing features
  • CafeTran’s Drag & Drop concept for the Dashboard and the Target language pane

Star - Right word, right place - How do I use and maintain terminology dictionaries?STAR – Right word, right place – How do I use and maintain terminology dictionaries?
Time: November 6th at 13:00 GMT
Trainer: Kerstin Froese

To start with, you will see how easy it is to create a new database and dictionary. With this dictionary you will learn more about structures and fields that you can use in your terminology work. Next, we will put this into practice by viewing, searching, filtering, and editing terminology. Finally, we will show you various useful key combinations that will make your (terminological) life easier.

You can find the full list of all free webinars offered on – including a session on how to meet clients at – here:

Any questions? Check out the free webinar week FAQs.

Looking forward to seeing you there!

Guest blog post: Highlights from Erin Lyons’s webinar series on medical translation Reply

Erin Lyons is a full-time French to English and Italian to English translator, medical writer, and consultant. Her primary areas of expertise include clinical research, pharmaceuticals, medical devices, and cosmetic products. In this guest post, Erin provides a brief overview of her ongoing webinar series on medical translation.

Erin_LyonsOver the next 3 months, I am pleased to be presenting a webinar series on that will be focusing on four different spheres of medical translation, patient informed consent, medical charts, journal articles, and regulatory affairs.

In the field of translation, we like to specialise and we also like to categorise. We like to call ourselves “medical” translators, “legal” translators or “sci-tech” translator., etc. However, as we know all too well, even such seemingly specific specialties entail an infinite number of sub-specialties and document types, each with its own rules, terminology and challenges.

Medical translation is no different and, while there is an abundance of general training materials on getting started in medical translation or the basics, there is a scarcity of information on the more specific sub-domains in the field that are unique to linguists and translators. This is why I have favoured this “close-reading” approach in the webinars of specific documents that one can expect to handle as a medical translator. Just like surgeons, in this webinar series we will dissect the documents in question and hone in on the greatest challenges and best language and material-specific resources to get the job done.

For example, in Part 1 of the series, “The Patient’s Perspective: Best Practices for Translating ICFs and PILs” (already completed on 8th May, but available for download), we took a close look at ICFs (Informed Consent Forms) and PILs (Patient Information Leaflets) and how these seemingly simple documents are surprisingly rife with challenges and also contain somewhat unexpected amounts of medical terminology. We reviewed the importance of writing for your audience (patients, parents, caretakers, minors, etc.), along with tools, such as readability scores and plain language glossaries that can be used to ensure proper patient-facing register.

The next webinar in the series, on 5th June, “SOAP Notes and Medical Charts: The Nitty Gritty of Medical Reports”, will focus on translating progress notes – often called SOAPs (Subjective, Objective, Assessment, Plan) – and patient records. Many translators fear translating these reports, which often come in the form of PDFs that need to be re-created, messy doctor handwriting and with an abundance of obscure acronyms and abbreviations. However, understanding how doctors and other medical professionals use and write these documents can help translators, who should always avoid staying at a superficial word level, to truly understand the entire clinical picture and capture a more meaningful and accurate translation of the document.

The third installment – “Medical Journals: Translating Like A Writer, Not A Scientist” – is aimed at translators who may even moonlight as medical writers. Translating for medical journals or writing English abstracts based on a foreign-language article can be a challenging endeavor. It can be difficult to maintain the balance between translating with a writer’s artistry, while remaining faithful to structured medical content. In this hour, we will focus on standards for medical writing and will end with an essential checklist to ensure that your translation meets industry expectations for polish and readability, while still complying with style guidelines and ethical standards, such as Good Publication Practice for Communicating Company Sponsored Medical Research.

A final, last reason to stay out of the heat and join in on this summer’s medical translation webinar series is to take part in our webinar on regulatory affairs, “Where Regulatory Rules: Translating Drug Leaflets, Packaging and Labelling”. After discussing all of these highly regulated documents – drug leaflets, packaging and labelling – you may be curious to learn more about the regulatory affairs side of the business and how to effectively gather, evaluate, organise, interpret and present data based on the source language and corresponding target FDA/EMA regulations. In our last hour together, you will become familiar with the steps of the translation, in-country review and post-marketing review processes and how to negotiate “untranslatables”. Confronting these specific translation challenges, resources and references will help you better translate regulatory medical documents in a manner that is less research-driven and more profitable.

For those interested in joining the conversation as part of this summer medical translation webinar series, please check the website for more information on registering and/or downloading the series:

  1. The Patient’s Perspective: Best Practices for Translating ICFs and PILs (completed, but available as an on-demand video)
  2. SOAP Notes and Medical Charts: The Nitty Gritty of Medical Reports, 5 June 2015, 3 PM CEST (GMT + 2)
  3. Medical Journals: Translating Like A Writer, Not A Scientist, 10 July 2015, 3 PM CEST (GMT + 2)
  4. Where Regulatory Rules: Translating Drug Leaflets, Packaging and Labelling, 7 August 2015, 3 PM CEST (GMT + 2)

Thanks, Erin, for this guest post.

Questions, feedback, or suggestions can be made in the comments section below or via Twitter @ProZcom

Meet the speaker: James Brian Mitchell Reply

James_Brian_MitchellMeet James Brian Mitchell – one of the many talented speakers who will be sharing their knowledge and expertise with attendees of the upcoming conference in France, set to take place on September 26th through the 29th. James is a technical translator and the author of over 120 scientific papers, as well as co-author of a textbook on experimental physics. He has been a professor of physics both in Canada and in France, where he has lived for the last 16 years.

The interview

MK: What was the most important obstacle for you to overcome in building your career as a language professional?

JBM: I really cannot say that I have found obstacles to overcome. I have found that being a member of ProZ has been invaluable and I believe that the work that has come my way has been mainly through this site. Since joining, I have been very active in making Kudoz contributions and I believe that this has helped me. Being a native English speaker also is an advantage as many agencies insist on this. On the other hand, as a freelance translator, I have not been able to work directly with an original customer so have always worked through agencies (or occasionally through another freelance translator).

MK: What is the greatest issue facing translators working in France or with the French language?

JBM: France is an expensive country to work in with social security contributions being so high. This means that to make a living, a translator has to charge rates that are often higher than in other countries and so often one is not competitive. This is a complex issue as you get what you pay for and France has an excellent social security programme. Indeed it is a national issue.

Regarding the French language, France is a country where engineering is the second most respected profession (Chef being first!). The French technical language is very rich and often more rich than English in this respect. Thus one needs to understand how to navigate through this territory. This is one problem but really the worst is the predominant use of acronyms. I recently received an e-mail from a colleague which contained 24 of them. I demanded (and got by return) a list of their meanings. This is a very risky and frustrating area for a translator and my advice is to “Ask the client!”.

MK: Any client horror stories? (without naming names)

JBM: Again I cannot really say that I have horror stories to tell. What can be a bit frustrating is that in general, translators come from literary backgrounds and for them, style is all important. Style in NOT so important in technical translations. Accuracy in terminology is the key factor here, yet one is reproached if your translation does not read like a bestselling novel or worse still, like an ad campaign. This can be frustrating and this is all the more so when the material to translate is a list of items where the noun should come first followed by the adjectives(s). I had an example where the client (a translation agency) thought I had used a machine translation since it seemed so literal. I always remember, when I was in the army, how things were listed. One beautiful example was:

Pot, chamber, white, Delft, emblazoned, officers, for the use of!
Try explaining that to a translation manager!

Actually, the most “dangerous” translations or rather proofreading jobs to take on are when the original client has decided to go cheap and to use his or her rudimentary knowledge of English, but of course backed up by a machine translation (no names given), to give what they think is an excellent translation which will be polished by an agency for 2 cents a word. This can be a nightmare and it would have been better to start from scratch. Of course such jobs are also URGENT. Proofreaders beware!

MK: What is your prediction for the future of human translation?

JBM: If you are talking about boilerplate legal translations, the future is not so good because of (a) machine translation and (b) competition from countries where salaries are low. Indeed Law Firms themselves are being faced with this issue where boilerplate contracts can be farmed out to India for example where there are many well qualified individuals who can provide this type of drafting for a fraction of the cost, let’s say, an American law firm would typically charge its clients.

On the other hand, a technical translation can NEVER be done with confidence by a machine. Would you like to fly in an aircraft where the Pilot’s operating manual had been translated from German or French using a machine translation? One could say, of course it will be checked by an engineer or an expert, but they cost money. Time is money. Better to get a good (human) technical translator to do the job. Which brings me to the next question.

MK: At the upcoming conference in Biarritz, France, you will be presenting on the topic of “Technical Translation: Finding the Right Words.” What can attendees to this session expect to learn?

JBM: Technical translation is a minefield where one is often confronted with choosing the right word from a list of ten possible choices. How do you make that choice? How can you avoid making a mistake in terminology because you have used what you always would when translating a word that you have known all your life, but that in fact may have a totally different meaning in a given context? I shall use as an example of this, the French word “Piste” that appeared in an aeronautics translation I did recently. You cannot have an in-depth knowledge of every field that you will be asked to translate? If you did, you might make better money as an engineer or a pilot. So how to get into the mindset of the person who has written the original document?. I shall try to help the attendees get around this problem using generic examples from translations I have worked on.


The event

Stay tuned for more interviews featuring speakers of the upcoming conference in France. This regional event is the sixth of its kind, and is scheduled to take place from September 26th to the 29th in Biarritz.

You can learn more about this exciting conference, have a look at the program, and register to attend, by visiting the event page:

Podcast: interview with Joy Mo on her book entitled “Say Goodbye to Feast or Famine” 1

Here’s a new podcast (see announcement).

This month I had the pleasure of speaking with Joy Mo – a professional trainer and author of the book “Say Goodbye to Feast or Famine.”

In the interview, Joy offers some advice on the following points:

  • Finding quality jobs that reflect your unique expertise and skill set
  • Attracting clients who appreciate what you have to offer
  • Establishing an income generating plan to help your freelance business get off the ground
  • Devising and employing cost-effective marketing and networking strategies
  • Developing a long-term sustainable business based on your unique strengths and expertise

You can listen to the interview here:

You can learn more about Joy and sign up for her free ezine by visiting her website: You can also find Joy’s book “Say Goodbye to Feast or Famine” available in the bookstore. A list of some of the courses that Joy offers can be found here.

I hope you enjoy the interview. Feedback, comments or suggestions can be posted here or via Twitter @ProZcom