Meet the speaker: Federico Gaspari, reflecting on machine translation 2

Federico Gaspari is a part-time lecturer and tutor in English language and translation at the University of Bologna and the University of Macerata. He is also a postdoctoral researcher affiliated to the Centre for Next Generation Localization of Dublin City University, a member of the editorial and advisory boards of the online international peer-reviewed translation studies journals inTRAlinea and New Voices in Translation Studies, and an editorial assistant for the international peer-reviewed journal of contrastive linguistics Languages in Contrast.

Federico will offer a presentation and a workshop at the upcoming 2014 international conference in Pisa, Italy, that will take place on June 28th and 29th, on the topic of machine translation, quality and post-editing.


The interview

How did you get involved with the study of languages and translation?

Although I am not a professional translator, but rather a researcher and lecturer, I remember being interested in translation and languages ever since I was a very young child. The first clear memory I have of being fascinated by the different ways in which people used “languages” (you will understand in a minute why I put the word in inverted commas) dates back to my early childhood. I grew up in Italy, surrounded by immediate family members speaking not only standard Italian, but also quite often – especially at home – local dialects, of which there are literally hundreds in Italy; the dialects used by people speaking informally in Italy vary quite dramatically from each other in terms of accent, pronunciation, vocabulary used to refer to everyday objects, etc., even within relatively small areas, to the extent that most dialects are mutually unintelligible. I clearly remember being very intrigued (but also slightly confused…) by the fact that my grandparents, who were originally from two villages only 30 kilometers apart from each other, used quite different words in their own dialects to refer to me as “the baby” at family gatherings (in case you are wondering, these dialect words from the Marche region are “frichì” and “fantillu”, which have no resemblance to their standard Italian equivalent “bambino”!). This is the earliest indication that I remember of my strong interest in linguistics and translation, although I can’t explain how I ended up working with English from my precocious interest in Italian dialects!

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

I got my first degree in translation studies from the School for Interpreters and Translators of Bologna University in Forlì, Italy. I then went on to earn other postgraduate degrees in the UK, but ironically I had to struggle quite a lot to complete my first degree in Italy. This was because we had to study two foreign languages, which in my case were English and German, in addition to Italian. I was a rather weak student in German, so much so that at one point I considered abandoning it to replace it with Russian (which I enjoyed learning and for which I got good marks as an elective optional subject). On the other hand, especially in the first half of my 4-year degree, I consistently got very low marks (and quite a lot of fails, sadly!!) for my German exams. But I persevered and in the end I managed to get my degree, although to this very day I don’t quite know how I managed to pass all the very tough German language and translation tests!

What is the greatest issue facing translators working in your country?

Probably the greatest challenge for translators in any country and working with any language today is to be flexible and open to embracing the far-reaching changes brought about by technology in the profession.

What is your prediction for the future of human translation?

I expect it to be bright and shining, especially for quality-oriented talented and trained translators who are skilled enough to offer diversified and competitive services for text types and domains in high demand. For sure, translators working with high-density languages such as English and Spanish will continue to prosper, but I think that there will also be good opportunities for professionals focusing on niche language combinations.

You will be presenting in the upcoming international conference in Pisa on the topic of “Machine translation, quality and post-editing”. What can conference attendees expect to learn or know from your presentation?

Everything (OK, make that NEARLY everything…) they ever wanted to know about machine translation and post-editing but were afraid to ask… international conference in Pisa, Italy

Join Federico and other language professionals on June 28-29 in Pisa, Italy, for the annual 2014 international conference.

Visit event page »            View event program »            View related social events »

How would you describe machine translation usefulness, limitations or threats?

Post below or discuss in forums. 

CAT tool use by translators: what are they using? 29

In the previous post (which was post number 100 on this blog), we took a first look at CAT tool use among translators. This week we will delve into this subject some more, examining which tools are being used, how translators are deciding on those tools, favorites, least favorites, and recommendations.

And if you are a reader who likes charts and graphs, you’re in luck. You can click on any of the graphics in this post to open a larger version in a new browser tab for easier viewing.

Let’s recap on the source of this information. The surveys on CAT tool use were aimed primarily at full-time professional translators. A majority of survey respondents have been in the translation business for at least five years, and just over thirty percent of them have been in the business for more than ten years. The largest age group of survey respondents was between 25 and 35 years old (35%). Over three thousand full-time professional translators from around the world responded to the surveys, which were broken into a survey for CAT tool users and one for those who do not use any CAT tool at all.

So, which CAT tools are being used most?


CAT tool use by translators: who is using? 22

cat-toolEvery now and then, the subject of the use of Translation Memories (TMs) and Computer-aided Translation (CAT) tools comes up in the forums and elsewhere. Should you use a CAT tool? Why? Which one? Why (again)? Are there kinds of work where a CAT tool will not be useful?

In a previous State of the industry report for freelance translators, the word on TMs and CAT tools was to take them as “a given.” A high percentage of translators use at least one CAT tool, and reports on the increased productivity and efficiency that can accompany their use are solid enough to indicate that, unless the kind of translation work you do by its very nature excludes the use of a CAT tool, you should be using one.

Recently, a couple of surveys were run to gather more information and details on the matter. How many translators are really using a CAT tool? Why? Which CAT tools are preferred most, and why? How many translators do not use a CAT tool, and why? If you have been in the translation business a few years and you use a CAT tool, most of what follows will not surprise. If you are an established translator who has decided CAT tool use is not for you, what follows is not designed to try to change your mind. Rather, this information is meant to give a wider panorama on TM and CAT tool use that you can use to compare to your own experience. If you are just getting started in translation and are wondering whether a CAT tool might be worth the investment, the following may be a good starting point for researching the matter.


Podcast: interview with Konstantin Kisin about productivity, negotiation and communication skills 1

Here’s a new podcast. These podcasts are designed to provide an opportunity to hear the week’s news, highlights of site features, interviews with translators and others in the industry, and to have some fun (see announcement).

This week I interviewed Certified PRO member and trainer Konstantin Kisin, who speaks at conferences all over the world on topics like managing relationships with clients, improving productivity and communication & negotiation skills to learn more about these topics.

In this interview Konstantin explains that a good negotiator is someone able to communicate with other people in a way that works for them and knows what motivates them. He describes the concept of “behavioral flexibility” which means being able to do the unexpected — being able to do things other people do not do. In the case of freelancers who are competing in the market with a lot of other freelancers it is important to stand out. From this perspective it is good to be doing things that your clients may not expect and may not get from other people. Konstantin also indicates that a good negotiator should also have confidence and that the way to achieve that confidence is to be certain about your position and of what you want from work and from life in general.

Konstantin believes that negotiation skills can be taught and that they are fun and very easy to learn. In his view, the problem with translators is that most of their communication is maintained via email and that most translators tend to work in isolated environments and are not used to face-to-face interactions with clients.

On the topic of striking a balance between work and life Konstantin mentions that the success of your business or even the quality of life that you have overall when talking about a balance depends on the kind of questions you ask yourself. The first big question that applies to all areas of like is “what do I actually want?” and the second question to ask yourself is “how do I get what I want?”.

On the topic of productivity, Konstantin explains that his approach to how translators can get more done is not so much related to translation technology but to adjusting your daily routine and habits to create a working environment and a working pattern that allows you to achieve very high levels of productivity. He emphasizes the fact that when you talk about productivity you cannot really separate things like work from rest and breaks. He firmly believes that a part of a healthy and sustainable daily routine has to include time off. He indicates that this pattern could help translators achieve a productivity level of 6000 to 8000 translated words a day.

Those interested in learning more about how to achieve high productivity levels and how to strike a balance between life and work should check Konstantin’s first blog post on this topic that will be published next Monday in this blog.

Listen to the interview with Konstantin  here: podcast, 2011-08-19

Feedback and comments are welcome. You can reach me at romina at or via Twitter @ProZcom .

To listen to previous podcasts, check the podcasts tab in this blog.


How does where you work affect how you work? Reply

Freelance translators spend a lot of their day working, many of them from home. Some have the space and ability to work in a separate room or office at home, others work from their living rooms, the bedroom, some even seem to “migrate” from room to room with their work.

A workspace that works for you is one of the keys to working more efficiently. What approaches and work setups have worked for translators? What doesn’t work? If you could define the perfect workspace for you, what would it be?

Last month, a new site area was released with the aim of allowing translators to collaborate on issues like these. The Share your workspace area includes a collection of previous discussions about workspaces and setups, a forum dedicated to discussing related issues, and a collection of photos of freelance translator workspaces and comments shared with the community (if you haven’t already, grab a camera, take some pics of your work area and send them in!).

Two Wiki articles tie into the concept of using your workspace to work more productively from home (or from wherever you happen to be): Productivity for translators: an overview and Using a home office. I invite you to have a look at these articles; there may be information there which you can apply. And if you can, please add to these articles to make them even better. The Wiki is a resource which allows language professionals to collaborate and share information on translation, business issues, and other matters related to the profession.

Workspace photo courtesy of Jan Willem van Dormolen,

What do you think? Are the key points of a freelancer’s workspace covered in those articles? How is a translator’s workspace different from others’ workspaces? What else goes towards making a comfortable, productive workspace, in your experience?