Guest post: 10 things translators need to know about machine translation 2

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, translatorstudio.co.uk.


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 ProZ.com 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!

Guest post: Expanding the translation industry through crowdfunding with the Win-Win Project Reply

Today’s guest post author is Reginaldo Francisco, a professional translator working in English and Italian into Portuguese, working primarily in the literary field as well as with texts pertaining to quality management, compliance, people management and technology. He has a bachelor’s degree in translation from the São Paulo State University (UNESP) and a master’s in translation studies from the Federal University at Santa Catarina (UFSC), in Brazil. As a ProZ.com professional trainer, Reginaldo teaches courses and gives lectures on the translation industry, mainly on the use CAT tools. He is, in conjunction with Claudia Zavaglia, co-author of the book Parece mas não é: as armadilhas da tradução do italiano para o português (in English: It seems to be but isn’t: Traps in Italian-to-Portuguese translation).


Reginaldo Francisco, founder of the Win-Win Project

Back in October, Pieter Beens published a post here in ProZ.com’s blog about five examples of crowdfunding initiatives related to the translation industry. Now I am going to talk about a project he did not mention — indeed, he could hardly have known about it as it had been launched only a few days earlier — which has everything to do with crowdfunding and translation: the Win-Win Project.

Pieter explains that “crowdfunding websites act as a platform where innovators meet ‘backers’ – people who have the money and will to invest in innovations.” To talk about Win-Win, however, I would rather quote the definition found at Wikipedia: “the practice of funding a project or venture by raising monetary contributions from a large number of people […]. Crowdfunding is a form of alternative finance, which has emerged outside of the traditional financial system.”

In fact, the Win-Win Project is all about crowdfunding and translation, since its aim is precisely to create a crowdfunding platform specifically for translations. The motivation behind it is to be an alternative solution to some unpleasant — often unfair — aspects of the existing translation industry. As I already discussed here, individuals in general can’t afford professional translation services on their own, so they are stuck with options like machine or amateur translations. Professional translators, in turn, can only work for those who can pay their price, i.e., mostly companies, often translating materials that are not that interesting (manuals, contracts and the like) and often under pressure from their clients to do more in less time for lower pay.

If we think about the huge amount of information available nowadays on the Internet, it is easy to conclude that most of this content remains available only in one language and thus inaccessible to those who don’t understand it. Thousands of people would like to gain access to articles, papers, blog posts, news items, reports and other texts in their own language, but they can’t afford to pay for quality, professional translations. So everybody loses — professional translators included.

What Win-Win Project highlights, however, is that, even if people can’t afford translations individually, together they can! And that’s what we want to make possible through Win-Win: a crowdfunding platform to enable people to easily join together to pay for the kind of quality translations that only professional, human translators can provide. The process is simple, explained in four steps in our introductory video:

  1. A translation project for a text available online is created on the Win-Win site by someone who would like to see it translated. The project creator gives the website address of the text and indicates the amount he/she can contribute to pay for the translation. Win-Win then contacts the content owner for consent; if approved, the project is announced, indicating the contribution from the project creator and calling for other people to contribute.
  2. Those interested in getting the content translated can contribute to its funding with any amount they choose. The content owner, the project creator and the contributors can all promote the project through social media or other means to find more potential contributors, and the website where the original text is located can also provide a link to the project at Win-Win.
  3. When the amount raised is enough to fairly compensate his/her work, an experienced, professional translator takes on the project and produces a high-quality translation of the text. Win-Win will maintain a directory of professional translators with experience and proven competence who will be allowed to take on projects involving their language pairs.
  4. Once the translation is completed, it is published on Win-Win site, along with a link to the original content in the source language. The translator receives the amount raised from contributions, and the content owner can put a link on the original site pointing to the translation.

So does this mean that people pay only what they can afford to, and yet translators are well-paid? Exactly! It harnesses the kind of magic that Internet connecting power has made possible through crowdfunding. It’s a real win-win situation for everybody:

  • translators are well-paid for their service and have the freedom to select projects of their interest, according to their availability and specialties;
  • the broader translator community gains more visibility as Win-Win projects highlight the value of human, professional translation;
  • contributors get precise, high-quality translations while paying much less than if each of them had to pay the total sum of a professional translator’s service;
  • the owner of the original content has it published in other languages, and the Win-Win translation project promotion can attract more visitors to his/her site;
  • Internet users in general gain access to more content in their languages, which helps spread ideas and knowledge through a more multilingual web.

But the Win-Win Project is about crowdfunding in another sense as well: to become a reality, setting up the Win-Win platform also depends on the success of this crowdfunding campaign. We need to raise the amount necessary to pay for the system development, website design and other expenses to get Win-Win up and running, and no other funding strategy could better match the project spirit than crowdfunding. But we now have very little time left, until December 15, to achieve our campaign goal (BRL 65,000 — roughly USD 17,500); otherwise, Win-Win will remain only an idea, at least for the time being.

Since translators are the ones who will benefit most from the new market niche that Win-Win proposes, I hope many of you reading this now will be interested in learning more about it and contributing to make it real. It is possible to contribute from anywhere in the world using PayPal. In addition, you can also help by spreading the word about Win-Win to all your contacts — the campaign, including the videos in it, are available in English, Spanish and Portuguese, so you can share it with anyone who can understand one of those languages!

The stakes are high — expanding the translation market, democratizing access to quality translation, building a more multilingual Internet. But together we’re a crowd! Help make it all possible!

winwinproject


I hope you enjoyed this post, and thanks to Reginaldo for sharing it with us! See a related guest post on crowdfunding initiatives in the translation industry here: 5 exciting examples of crowdfunding for translation

Questions? Comments? Feedback can be posted in the comments section below or via Twitter @ProZcom

Guest post: 5 exciting examples of crowdfunding for translation 2

In addition to his work as a freelance translator and copywriter working in English to Dutch, Pieter Beens is also an active blogger and a ProZ.com professional trainer.  In this guest post, Pieter sheds some light on a few interesting crowdfunding initiatives pertaining to the language industry.


Pieter_BeensThe translation industry is full of innovative technologies and groundbreaking trends, like the logic that CAT tools improve our efficiency and the introduction of translation engines. A new and innovative trend that has emerged outside our industry is the idea of crowdfunding. Crowdfunding websites act as a platform where innovators meet “backers” – people who have the money and will to invest in innovations. In the translation industry, innovations have traditionally been backed by investments from outside the industry, e.g. companies developing CAT tools and related software have not traditionally asked translators for funding. With the rise of crowdfunding projects however, an approach between innovators and backers seemed to be developing within the industry. In this blog post I share 5 interesting examples of crowdfunding initiatives taking place in the translation industry.

Slate Desktop™ – Funding a translation engine
slate-desktopThe most important and groundbreaking current crowdfunding project for translators is Slate Desktop™. This project is already under development and therefore crowdfunding is not necessarily to gain money, but to get some insight as to the support from industry professionals for this initiative. Slate Desktop™ is a piece of software that uses your own translation memories for machine translation. The software requires big TMs (preferably more than 100,000 segments) to learn your tone and style. Once it analyses the content of the TM, you can connect the software to any major CAT tool and use it to machine translate your texts.

This project was developed by industry professionals and has some major benefits. I wrote an analysis on some advantages and drawbacks of Slate Desktop™ at http://www.vertaalt.nu/blog/slate-desktop-opportunities-and-threats/. You may also be interested in reading about some of the practical aspects of Slate Desktop™ in Emma Goldsmith‘s blog post, “Slate and big TMs: the perfect combination?“.

The campaign currently needs only 10% in 10 days, so hurry up and join the forces. People who back now will receive a 40% discount on the purchase price now and a perpetual 40% discount on future upgrades.

Learning language on the loo
It’s not a secret that we need to have a shorter or longer break every now and then. Visiting a toilet is a great idea to get some rest and do some necessary things. People who cannot miss an email can take their tablets with them, but if you want to learn a second language the project “Language and educational books on tissue paper” can be helpful. The people behind this project are looking for funds to produce toilet paper with educational books and languages. Great if you want to unite the useful and the pleasant. The project still needs some backers: it has currently only raised 55 USD from the total 90k they need.

Crowdfunding game and book translations
When you search Kickstarter or Indiegogo for translation projects, you can find a multitude of book translation projects. People either don’t know where to get their books translated or simply want to know whether there is a market for their favorite book in their native language. That principle applies to game localization as well. Square Enix, a Japanese developer of computer games, is looking at opportunities to make fans of the games funders for localization projects. That’s an interesting development and many fans will certainly back localization projects for their favorite games. One benefit is that developers and book fans will spend the money for a quality translation/localization instead of looking for the cheapest translator or for fans who don’t master a language but who like to be part of the localization team. So crowdfunding this way offers some options for professional translators as well.

learnlanguageLearning a language by playing
Another crowdfunding initiative to teach languages was the project “Learn Spanish OR Japanese by Playing a Game”. This project was funded by 133% and has already been developed. In order to play, users need to scan a playing card with their mobile phone. The smartphone then shows a video with a native speaker saying a certain phrase. If the translation is unclear, users can tap a button to see the information they need. During the game, the players help each other speak Spanish or Japanese, using only phrases in the respective language. They can also use sounds or gestures. After a phrase is learned, it is placed in the middle of the table and made available for a “challenge round”. In this round players challenge each other to independently generate the phrase. The Spanish version is for sale here.

Saving a language
An entirely different type of project is “Help Save the Haida Language”. This is a personal project to save Xaayda Kil, a language that is spoken by a select group of inhabitants of Canada. As the organizer of the crowdfunding campaign puts it: “The language is a Canadian cultural treasure, and it is in danger.” Xaayda Kil is spoken fluently by only a few dozen people, many of whom are in their 70s and 80s. The project is meant to get funding for local organizations that are trying to save the language. This initiative may only be relevant for a small group, but it is important from a cultural perspective. The success of the campaign (it was 275% funded) makes it clear that there is even a perspective for endangered languages.


You can find Pieter on the web at Vertaalt.nu, and on Twitter @vertaaltnu

For a list of on-demand training sessions offered by Pieter on ProZ.com, visit: http://www.proz.com/translator-training/trainers/1273/courses

As always, questions, feedback and suggestions for future posts can be posted in the comments section below or via Twitter @ProZcom

Guest post: Effective email communication with the customer for a translator Reply

Anastasia Kozhukhova is an English to Russian language professional specializing in legal and marketing texts as well as website localization. In addition to being a successful freelance translator, Anastasia is also a ProZ.com professional trainer, sharing insight that she’s gained throughout her career with the community. In today’s guest post, Anastasia shares some tips on how to effectively communicate with clients. 


“A good business letter can get you a job interview, get you off the hook, or get you money. It’s totally asinine to blow your chances of getting whatever you want with a business letter that turns people off instead of turning them on.”

Malcolm Forbes

Anastasia_KozhukhovaFor the last three months I have been thoroughly studying the issue of communication with clients from the point of view of translation business and discovered a paradox – though Translators usually make their translations in a clear and concise manner (at least, they are expected to), very often their business writing and communication with the clients lacks this persuasiveness and conciseness. As a result, many Translators do not get the results they want when cooperating with their customers.

Being Language Specialists, we must understand that each email we write is a snapshot of our writing skills. Without well-written communication it is unlikely a Translator will achieve success in the translation business on the whole. The thing is that many Translators do not know the difference between usual writing and business communication. Meanwhile, good business writing implies more than simply following the rules of Grammar. In today’s age of digital job hunting and endless online searches, email communication implies:

  • Expressing your ideas in a clear manner so that you reach your objective in each email (reach the client you want to cooperate with or win the project you want to translate);

  • Impressing your clients so that they hear your voice among the noise of hundreds of other applicants;

  • Understanding your target audience perfectly (you should know who is going to read your email).

On the whole, business communication experts describe business writing as follows:

  • Conversational but not too chatty;

  • Crystal clear, but not too simplistic;

  • Professional and polite, but not too formal

  • Action-oriented (it should encourage the reader to take specific actions)

However, it is not that easy to use these principles in practice and many freelancers keep on making the same mistakes when writing cover letters to their prospective clients. The most common of them are as follows:

  • Using ready-made templates from the Internet (When applying to a job post many Translators use cut-and-paste emails for every application. However, using one and the same template for all of your clients will never increase the number of your projects.)

  • Not mentioning the name of the Recipient (emails starting with Dear Sir/Madam)

  • Talking only about yourself, your skills and experience without linking these points with the client’s needs

  • Writing too long emails with long paragraphs without highlighting any key words (causing problems for Hiring Managers who tend to scan emails instead of reading them thoroughly)

  • Making dull endings without call to action (e.g. Thank you for your time. Please feel free to contact me at xxx@mail.com.)

  • Lack of proofreading which results in typos and lazy writing (e.g. pls, thanks) which is unacceptable in business communication

Today I will tell about one aspect which I consider to be one of the most important ones in communication with clients when you just start cooperating with them and want to prove that you deserve being their reliable partner when it concerns supply of translation services.

This aspect is about being READER-FOCUSED in each email you send to your customers. I am sure that you have already heard and read a lot about focusing on your client. But how can we achieve this in practice? This remains a confusing question for many freelancers.

This is true that people like reading only about themselves and their problems. They are not interested to know about your professional experience and skills even if the latter are really outstanding. The clients only want to know how you can solve their problems and make their life easier. To achieve this and motivate the prospective clients to read your emails, I suggest focusing on using You/Your pronouns instead of I/My in each email you send. Below you will find some examples of how in one and the same idea we can shift the focus from ourselves and our achievements to the customer’s needs and problems.

So, please compare:

  1. Responding to a job post on ProZ.com (beginning of the cover letter):

Wrong:

Dear Tom,

I am writing to apply for the position of a Freelance Translator published today on ProZ.com. Let me introduce myself. My name is XXX. I am English to Italian Translator with 10 years of experience and excellent language skills. Since 2006 I have cooperated with many companies…

Right:

Dear Mr. Smith,

I am contacting you concerning your job posting at Proz.com. As I understand, you are looking for an EN-IT Translator to translate your marketing brochure in a compelling manner by March 14th

As you see, in the first sample the Translator applying to a job post focuses only on himself and does not make an attempt to link his skills with the requirements of the company mentioned in the advertisement. In the second sample the Translator does his best to emphasize that first of all he carefully read the job post and understood the customer’s problem and main requirements.

  1. Asking the customer for further details of cooperation:

Please let me know your time zone so that I take it into account for my convenience

Please let me know your time zone, so that you can receive translations from me at the time convenient for you.

From these samples you can see how you can shift the focus to your customer even when asking such simple and routine questions like these. Please mind the usage of pronouns I and You in these samples.

  1. And one more example – Sending an update informing your customer about the new services you can provide):

I am pleased to inform you that now I have built my team consisting of Professional Translators, Editors and a Designer and that we are open and ready to accept larger projects and provide translations in a timely manner. Your projects will be turned around more quickly and you will enjoy a higher degree of accuracy than was previously available, because I have built my own team of Professional Translators, Editors and Designers which is now ready to work for your business.

So, now you see how powerful the usage of pronouns and shifting the focus to the customer can be in business communication with both your prospective and recent clients.

Start applying these easy-to-use principles in your daily business communication and see how quickly your results and effectiveness will increase and how many new projects you will get!

If you are interested in making your email communication even more effective (especially with your prospective customers), you are welcome to attend my Webinar on ProZ.com which will take place on July 28 and which is called “Effective Email Communication with the Customer for a Translator”.

During this Webinar you will receive many more examples of making your business writing reader-focused and learn how to provide solutions to the customers’ problems so that they choose YOU as their translation services partner. You will also find useful tips on how to effectively communicate with the customer in other situations:

– when submitting a quote via ProZ

– sending your CV to a prospective direct client

– accepting or rejecting a job offer

– sending an update on your skills and services, so that to keep your customers engaged.

I will be glad to see all of you on July 28th and wish you good luck in improving your business writing right after reading this article!


Thanks to Anastasia for sharing this information with us!proz-101-events

There are still a few more seats available for tomorrow’s training session, which will elaborate on some of the communication strategies touched on in this post. To register, please visit: http://www.proz.com/translator-training/course/12214-effective_email_communication_with_the_customer_for_a_translator

Be sure to check out upcoming training sessions and on-demand videos offered by Anastasia – covering topics ranging from CV writing to finding high-end clients – here: http://www.proz.com/translator-training/trainers/1234/courses

I hope you enjoyed this guest post. As always, comments, feedback, and suggestions for future topics can be submitted below or via Twitter @ProZcom