Tag Archives: translation services

Translation Anytime

Telephonic Interpretation Services provide you and your customers with an instant, real-time translation solution that is simple to set up, easy to use and inexpensive to maintain. The Verbatim Solutions Contact Center has the necessary technology and tools to handle and administer a high volume of calls, connecting customers and interpreters in the most efficient way, and doing it at a very reasonable cost to our customers.

Real-time Service and Support 24/7 – In today’s diverse marketplace, then need for real-time interpretation services is continually expanding.  Our real-time telephone interpretation services provide you with support for over 150 languages and true 24/7/365 service.

Certified, Experienced and Educated Interpreters – All of our interpreters are bilingual/bi-cultural professionals trained to perform several complex tasks: listen to the speaker, analyze a fleeting and yet real message in its entirety, interpret the message into another language, preserving the characteristics of form and substance inherent in another culture. We have interpreters proficient in medical, legal, business, government, insurance terminology as well as many other terminologies

Read more here or send an email to info@verbatimsolutions.com or click to request a quote or more information.

It's All About Service

Twenty years ago, I was working for one of the original worldwide mega-providers of language services. I got into this industry via my technology background and I spent ten years building and leading what was then one of the premier companies utilizing technology to help provide language services. Back then, there were those who were “in the know” about technology who were predicting that technology breakthroughs were just around the corner, and when these happened, it would revolutionize the industry. Translation companies who relied upon humans would become the dinosaurs of the industry and would soon be extinct. As part of the preparation for a merger, I left the company and the industry for a period of eleven years.

I am now very pleased to have joined Verbatim Solutions and be back in this industry.  Verbatim Solutions was founded years ago upon the premise that the keys to success in this industry are: quality, price, and service.  We continue to build our company with focus on these key areas, and we are continually rewarded by happy clients who use us and refer us to their friends and colleagues because of our ability to excel in these areas.

It is fascinating to me after my eleven year absence that there are still those who are “in the know” who are still predicting that the industry will be revolutionized in a matter of just a a few years by developments that are just about to be released into commercial use.  They are still predicting that in a relatively short period of time, service oriented providers like Verbatim Solutions will be extinct.

To this, I politely say “Hogwash!”

Don’t misunderstand me. Technology continues to be an important part of the equation, and will remain so. But our position is that you don’t build a service company based upon technology.  Verbatim Solutions has always been and will continue to be “technology agnostic”.  We are not married to any specific technology.  We use them all!  We have the latest and greatest in tools, but we will also use client tools or CMS systems.  To us, it is much more important to focus on our three key building blocks of quality, price and service. In the end, it is people who make the decisions, people who use the results, and people who are satisfied or not with what has been done.

One of the things I absolutely love about my job is when clients express how happy they are with our results.  “You got it done early, and it looks great!”, or “I was so pleased with how the translator was able to maintain the layout!”, or “You guys make it so easy to deal with you!” are but a few of the actual comments I’ve received in the three short months I’ve been here.

That’s not to say we are perfect. One of the side effects of being human is that sometimes our people make mistakes and unfortunately sometimes our clients see those mistakes. What hopefully makes us different is the way we respond to those mistakes when they happen. We are committed to service and satisfaction, and I encourage any client who is unhappy and doesn’t get satisfaction via our regular processes to call me personally and I will do everything I reasonably can to make it right, whatever it is.

I’m excited and proud to be part of Verbatim Solutions, and I promise our clients that as we continue to grow, our commitment to service will remain paramount. In this issue you will read about our new client referral program. I’m excited to be able to give our clients a small “Thank You” when they take the time to share their good experiences with their friends and associates. As I stated above, in the end, it’s all about people, and what makes us different to our clients and future clients is our service.

4 Keys to Purchasing Language Translation Services

If your company needs language translation services, it can be a stressful and burdensome process because you are dealing in a language or languages that you are familiar with. Yet, this process does not need to be stressful if you understand the keys to purchasing language translation services.

  • Incorporate pictures, graphs and diagrams – Remember that a picture is really worth a thousand words. Go through your documents that require language translation and determine where a picture or diagram might suffice instead of a language based explanation.  This process will help lower your translation bill and could make your document more user friendly.
  • Refrain from completing the translation yourself – Many companies make the mistake of finding someone in house who speaks the foreign language and then have them translate the documents.  Typically, this is fraught with problems because speaking is not writing and oral fluency definitely doesn’t guarantee stylish, correct writing.  If you want to project a professional international image, it is vitally important to source a language translation service provider with the skills and expertise in both the desired foreign language and industry.
  • Always provide finalized text – Many companies make the mistake of only providing draft documents to the language translation service provider.  If you make many changes to the text, you will run up your translation bill and extend the time it takes to get the final drafts.  Instead, provide finalized text in English that requires no further changes.
  • Work closely with your translator – It is important that the translator understand the purpose and use of a document.  Of course, translation will be vastly different for a speech compared to an article for a website.  By knowing the document’s purpose the translator will prepare the foreign translation for maximum value and impact.

Language translation can be an important key to your success in foreign markets.  By taking the time to find a suitable and experienced service provider and working with them throughout the translation process, you increase your chances of international success.  Verbatim Solutions is a trusted language translation service provider for small and Fortune 500 companies.  Why not take advantage of their ability to translate into 120 languages through their over 1,400 certified translators worldwide. Call Verbatim Solutions today to get a quote on your language translation projects

The Critical Importance of Translation in Business

How many times have you heard how the world is now a global marketplace?  Almost any type of business now has access to selling their products and services to almost any country on the globe.  Yet, many businesses fail at capturing international markets and a big reason may be poor translation.

Translation is critically important to any organization wanting to do business in any language other than English. The global marketplace has created a boom in the translation industry, but unfortunately, that boom has also created a glut of substandard translation service providers.

When translating your organization’s promotional or technical material into a foreign language it takes professional translators with experience and education.  A professional translator will work in their mother tongue to produce copy that will accurately replicate your company’s message and style of the original text, while at the same time reading fluently and accurately in the destination language.

While there are computer translation programs available, it is extremely important to use a translation service provider that uses humans for translation.  While computer software can provide crude translation, the human brain is required to differentiate terms in context.  For example the word boot can refer to footwear, the cargo space of a car, is a financial acronym, and the plural refers to a constellation of stars.

When choosing a translation company to assist you with communicating with people from other countries, there are critically important aspects to consider:

  • Ask if the translators on staff have experience and background in your industry.  Many industries like financial, legal, and technical require a special understanding of the language used.
  • Find out if the person working on your translation project lives or has lived in the destination market.  This point is important because if the translator has no personal knowledge of your destination market, they may provide text that is textually correct but does not include the nuances of the local language dynamic.
  • Confirm that human translators provide the translation services.
  • Ask how your translation project will be handled.  Find out the typical process and determine whether you will be able to have contact with the translator if necessary.
  • Ask about the quality procedures implemented at the translation service company.
  • Find out how they hire their translators.  Do they test their abilities before hiring and throughout their employment?
  • When your documents are returned, is the formatting the same?  Are all bold, italics and headings included?
  • For your first project with a new translation service provider, find an impartial third party to complete a verification of the work.

Translation is a service industry and you want to ensure that you choose the best translation company possible for your needs. When researching organizations for your translation needs, consider Verbatim Solutions, a trusted provider of translation services to small and Fortune 500 companies worldwide.  With the ability to translate into 120 languages, over 1,400 certified translators worldwide, and experience in IT, medical, legal, business, technical and other industries, they are the ideal company to handle your translation requirements.

Contact Verbatim today to find out why they are a leading provider of translation services worldwide.


Promote your Business Worldwide via Translation Services

Breaking into the international marketplace can catapult a company into increased profitability and growth more rapidly than when selling to a domestic market.

But how do you market your company successfully to overseas buyers? What can you do to provide the right information to prospective clients that is informative and engaging? How can you stand out from the crowd?

The most common promotional approach is to provide brochures. While brochures do play an important role, they can be uninspiring and ill equipped to convey a real feeling for what an organisation does and how they operate.

Furthermore, when brochures are translated into other languages it is commonly agreed that even the best translations are cumbersome and not reflective of how that particular language is used. This often means that international prospects feel less inclined to read brochures in depth.

So how do you show prospective clients how your product is made? What can you do to highlight your product range and its associated benefits?

A proven promotional method is corporate video production. The combination of moving vision with sound, allows complex messages to be communicated in a far superior way to that of any written information.

Research has found that video can be up to four times more effective than a printed brochure. Given that 80% of the information we recall is visual, it is understandable why audiovisual materials are so successful in getting messages across to viewers.

The best investment companies can make is by providing prospective clients with their corporate video on a VHS tape or a menu driven DVD disk or CDROM disk (which is like the menu option on a movie DVD).

CDROMs are particularly flexible as they can include video, brochures, documents and website links. They can even be produced as CD business cards which is perfect for travellers who wish to reduce the amount of marketing materials they need to carry.

Corporate videos can be downloaded from websites, which not only saves money in distribution costs, but provides 24 hour worldwide access.

A further advantage of corporate video is that it allows for voiceovers to be translated into a variety of languages. As visual cues are used in conjunction with the voiceover, the language sounds natural and appealing.

The winner of the 2002 Regional Exporter of the Year Awards, the Warrnambool Cheese and Butter Factory, strongly agrees with the use of corporate video production to boost export sales.

John Williams, Warrnambool Cheese and Butter Factory’s marketing manager, says “We are very proud of our Factory and our picturesque location. It makes a lot of sense to show our best attributes to their advantage and the way to do that is through a corporate video.”

“We’ve found corporate video to be extremely flexible. I can travel overseas and show a DVD quality video to potential clients on my notebook computer”.

“We had a short promotional video created that was slotted into our Powerpoint presentation which we presented to a large Japanese dairy importer. It really gave us the competitive edge and helped us win a large multi-million dollar contract”.

Justin Howden, an International Marketing specialist from Marketing and Investment Partners, also advocates using corporate videos when marketing overseas.

“For companies that are undertaking trade marketing, corporate video is critical. It is vital to get trade onside when marketing overseas and corporate video is irreplaceable when trying to get distributors involved,” he says.

“A successful corporate video is created by finding out what are the most important pieces of information that your target market wants to know. You need to unearth what 20% of information will give you an 80% kick in marketing terms. Once you’ve done this, you then need to focus on these important points in the promotional video”.

Corporate video production is a powerful, convenient and cost effective way for overseas buyers to see what you have to offer. It is an innovative method that can encompass video, brochures, documents and website/email links into one small CD business card.

By using a combination of the right promotional tools and a creative approach, the time-consuming and often difficult road to breaking into the global marketplace, can be made much easier.

Online Translation – The Future??

It is fair to say that most small to medium sized GILT (Globalization, Internationalization, Localization and Translation) companies have professional looking and informative brochure web sites. What is interesting is that more and more of these companies are now following in the footsteps of the industry giants and revamping their sites to facilitate online translation services.

The service to which I am referring is not machine translation, but an automated online translation service where the user supplies all project criteria such as materials (which are uploaded), personal details, project details, expectations etc. online. Once all requirements have been supplied the user is given an immediate quote onscreen and an estimate datetime of completion. Once billing and payment information has been entered by the user they will receive an automated response via email, confirming the transaction while a corresponding mail is sent internally to the company’s project manager with all the project details.

It is then up to the project manager to assign the project to a translator before emailing the final product back to the client, or making it available by other means (ftpmanaged server) depending on the projects size.

All very straightforward.

Some companies are now furthering the automation of the process. Based on the criteria of the project entered online the translator(s) will be selected automatically from a database. An email is sent to the translator, requesting their services, and they will have a certain amount of time to respond, before the project is offered to the next most suitable translator. Although based upon a complex IS system the obvious advantage here would be bypassing the bulk of project management costs and administration tasks.

To give the user an extra sense of satisfaction it is also possible for the client to track the status of their project via a personalised login to the company’s extranet.

So it seems possible to automate the entire process, cut out the middlemen and make a reasonable profit, and if this is the case then why aren’t more companies doing it? Maybe it is only a matter of time but the general feeling within the industry is that despite the obvious advantages to the system, customers remain unconvinced of having their translations completed without any human contact.

Presently, few companies offer this kind of service. It started with Bowne Global, Berlitz (who are now one and the same) and more recently SDL have entered the fray. Understandably, market leaders such as these are equipped to offer a complete range of services, therefore leading the way. It also is good to see that smaller companies in the UK such as K-International and The Big Word are also moving into this area.

As more and more companies realize the potential in this and begin to offer the same service it is my feeling that it will become the industry standard for translation services. Optimistic surely, but not inconceivable.

Top 5 Tips for Going Global

Lost in Traslation

Lost in Translation

Are you interested in capturing a foreign market with your products or services? Do you have existing product or marketing materials that you need translated?

Although the globalization of business has made the world a smaller place, language barriers do still exist. Utilizing translation services for key information is an effective way to entering a foreign market or providing your information in a variety of languages to help customers where English is not their primary language.

Here we provide tips for any business – large or small – interested in utilizing translation services to help take advantage of global market opportunities.

#1 Consider translation services for customers in your own country – The need for translation services exists even within your own country. For example, in the U.S., the non-native English speaking part of the population is rapidly growing. The US Census in 2000 indicated that Hispanic Americans are the fasted growing demographic and that Spanish is the second most common language. Chinese and other Asian language speaking populations in the U.S. are also rapidly increasing.

#2 Ensure your translator conveys the message and not just the words – A big mistake many companies make is to utilize inferior translation services that merely translate the words instead of conveying the message. The goal of your translation of important documents is to have the message phrased in such a way as to be responsive to the cultural needs of the foreign language speaking audience.

#3 Understand your budget – When utilizing a translation company, it isn’t just the number of words that influences the final cost of your translation. Remember these important points:

  • Contact your translator as early as possible into the project.
  • Word counts will change when moving into another language.
  • Documents with graphics may need to be repositioned in the new language due to the change in the number of words.
  • Specialized subject matter can add to turnaround time and cost, as the translation company will need to source a translator familiar with the subject.

# 4 Choosing your translation services provider – Choosing your translator is especially important so that you ensure your message is accurately conveyed in the translated language. In order to ensure you choose a qualified translation services organization be sure to ask about the experience, specializations and qualifications of their staff. Remember writing well and conveying meaning into another language is challenging and you need people with the proper experience and skill. Sometimes it can be helpful to see samples of documents translated into your required language. Have someone who knows that language look it over to help determine the translator’s skill.

#5 Preparing your text for translation – Once you have chosen your translation services company, remember to leave plenty of time for translation so that it can be done properly. It also helps if you create your original text with translation in mind. Some considerations for creating text for effective translation include:

  • Using uncomplicated sentence structure
  • Using few (or no) colloquial expressions
  • Reviewing your text for possible ambiguous terms or phrases

Translating important documents really can help open up new customers or global markets to your organization. When completing your research on translation service providers, turn to the experts at Verbatim Solutions. Verbatim is a trusted provider of translation services to small and Fortune 500 companies worldwide. With an impressive client list, a commitment to exceeding translation quality standards and extremely affordable rates, they are the perfect company to collaborate with for your organization’s growing translation needs.

Machine Translation v. Machine Assisted Translation

Perfect Translation
The perfect translation system, be it a human or machine, does not exist. However, the dream of something like the Babblefish from the Hitchhiker’s series or the universal translator on Star Trek haunts us and might go something like this.

Your personal computer will have a translation module, maintained from some central database created by the publisher of the system. When email comes in, it will automatically and almost instantly be translated into whatever language you desire (presumably your native tongue). When you send email, it will be translated into whatever language you choose. You will be able to configure it so that when email goes out to Japan, it is translated into Japanese, when it goes to France, it is translated into French, and so on (or you can configure on a person by person basis, giving consideration to the linguistic skills of individuals).

Similar systems will exist for businesses, but they will be faster and more comprehensive. A book will be scanned into a computer and rendered into another language in a matter of minutes. The computer might even attend to the graphics and desktop publishing tasks, assuming you want it to. The finished translation will need the same amount of editing and proofreading that any piece of writing does, that is to say a lot.

Interpretation will work the same way. Your phone company will provide for virtually nothing a system which lets you talk to anyone in any language. You call Japan and speak to Mr. Tashima. You say what you want in English and he hears it in Japanese. He says what he wants in Japanese and you hear it in English. Court, medical, and conference interpreting will work in basically the same way. People will have small devices like hearing aids which will pick up the incoming language and convert it into your native tongue. These devices will also use noise cancellation technology to take care of any interfering sounds so that you hear only the interpretation.

A box on your television, or perhaps inside it, will provide instant interpretation or subtitles of foreign films and television broadcasts. You will flip to one of the more than 500 channels you have and see a program which looks interesting, and the system will provide instant interpretation of the dialog.

Furthermore, small devices the size of a pocket calculator will read things for you. You point them at a menu, a street sign, or a newspaper and they scan the page and they translate it and then give you either a printed version on a small screen or read it to you.

Such technology would make communication with anyone anywhere possible. You could travel in remote parts of Tibet and speak and read with the locals. You will walk into a conference and listen to an interpretation of the speaker given by a machine which never tires or loses interest in the task. You can go to a doctor or hotel or restaurant anywhere and communicate everything you need to, be it verbally or in writing.

Can It Be Done?
This is really two questions. One: Is machine translation possible in theory? Two: What will machine translation be like in practice within the next ten to twenty years? The former question seems not to be asked much, if at all, except in certain research laboratories. The latter question seems very much on the minds of translators and others in the translation industry, if only because of the profound financial impact the answer to the question will have.

The first question, whether or not machine translation is possible in principle, might seem impossible to answer. Or perhaps you think that the answer has to be assumed as negative until proven otherwise, in other words, it ain’t possible until someone does it. But given that machine translation, unlike breaking the four-minute mile, will involve hundreds or thousands of people working for years or perhaps even decades and spending billions, possibly trillions of dollars in their effort, a little theory seems like a good idea.

The arguments against machine translation being possible seem to run something like this. Language is too subtle and complex for a computer to understand and translate. There are just too many variables to consider in any given sentence. Linguistic communication relies too heavily on context and intonation, on body language and cultural underpinnings, to be handled by a computer. Computers will never be fast enough or powerful enough to deal with the immense requirements of language translation. Computers will have to understand what they read in order to translate, and therefore will have to be sentient themselves, in some fashion similar to what we humans experience as self-awareness. And perhaps the most fundamental argument against machine translation lies in the question of whether or not the human brain is capable of actions and behaviors that cannot be reduced to algorithms.

Fair enough, all good arguments. But the argument for machine translation being possible in theory is sufficiently powerful and compelling to obviate all the above arguments against it. In simple terms, the argument for machine translation goes like this: “If that three-pound piece of meat in your head can do it, why not a hunk of technology?” In essence, the proof for machine translation being possible in principle is sitting in every translator’s head. That three-pound pulpy grayish mass that we call the brain allows a translator to translate. A brain is an organic machine consisting of roughly one-hundred billion cells, neurons and glial cells, each with a multitude of connections to other neurons, communicating chemically with each other through synapses whose activities are modulated by neurotransmitters. Regardless of how little is actually understood about the brain, and regardless of the obvious deficiencies of my description of it above, the brain remains a finite object capable of only a finite number of actions. As such, the brain can be considered a machine, or if you prefer a less mechanistic metaphor, a piece of organic technology, which can in principle be understood and reproduced. And so a computer that translates as well as a human translator is in principle possible.

But So What?
What does the argument above really imply for the future? In other words, just because something is possible in principle doesn’t mean we’ll be able to do it in practice, at least not in the near term. Or maybe we will.

First I want to dispense with a few preconceptions and protests that are probably percolating in your mind. One, computers are plenty fast nowadays. I don’t mean the little box sitting on your desk or lap, which is in and of itself powerful in many ways but equally limited. I mean the chips that are currently on the drawing boards for the next generation of supercomputers. If Moore’s Law holds for even fifteen more years (note: Moore’s Law refers to the trend of doubling the computational capacity of chips every eighteen months), and as a technical translator who does a lot of work in computer science and electrical engineering I can say with some confidence that the research community believes it will, then we will have a computer chip whose speed and capacity is functionally equivalent to the human brain by 2025 at the latest. Similarly, the cost and performance of various types of memory are expanding far faster than most home users can find uses for, though web servers rapidly eat up even terabytes of data. Finally, the kind of parallel processing that gives supercomputers much of their power is becoming more and more common at the consumer level, so even if Moore’s Law places an upper limit on the performance of an individual chip, a group of chips tied together, making full use of terabytes of RAM and other high-speed memory arrays, should easily equal the raw power of the human brain within fifteen years.

Enough of the technical stuff. That’s not, you might say, where the problems really lie. They reside instead in the nature of language, in the intricacies and subtleties of written and oral communication, in the nuances of a person’s voice or the subtext in a well-written paragraph. Accurate enough, to varying degrees, but rarely relevant to the vast majority of what is being translated in the world these days.

Most of what is translated in our industry is not high literature destined to be awarded Nobel or Pulitzer prizes. Rather the majority of material that translators work on is information, ideas, or beliefs on a particular subject, and most often the material is nothing more than instructions, directions, or explanations, with a minimum of style of literary content. The material is generally bland and dry, for instance software or hardware manuals, engineering specifications, scientific or other technical research material, financial or corporate reports, fiscal analyses, clinical trial reports, patents, and so forth. Accurately rendering the subtle style of a source text is rarely an issue that translators struggle with, or even discuss much amongst themselves. So if the current human translators don’t have to deal with the subtleties and nuances of well-written literary prose, then neither will the machine systems.

As an aside, let us keep in mind that literary translation is an area of endless debate among literary translators; the sheer number of versions of literary classics amply demonstrates this. That machines may not in the foreseeable future tackle such material is not relevant to this discussion; instead it should be remembered that even humans have difficulty ferreting out the intended meaning in a sentence written by a literary master. What’s more, that meaning will change with both the reader and the times. Literary theory and literary analysis are dedicated to such issues; the fact that these are fertile fields for endless explorations suggests that people aren’t quite sure what to make of fiction like James Joyce’s Ulysses, to pick a particularly intractable text. I am certain that computers will eventually try their electronic hand at rendering the Mahabarat or the writings of Chuang-zu into English, and I look forward to studying the results.

Back to the topic at hand though. What MT systems will work on represents a fairly particular subset of the world’s written output. Not only does written language spare the MT system from having to deal with intonation or body language, but the kind of writing commonly translated in the translation industry at present is generally more carefully structured and reasoned, freer from grammatical and syntactic errors, less liable to contain slang, neologisms, or spur-of-the-moment coinages, and more precise in terminology usage than spoken language, even on the same subject, would be.

Finally, the MT system may not even have to understand what it is translating. I say this for two reasons. First, translators occasionally, and almost exclusively amongst themselves, talk about how little they understand of some of the material they work on. They of course can follow the gist and usually much more, but they also know, at least deep down, that they probably do not have the same in-depth understanding that the specialist or expert who wrote the material has. This can occur with material as simple as a business letter, in which the topic of the letter is understood between both parties but not known to the translator, or material as abstruse as an ethical commentary on organ transplantation and brain death.

Second, and most important, computers are more and more often nowadays performing on par with humans in complex tasks. The canonical example is chess. You are doubtlessly aware that Deep Blue defeated the Russian Chess Master Kasparov in a recent match. Kasparov felt it would never happen, until it did that is. He even commented after the match that at times there seemed to be an intelligence behind Deep Blue’s decisions, that the computer became more cautious at one point in one game. Of course he, and all observers, know that no such thing happened. And despite the considerable accomplishment that Deep Blue represents in combining dedicated hardware with expert system-style programming, Deep Blue is neither conscious nor intelligent in the human sense of those words. To put it another way, after the match, Kasparov made many insightful and thoughtful remarks when asked about his experience. In contrast, if anyone bothered to ask Deep Blue a question, I’m certain the remark was silence. And it is more than doubtful that Deep Blue has any particular plans for its prize money, or any desire one way or another to play chess again.

The point is that tasks which require considerable intellectual achievement for humans can be performed using different methods by computers. Whether or not translation is one such task remains to be seen. In other words, do we need to create a sentient, intelligent computer, then teach it to translate and hope after its training it wants to translate, or can we build a sophisticated expert system, a Blue Linguist if you will, that translates as well as a human does, despite using completely different internal methods? This question will be answered in part in the various R&D labs around the world working on MT. And it will be answered in part by the market.

In other words, if the translation is good enough, translation consumers will not care who or what translated it using which method. So the real question for MT in essence becomes: what is good enough?

Good Enough?
Good enough means acceptable to those who want the translation. Consider this: a company wants all the specifications for an automobile translated from English into French, Spanish, German, Italian, Dutch, Portuguese, Chinese, and Japanese. The specifications total over 5,000 pages, approximately 1 million words. Assume that a translator can do 5,000 words per day (I realize this is high, but assume it anyway). It will therefore take 200 days of work to produce the translation. A team of ten translators will still take 20 days, plus the time to unify the text after the translators are finished. At $0.25 per word (what the agency might charge the automobile company), the total cost per language would be $250,000. And these numbers are for each language involved. Therefore, if a machine system can translate the information at 20,000 words per hour, we see that the job might be done in a little over two days, plus clean-up time. And the computer plus software will cost considerably less, maybe $3,000 for the computer and $4,000 for the software for each language pair.

But, you say, the translation won’t be as good. I agree, at least based on current software and technology. However, let us recall that quality is only one of many factors in a market economy, and the most important factor is embodied that old epigram: time is money. Recall that this statement really means that speed is money. The faster the better. The sooner the product hits the market, the sooner the company recoups its investment. The lower the investment, the better.

So we have a case of the classic cost-benefit ratio. Therefore, the real question is: at what point does the quality of a translation become more important than the cost or time involved? If the machines are 200 times faster, 1000 times cheaper, and produce reasonably accurate and intelligible translations, they will get most of the work. And although they have not reached this state yet, it seems clear, given current technology and progress, that the time is not too far off when they may just well be there, at least for certain categories of translation.

For an excellent study of the cost/benefit ratio of current MT and MAT systems, I strongly recommend Lynn Webb’s Master’s Thesis on the subject, available at www.webbsnet.com. I hope Lynn will be able to keep her research current as the technologies she evaluated develop.

Machine Interpretation
Some people claim rather strangely that machine translation is possible, but machine interpretation is not. I disagree. Interpretation deals with the spoken language, a fundamentally simpler form of language than the written language. There are three issues that will tax MI systems: non-verbal communication that accompanies speech, voice processing and synthesis, and the general sloppiness of spoken language.

(Please note that although speech-to-speech MT is a common way to refer to machine-driven interpretation systems, I prefer MI not only because it is a more compact term, but also because it serves to remind us of the important linguistic distinctions between translation and interpretation.)

The first issue will not be as important as many people might think. A speaker at a large conference, for instance, does not rely much on body language to communicate, simply because most viewers are not close enough to benefit from it. In fact, many speakers at conferences are really just reading prepared speeches, changing the issue from machine interpretation to machine translation (of course, the machine has to be aware of deviations from the prepared text, just as a human interpreter does). Witnesses in court are trained by lawyers to avoid body language, so that the jurors will pay attention to the words only. And when body language is important, humans have a great deal of trouble, given how varied and complex each person’s use of such non-verbal communication is. So the computers will have the same problems the humans do.

The second challenge is being met as I write this. We’ve all seen and heard about voice input software such as Dragon Systems’ Naturally Speaking or IBM’s Via Voice. Both work reasonably well without taxing a mainstream home or business system. It is not difficult to imagine such software becoming virtually 100% accurate (or at least as accurate as a human listener, perhaps more so) within a few more generations of the software. The same holds for speech synthesis. I’ve been listening to my Macintosh for years now, having it read material I have written to me so that I can edit by listening to a disinterested reader (and trust me, the computer is completely neutral). The available voices are admittedly obviously synthetic and frequently tinny or disturbingly neutral, but they are improving. An acceptable synthesized voice seems likely within a few years. If you want a sample of the improvements in this area, listen to the Web newscaster Ananova (www.ananova.com). This virtual woman reads the day’s news headlines in a generally acceptable voice, though at times pronunciation does sound decidedly computer-like.

The third problem, the general sloppiness and imprecision of human speech, will be a challenge only insofar as the computers are not as accurate as people are. When queried about the meaning of an ambiguous or obscure statement, most people will admit that they hadn’t thought much about it, but now that they do, they realize they can’t be certain as to the intended meaning. How exactly MI systems will address such challenges, perhaps by reproducing the ambiguities, querying the speaker (if possible, and note that when querying is possible, that is what human interpreters do), or simply paraphrasing the statement based on a best-effort guess, remains to be seen. I suspect though that MI systems will in time become sufficiently accurate to be practical.

There is a final problem, one not often discussed when MT, particularly MI, is mentioned. This is the psychological element. Even if we have a lab-tested, government-approved, U.N.-certified MI system, it may still not be adopted for quite some time. People may simply not accept it. I’ve seen Japanese people struggle with the idea that I can speak the language fluently, and some I knew during my years in Japan never quite accepted it. Given that kind of attitude, and it is prevalent among many languages and cultures in the world, machine interpretation systems may not be warmly greeted, at least not initially. So their first appearances may be in situations in which we the users will not realize machines are doing the work instead of humans, such as in telephone communications when making airline or hotel reservations or getting technical support for software, or perhaps for international operator assistance. Eventually such systems will be accepted, I think, if only because people ultimately accept anything that makes life easier.

The State of the Art
So, you say, this is all well and good, but none of it is going to happen for a long time. Perhaps not even for centuries. We’ll all be long dead, or at least retired, before a computer can do anything useful with language or in translation. Maybe, but a review of where the MT/MAT industry is now seems in order.

The pace of change in computing is enough to give a seasoned funambulist vertigo. The original PCs, including the TRS-80 (with 4K of memory, no hard drive, floppy drive, and no operating system per se), the Commodore 64, the Apple II, etc. were less powerful than the current average Casio BOSS or Sharp Wizard, to say nothing of the current 3M PalmPilots, which effectively represent more computing power than Apollo 11 had at its disposal. The first PCs, the 8086 and then the 286, introduced in the early 1980s were brain-dead machines even back then. For the past eight years, we’ve seen CPU processing speed double every 18 months as per Moore’s Law, hard disk storage space double every two years, and the arrival of peripherals such as CD-ROM drives, DVD drives, scanners, and laser printers which only ten years ago or so were either dreams or ghastly expensive technologies.

The processing power and storage capacity to handle incredibly large and complex tasks is available, or will be soon. This means that the brute-force approach becomes more and more viable as an approach to problems that at present resist elegant computational solutions. Brute force more than anything else let Deep Blue defeat Kasparov, and though chess is hardly as complex as language, it suggests that what seemed for centuries to represent a pinnacle of human intellectual achievement can be performed without an iota of thought as we know it, just virtually inconceivable amounts of raw processing power.

In addition, I think we forget the extent to which human-like computing has already started to enter our lives. We now have voice-driven phone systems in which you state your preferred selection aloud and the system processes it. Admittedly these systems are crude and nowhere remotely near providing real-time online translation, but they indicate that what once seemed to be an insurmountable problem, that of voice recognition and synthesis, is falling to the wayside.

Similarly, optical character recognition, the solution to getting texts into computers, is now extremely fast and accurate. What’s more, you can buy a little pen dictionary that has a built-in scanning head at its tip. Run it over a word you need to look up, and the dictionary will then display the definition on a small LCD screen built into the shaft of the pen. Again, very limited compared to the demands of true MT, but suggestive nonetheless.

Current MT products, including PowerTranslator, Transcend, Logos, and others, have a limited capacity to provide useful translations. Although some translators disparage these products’ output as nothing more than word salad, in many cases the results are useable, if inelegant. For informational purposes, however, the results may be satisfactory to some people. Moreover, if the text to be translated is limited in terms of style, usage, and terminology, and is put through a preparatory editing process, then the results may be sufficiently good that with some, or arguably considerable, post-editing, the final translation could be printed and distributed with no fear of rejection.

Regardless of the limited scope of application for current MT software, such technology is slowly improving and will eventually, I think, be capable of providing usable translations for general consumption. Long before that happens though Machine-Assisted Translation (MAT) technology will revolutionize the translation industry.

Currently MAT is in its early childhood. The most sophisticated systems are still little more than elaborate databases with version control features for preparing and monitoring document translation, terminology and glossary management functions, and some fuzzy logic for finding good matches for text that has not actually been translated yet.

Future systems, as described in recent magazines such as Language International and Multiling will offer far more. Not only will they come with vast pools of sample translations mined from the terabytes of such material already available and extensive terminology and glossary listings, but they will also offer intelligent matching of untranslated text that far outperforms today’s best “fuzzy” guesses, real-time collaboration between non-local sites via the Internet, constant and automatic updating of sample translations and word lists via bot searches of the Web, and so forth.

The future translator will not sit at a desk with a printed copy of a text to one side of the keyboard and some dictionaries or other resources to the other. In fact many translators already work primarily if not exclusively with electronic source material and use at least some Web-based resources for terminology research. Instead future translators will likely have a live link to their client’s web site, working directly in real time with the other translators and project manager involved in the project. They will prepare the source material for “translation” by the MAT system, then monitor the output and work on the parts that the system cannot handle. They will also perform considerable editing, proof-reading, and QA work, along with developing and maintaining glossaries, sample translation databases, and other necessary resources for the MAT system.

This paradigm shift is already underway, with products like Trados’ Workbench, IBM’s Translation Manager II, Corel Catalyst, and Atril Software’s Déjà Vu leading the way. Other products are more focused on localization, while still others, such as Logos, offer a hybrid system that exists somewhere between true MT and MAT, depending, perhaps, on who you ask and what you want to do with it. The point is that this paradigm shift to MAT is not in the hazy future but is happening now. Languages that use the Roman alphabet and routinely use source material in electronic format are the most amenable to use with this software; languages such as Japanese and Chinese are still largely not available in electronic format, and even when they are, the systems do not handle such two-byte languages particularly reliably, at least not yet.

In other words, if you are a Spanish-English or German-English translator, you are probably already using MAT software, or you will be soon enough. If you are a translator working from Japanese to English, you have a couple of years yet before you have to make the move, though doing so earlier would be wise.

There is, however, a problem. Actually, there are a few problems. The first and most obvious is the cost associated with MAT. Not only is the software itself quite expensive for freelance translators to add to their office arsenal, but also it requires more RAM, more hard disc space, and a large monitor to be used efficiently. In addition, a scanner with good OCR software would also be extremely useful. This whole bundle could run as much as $4000, depending on which combination of hardware and software one opts for. Obviously $4000 is a lot for a freelance translator to invest, particularly since many translation vendors prefer to pay translators who use MAT or MT software less than they otherwise would. In fact, some translators who use MAT go as far as not telling their clients about it so as to avoid the issue of reduced rates when using MAT. In sum, there are considerable costs for a freelancer who uses MAT, and how the market will treat such freelancers remains undecided in places.

Second, and perhaps less obvious, is the question of ownership of material. Translators are independent contractors who translate on a work-for-hire basis. They do not own what they produce. If a translator creates a glossary or terminology list in an MAT package while doing a translation for a client, who owns that list? If the translator cannot recycle or reuse such lists, much of the value of MAT will be lost. The same can be said for the organizations that want the translations done, too. Moreover, how would a translation vendor know if I were reusing a terminology list that I created while working for them? And should they care? Such problems are common with Internet and computer technologies. Just consider the issues surrounding MP3 if you are uncertain as to the arguments on both sides. I would like to see a cooperative arrangement exist, one in which translators can continue to build and extend their libraries of terminology and translation samples, and perhaps even, when not legally inappropriate, share material with each other. The same, I believe, should hold for translation vendors. The more good resources we all have, the better our translations will become, and the more quickly we can do them. That is after all the point of MAT.

The third and final problem is translators themselves. Many translators seem resistant to MAT because of the paradigm outlined above. They see translation as a highly intellectual process, one which involves careful analysis of the source text, meticulous research in “quaint and curious volumes of forgotten lore”, and then creative writing to formulate a target text that balances form and function. MAT takes much of this away, they believe. It is too automated, too computerized, too, well, you get the idea. I don’t consider these translators to be Luddites, resisting to the last a change that is inevitable and beneficial. What I think they are resisting, and I share in their resistance, is a tendency in the translation industry, and in localization in particular, to put speed above everything else. Translators thrive on the challenge of creating a high-quality translation; MAT is perceived by many as a way to crank out in very short times a translation of at best marginal quality. “Good enough so that we don’t get sued” is how one localization manager put it to me one day. Whether or not these attitudes are justified or reasonable is a matter of endless debate; but the fact remains that many translators are not rushing to embrace these technologies, use them only grudgingly, and in some cases are leaving the translation profession. I hope that translators will give the technology a chance to mature, to be better understood and appreciated, and to be more widely used in the industry before they reject it. MAT is here to stay; it has its place; it has the potential to let translators do what they do best. Conversely though, employers of translators, localization firms in particular, should take the time to train translators to these systems, to transition not overnight but a bit more gradually to this new paradigm, and to let translators actually translate. Unhappy translators rapidly become ex-translators, and the supply of good translators is small enough that no one should do anything to reduce it.

Final Thoughts
In 1992 I bet a friend that within 15 years, computer translation systems would take over the industry, leaving very little work for humans, who will maintain and operate the systems and edit their translations. As of this writing (spring, 2000), I am prepared to say that I have lost this bet. My earlier estimations about when and how machine translation would evolve are clearly incorrect, so I concede.

But let’s take a look at what has happened in the past five years, the time from when I first wrote about that bet until now. The first desktop supercomputer, the Apple Macintosh G4, has arrived, with Intel’s chip line only slightly behind. Voice synthesis is now available as a part of the Mac OS, and though the voices are lackluster, they are usable. Voice-input systems, such as IBM’s ViaVoice and Dragon Systems Naturally Speaking series, are now available for a couple of hundred dollars or less and offer accuracy rates approaching 98%. And machine-assisted translation software (MAT) and terminology management software are becoming more prevalent and useful.

Ultimately I believe true MT is inevitable, though how or when it will arise I no longer care to predict. As Neils Bohr said: prediction is difficult, especially about the future.

For me the real question is how will a machine translation system be created. There are two major avenues of research: One, create a conscious computer which can understand and manipulate language essentially as a human would, but do so much more quickly and accurately. This seems extremely difficult for the near term, as there is as yet no good definition of consciousness itself, and what relationship language and consciousness have remains to be clarified. There are also obvious logistical and ethical issues involved, such as what to do if the sentient computer isn’t in the mood to translate (can you threaten to pull its plug?), or how to educate such a computer to be a good translator (how to accomplish that with humans is still a subject of some debate).

The other major avenue is to create a system which produces a good translation using different methods from how the human brain does it (however that may be). This is the approach used by all current machine translation systems. Progress thus far is better measured not by how far the systems have come, but by how far they still have to go. Perhaps IBM is working on a successor to Deep Blue. IBM might name it the Blue Linguist and have teams of researchers creating specially-designed language chips, circuit boards, databases, and so forth. And perhaps there will be a contest every year in which the Blue Linguist and five expert human translators all work on the same documents, with a panel of judges trying to identify the Blue Linguist’s work from among the group of six translations.

The point is that the results of the MT, or for that matter the MAT, system matter, not the method used to produce them. The translation industry is always ready to adopt any technology or methodology that improves translation quality and speed while reducing costs. So translators, whether or not they like it, will have to use MAT software. And true MT is coming, and translators should keep track of the progress in this area.

Becoming a Certified Translation Professional


Success in any language

Do you have strong written communication skills in a language other than English? Are you interested in a career in translation?

With our growing global economy, there is a very high demand for translation service professionals. If you have strong written communication skills in languages such as Spanish, Chinese, Arabic, Japanese, French or any other language, a career in translation service might be right for you.

Read over this selection of frequently asked questions about becoming a translator to find out more about becoming a certified translator.

What is the difference between a translator and an interpreter? – Translators work with written materials while interpreters deal with the spoken language. A translator takes a document written in one language and rewrites it in another while interpreters listen to spoken words in one language and repeat the same message in another language.

Do I need a translation degree to become a certified translator? – Having a formal education as a translator is not necessary, but it will certainly make it a lot easier to find your first job. Finding your first job can be difficult because agencies will ask for translators with experience, but how do you gain experience if no one will hire you?

If you have a recognized translation degree, translation service agencies are more likely to take a chance on you even if you have no experience. Once you are in the field for a few years, your education will have less significance and the focus will change to your work experience and ability to provide good references.

What are the requirements to become a certified translator? – Unlike some foreign countries, the United States has no required examinations for certified or sworn translators. Many translators choose to attain accreditation from the American Translators Association.

How can I become an American Translators Association (ATA) certified translator?

  • Become an ATA member. As an ATA member, you can purchase practice tests, which provides a practical introduction to the nature of the exam and how the graders mark the test.
  • Satisfy the eligibility requirements. You must provide proof of a combination of education and work experience in order to qualify to take the examination.
  • Register for an upcoming exam. The certification examination is a three-hour, open book, proctored exam in a specific language pair. If you pass the exam, you will then be eligible to identify yourself as a certified translation service provider.

As a new translation service professional, you may be looking to work for an organization that provides excellent pay, a good working environment and challenging translation assignments. Verbatim Solutions, a trusted provider of translation services to small and Fortune 500 companies around the world, are always interested in certified translators that can enhance their translation services portfolio. Check out their website to learn more about the vast selection translation services that they provide.

Different Types of Translation Defined

Lost in Traslation

Lost in Translation

The translation industry is in a constant state of evolution. Translation agencies are often becoming specialists and concentrating in one area of translation. So, if you were looking for a free translation serviceor information on online translation, this guide of the different terms may help you in your search!

Administrative Translation – This term refers to translation of administrative text – a very broad term. For translation, it refers to the common terms and texts used within businesses and organizations that they use in day-to-day management.

Commercial Translation – Sometimes called business translation, commercial translation covers any sort of document used in the business world such as letters, company accounts, tender documents, annuals reports, etc. Oftentimes, commercial translations require specialist translators with knowledge of terminology used in the business world.

Computer Assisted Translations – Individuals and businesses often turn to free translation tools offered online to translate phrases or documents. Behind the online translation tool, a software program analyses the text according to predefined linguistic rules and reconstructs the text in a different language according to the corresponding rules of the target language. They do not produce perfect copy of the submitted text in another language.

A free translation service or online translation tool can never substitute a human translator and should only be used when you want to translate text written in a foreign language into your native language or a language you understand.

Computer Translation – Refers to translations of anything to do with computers such as software, instructions and help files.
Financial Translation – For financial based industries, financial translation is the translation of text of a financial nature like banking, stocks, commodities, and investment funds.
General Translation – General translations are less complicated and the language used is not high level (sometimes called layman’s terms). In general translation, there is no specific or technical terminology used. Although these are simpler, they typically are still not suitable for using a free translation tool.
Legal Translation – Legal translations require highly trained translators as it involves the translation of legal documents such as statutes, contracts and treaties. Not only does the translator need expertise in the translating language, but also they need a legal understanding and an excellent understanding of both the source and target cultures.
Literary Translation – A literary translation is the translation of novels, poems, and plays. A literary translator must be capable of also translating feelings, cultural nuances, humor and other subtle elements of the literary work.
Medical Translation – Medical translations are also highly complex and will involve translating medical packaging, textbooks, medical equipment manuals and drug labeling. Specialization is necessary.

Now that you understand the vast field of translation, you might now begin to realize why free translation typically isn’t suitable for most translation requirements. Having a professional translator is necessary in order for your translation to be accurate and professionally prepared. Bad translations can lead to many problems for your organization and can even have legal implications.

To work with experienced professionals with a wealth of experience in all these types of translation, turn to Verbatim Solutions. With an impressive client list, a commitment to exceeding translation quality standards and extremely affordable rates, Verbatim Solutions can be your partner for all your translation needs.