STP is already a member of several industry associations in Europe and has established a strong presence in the European LSP community over the past 10 years or so. We have also been working for a handful of small and large LSPs in the USA for several years, but never done anything to actively develop that market. However, last year we decided to try and gain a greater market share of the US LSP market, and as part of this effort STP has joined the ATA (American Translators Association – http://www.atanet.org/), its Translation Company Division (http://www.ata-tcd.com/), the ALC (Association of Language Companies – http://www.alcus.org/) and AMTA (Association for Machine Translation in the Americas – http://www.amtaweb.org/), and we have attended conferences held by these organisations in 2010. Most recently Jesper attended the 51st Annual Conference of the ATA and the 9th biannual conference of AMTA in the Mile High City of Denver, Colorado, overlooking the snow-clad Rocky Mountains. Both conferences were very enjoyable, as they were held at very attractive and suitable venues, were well-attended and extremely well-organised.
The ATA conference was positively huge, with around 1,500 attendees, making it easily the world’s largest event in our industry. This, of course, is not surprising, given that the ATA with its approx. 11,000 members (mainly freelance translators) is by far the largest of its kind in the world. There was a plethora of content to choose from, catering to every imaginable area of interest and current focus within our industry. Jesper mainly attended the plenum/key note speaker sessions, presentations on machine translation and the Nordic Division sessions which comprised “Working as an In-House Scandinavian Translator”, “Scandinavian>English Translation Workshop”, “English<>Danish Financial Translation” and “Back to School: Translating Scandinavian Educational Documentation”. Anyone interested in taking a closer look at the conference programme, perhaps with a view to considering attending next year’s event, can find it here: http://www.atanet.org/conf/2010/.
A major focus of this year’s ATA conference was to disseminate knowledge about machine translation and foster a better understanding and open attitude among individual translators to this new technology that is bound to have a big impact on our profession. There were several sessions devoted to various aspects of this issue, with attendance and contributions by well-known and respected industry experts. At the closing plenum session there was a strong consensus that the conference had been very successful in achieving this major goal. However, almost everyone also accepted that while the technology is maturing rapidly, and more widespread usage of MT is inevitable, everyone in the industry, from the individual translator to the largest LSPs, will face considerable challenges in learning how to use and work optimally with this new technology over the next 2 to 10 years.
The dates and location of the AMTA conference were deliberately chosen to tie in perfectly with the ATA conference, so the AMTA conference started the day after the ATA conference ended and was just a few blocks away. Attendees from each event were invited to join the other event on their respective closing and opening days. This was also a very successful plan, as a lot of people from the ATA conference attended the first day of the AMTA conference.
A conference for people working with or interested in machine translation obviously caters to a fairly small and specialised audience, so the attendees at the full 3-4 days of the AMTA conference were mainly researchers, developers and users of machine translation (the latter being either government or commercial users, and in any case certainly organisations and people that could be called “early adopters”). We are not generally talking MT in the form of Google Translate and Microsoft Translator here, although they are obviously the best known examples of this technology, at least to the lay person or “translation consumer”. The type of machine translation needed to produce higher-quality results than what you get with Google or Microsoft requires software that has been highly customised and trained for very specific purposes, and there are actually numerous organisations and companies (LSPs and enterprises) already using customised MT engines in production workflows and achieving high quality and in some cases full human publication quality output after a round of human post-editing. At STP, Jesper, Simon and Raisa have already spent considerable time this year investigating our options for including MT as yet another tool in the already booming technology tool box that many modern LSPs consider a necessity.
Not surprisingly, both conferences offered excellent opportunities for professional development and networking, and Jesper made the most of it and learnt a lot about developments in our industry. It is also very enjoyable to meet up with existing and potential clients and suppliers and put a face to a well-known name in many cases.
In addition to all our existing professional memberships, STP has also recently joined ELIA – the European Language Industry Association (http://www.elia-association.org/), and we look forward to attending their “Networking Days” in 2011.