There is no such thing as a successful modern language service provider that does not invest in sound translation technology.
The modern translation pipeline – from quote to translation, revision, quality assurance checks and, finally, to delivery – would be a chaotic mess without the appropriate technology: translators would repeatedly translate similar texts from scratch, it would be difficult to ensure consistent use of terminology, and it would be extremely complicated to check for errors in a project. It would take much longer to translate formats such as PDF, XML or InDesign, and there would be no such thing as real-time collaboration.
Translators and language service providers (LSPs) use computer-assisted translation (CAT) and translation memory (TM) to increase productivity and improve the translation process.
It is also increasingly common to see machine translation (MT) integrated into translation management systems and workflows. MT can be a helpful tool despite the raw machine translation often lacking in accuracy and fluency. However, with the continued rise of neural networks powering MT, the industry is expecting quality to improve and adoption to increase.
Translation technology is all around us, but ubiquity is not the main argument in favour of investing in it.
Efficiency, compatibility, scalability
Productivity is the primary driver behind the adoption of CAT tools, TM and MT. Efficiency and effective project management are the key reasons for the spread of commercial and proprietary TMSs.
According to translation and interpretation forum ProZ.com, their members have seen increased productivity in recent years, citing more experience as a key factor. Many have also said that improved terminology resources and proficiency with TM tools has helped boost their productivity.
Today, the proliferation of a translation technology tools means that LSPs have yet another incentive to make use of them: compatibility. They need to be able to cater to and match the tools used by their clients and, if possible, their translators and interpreters.
Translation technologies have developed separately and are driven by different forms of demand – productivity, effective project management, shrinking deadlines, automation, cost reduction etc. However, as part of a unified technological infrastructure, they all work towards shared goals.
The various technologies make a translation company efficient, compatible and scalable; able to meet the various demands of its client base and deliver continuous service consistently.
The language industry research firm Common Sense Advisory (CSA) puts it succinctly: “Language service providers have expertise in managing complex content.” CSA is spreading this message more widely, recommending a move away from simple translation-centric business models to content-centric ones and advocating strategic roles, and this also applies to the tools that allow LSPs to manage complex content needs from clients.
At STP we work with over 15 commercial and proprietary CAT tools on a regular basis. This mature translation technology ecosystem lets us handle a variety of different tasks from over 400 clients without breaking a sweat. Jesper Sandberg, STP’s Executive Chairman, explains that this works for STP: “For a language service provider of STP’s size, it is vital to have trustworthy translation technology providers. In May 2012, STP adopted memoQ as our primary CAT tool. A lot has happened since then; many new tools have appeared in the market and others have managed to catch up with their competitors.
“We are capable of working with most of these tools, but if given a choice, we prefer to work with memoQ. When you have multiple teams spread across different countries, it is easier to become power users of a single tool rather than many, and thus get the optimum return on your investment”.
People, process, technology
At the centre of this business model supported by translation technology, we have the people who make the projects happen. The technology makes translation companies more efficient. It empowers them to be endlessly compatible with client needs and enables them to scale their success as they grow.
However, when it comes down to it, technology is only tools. Their potential is unlocked by the people who use them. So it is not only about having the right technology, but also about training your people to use it properly. The ProZ.com members who reported that translation technologies improved their productivity will have spent time learning to use CAT tools and TMs. There is a learning curve initially, but the payoff is worth it.
Human-machine interaction is an important factor in determining whether the tools help the people become better at their job. For a language service provider, investing in translation technology also means investing in training. Raisa McNab, STP’s head of Learning and Development, explains the importance of translation technology in our recruiting and training processes.
“During our induction we do not just focus on training linguists how to use memoQ – we also teach them the fundamental concepts of what CAT tools are and how they work, so that it will be easier for them to pick up other tools later. We do not require new recruits to be familiar with CAT tools before they join STP, but those who have had previous experience or exposure to CAT tools during their studies have a head start. Knowing the basics of CAT tools definitely makes the initial learning curve less steep. Our Tech team runs the training programme and they also ensure new recruits continue to have access to further training resources once the induction stage is over.
“We also have an extensive Knowledge Base of CAT user guidance and workflows linked to learning units and recorded webinar tutorials, which are tied to a new recruit’s development and monitored by their team leader and manager.”
Up-to-date and up to the task
In the modern language services landscape, allowing your technological infrastructure to become obsolete is sounding your own death knell.
Each of the companies behind the various translation technologies used today strive to keep their software and tools updated. They incorporate new data, new technologies, improved capabilities and additional concerns driven by real-life needs such as better security and data risk management.
LSPs need to keep abreast of technology as well. This means leveraging new features and reviewing workflows to optimise processes and automate as much as possible. Adam Dahlström, STP’s IT Manager, explains the processes we follow to stay up-to-date with CAT tools.
“We store our linguistic assets on our memoQ server and distinguish between maintained and temporary resources using a naming convention and metadata structure. This helps us automate access to relevant language resources, while ensuring maximal client integrity and data security. Whenever new features are released in memoQ or other tools, we investigate them, but also document and provide training for our staff as needed.”
Staying current is not just a matter of clicking a button and installing software updates. It is all about keeping the entire infrastructure working at optimum efficiency.
Investing in the right translation technologies is a requisite standard in today’s modern language services landscape. The key to doing this successfully is choosing the technology carefully, planning and executing continuous training and support for the tools, and being aware of technological trends.