Introduction to the Translation Industry

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This session is an introduction to the translation industry, how translators and translation companies work Bringing, embracing the good of the translation indiustry and bringing it into the open translation world

Ed has spent 20 years in the translation industry, is now with dotsub Worked with Lionbridge, world's largest translation company $17-20b industry, easily $30-40b in the near future in a more globalized world much less than 1% of content is professionally translated - people willing to pay for quality control just isn't that common fragmented industry - a couple of $200-400m a year players lots of medium players, and thousands of mom and pop shops, some of which are very competitive on specific languages

Most translation companies do not do translation - they hire freelancers. The translation company is the sales department and product management. Large buyers of translation like Microsoft or Adobe don't want to contract with thousands of contractors - they'd rather go to a large player who can wrangle all the translations and complete projects. It would require too much overhead to keep most translators on staff, so they're generally freelancers

Translators are generally trained (often in linguistics), certified, and generally translate into their native language. Good translations read as if they were written by a native language speaker. That said, there's no such thing as a perfect translation. It's more an art form than a science, particularly when you're doing phrases like "Just Do It" or "The Big Apple Goes Bananas"

Translation tends to be area specific. Translators usually specialize in legal, medical, marketing and advertising, for instance. You might find people who specialize just in turbine engines - it's important to be able to manage that language and jargon.

This is a very expensive industry, in part because it involves three sets of eyes: a translator, an editor/proofreader and a proofreader. Translating into ten languages routinely involves thirty people, who need to be coordinated by project managers - project managers end up being some of the most important people in the industry.

Usually, quality is the main concern... though there's not increasing cost-sensitivity. If your client didn't complain, your translation is quite good.

Translators work by the word and editors work by the hour - translators would rather translate than edit, as a result, which can make it hard to get translators to edit.

Since you're charging for translation, tools that make translation easier are a win for you. Trados ( - a translation memory tool. Memorizes how phrases have been translated previously. It's not well loved, but it is the industry standard. Translators buy their own tools. Translation memories tend to be shared within a company. A strong proprietary nature to the industry. A good translator might be working for ten or fifteen companies - maintains her own Trados for her past translations

TAUS ( translation and automation for the translation industry, trying to get companies to share their translation memories. Google has a new toolkit with translation memory and workflow management.

Most translation work is actually done on paper - proofing of documents is almost invariably done in print, as it's just too easy to get lost on the screen. An example of these difficulties - with a single diacritic mark, a translation of a contraceptive box into Vietnamese converted "For women under eighteen" to "to prostitutes under 18". Those sorts of mistakes are awfully expensive.

Within a client organization, responsibility for translation tends to be pretty distributed. It's hard to call IBM and ask whos in charge of purchasing translation services. IBM owns the translation memory, the Trados database that emerges from these interactions, and can ask for that database back.

How does vocabulary spread for small languages? Language changes every single day - a good professional translator is reading publications in their home language to understand what the current terminology includes. If you're translating into Japanese, you probably travel from the US to Japan several times a year.

Localization needs both translators with a technical background as well as a specialty in localization - localizers end up being bug checkers as well, and help the programmers adapt the programs for different languages. These are tremendously technical people. But the translation itself tends to be on paper, and people use very old tools.

Translation companies are scared of Google's translation tools. Crowdsourcing in particular scares the pants off translation companies - their TEP (translation, editing, proofreading) model is their selling point. There are also issues around consistency of style - a language lead tries to make several translators work consistent.

Ed's opinion is that TEP is an overly expensive model - we might just need translation and proofreading. If you pay me to edit, obviously I'm going to edit. A translator and editor who've never worked together is often an excuse for an editor to go crazy with translation. But you probably still need project management and a proofreader.

How do people charge? What they can get away with. What the market can bear. They're charging editing, proofreading, a file management fee, formatting fees For a popular language, it could cost anywhere from $0.10 to $0.80 a word - the smaller languages, and character-based languages always cost more, while popular language pairs like English/Spanish cost significantly less.

There are two basic kinds of translation clients - people who've never done this before and don't understand what's involved, or clients who've had a bad translation in the past and realize the value of high-quality translation. The new clients are often companies that have never crossed the language barrier before - a bad translation will send people away from their websites.

Translating into a language like German can expand the size of a text by 25%. So translating a website can lead to major website redesign. Translating a site can cost 10-15% of what it cost to build the website - as such, it's important to build translation into the process from early on.

Translators are passionate people - they love their work and what they do. People have chosen to work in this space. When we're building communities, we're building communities of very passionate people.

Axel points out that online communities are sometimes finding professional translations aren't as high quality as amateur ones - Ed reminds us that bad translations happen every day.

While there are lots of open source tools for translation memory and management, Alex asserts, "they all suck", which helps explain why there are so many of them.

Ed's day job is with dotsub, a platform for subtitling and translating video. He explains that dotsub is wrestling with questions about open sourcing their platform. Most of the use of dotsub is free (as in beer), but roughly 10% is for paid clients, whose videos are password protected.

ProZ is a network of translators - it's a portal for professional translators, a matchmaking service. Other similar services include Translator's Cafe, the American Translators association.

EthanZ 12:40, 22 June 2009 (UTC)