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Translation and Language Industry Observations
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Translation and Language Industry Observations
Slowing economy drops the hammer on translation prices
May 7, 2020
Coronavirus / Translation Prices
Translation services are experiencing a drop in demand due to the slowing of the economy and rampant unemployment in most of the world economies. Entire industries have been nearly shut down, causing translation companies that serve in these sectors to run for cover. This is especially true in the following industries which are international in nature and therefore drive demand in the translation business. Travel and Hotels. Nobody is traveling today and many hotels are shut down. It is estimated by the World Tourism Organization that international tourism could fall as much as 80%. Airlines and Aerospace. This industry is responsible for the employment of thousands of translators, directly and indirectly. Airlines are mostly shut down and losing billions. Aerospace companies like Boeing and Airbus are hemorrhaging. Retail. Large US retailer J Crew last week declared bankruptcy. This is one of possibly many more retail giants in the US and worldwide that are anticipated to go bankrupt or even go under. Automotive. It is estimated that new car sales can drop as much as 50% and even more. There are many translation companies that specialize in translation for the automotive industry and these translation agencies are hurting. Movie and entertainment industry. Disney, one of the leading companies in the entertainment industry, lost a whopping $1.4 Billion in Q1 of 2020. Production of movies has halted, leaving translators that create subtitles, voice-overs and dubbing out of work. Conventions and trade fairs have been cancelled or at least postponed. These events typically drive demand for translation services due to their international nature. With most courts of law shut down, many court interpreters are out of work now. Many freelance translators are being threatened with their very existence. The good news is that many countries are providing loans to freelances to soften the impact of COVID-19. So what is all of this doing to professional translation services rates? It is obviously driving prices down. Lower demand in many industry segments leaves more translators and translation companies competing for a piece of the shrinking pie. Some companies are offering translation at very low prices in order to retain both their workforce and customers alike. Day Translations, which is a large LSP, is offering a rate of $1 per minute for Spanish interpretation services. This is considerably lower than the standard rate of $80-$120 per hour. Another company, Translation Services USA, has dropped prices by 50% due to the COVID-19 pandemic. If you are a buyer, great deals available If you are in the market now for translation services, you can probably get a better deal by negotiating with multiple vendors. Some companies are desperate for business which means you may get a very good deal professional translation services. ...
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AI Won’t Replace Human Translators Yet. Here Are 3 Reasons Why
April 16, 2020
Long past are the days when AI was a story created by Science fiction books and movies. Technological advancements in the field have made Artificial Intelligence a practical and valuable resource for the industry. Today, every industrial sector is integrating machine learning in their operations to improve efficiency and productivity. The applications of AI are far and wide; it has outperformed humans in computing large amounts of data to identify meaningful information, it is vital in the research and discovery of new medicine, efficient inventory management, predictive analysis, and more. Research suggests that AI will automate repetitive and mundane jobs in the coming decade. AI will take over jobs that don’t require critical thinking and decision making, for example, proofreading, market research, bookkeeping, and administrative tasks. Notable technological companies such as Google and Microsoft are also working hard to automate natural languages so that AI can take over for translators and interpreters. Despite the breakthroughs in voice search technology, AI is unable to match the human brain when it comes to translation and interpretation. This job is still very much occupied by humans. Why? Here are three reasons. 1. Language Is Subjective Artificial intelligence is incorporated into tasks that are concerned with objective reality. The technology is based upon mathematical and physical logistics to facilitate different functions with extreme accuracy and efficiency. On the contrary, natural languages were invented by human beings to allow easy communication with each other. There are different branches to these languages, such as vocabulary, grammar, tone, etc. but they are constantly evolving to enable better communication.Natural languages are nuanced; every language is unique to a place and its culture, which enhances its complexity. Recognizing the fine distinctions between meaning, accent, and subjective meaning is a challenge that automatic translators are yet to overcome. AI is not smart enough to understand word inflictions, slang, the emotion behind words, and nuances in tone and style, etc. AI is methodical, and it inspects everything on strict rules of grammar, whereas natural languages are more fluid. That’s not the case with human translators. They’re known to be well-versed and experienced in the languages, so they’re able to accurately interpret the ins and outs of the language while also respecting its culture. A machine translator will go for word-to-word translation and look no further; meanwhile, a human translator pays attention to the accent and pronunciation of the words before translating. This positions human translators at a much higher expertise level than a machine translator since they’re unable to detect the distinctions in languages. 2. Big Data Has A Hard Time Handling JokesTranslating humor to a different language is particularly challenging for humans, but it’s next to impossible for AI technology-based translators and machines. Machine translators are dependent on massive sets of predetermined data that are programmed within their systems. On top of that, the data sets are obtained from official translations of government documentation and other religious passages, which leaves little room for exposure to humor, wordplay, and other casual references. This means that the machine will display a translation that could have a high volume of errors without confessing its mistakes. Naturally, the users might not detect these mistakes either and take those results as accurate text. 3. There Is A Limit to Bot Translations Nowadays, automatic speech recognition (ASR) is all the rage with the invention of Siri, Alexa, and other smart technologies. They’re considerably pretty skilled at interpreting live speech, but even these inventions are limited to a constricted set of rules and conditions. This is why ASR programs result in a high error rate during live video conferences as they’re unable to grasp the context and references in the speech and often result in misinterpretation. A hilarious incident ensued when a tourist facilitation company used AI to translate information about regional attractions from local language to English. Instead of writing that the town is known for Shireen band FTP cable factory, the AI translated Shireen Band as ‘Sweet Closed’ thinking of the Arabic word Shireen which means sweet and the Urdu word band which means closed. Natural languages are updated continuously, and while human translators recognize the evolution of language, AI does not. Machine translators would require consistent upgrades to learn those new phrases, references, etc. so they can eventually find a suitable translation. Even then, it would be a hard job because AI can’t recognize the ‘humanness’ in natural language. When a text is written, it consists of a writing style, tone, and a personality that differentiates it from other texts or documents. It can have different elements to it depending on the mood and context behind the passage, whether it’s argumentative, poetic, or persuasive. But during translation, the machine is incapable of detecting these elements. In such cases, only a professional human translator can depict the accurate meaning of the document and deliver anticipated results that don’t lose the structure and tone of the original text. The issue behind machine learning and translation is that they can’t evolve at the same pace as natural language, which makes them incapable of keeping up with the changes and concepts of the language. Human translators are flexible; they are capable of understanding human subjectivness and the sentiment behind a text and translate it accurately. Wrapping Up Today, AI and machine learning are the rage; sophistication in programming and machine learning algorithms have enabled us to design systems that outperform humans in many avenues. AI is being used to reduce the chance of error in complex industries such as space exploration and medicine. It is also being used to achieve better results and drive increased productivity in everyday industries like business, education, and agriculture. However, while AI’s contributions are impressive, it is safe to conclude that it cannot replace humans when it comes to subjective fields like translation and interpretation. AI can perform simple translations and understand basic concepts within a predefined data set, but it will be ages before it gets even close to perfection. About the AuthorNouman provides ghostwriting and copywriting services. His educational background in the technical field and business studies helps him in tackling topics ranging from career and business productivity to web development and digital marketing. He occasionally writes articles for Shireen Inc. You can find him on Linkedin here. ...
Preparing for recession: How can LSPs weather the coronavirus storm?
March 19, 2020
Coronavirus / Translation & Localization / Translation Agencies
Welcome global recession. We weren’t expecting you and you are not welcome in our house. But it looks like we have no choice and you are here to stay for a while. The coronavirus has already put many people out of jobs and we are just at the beginning. Many more people will be out of work. That means less spending by consumers and businesses. The stock market is in bear territory and the net worth of many people has shrunk dramatically. Shrinking budgets will become the norm in corporations worldwide. And this situation will probably last well after the coronavirus crisis is solved.How does an LSP prepare for the recession? It appears that many industries will be impacted by this recession. Some more than others. Since the translation and localization industry is primarily a B2B type of operation, it will undoubtedly be impacted by the recession. So how to prepare for this? Here are some of my thoughts on this topic. Time to downsize Many LSPs, such as GTS Translation, are built around a small permanent staff and many temporary staff (i.e. freelance translators). These small LSPS will be better equipped to handle the recession. Large LSPs with large staffs will not fair as well and will regrettably have to terminate some of their staff. As an LSP owner/manager, you will need to trim the fat (figuratively of course). The same goes for suppliers such as marketing consultants. SEO experts, CPC budgets, industry conference expenses, advertising agencies. These expenses may be expendable in times of recession. Time to call in the markers Now would be a good time to focus on receivables. Recession means a cash shortage with a trickle-down effect. If your customers owe you money, now would a good time to collect and keep a war-chest to weather the storm. Time to diversify As I mentioned previously, some industries will be impacted more than others. Airlines and aerospace companies, for example, will be decimated. If you are an LSP serving this industry, you are in deep sh!t. Consider moving your offerings to other industries. For example, online gaming companies should be doing very well now. Pharmaceutical companies should go relatively unscathed. Try to find industries which are working well even in times of recession and adapt your sales strategy accordingly. Time to lower prices With shrinking budgets and the ever-increasing competition that is inevitable in a recession, consider making your price points more attractive. A lower profit is better than shuttering the doors of the business you worked so hard to build up. Time for patience Things are bound to improve. Patience is required to weather the storm. Of course it helps if you have deep pockets and can sustain your business in times when orders are few and far in between. Following the points mentioned previously about reducing your expenses will help. Time to invest in automation The industry is shifting towards automation, with human-assisted machine translation becoming a staple. If you are not involved in this activity, and if you have some budget that you can allocate in this direction, consider developing new offerings around PEMT. It will help you come out of the recession stronger, and will also help you lower your prices. Time to go If you have any other ideas which you think are useful, please let us all know. We are all in this together and hopefully we will get back to normal soon. ...
Should LSPs be using the coronavirus to drum up business?
March 17, 2020
Coronavirus / Translation Agencies
In the last 2-3 days, we are getting dozens of emails from Language Service Providers (LSPs) who are using the Coronovirus as an excuse to spam potential clients and push their services. Here is an example: _____________________________________________________________________ Dear business partners, Despite various restrictions and quarantine measures, we operate as usual. Our technologies enable complete home-office for our project managers, translators, editors, DTP staff and other production team members. So, if you have any jobs in CEE languages, we are ready to help you. You can be sure that even with further and even more restrictive measures (including complete quarantine), we will be able to operate without any restrictions and meet our obligations to our clients. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us at any time at
We are available on working days from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. CET. In the meanwhile stay healthy. We believe that this situation will disappear soon and everything will return back to normal. ______________________________________________________________ I find this practice to be not only annoying, but also stupid. If you want to send an email to your customers who have opted-in to your mailing list, that’s one thing. But harvesting emails on the web and spamming people to say that your LSP is working like usual during this time of crisis? Chutzpah! And the chances of getting any business from these spam blasts is ZERO. Because business is slowing down in many industries anyway. Companies probably don’t have the stomach now for international expansion, especially with most countries in the western world having shut down their borders. Should you send email blasts to your mailing list? I am not sure that this is effective either. The whole world is engulfed in the coronavirus crisis and people are running scared for their lives. Do you think people need another reminder about the coronavirus from their LSP? Being the bearer of bad news will usually not win you any brownie points. Using coronavirus as a selling tactic in social media This is another variation on the email blast. Here is an example from one of the world’s largest LSPs.In unpredictable times, #communication is key and Lionbridge can help. We're offering free #translation of internal communications to help you keep your team informed, and most importantly, safe. Visit https://t.co/q7khQ9SSPf or call +1 866-267-0437 to get started. pic.twitter.com/WOLvk51xWW — Lionbridge (@Lionbridge) March 16, 2020I actually think that this kind of message is much more tactful. Offering free service in times of crisis is thoughtful and cloaks the come-on in an altruistic gesture which may be appreciated by the buying public. Here is a tweet by SDL, another very large LSP.SDL #COVID2019 update https://t.co/fK4F90AdiR pic.twitter.com/iJUbWaOQmn — Massimo (@mghi1234) March 17, 2020I actually like this tweet a lot less than that of Lionbridge. Because what is the big news that SDL is announcing? That they are open for business? It’s pretty obvious that they are even without the superfluous tweet. A large company like SDL has account executives that can contact the major clients and reassure them personally. The tweet frankly looks like, in my opinion, as a way to hitchhike on a world crisis in order to drum up business. The bottom line Don’t use the coronavirus in your marketing efforts. It is tactless and won’t get you any new business. If you have a special offer that can truly benefit your clients in times of trouble-then pitch it. Otherwise, don’t. See also: Coronavirus drives demand for translation services ...
Coronavirus drives demand for translation services
March 11, 2020
Coronavirus / Translation & Localization
The entire world seems to be consumed these days with the hysteria around the coronavirus outbreak. And for good reason. Thousands are already dead and the outbreak seems poised to wreak havoc throughout the entire world. US President Trump has issued a travel ban, basically cutting off travel between Europe and the USA. According to Germany’s Chancellor Merkel, as many as 70% of Germany’s population may become affected by the virus. World markets have come crashing down as many businesses and people are likely to lose their livelihood. Entire industries will be decimated. This includes airplane manufacturers, airlines, hotels, travel companies, restaurants and more. And they are talking about cancelling the Tokyo Olympics, which would be a financial catastrophe for Japan. Demand for professional translation services not negatively impacted But as sad as that may be for many industries, it appears that the demand for professional translation services is not being negatively impacted by the outbreak. And indeed it may even be driving even higher demand for translation service. First of all, translation is probably one of the biggest types of work-from-home small businesses. Translators and project managers can work from the safety of their home and do not have to be overly concerned about getting the virus. More online and written communication required Additionally, with international air travel being seriously impaired, many businesses are using written communication to replace human contact. The increased demand for online services of every kind, due to the imposed quarantines and travel bans, means that companies will be spending more money to get their content translated into various languages. We have been feeling this at GTS. One of our customers, West Valley Community Services (WVCS), has been translating a wide range of notices into Vietnamese, Traditional Chinese, Russian and Spanish. Another GTS customer, the US District Court of Hawaii has published notices in Chinese, Korean, Japanese and Tagalog. What others are saying Here are two tweets that I have seen today on this topic. So far over 40 translators and agencies have commented on Twitter on how they are getting orders for translation services due the coronavirus. And it appears that this trend will only grow in the coming weeks and months.Yeah, lots for our public health, hospital and schools clients. FAQs, cleaning guidelines, testing info and updates on local situation. — Cesco LS (@cescolstweets) March 11, 2020We’re all in this together! Everyone is praying that coronavirus goes away. Hopefully, the demand for translation services will remain strong but only for healthy and happy reasons!...
Is Neural Machine Translation (NMT) as good as human translation?
March 3, 2020
A few weeks ago I wrote a post on LinkedIn entitled: More proof why IMO machine translation is clearly not ready to replace professional translators. You can see the full post here.This was a simple test that we ran after receiving an order from one of our clients. We ran the original German sentence through a number of free online machine translation tools and compared the results against our own translation. Our translation was done by our professional team without using any MT software. The results were conclusive and all of the MTs botched up the translation. Now, we fed the original sentence into Amazon Translate, another NMT which is nowhere near as well-known as Google Translate.Original sentence in German: Herr Smith ist eine Person mit klaren Konturen, die schnell greifbar wird. Seine Verhaltensmerkmale sind deutlich ausgeprägt. Amazon Translate result: Mr. Smith is a person with clear contours that quickly becomes tangible. His behavioral features are clearly pronounced. Human Translation: Mr. Smith is somebody with a clear sense of purpose who is readily available. His behavioral characteristics are very distinct. Here too the results are conclusive and Amazon botched up the translation as well. Which is a bit surprising since in his introductory video from 2018, Amazon’s Yoni Friedman states the following: … over the last year we had productized (sic) proprietary state-of-the-art neural machine translation engines and that was a leap ahead for us in terms of quality …. in essence statistical engines which are the ones that we used to have are basically a fancy lookup algorithm that makes decisions based on the probability of a certain word mapping in the source language mapping to the word to a different word in the target language. The problem with these statistical models is that predominantly they don’t understand context …. but that’s no longer the case with neural engines. …. generally speaking neural engines are built such that they mimic the way they’re inspired by the way that the human brain learns and processes information and that means a ton in terms of performance they understand quality and they understand context they understand the focus of the sentence and they understand morphology. You can watch the entire presentation here:If the Amazon NMT mimics the human brain and can understand context within a sentence, then why did it fail our translation test? If NMT understands context, then how did it translate the word Konturen as contours. Clearly this out of context. The bottom line is that NMT, with all of its advances, is still not ready to replace professional translators. And any use of NMT in a professional environment will need close post-editing. Amazon Translate is based on technology that was acquired by Amazon in 2015 when it acquired CMU’s Safaba....
How to Increase Conversion rates on your Website
February 14, 2020
As any online business manager or owner knows, driving traffic to your website is challenging. But even success in driving traffic is only winning half the battle. Getting visitors to convert and buy online is the other and more important half of your success. The Challenge Facing GTS Translation GTS Translation has been selling professional translation services online for several years. And while traffic is robust due to our dedication to organic SEO and our lofty standing in the SERPs, conversion rates were low-less than 1% of all traffic. If we are physical brick-and-mortar store, that would amount to less than one sale for every 100 customers. Organic SEO Success At GTS, we have been engaged in digital marketing for many years. This has been a slow and painstaking process, but one that has born fruit. We are on the 1st page of the SERPs for many competitive keyword phrases with a high KD (Keyword Difficulty) factor. This includes the following keywords: document translation services, online translation services, medical translation services, technical translation services, legal translation services, French/German/Italian translation services and many more. Getting to YES-a 2-step approach One of the things that we did to increase conversions is a 2-step approach that we implemented about a year ago. The first step was to integrate coupon codes into our website. Using coupon codes, we can offer our customers flat-rate or percentage discounts. We developed the coupon code software internally.The second step was to implement a cart-abandonment popup window that is displayed upon signs of exit intent. We only implemented the popup window in our Price and Delivery window, which is displayed after the customer requests an online price quote. The popup window offers a 10% discount to the customer and displays the coupon code that should be used to redeem the discount. We found that this greatly decreases the bounce rate in this window and dramatically increases user engagement at this critical stage of the buying process. We also saw a sharp rise in conversions to about 2% of all traffic. Which brings us close the conversation rate of physical stores. Since our website is based on the WordPress CMS, we implemented the PopupMaker WP plugin (https://popupmaker.com/). We are very happy with this plugin as it is very easy to configure and does the job well....
February 4, 2020
Google Translate Beats DeepL in Translation Test
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The state-of-the-art Neural Machine Translation (NMT) systems available today provide a fast, excellent basis for high quality translations. Spelling, grammar and general formulations have a low error rate and therefore
February 1, 2020
Chinese Translators take Coronavirus in stride
The coronavirus could not have come at a worst time. During the Chinese New Year, many people take to the roads and railroads, sometimes traveling up to three days to
January 29, 2020
Optimizing for Incorrect Spelling. Should you be doing it?
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Should you optimize for typos? As someone who has been working in the language industry for many years, one of the most common typos I make is typing ‘Soanish” instead