TAUS Yearly Summit in Portland was a great event and the largest I have attended so far (and I have been a regular attendee since 2007 in Brussels). The organization has definitely grown from being considered a think-tank to promote the exchange of data for the benefit of automatic translation engine training, to develop useful tools for the industry. There were times when only experts and a few EU officials or managers from large corporations attended. The mixture in the audience and the quality of the keynotes prove that TAUS has grown as a major reference conference for decision makers and translation technology implementers in the language industry far away from service LSP’s conferences.
We are going to be postediting and leaving the TM syndrome behind. Translators will need to face the reality and the realm is post-editing – Tony O’Dowd, CEO, KantanMT.
Unfortunately, I missed the first day of the conference due to flight connection delay. I can only report on the interest raised by a very interesting tool by Spanish company Prompsit which aligns bilingual datasets from websites.
On the second day, Jaap reviewed the history of TAUS and the increasing questions on whether there will be a need for translators in 20 years time given the speed of technological progress in the language industry. There is an open concern among translators indeed about the future of their jobs and skills and VC are spending profusely in financing crowdsourcing and post-editing companies. The future of a typical language service business may be at risk in 20 years time, who knows. However, what is clear is that savvy translation companies are becoming something else nowadays. They are focusing on language delivery, content service, website localization and machine translation is playing a big part on that.
Keynote note by Margaret Ann Downling
Margaret is not a translation industry specialist, but she has been a buyer of serious translation services for many years. Her opening lines drew the attention to the “skilled workforce” syndrome: 30 years ago Ford was the largest employer in the US paying $35/hr. In 2016, a sign of the times is that the largest employer is Walmart, paying $9/hr without any benefits.
Publishing industry has been suffering for many years and sees translation and fast publishing as a way out, tapping new markets. BUT! costs are too high for large magazine. There is a growing divide about things being learnt at school and what the market and companies demand. We are teaching kids things and we are teaching them in a way that is no longer valid in an almost completely digital society.
Content is fast, consumed in minutes and seconds, it has to be clickable, SEO-friendly like how to learn a language in 2 weeks, Protecting our planet starts with YOUThese are the superheroes of digital content. This is leading to generation C, tired, sick and bored, all those bored after 9/11. They are just switching off from the massive amounts of data, news and messages bombarding them every day.
But for companies, organizations and institutions, content strategy cannot be undone: once you have taken a decision is like breaking an egg, it can be fried or scrambled but never go back to its shape. the same happens with translation and machine translate without any thought: automation yes, but to a degree. You cannot rely on automatic translation to fast translate all your content blindly. For Margaret, editors are the key, they make sense of the world around though their curation and creation. They are the architects of our society.
Audiences are your board members. Engagement is the key. Transparency is key and success is measured by authenticity. It cannot be machined. “Content is to the mind what healthy food is to the body”. If we get 100% accuracy, we solve a lot of communication problems but a publishing company deals with tones and with people. By pairing up great editors and great translators, great content is created. An interesting final remark by Margaret, who claimed not to be a technology expert when it came to translation: “The whole world of translation matches and translation fuzzies just does not apply to my world of magazine and quality content, quality information publishing”.
To Cloud or not to Cloud – How cloud are you?
In this session, most respondents (78%) said that their localization tools and data were kept in some kind of cloud or mixture, which seems amazingly high for an industry where about 92.1% of industry operators are sole proprietors and 66.3% of workers are self-employed. Private clouds reign although something similar has been around in the shape of VPN and other kinds for many years. The difference is that current clouds can be extended and are more flexible than in the past.
The discussion topics ranged from the benefits of the cloud and if teams were working at the “Speed of the Cloud”, the lack of automation and above all integration between CMS and TMS systems which is very slow. Jack Welde from Smartling chaired a session dealing with the interesting topic of “Tools – Are you better off building them or buying off-the-shelf products?“. In general, people tend to build what is core for them, but that is expensive and for many companies a TMS is not core, so they buy from outsourcing vendors like SDL WorldServer (may I add our own ActivaTM can keep enormous language databases and, being based on ElasticSearch, is API-ready for all connections). But in the case of SDL WorldServer, each box is $40k for a server, but many companies are not there to program TMS. Machine Translation definitely is not seen as strategic or something to own by most companies. They wouldn’t know where to start. That’s why there are so many programmers building more or less the same tools for different language companies. Many can’t find what they are looking for off the shelf, and thus, most build because they have to.
Jack went on to mention that most translation buyers see translation as a cost center rather than an opportunity, a tool for revenue generation. Spending money in translation needs to be justified, whereas it should be seen as an investment for marketing and sales opportunities. As growth is coming from international streams, companies are investing more in translating content or at least thinking of it as revenue center and not just a cost center.
As translation companies are feeling the pressure to keep up with technological trends and new financial models, the translation profession is [slowly] adapting to to new needs and new scenarios. It is unfair to talk about a translation solution or even a type of translation company, just as it is unfair to put all translators in the same bag. This became very clear in the recent TAUS Summit in Portland, where 10 disruptive innovators from without the industry and 9 inside innovators presented their lines of research. From multilingual translation platforms including voice-to-text commands for immediate translation (aka almost a multilingual secretarial service) to neural machine translation, linking in to big data, karaoke-style subtitling or new ways of improving translation memory recalls by running a TM that is separate from CAT tools – attendants saw the best of what is to come in the language industry.