In today’s ever more globalized world, there is little doubt that language services (translation, interpretation, and localization) are playing an increasingly more important (if low-key) role. Professional translators and interpreters are the unsung heroes that make it possible for an entrepreneur from South Korea to market his app to consumers in India, and they allow an international environmental conservation firm to maintain standard policies and procedures throughout its hundreds of global offices, where its employees speak dozens of different languages.
The language services industry touches nearly every sector of the global economy, from aerospace and manufacturing to legal and biopharmaceutical. Nowhere has this role become more important in recent years, though, than in the human resources industry. Not only does the HR community support international corporations doing business with each other, but they also provide access to critical information for workers who may not speak the language of their country of residence/employment and provide training for employees around the globe, to name just a few essential functions. Just walking through the aisles of the exhibit hall at the annual Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) conference, you can see dozens of language service providers (LSPs) plying their services.
In the coming years, the global workforce will continue the trend of diversification, and as corporations fight to maintain or define their global relevance in the digital age, it will be incumbent upon their respective HR departments ‑ the “voice” and “face” of the company — to lead that charge. They must be able to recruit and retain the most valuable talent from around the world, provide training that can bridge any cultural and communicative gaps, provide for a safe work environment, and comply with highly-varied labor and employment laws.
With all of the content and documentation being created, translated, revised, disseminated and managed, how can HR departments keep up? The answer to that lies in a technology that has become pervasive in the language services industry over the past decade, and which now has a unique ability to help HR departments conquer this challenge ‑ Translation Memory.
WHAT IS TRANSLATION MEMORY?
Translation Memory (TM) and Computer-Assisted-Translation (CAT) are essential tools in the language services industry, even though most people outside of the industry have never even heard of it.
The German company Trados GmbH was the first significant player in the CAT industry. It first hit the scene in the early 1990s with the initial Windows release of Trados MultiTerm and Translator’s Workbench. Several years later, Microsoft adopted Trados software for its own internal localization needs, and in 2005, SDL, a U.K.-based multinational software and professional services company, acquired Trados. While Trados remains the industry leader in TM/CAT technology, numerous other providers have released competing products in the intervening years, with dozens of add-on tools and services. Among the other primary TM/CAT tools are WordFast, Déjà Vu, MemoQ, Passolo, Alchemy, and many more.
TM works as a linguistic database that stores a source text and captures a translator’s equivalent translated content as they work. It saves these “segments” of text, such as sentences, sentence-like units, and paragraphs to be re-used in the future, thus improving the efficiency and consistency of human translators.
As a translator works through a document, the software typically displays each segment of text and a corresponding previous translation for re-use, if there is at least a partial match. The translator then has the option to re-use the last translation with a single click, slightly revise the translation, or enter an entirely new translation for each segment.
Segments of text are typically broken down into “No Match” (or “new” text), “Fuzzy Match” (a partial match between source text and a previous translated segment) and “Repetitions” or “100% Match,” where a translation of an entire segment can be re-used completely, without modification.
While this model benefits translators by making them more efficient, it also helps the end-client, as they will typically not pay full price for words contained in repetitive segments. These savings can be significant, particularly in highly-repetitive texts, such as websites, technical manuals, and software applications.
It is important to remember that TM/CAT tools do not produce “machine translations,” although some TM/CAT tools do possess controlled Machine Translation (MT) functionality, which is used in conjunction with the TM/CAT tool and human translator/editor (this is known as “Human-Assisted Machine Translation” or HAMT). Therefore, a translation performed using a TM/CAT tool is still a “human translation.”
Over the years, TM/CAT tools have evolved to include ‑ and integrate with ‑ a variety of other tools, including spell checkers, grammar checkers, terminology managers and databases, project and translation management platforms to manage the translation workflow, and content management systems.
MANAGING FOREIGN LANGUAGE CONTENT
The Content Management System (CMS) is another key tool used in the creation and management of digital foreign language content and often work in conjunction with TM/CAT tools. They provide format management, history version control, indexing, search and retrieval functions. With a CMS and Translation Management System (TMS), a translator and his/her database of content is not working in isolation but is connected (often through the “cloud”) with other translators and editors working in a team, the translation services provider, and ultimately with the end-user/client. This results in a fully integrated and seamless workflow that manages digital content creation, translation, revision, and publication.
In the HR industry, where both internal and external documentation is continually being created, revised, translated and revised again, the integrated TM/CAT/CMS system represents a huge leap forward in terms of simplifying, automating and improving this constant cyclical process. Just imagine a 100-page policies & procedures manual for a major multinational corporation with offices spanning the globe, and this document needs to be translated from English into Spanish, Brazilian Portuguese, Chinese, French and Indonesian.
The initial translation could cost thousands of dollars per language to be done professionally. However, if that document is updated on a monthly or quarterly basis, the corresponding translated versions also need to be updated. In the past, this would involve translators comparing the revised source document and original translation line-by-line to determine where any changes exist and then updating the original translation. This kind of excruciating work, typically billed by the hour, could take weeks to complete.
With the “track changes” function in Microsoft Word, the efficiency can be improved somewhat, as the translators can pinpoint where any changes were made. However, it’s not uncommon that the editor of a document forgets to turn on “track changes” every time, and a revision could be missed, and these issues can pile up over time. Furthermore, as this is still a very “human” (and costly) process, different translators working on the same document over time are likely to translate a particular term differently throughout a lengthy document or inadvertently introduce other errors.
A good TM/CAT tool and CMS eliminates those issues, as well as keeping costs minimal. Once an updated source document is uploaded into the TM/CAT software and compared against a previous translation, it automatically determines where there are revisions in the document. Large portions of text where nothing has changed can be ignored altogether; the translator can quickly adjust the translation of old content that is only slightly reworded and the TM/CAT tool will prompt the translator to use consistent translations for particular terms throughout the document and in all future updates. The savings in costs and time can be significant.
Whether it is the policies & procedures manual in the example described above, or an employee conduct manual, insurance registration forms, or new-hire paperwork, the amount of content that HR departments are required to generate and maintain keeps growing. And, the need to have all of this documentation translated into multiple foreign languages only continues to expand. Not to mention how to handle version control and manage the hefty budgets required to support the translation process.
Fortunately for the future of HR translations, outstanding technology solutions exist in the form of Translation Memory and Computer-Assisted Translation software, combined with an integrated Translation Management Platform and Content Management System, which can automatically manage the entire foreign language document translation life-cycle, from end-to-end, make the whole process more efficient, and keep costs down.
Whether you outsource your foreign language document translation needs to a professional language service provider, or manage an in-house translation department at one of the larger international corporations, TM/CAT tools are an invaluable necessity in today’s digital age and should form the backbone of any HR department’s translation program.