Off topic: Question about "online translation services agencies"
Thread poster: Celice
Celice  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 00:27
English to French
+ ...
May 11, 2016

Hello everyone,

I am new on these forums, so there may be an answer somewhere already but I couldn't find it, so here are my questions:

How do international online agencies work exactly?

Do they employ full-time translators or only subcontractors?

How do you get contracts and how do you get paid? Is it the same as with traditional translation agencies?

Do you think they are reliable services?

Do you think such large groups are a threat to smaller translators agencies or freelancers?

I would be very glad if someone who had already worked for such agencies could share his opinion about it because I am researching the effects these services providers have on the translation market.

Thank you very much

[Modifié le 2016-05-12 18:11 GMT]


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 23:27
Member (2007)
English
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How do you define an international online agency? May 12, 2016

Celice wrote:
How do international online agencies work exactly?

International needs no definition, of course. But what do you mean by an online agency? Any and every translation agency, big or small, would be expected to have a web presence nowadays.
- Do you mean ones with a website where translators can apply for jobs rather than by email?
- Ones with a platform that provides an interface between agency and translator for downloading/uploading files, and publishing POs and invoices related to jobs assigned to translators via email?
- Or those that work 100% online, with jobs assigned on a first-come-first-served basis, for a set fee and deadline, and rarely any contact of any sort away from the platform?

There are plenty of each sort around, and I'm not sure whether you mean the last two or just the last one.


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Celice  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 00:27
English to French
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TOPIC STARTER
Precisions May 12, 2016

Oh yes you're right I forgot to tell which type of online agency I was talking about.

I was thinking about the 100% online ones that look like the "fast food" industry of translation a bit. But again, I had difficulties to find any comment on this kind of services provider so I may be wrong. That's why I wanted people who knew better to give their opinion about it.

Thank you very much for your help

[Modifié le 2016-05-12 21:39 GMT]


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 23:27
Member (2007)
English
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Most aren't for us May 13, 2016

Celice wrote:
I was thinking about the 100% online ones that look like the "fast food" industry of translation a bit. But again, I had difficulties to find any comment on this kind of services provider so I may be wrong. That's why I wanted people who knew better to give their opinion about it.

They seem to address us, i.e. professional freelance translators, but in reality we couldn't normally earn enough at their rates for them to be a viable client. Maybe a useful filler if they have a constant supply of jobs but don't spam you constantly. If you had a slack week you could go online and bash off a few very quick translations to "round off the month" i.e. make something short of a sensible amount of money for your time but at least be able to put some food on the table. But if you can't find better in the long run then you're in the wrong job.

I see their main providers as being those who "can English" or who "speak a bit of X" and don't have a better source of income. Some will probably do a half-decent job and earn some useful pin money - probably tax-free. Of course, most will do an appalling job and the end clients will finally realise that Google also does an appalling job - but for free!


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Celice  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 00:27
English to French
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TOPIC STARTER
Are they a threat May 13, 2016

First of all thank you for your answer, but I have another question:

Do you think client companies that need a translation to be done quickly feel attracted by this type of "agency"?

And also, don't you think these agencies are even more numerous, as well as people who think they can do some translation work because they have learned a language at school?

The real issue behind it is: aren't these agencies undermining somehow the reputation of professional translation?

I'm sorry to ask so many questions but it is something I'm studying as part of my master degree and having the opinion of professional translators is very interesting.


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Mirko Mainardi  Identity Verified
Italy
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English to Italian
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Yes May 13, 2016

Celice wrote:

Do you think client companies that need a translation to be done quickly feel attracted by this type of "agency"?


I've seen "big" multinational companies listed as clients from similar services, so I'd say that yes, that (sadly) seems to be the case...

The real issue behind it is: aren't these agencies undermining somehow the reputation of professional translation?


Once again, yes, in my opinion "crowdsourcing" is a very real and ever growing threat, especially when it means that basically anyone with a basic grasp of a source (or even target...) language is allowed to "become a translator", usually for peanuts. But actually, the same could be said for "traditional" translation agencies and even end-clients that are able to dictate unreasonable conditions and rates and get away with it. In both cases this can obviously happen because there's someone willing to accept such unreasonable conditions, be they "amateur" or "professional" translators.


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Celice  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 00:27
English to French
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Interesting list May 13, 2016

Mirko Mainardi wrote:

I've seen "big" multinational companies listed as clients from similar services, so I'd say that yes, that (sadly) seems to be the case...


Oh that's really interesting. Would it be possible for you to send me a link to such a website by email (since it is not in accordance with the site rules to give names on forums)? It would be a good overview of the scope of those services providers.


[Modifié le 2016-05-13 18:29 GMT]


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
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Member (2007)
English
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Everyone is undermining part of the translation world May 13, 2016

Mirko Mainardi wrote:
"crowdsourcing" is a very real and ever growing threat, especially when it means that basically anyone with a basic grasp of a source (or even target...) language is allowed to "become a translator", usually for peanuts. But actually, the same could be said for "traditional" translation agencies and even end-clients that are able to dictate unreasonable conditions and rates and get away with it. In both cases this can obviously happen because there's someone willing to accept such unreasonable conditions, be they "amateur" or "professional" translators.

I totally agree with this. I don't see it as a major threat to the most competent professional translators, though. Easy for me to say, of course, being 60 and winding down to retirement.

But isn't it true that there has been a real explosion in translation needs, and translation providers since the Internet became so widely used? All of a sudden, everyone could expand into foreign markets; and agencies sprang up to put clients all over the world in touch with translators all over the world. That gave a much higher profile to the industry and encouraged lots of non-translators to try their hand. It also coincided with even cheaper competition: machines. Really, the whole market is over-inflated at the moment, with many of the very cheapest translators providing only marginally better results than MT. So, I see a split forming and hopefully that will "clear the air" a little. What I see is:

A translation industry:
Massive multinational agencies handling vast volumes; putting the texts through MT; distributing the results to smaller agencies; maybe another one or two "brokers" in the chain; freelance translators performing a PEMT service for tiny amounts per word, with the emphasis on volume and deadlines always incredibly tight. Some of the work that isn't so suitable for MT might be translated from scratch (more or less), but the emphasis would still be on lots, yesterday, for peanuts. Of course, impeccable quality would be required too. In the longer term, those TMs used for training MT will probably take on most of the work, dispensing with the translators, although there will always be a need for technical translators to cast an eye over safety guidelines, patient instructions, etc.

A translation profession:
Discerning clients will always look for ways to show they care about quality for their businesses. Marketing and literature are two areas that don't lend themselves to processing by machine, or processing by poor "hobby translators" - they need to be translated from scratch by humans. And sectors such as legal, medical and engineering will always need specialists for key texts. As the gulf widens, translation will, I believe, go back to being recognised as an intellectual profession - rather than a word-processing one - and rates will follow suit. But only for those who manage to stand out as true professionals. The market HAS to shrink; it's inevitable.

Anyway, I'm off to Mexico tomorrow morning so I'll leave it at that.


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Robert Rietvelt  Identity Verified
Local time: 00:27
Member (2006)
Spanish to Dutch
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Is this the end? May 13, 2016

Sheila Wilson wrote:

Mirko Mainardi wrote:
"crowdsourcing" is a very real and ever growing threat, especially when it means that basically anyone with a basic grasp of a source (or even target...) language is allowed to "become a translator", usually for peanuts. But actually, the same could be said for "traditional" translation agencies and even end-clients that are able to dictate unreasonable conditions and rates and get away with it. In both cases this can obviously happen because there's someone willing to accept such unreasonable conditions, be they "amateur" or "professional" translators.

I totally agree with this. I don't see it as a major threat to the most competent professional translators, though. Easy for me to say, of course, being 60 and winding down to retirement.

But isn't it true that there has been a real explosion in translation needs, and translation providers since the Internet became so widely used? All of a sudden, everyone could expand into foreign markets; and agencies sprang up to put clients all over the world in touch with translators all over the world. That gave a much higher profile to the industry and encouraged lots of non-translators to try their hand. It also coincided with even cheaper competition: machines. Really, the whole market is over-inflated at the moment, with many of the very cheapest translators providing only marginally better results than MT. So, I see a split forming and hopefully that will "clear the air" a little. What I see is:

A translation industry:
Massive multinational agencies handling vast volumes; putting the texts through MT; distributing the results to smaller agencies; maybe another one or two "brokers" in the chain; freelance translators performing a PEMT service for tiny amounts per word, with the emphasis on volume and deadlines always incredibly tight. Some of the work that isn't so suitable for MT might be translated from scratch (more or less), but the emphasis would still be on lots, yesterday, for peanuts. Of course, impeccable quality would be required too. In the longer term, those TMs used for training MT will probably take on most of the work, dispensing with the translators, although there will always be a need for technical translators to cast an eye over safety guidelines, patient instructions, etc.

A translation profession:
Discerning clients will always look for ways to show they care about quality for their businesses. Marketing and literature are two areas that don't lend themselves to processing by machine, or processing by poor "hobby translators" - they need to be translated from scratch by humans. And sectors such as legal, medical and engineering will always need specialists for key texts. As the gulf widens, translation will, I believe, go back to being recognised as an intellectual profession - rather than a word-processing one - and rates will follow suit. But only for those who manage to stand out as true professionals. The market HAS to shrink; it's inevitable.

Anyway, I'm off to Mexico tomorrow morning so I'll leave it at that.


You yourself said that you are winding down to retirement, so maybe for you "after me the deluge", but for me your story sounds rather negative.

Although I agree for a part, I don't think that the "Star-Trek computer" has been invented yet, and that you still need a human translator for a decent translation. The problem maybe is that it seems that nobody is interested in quality anymore, it has to be cheap, cheap, cheap!

Have fun in Mexico. Go to Palenque, beautifull.

[Edited at 2016-05-13 22:37 GMT]


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Mirko Mainardi  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 00:27
Member
English to Italian
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"The future is already here" May 14, 2016

Robert Rietvelt wrote:

Although I agree for a part, I don't think that the "Star-Trek computer" has been invented yet, and that you still need a human translator for a decent translation. The problem maybe is that it seems that nobody is interested in quality anymore, it has to be cheap, cheap, cheap!


Well, we do already have some sort of rudimentary "universal translator(s)", along the lines of those envisioned by Roddenberry decades ago, so I dread to think what will happen in the next few years... Sure, as you wrote, "you still need a human translator for a decent translation", but, as Sheila mentioned, PEMT is a very real and most probably growing phenomenon, and what better example to show that a(n albeit rudimentary) "Star-Trek computer" is already here and is already heavily affecting the translation industry and translation as a profession?
BTW, just this morning I saw a thread where they mention an "adaptive MT system that will learn ... from your translations and TMs", used in a relatively creative field such as tourism, so...

In addition to that, the economic crisis, with ensuing unemployment, didn't help one bit, and I believe that all of them are contributing factors to the (apparently continuous) shift toward cheap translation and worse conditions for translators. Sure, there will certainly be sectors were a need for creativity, absolute reliability, etc. will somewhat slow/hinder the process, but still, if conditions get worse in the industry as a whole (with many agencies apparently actively aiming at this), I really don't believe this won't have any effect, even if only indirect, on the translators' "protected reserves" Sheila mentioned.


Sheila Wilson wrote:

Anyway, I'm off to Mexico tomorrow morning so I'll leave it at that.


Have a pleasant and relaxing holiday (in the hopes it's a holiday


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Celice  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 00:27
English to French
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TOPIC STARTER
MT May 14, 2016

There are translator's associations working alongside MT developers to improve the system because many translators/agencies see MT as a CAT tool and post editing is becoming a kind of new job, such as revising.

I'm finishing my master's thesis on the effects information and communication technologies have on the translation profession. I could post a link to a PDF file when it is over if you are interested (all that was said above about MT and the dangers of newcomers in translation is developed inside it).

But all your comments confirm my initial idea so I'm very glad that there were so many answers on the post and that it expanded to a broader issue.

And yes, have a nice journey in Mexico


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Merab Dekano  Identity Verified
Spain
Member (2014)
English to Spanish
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Specialization May 16, 2016

Sheila Wilson wrote:

A translation profession:
Discerning clients will always look for ways to show they care about quality for their businesses. Marketing and literature are two areas that don't lend themselves to processing by machine, or processing by poor "hobby translators" - they need to be translated from scratch by humans. And sectors such as legal, medical and engineering will always need specialists for key texts. As the gulf widens, translation will, I believe, go back to being recognised as an intellectual profession - rather than a word-processing one - and rates will follow suit. But only for those who manage to stand out as true professionals. The market HAS to shrink; it's inevitable.



This is so true. "Specialization", rather than "I'll learn another language" is the key and will save our neck. But I agree, "generalist" translators might be at risk in the long run due to all this crowdsourcing and the like stuff.


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John Fossey  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 18:27
Member (2008)
French to English
Misunderstanding? May 16, 2016

Celice wrote:

There are translator's associations working alongside MT developers to improve the system because many translators/agencies see MT as a CAT tool and post editing is becoming a kind of new job, such as revising.



If translators or agencies see MT as a CAT tool they don't understand what a CAT tool is. MT translates using statistical analysis, CAT does not translate but presents similarly translated segments for the translator to evaluate.

Revising is not a "new job" but has always been a necessary part of the translation workflow.

IMO, MT's abilities have already peaked and reached a plateau, above which it will be really difficult to exceed.

"Post-Editing" is a misnomer - any translator will tell you that so-called "post-editing" of MT output often requires completely re-translating the source, if there is to be accuracy in the translation.


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Michele Fauble  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 16:27
Member (2006)
Norwegian to English
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Peak MT May 16, 2016

John Fossey wrote:

IMO, MT's abilities have already peaked and reached a plateau, above which it will be really difficult to exceed.


Yes, as is the case with most technologies, there is a period of rapid progress, then a peak followed by only marginal improvement.


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