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How have you adapted to changes in the translation industry in recent years?
Thread poster: Henry Dotterer
Jan 25

Hi translators and interpreters.

Jared and I are going to be speaking at the upcoming GALA conference in Munich. Our topic is "Human Response to a Changing Industry". There have been significant changes in translation in recent years.

For example:
* Translation memory technology has improved
* Machine transition is better and more widely used
* Translation management systems are more commonplace
* Projects are often shorter
* Project timelines are in many cases tighter
* Overall, volumes are up while rates may not be
* Quality expectations are higher
* Interpreting services may be delivered remotely rather than in person
* ... and so on.

We want to provide useful information to GALA attendees on this topic of how translators and interpreters are responding to changes such as these. So, my question is:

What has been your response to changes such as these? (As well as any others that I have not listed.)

Note: We will be gathering data in other ways, including some parallel surveys, but in the hope of getting a bit of input from a substantial number of professionals here, I am selecting the "inclusive" format.

-----

Thanks for the responses so far...

Andrea: "The only way to cope with the changes you mentioned is specialisation."
Samuel: "... by increasing my productivity..."
DZiW: "Getting more referrals via diversity and quality... and working with direct clients"
Teresa: "... focusing my work on fields that rely more on creativity and less on consistency: advertising, marketing, journalism…"
Maxi: "There has been a sharp increase in the proportion of end clients. Since a portion of this work involves hard copies, I invested in a colour laser printer in order to provide them with the best looking copy to go with the quality that they expect and I deliver."
Chris: "I have not needed to adapt at all because I operate at the high end of the market."
Christine: "Updated my CAT and kept up a dialogue with clients who are interested… " and "A pension or alternative career will depend on the individual... it is something we all need to think about."
Alexander: "The system is becoming more and more interactive... it's 'on-the-fly' translating using [the] MT."
Henriette: "I have not had to adapt. I specialize in subtitling..."
N.M.: "Translation becomes just one part of a whole. So, I rebranded as a content creator in English."
Silvina: "I've been adopting a cross selling strategy mainly focused on web copywriting and marketing services..."
Mariusz: "My response to the market and technology changes is specialisation in 2-3 areas where quality and accuracy are so critical for the clients that they suffer my human inadequacies for the sake of my competence and the ability to see the hidden implications of seemingly innocent words. This means also specialised clients rather than those churning out a mass product." (and: "... I have to admit that I see the space for productive human thinking is being squeezed out by AI and I am becoming a dinosaur.")
Petr: "... learn to work with new subtitling applications... most of it just makes my work easier and faster, not cheaper or redundant."


FPC
May De Marco
Rocio Barrientos
Tran Hau
Ramon Villalobos
Elke HP Hannel
 
Post removed: This post was hidden by a moderator or staff member for the following reason: Looking for serious responses here. Thank you.
Humans have still a monopoly on intelligence Jan 25

The title of your topic is somewhat ambiguous. When you ask for a "human response" you suggest that there also might be "non-human" responses. In fact, all actors in the industry are still human. They do what all humans have always done: they do their work, they earn their living, they improve themselves, their work, and their productivity. It is not the industry that changes. Humans change it.

In a linguistic industry, we should try to get the terminology right. For example, "machine translation" is a misnomer, because what happens here is not translation. "Artificial intelligence" is a misnomer, since there is no such thing as artificial intelligence (yet). Intelligence is the ability to find a solution in a completely new situation. That is exactly what no machine can do (as of 2019). Humans still have a monopoly on intelligence.

"Machine learning", now this is a term that fits. Machines do learn, they are increasingly able to consume huge amounts of data and reproduce them. This is new, and this does change the industry, because machines are able to simulate translation work as long as no intelligent decisions have to be made. In an environment where translation does not to be context-aware and audience-aware, where the source is unambiguous and where the source itself does not contain human errors that might have to be clarified, and so on - in such an environment, these learning machines will probably take over large shares of work that has been done by human translators before. At the same time, the amount of content increases, as does the economic pressure to find automatic solutions. It might lead to more streamlined content, in order to make the content more machine-friendly.

What remains for us, the humans, is the work that requires intelligence.


John Fossey
CARL HARRIS
Liviu-Lee Roth
Jan Truper
neilmac
Teresa Borges
Axel Dittmer
 
A short answer Jan 26

Henry Dotterer wrote:

There have been significant changes in translation in recent years.



Dear Henry,

This is probably true in relation to what you mention. But we must not forget that changes are constantly taking place in our profession as in many others. And this, for a long time, not to say since always.

Some here started with pencil and paper, carbon paper, typewriter perhaps, paper dictionaries, regular mail.

The emergence of personal computing, and all that has been generated so far, could have caused the disappearance of dinosaurs, and this at each significant stage of the evolution . This may have been the case for some, but others have survived.

Their answer, perhaps simple and naive, will have been to say: if I don't adapt myself and do not change, I disappear.

Such a response is much more complex than it seems. It represents thousands of hours of personal work, of technical training, but above all intellectual, since there is no time to lose in wondering whether it is good or not, whether it makes sense or not, if it is intelligence or artifice, to take into account the latest developments.

So, my answer is as follows: do I still want to translate? If the answer is yes, I continue, without asking me about how.

Do not ask yourself how, to avoid any misunderstanding, does not mean not questioning the conditions. This is for me two different issues.


Kay-Viktor Stegemann
John Fossey
Jorge Payan
Jan Jug
Daniel Canteros
May De Marco
 
Specialisation Jan 26

Referring to technological changes, e.g. machine translation I must say I find it frustrating to get badly paid job offers for MTPE. I also find it frustrating when agencies send me Trados grids containing rate percentages. (Btw I don't reply to that kind of job offers.)

The only way to cope with the changes you mentioned is specialisation. A specialised translator (e.g. specialised in technology i.e. engineering, automotive etc. as in my case) will be able to offer high quality translations and hopefully find clients who will appreciate this. A specialised translator will be able to understand what the author of the source text wrote and will therefore be able to express this in the translation. A specialised translator will also be able to express complex ideas in understandable language.


Chris S
Kay-Viktor Stegemann
FPC
Krys Williams
Janine Vieler
Milica Stamenković
May De Marco
 
@Henry Jan 26

Henry Dotterer wrote:
So, my question is: What has been your response to our changing industry?


Some computer users embrace new technology and adapt to it very quickly, whereas others find it very difficult to adapt and only do so when they have no other choice. Take the ribbon interfaces, for example. No doubt some translators had no difficulty re-leaning everything they knew about Microsoft Office when it switched to the ribbon interface, but others struggle tremendously with it and really hate it, and would rather spend their effort leaning ways of continuing to use the old software than spend their effort learning the new software. Sometimes it's simply a case of the old way feeling more familiar, but sometimes the new tools lack features that were present in the old tools that are actually more crucial to me than the developers may have realised. In addition, the new tool does something so different from how I have been doing it so far, that I'm faced with either redesigning my whole work method or trying to adapt the new tool version's new methods to my old system.

Examples:
1. I have given Windows 8/8.1 and Windows 10 very generous tries but after several weeks or months I returned to good old Windows 7, because Windows 7 has technological advances which are not present in Windows 8 and 10, and for which I have been unable to find any working alternatives.
2. My usual CAT tool (WFC) is setup-based, the newer version (WFP4) is project-based but can be used in a setup-based fashion, and the latest version (WFP5) is entirely project-based, and since my entire work way is setup-based, using WFP5 involves many more steps for every new job I do.
3. I have no alternative but to use the latest version of Trados, so I'm stuck with using the ribbon interface on that tool, but fortunately I don't do a lot of actual work in Trados (I use it mostly to convert files), I don't have to learn anything. I'm fortunate in that most of my jobs use intermediary formats (SDLXLIFF, TXML, etc), so it's not necessary for me to use the latest version of MS Word extensively or in any advanced sort of way, and so I've been happily used the far more powerful Word 2003 all this time, while keeping the latest version of MS Word on my computer for instances when documents do't work in Word 2003.
4. I no longer use the latest version of my CAT tool, WFC. I use WFP 6.03 whereas the latest version is 7.x, but that is because WFC's developer focuses on a narrow user base for each version which he considers the most modern type of user, and WFP 7.x no longer supports many of the types of jobs that I do. This does mean, however, that I can kiss any bug fixing goodbye.
5. There are lots of web-based translation systems these days, but instead of learning how to use all of them, I prefer to bypass them and all their fancy features by extracting the text, translating it in my own tool, and then uploading or pasting the translations back. For this I use AutoIt scripts. It does mean that I can't use any of the online resources, e.g. TMs and glossaries, but for the moment I consider that to be my clients' problem, not mine.

In short, I resist changes that are forced upon me which benefits only the client (even though the seller of that change had convinced the client that it is also to my benefit) and forces me to reduce my income (due to being less productive). I work in a low-rate language combination and the only way I can increase my income by increasing my productivity, and all these new online things only reduce it (they never, never, never increase productivity).

[Edited at 2019-01-26 13:52 GMT]


Kevin Fulton
Andrea Teltemann
neilmac
Philip Lees
Angie Garbarino
Krys Williams
May De Marco
 
Diversity Jan 26

Getting more referrals via diversity and quality is the best security ever, especially if one stands to the prices--and working with direct clients

[Edited at 2019-01-26 17:50 GMT]


May De Marco
Mariusz Kuklinski
 
Windows 7; MSoft soon withdrawing support? Jan 26

Samuel

You write:

"I have given Windows 8/8.1 and Windows 10 very generous tries but after several weeks or months I returned to good old Windows 7, because Windows 7 has technological advances which are not present in Windows 8 and 10, and for which I have been unable to find any working alternatives."

You seem very knowledgeable about tech issues, but just in case: In the US, MSoft is set to withdraw support for Windows 7 this year. As to exactly when in 2019, I don't know. From what I understand (again, in the US), Windows 7 users will be able to get Windows 10 OS this year for about $200 (US); it was free for a long time. Then, as I understand it Windows 7 will become like XP: no longer "supported" is how they put it. This could be disastrous in terms of viruses as in principle with Windows 7 you will no longer get those automatic "updates" from MSoft which supposedly help arm your computer against most of the horrible viruses out there.

What I don't know: 1) if this will apply to MSoft users everywhere; 2) if you can find/create a "fix" or way around this situation.

I'm also a Windows 7 user and in fact paid quite a bit extra to get it, as most computers when I bought mine had 10.


Josephine Cassar
neilmac
Alain Rondeau
 
How? Jan 26

Being one of those dinosaurs who hate working with CAT tools, what I have been doing for a while is focusing my work on fields that rely more on creativity and less on consistency: advertising, marketing, journalism…

Chris S
FPC
 
Response and view Jan 28

Henry Dotterer wrote:

There have been significant changes in translation in recent years. Translation memory technology has improved, machine transition is better and more widely used, translation management systems are more commonplace, project timelines are in many cases tighter, volumes are up while rates may not be, quality expectations are higher, and so on.

The changes that I have seen in translation personally has been above all that end clients have become much more computer literate, and are more likely to come to the source. There has been a sharp increase in the proportion of end clients. Since a portion of this work involves hard copies, I invested in a colour laser printer in order to provide them with the best looking copy to go with the quality that they expect and I deliver.

I haven't encountered the things you have listed. 1) Timelines are created after a professional assessment of the project - by the translator, in cooperation with the client. Any "tightness" of deadlines comes from true emergencies. This has always existed, and I've been responsive, because as a freelancer I have that flexibility. 2) Volumes reflect the amount of work that we accept for a time period, which should reflect what we are able to do while maintaining quality. The "are" what we decide, and are neither up nor down. I have not reduced my fees. 3) Quality expectations have always been high and that won't change, because my own ethics demand this.

4) I am unfamiliar with "translation management systems". I sometimes hear from companies that have convoluted processes, usually also wanting high volume/low rates. I avoid such.

Answer: There have been no such changes to respond to. So I haven't. icon_smile.gif


Teresa Borges
Joëlle Bouille
 
You wanted a serious answer Jan 28

Henry, your revised question is clearer, but based on some pretty big assumptions.

It also seems to assume that we all work for agencies, who as we know are committed to a race to the bottom. Other business models are available. Why not focus instead on the positives?

Henry Dotterer wrote:
Tramslatin memory technology has improved

Probably. But as a user I haven't seen any tangible improvements in recent years. It still just matches segments pretty mechanically. It's still user-unfriendly. Why do so many translators, including me, still prefer the super-basic Wordfast Classic which was invented way back in WW2?


machine transition is better and more widely used

No experience of that. MT is only a threat to those at the very bottom of the market.


translation management systems are more commonplace

True, and a right pain in the arse they are too. Like CAT tools, they are not designed with the translator in mind.


project timelines are in many cases tighter

Really? I think people have always wanted things yesterday. Human nature.


volumes are up

Happy days!


Rates may not be

Well, they ought to be. Mine are.


quality expectations are higher

Really? I would say the opposite. Exhibit A: CAT and MT.

Short answer: I have not needed to adapt at all because I operate at the high end of the market.


Ricki Farn
mughwI
Rita Vaicekonyte
Jan Jug
Krys Williams
missdutch
writeaway
 
Updated my CAT and kept up a dialogue with clients who are interested Jan 28

… and paid into my pension scheme!

The pension scheme is not cynicism: it simply means that as I am now past pension age, I can stop when I can't keep up with the industry. I do what I do best, and when that is not enough, I will really retire!

I keep my CAT up to date, because it has many advantages, and I use a lot of the advanced features. I am not content with Wordfast Classic, but it's a question of horses for courses.

I do not mess with machine translation or the Cloud. Some of my clients do not like the Cloud, and I have promised them to stay away from it That suits me too.

I tell clients why I do not like MT, but follow developments at seminars anyway. It IS improving, but not enough to put me out of business. I think it is important to differentiate the market, so that clients know what they are getting, and when MT is good enough. That is the only way to make them appreciate human translators and pay them properly when they are needed.

I watch developments in my languages and subject areas - the changes there are at least as important as anything else that may be going on!


Kevin Fulton
 
Henry Dotterer
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks for the responses so far. Delving deeper... Jan 28

Andrea: "The only way to cope with the changes you mentioned is specialisation."
Samuel: "... by increasing my productivity..."
DZiW: "Getting more referrals via diversity and quality... and working with direct clients"
Teresa: "... focusing my work on fields that rely more on creativity and less on consistency: advertising, marketing, journalism…"
Maxi: "There has been a sharp increase in the proportion of end clients. Since a portion of this work involves hard copies, I invested in a colour laser printer in order to provide them with the best looking copy to go with the quality that they expect and I deliver."
Chris: "I have not needed to adapt at all because I operate at the high end of the market."
Christine: "Updated my CAT and kept up a dialogue with clients who are interested… " and "A pension or alternative career will depend on the individual... it is something we all need to think about."
Alexander: "The system is becoming more and more interactive... it's 'on-the-fly' translating using [the] MT."
Henriette: "I have not had to adapt. I specialize in subtitling..."
N.M.: "Translation becomes just one part of a whole. So, I rebranded as a content creator in English."
Silvina: "I've been adopting a cross selling strategy mainly focused on web copywriting and marketing services..."
Mariusz: "My response to the market and technology changes is specialisation in 2-3 areas where quality and accuracy are so critical for the clients that they suffer my human inadequacies for the sake of my competence and the ability to see the hidden implications of seemingly innocent words. This means also specialised clients rather than those churning out a mass product."
Petr: "... learn to work with new subtitling applications... most of it just makes my work easier and faster, not cheaper or redundant."

Reading the responses so far in this thread, several questions come to mind. For anyone who comes along to this thread:

End client questions

Are you, like Maxi and DZiW, working more frequently with end clients? If you are, is it because of an intentional effort on your part? Or does it feel like something that is happening to some degree on its own, so to speak (perhaps because end clients are out there searching for freelancers more frequently)? Do you see any changes in the end clients?

"Specialty" and "creativity" questions

Are you, like Andrea, Teresa, N.M. and Silvina, focusing more on work that is specialized or that requires creativity? What strategies are you using to do that? What type of work fits the bill? Do you notice an appreciation on the part of clients of the premium nature of such services? Are LSPs more or less likely than end clients to have such appreciation?

"Productivity" questions

Are you, like Samuel, taking steps to increase your productivity? If so, what steps have been effective? As you have become more productive, have you changed your rates? At the end of the day, do you wind up earning more, the same or less (on an hourly basis, and overall)?

Adopting new technologies

Are you, like Alexander, adopting one or more new technologies into your work? If so, which technologies?

Unaffected segments

Are you among those, like Chris, Henriette and others, who feel that they are not that affected by recent changes in the industry? If so, to what do you attribute that? Do you expect the type of changes mentioned in my initial post to affect you eventually?

Exit planning

In past discussions and surveys on this topic, some freelancers have reported that they are diversifying into other industries. Christine mentions her pension here.icon_smile.gif Are you among those for whom having an "exit plan" (if I can call it that) is part of your adaptation strategy? If so, what is your "exit plan"?


 
Unaffected segments for me Jan 28

Henry Dotterer wrote:



Are you among those, like Chris (and others who have commented), who feel that they are not that affected by recent changes in the industry? If so, to what do you attribute that? Do you expect the type of changes mentioned in my initial post to affect you eventually?


Hello Henry
During the last years I specialized in legal and financial, 2 segments that until now are not affected by the use of MT, I use cat tools yes but just for personal technical reason (they help my sight) as these fields rarely contain many repetitions. I do not think (at least in my lifetime) that said changes will affect the above mentioned segments.


 
Creativity and unaffected segment Jan 28

I have not had to adapt. I specialize in subtitling, an area in which MT and CAT tools are, fortunately, useless.

 
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