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Learning to Share in Professional Forums

I read an article that I thought was striking and worth sharing. When I look back at how I started this blog, I recall the first few entries were about censorship and a discussion about how we as an industry produce too many similar conferences which dilutes the consolidated effort and marginalizes localization professionals in the general corporate landscape.

I think that perhaps, one of the reasons the professional translation industry is so fragmented, is that there are very low barriers to entry and competition is reduced to price in most cases. This creates an environment where the level of distrust is high among the various players in the supply chain and the level of collaboration is minimal and guarded if it exists at all. This is quite visible in the translation technology (too many trying to do exactly the same thing), the relationship between freelancers and LSPs and even in the general status of localization managers in global enterprises.

While I don’t really have any definitive answers, I do think it is worth asking some fundamental questions to see if there is a way to get the disparate elements working together. Why is the industry unable to build greater mass, visibility and momentum?

It is interesting to see that many of the most exciting things happening in the world of translation are happening outside the realm of control of the professional industry. Facebook, TED, dotSUB, Ushahidi, Meedan are all initiatives that have learned to harness motivated and willing crowds. These are exciting initiatives that are changing the world. Google Translate, a vibrant open source SMT movement (Moses) and upstarts like Asia Online and others are making the most waves in the translation automation sector. In contrast, most of the news about our industry trade associations (GALA, ELIA, TAUS, ProZ, ATA, LW, LISA etc..) has to do with continuing communication problems, fragmentation and difficulties in developing meaningful collaboration models.

We have seen massive change in the music, newspaper, customer support that is driven by collaboration, open technology platforms, open knowledge sharing by motivated communities in social networks. It would not be surprising to see that these same Web 2.0 dynamics could bring big changes to the world of professional translation.

One of the keys to connecting to the energy that these new collaborative movements foster is learning to share openly which brings me back to the article that triggered this entry.  I think it starts with just how we as individuals share what we know about our business and expertise. The industry needs to develop stronger collaboration models. From my vantage point, I see that there is some sharing going on between translators but very little between all the key players and levels in the professional translation supply chain. The first step in building strong peer-to-peer networks and collaboration culture is learning how to share. The chart below shows how the Ogilvy PR group has mapped some of the drivers of influence and persuasion to a social media context, where sharing is a primary action and modus operandi.6a00d8341cb26653ef0120a8989ca3970b

The study referenced in the article talks about awe as a key ingredient driving sharing behavior. Apparently human beings like to share awe and humans who share awe can bring about change. They say:

“Awe-inducing experiences encourage people to look beyond themselves and deepen connections to the broader social world (Shiota, Keltner, and Mossman 2007). All of these factors suggest that awe should lead people to want to share.”

I also saw another article that again made me think about the unrealized potential we as an industry have, if we learned to walk together. We need to evolve from standard command-and-control views to developing strong collaborative cultures.

I found a few more tidbits from the CSI site that attach to this thread and suggest a new model that we can adopt:

If information is to function as a source of organizational vitality, we must abandon our dark cloaks of control and trust in its need for free movement, even in our own organizations. Information is necessary for new order, an order we do not impose, but order nonetheless. All of life uses information in this way” – Margaret Wheatley, Leadership and the New Science

“The open society, the unrestricted access to knowledge, the unplanned and uninhibited association of men for its furtherance—these are what may make a vast, complex, ever-growing, ever-changing, evermore specialized and expert technological world, nevertheless a world of human community.” – J. Robert Oppenheimer, 1954

I do believe that the translation industry is poised for dramatic change, not all comfortable and welcome. However, I think that translation will increasingly be a  force driving change in the world, not just for developing new markets, but also to raise the quality of life for millions. And for me that is a truly awesome and wonderful idea. I hope that you too can find things that are worth sharing.

ApSIC Xbench 2.8 Refresh 2 (build 396) Released

By: Hynek Palatin

ApSIC is shipping a second refresh of ApSIC Xbench v2.8 that includes the following enhancements:

  • Much faster load of big files
  • Optional automatic unload of alternative project

Source: ApSIC Tools Weblog

Translation Humor & Mocking Machine Translation


I often run into blogs by translators and LSPs or just regular people who suggest that machine translation is not quite ready. In fact some people actually, believe it or not, mock MT. So while I do believe that MT is going be very much a part of the translation landscape in the very near future, I thought it would be fun to pick some of my favorite examples of MT gone awry.

While MT mishaps can be funny I still think that humans, especially silly humans can do better, and my first example is by Ben who translated this Bollywood song and just put down what he thought he heard. I speak the language she is singing in and I laughed till I cried. In fact I can’t stop smiling as I type this. For those who want to know, “meheboob mera” actually means my beloved. 

These are Ben’s own words on what he was trying to do:

My translation of an Indian music video. This is what I think the words sound like.

Translation Party is a popular site that uses a familiar technique used to make MT look bad. You keep translating the same phrase back and forth and perhaps even across various languages to make sure that you make MT output that is really bad. Interestingly there are some “MT consultants” who also use this technique to test MT technology. A pointless exercise if you are serious, but can be great fun if you are just playing. So in my test,  <practice makes perfect and there is no substitute for hard work> was translated as <after working really hard Substitute>. Interestingly it was 100% accurate on <please do not poop on my knee> and gave me the same phrase back. I think that shows that when it really matters it can get things right.

Another personal favorite is from Jill Sommer who had this little gem on her blog. Here is tiny movie with a dialog completely from MT round tripping. As she describes it:

This fine little film by Matt Sloan capitalizes on Babelfish for its dialog. It translates to and from English, French and German. It was filmed on location in Trouville, France. Enjoy!

Mark Liberman in his Language Log blog shows this little furry iPod docking station gadget and with the following description which is suspected to be machine translation:

iMini is built in the rhythm decoding chip MJ1191 of the programming embedded system, and to integrate the HIPS skeleton; No matter you play any kind of music, MJ1191 always make your pet in dancing for you at once.

Another site that is always good for a laugh is These are examples of mostly Chinese and Japanese attempts at translation into English. And this restaurant sign is one I often use in my presentations to show what MT is without human translator supervision. If you have not ever looked at the site, it is quite funny . Here is one that is fun. I am told that there is site in Japan with funny Japanese phrases from foreigners and I am sure the Chinese are laughing at us too. Just take a look at some of the strange Chinese character tattoos.

Here is a blog that specializes in finding strange translation examples from across the world. Here are some examples we collected from around the world and put on our website (in the left column). 

Anyway while I do laugh at these examples, I do believe the technology is improving all the time and as they say, he who laughs last, laughs the loudest.

Let me know if you find other fun stuff and if I like it I will add it to this entry or create another entry with the best examples that people find. Please note,  that I think it needs to be more than wrong word order or false positives to be funny. 

Interpreting industry growing in the UK due to legislation

Source: Yorkshire Evening Post
Story flagged by: Henry Dotterer

Helped by recent legislation, business is booming in the interpreting game.

Under the Human Rights Act of 1998, law courts now have an obligation to provide interpreters for people involved in a case who cannot understand or speak the language being used.

John Wheen says it is part of the reason why the demand for interpreters has surged so markedly since the business was established, particularly over the last 10 years.

“In court it’s essential that if someone can’t speak English they are provided, at the government’s expense, with an interpreter,” he said.

Costs vary depending on the language required, with interpreters able to charge more for their services if the language is less common.

For consecutive interpretation – where the words are interpreted during a pause in conversation – their fee is commonly around £300 a day. For simultaneous interpreting – where the interpreter translates the words as the speaker is talking – it can rise to as much as £550.

Harvill Secker (of Random House) to encourage international literature, translation

Source: The Bookseller
Story flagged by: Henry Dotterer

Random House imprint Harvill Secker will release limited editions of books by J M Coetzee, Haruki Murakami and Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa as part of its centenary celebrations.

The 100th birthday activities will kick off with a day dedicated to international writing at Foyles’ Charing Cross Road branch. Among the authors attending are Manuel Rivas, A S Byatt, Joseph O’Connor and Xiaolu Guo. In April, it will launch a new website ( devoted to the discussion and promotion of international literature. During the same month, the imprint will also launch a prize to encourage young translators.

European Commission’s young translators’ contest winners announced

Story flagged by: Henry Dotterer

The winners of the European Commission’s third annual ‘Juvenes Translatores’ contest for schools have been announced. The 27 winners, one from each EU Member State, will be invited to Brussels in March to receive a prize from the European Commissioner responsible for multilingualism.

The Juvenes Translatores contest is the only one of its kind in which 17-year-old school pupils can test their translation skills in any of the official languages of the EU. It was run for the first time in 2007 as a pilot project aiming to give a foretaste of what it is like to be a translator and to raise the profile both of the translating profession and of language learning in schools.

Lionbridge announces results for fourth quarter of 2009

Source: PR Newswire
Story flagged by: Henry Dotterer

Lionbridge Reports Q4 Revenue of $105 Million and Preliminary Non-GAAP EPS of $0.12; Sequential Quarter Revenue Growth of $7.2 Million Drives $4.5 Million Adjusted Earnings Improvement

In 2009, the Company also announced Translation Workspace™, the translation industry’s first Software-as-a-Service (SaaS)-based language technology platform.  With general availability expected in Q1 of 2010, Translation Workspace will make Lionbridge’s proven translation technology platform available to individual translators and agencies in a subscription-based model.  The Company expects this development will expand the Company’s market opportunities while bringing innovative technology solutions to market.

Who really wrote those words? (On attribution when a translation is quoted)


I’m reading “Writing Tools, 50 essential strategies for every writer“, by Roy Peter Clark. Instead of rules to follow, his  book provides tools to exploit (although many of the tools sound quite similar to the rules provided by other books on writing).

Each tool has its own chapter, and each chapter gives  practical examples from many different authors, including some foreign writers. For instance, in his chapter on ordering words for emphasis, Clark quotes the famous opening of Cien años de soledad: “Muchos años después, frente al pelotón de fusilamento, el Coronel Aureliano Buendía había de recordar aquella tarde remota en que su padre lo llevó a conocer el hielo.”

But Clark quotes this in English: “Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice.” Yet, in providing an example about words and their placement for emphasis, Clark attributes them to Gabriel García Márquez, alone, not also to Gregory Rabassa.

If these words serve as an example in a book in English about writing, Clarke should have mentioned that who chose them in English (and not others that might have legitimately been used), was Rabassa, the translator, not Márquez, the original author.

This is “the translator’s invisibility”, according to both meanings Lawrence Venuti gives to the term.

As translators, we lend our pens and words to others, and let them make them their own… unless we blunder: when we choose well, transform powerful source into spellbinding target, the translator’s words become the original author’s own. But if we fail in our choice of words, then the failure is ours: it’s only then that we become visible.

5th International Spanish Language Conference to be held in Valparaiso, Chile

By: Mónica Algazi

The 5th International Spanish Language Conference will be held in Valparaiso, Chile from 2 to 5 March, 2010.

For information (in Spanish) about this event:

Linguists and computer scientists among the rapid responders to the Haiti Earthquake

Source: Voice of America News
Story flagged by: Henry Dotterer

Many in the translation industry have responded to the need for language services in Haiti. Jeff Allen, who speaks Creole, encouraged Carnegie Mellon University to release a Creole corpus it owned. With that and other data, Microsoft, in turn, released a Creole version of its machine translation. Lori Thicke, of Translators Without Borders, commented that the machine translation will be helpful to volunteers carrying out translations related to treatment protocols, water purification, etc.

Customers beware: the ethics of scattershot translation projects


Today I received a quote request from a new source, a translation company with which I had never worked before. They asked availability and rates for an urgent legal translation project. Together with their message they sent (not only to me, but to an unspecified number of English to Italian translators) a file with the source documents.

When I opened the files, I found a couple of very confidential documents, with the kind of information that, if I were the original customer, I would assume would be treated with the utmost caution by the agency.

At a minimum, this agency should have sent a message indicating the type of document to translate (e.g. “police records, about 1200 words”), and also that, before they could send it out to prospective translators, they needed to have a confidentiality agreement signed.

Sending confidential and sensitive documents to all and sundry, as they did, is a clear and serious breach of confidentiality.

When to throw in the towel on a task: outsourcing accounting

Source: Thoughts On Translation
Story flagged by: Jared Tabor

At the end of 2008, I wrote a post about outsourcing that generated quite a bit of interest, so I thought it was worth raising this topic again. After years of battling with my business payroll taxes (I have an S-Corp and thus have to file quarterly payroll taxes and a separate year-end tax return for the business), I decided to hand that task over to my accountant and so far I’m really pleased with how it’s going. For $40 per month, my accountant will run payroll (I’m the business’ only employee, so this isn’t a monumental task), automatically withhold the appropriate tax amounts from my gross pay, file my quarterly payroll taxes and issue my own W-2 at the end of the year, along with 1099-MISCs for anyone to whom I subcontract more than $600 worth of work.

Read more

The Guardian Language Phrasebooks

By: Niraja Nanjundan

The Guardian now offers online language phrasebooks in several languages. The phrasebooks include audio presentations of typical scenarios people may encounter when visiting a foreign country such as “at the hotel,” “at a restaurant,” “meeting people,” etc. as well as guides on gestures and scripts of languages such as Japanese and Arabic.

Although the phrasebooks seem to be geared towards tourists or business people visiting a country, anyone learning a language may find them of interest as an introductory guide, both to the language and to a different culture.

Visit the following pages to find out more:

Make language study compulsory

Story flagged by: Niraja Nanjundan

From The Guardian, by Anushka Asthana:

I love lots of things about France; I just don’t like speaking French. On a recent trip, I went to a chemist to buy Lemsip – or the French equivalent – for my friend.

“Bonjour, avez-vous leermmm… je voudraisermmm,” I started. “Mon amis est malade,” I tried, unable to think of the French for cold or flu. I moved on to mime: faking a cough, wrapping my arms around myself and pretending to shiver. The woman behind the counter held out some tablets but I shook my head.

Then it was tearing open an imaginary sachet, pouring it into a cup, adding water and drinking – blowing occasionally to indicate heat. She looked bemused. “Le flu?” I pleaded.

Read more

Kilgray Pumps Up Memo’s Translation Business Intelligence and User Interface


Kilgray today announced the general availability of MemoQ 4.0, a server-based translation memory engine and desktop environment for translators, after several months in beta field test. Although we consider MemoQ a translation management system (TMS), the software also competes against traditional desktop translation memory tools (Déjà Vu, Trados, Transit, Wordfast). LSPs appreciate that a project prepared in memoQ can be translated in other common tools, giving vendors the flexibility they need for managing the reality of a freelance workforce.

We find three items of special note in the latest upgrade:

  1. With 4.0, MemoQ adds a “post translation” analysis tool. The system now tracks all the segments it presents to translators during the course of a project to get a more accurate word count. Traditional tools apply memory at the beginning of a project, and don’t track matches that happen during a project. But with a centralized, server-based system like MemoQ, matches that did not exist during file prep may propagate in real-time as multiple translators work through the job. This new capability ensures that LSPs won’t overpay freelancers for words translated elsewhere in the project.
  2. Another new for MemoQ feature is the ability to capture and share project settings – a bundle of 12 different project “resources” from segmentation rules to terminology including lists of auto-translatables, non-translatables, and words for the spell-checker to ignore, segmentation rules, QA settings, and so on. These bundles can then be reapplied to future projects, or even sent from one company’s system to another. CSOFT and Lionbridge both have tools with similar bundling to streamline localization engineering tasks, but this may be new for commercial off-the-shelf software.
  3. Lastly, the update improves the primary interface for translators and editors. Kilgray claims its new text editor client software is faster and more stable than its 3.6 version. This usability enhancement eliminates one of the few complaints with Kilgray’s platform.

By improving both the reporting functions and the user experience, Kilgray signals that the broad outlines of the platform are in place and its software engineers can now focus on performance issues and utility. While the company focuses its marketing efforts on LSPs, we often hear translators saying positive things about the translation environment, and we expect the ranks of nodding heads to swell with this new release. The company should expand its visibility in the By improving both the reporting functions and the user experience, Kilgray signals that the broad outlines of the platform are in place and its software engineers can now focus on performance issues and utility. While the company focuses its marketing efforts on LSPs, we often hear translators saying positive things about the translation environment, and we expect the ranks of nodding heads to swell with this new release. The company should expand its visibility in the U.S. and U.K. markets this year.

Literary group “Three Percent” announces 25 finalists for its annual top translated books award

Source: Three Percent (University of Rochester)
Story flagged by: Henry Dotterer

A panel of judges from “Three Percent”, a “resource for international literature” at the University of Rochester in New York, USA, has announced the list of 25 English translations of international works of fiction that are in consideration for its annual Best Translated Book award.

The list features translations out of : Spanish, Hungarian, Portuguese, Dutch, Chinese, German, Lithuanian, Arabic, Hebrew, Norwegian, Russian, French, Turkish, Polish, Catalan, Greek and Estonian.


Tintin retranslated into Chinese from original French

Source: AFP
Story flagged by: Henry Dotterer

Beloved Belgian cartoon reporter Tintin is getting a makeover in China thanks to a new, more faithful Mandarin translation of his adventures.

Wang Bingdong, who first discovered Herge’s comic strip hero in 2001 at the age of 66, spent three years penning the new version of 22 Tintin books — a painstaking task he says was a pure delight.

The plucky character and his canine pal Snowy first appeared in China in the 1980s, when some of the stories were published in so-called “little book” format, but the first official set of books only came out in 2001.

More than two million books were sold, but the translation was far from perfect, having been done from the English, not the original French, which first appeared in 1929…

Windows localized into Amharic: First OS in the national language of Ethiopia

Source: AFP
Story flagged by: Henry Dotterer

US software giant Microsoft has launched Windows Vista in Amharic, the first operating system in the national language of Ethiopia, the official news agency said Saturday.

“Launching the Amharic version software is a major step forward for Amharic to be a language of technology,” Director of the Ethiopian ICT Development Agency, Debretsion Gebremichael was quoted as saying by the Ethiopian News Agency (ENA).

He said 40 scholars from the Addis Ababa University had taken part in the translation of the software and added that plans were being drafted for translation into some of the nation’s other languages.

European Parliament annual review of spending looks at costs for translation and interpreting

Story flagged by: Henry Dotterer

The European Parliament’s spending habits have come under scrutiny from the Parliament itself.

A total of 103,007 days of work were chalked up by the interpretation services, of which 52% were provided by the 264 permanent interpreter staff; the rest by outside contractors at the cost of €1,015 per interpreting day. Permanent interpreters cost the Parliament €37.8m in 2008. A total of 689 people were employed as translators, at a cost of €120m. An additional €22m was charged for external translation services. The translators produced 1.8 million pages of translated text, 39% done by contractors.


Google: “speech-to-speech translation should be possible and work reasonably well in a few years’ time”

Source: Times Online (UK)
Story flagged by: Henry Dotterer

“We think speech-to-speech translation should be possible and work reasonably well in a few years’ time,” said Franz Och, Google’s head of translation services.

“Clearly, for it to work smoothly, you need a combination of high-accuracy machine translation and high-accuracy voice recognition, and that’s what we’re working on.

“The more data we input, the better the quality,” said Och. There is no shortage of help. “There are a lot of language enthusiasts out there,” he said.

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