Medical/Pharmaceutical Translations 2012-2013 Trends

Weather Vane with Dollar SignBack in January 2012, I made the following forecasts for 2012 compared with 2011.

  • A higher volume of work
  • An increase in rate levels for qualified translators
  • The social networks growing in significance
  • The specialised ‘tools of the trade’ are required as ever, but the definition of exchange formats and workflows needs to be driven ahead
  • Machine translation has yet to fulfil its promises
  • Translation associations should be looking at extending their range of educational and CPD facilities
  • Representing the interests of the translation profession must be reinforced

The original article is here (only available in German)

Now that the year 2012 has come to an end (and the world has survived – contrary to expectations in some quarters), it is worth considering to what extent these predictions have changed and whether indeed new and interesting trends have developed.

Volume of Work/Rate Levels

Here, we would benefit from data that are more topical and reliable. The first two statements for the medical/pharmaceutical sector are still applicable in my opinion; albeit based upon data from a small group of LSPs with which I maintain close contact in that respect. Nevertheless, I increasingly note suggestions in various blogs and forums that could lead one to conclude that the market should be substantially more dynamic than it is from my vantage point. I would like to see more information about the scope of orders and rates, since information like this could help us to identify seasonal and absolute trends. Using such data, it would be possible to react and the data would lessen the partly hysterical cries about sinking rates which – in my opinion – are certainly to the detriment of our profession.

Social Networks/Internet Culture

The social and professional network tools (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Xing and Google+) are becoming ever more important and the previous translation platforms (Proz.com, Translatorscafe etc.) are suffering from increasingly less importance. This can be seen variously in the increasing number of translation groups e.g. on Facebook, LinkedIn, Xing, where more and more business is transacted and also in the range of CPD facilities being made available via these groups.  Professional associations such as the German BDÜ took their time to set foot onto the social networks but in the meantime, they have understood the significance and are presenting themselves professionally on these platforms.

Unfortunately this development does not just have positive aspects. As a freelancer, it is impossible to follow all groups within which interesting projects are posted and also as an LSP, it is becoming ever more difficult to find specialists for specific projects on the various platforms.

For this reason it will be necessary to develop aggregators that bundle the various offers. On Twitter, we have made a first step towards combining job offers from various sources by means of our @Translate_Jobs account. We also offer similar services to embrace news from the translation profession with @Translate_News, interesting blogs and events in the profession with @Translate_Blogs and @TranslateEvents.

These solutions are, however, limited by the facilities that Twitter offers, which is one of the reasons why we launched our Alexandria platform to cover the area of CPD opportunities.

Specialised Tools/Interoperability/Crowd and Cloud Services

In the field of interoperability, good things are happening as the two top dogs MemoQ and Trados benefit from ever more functions to improve interoperability between the individual programs. Here it only seems natural that recent weeks have seen massive criticism of the hermetically-sealed protected design of the across program. I am somewhat more cautious in this respect, since I thoroughly recognize the necessity for closed workflows and would prefer an appropriately optional functionality from other vendors. At the same time, I would naturally appreciate it should across deign to open up.

What I cannot, however, understand is how one can work as a translator with the cloud services that are springing up like mushrooms. This is a TM solution that can only bring disadvantages to the translator with a lack of their own TM, no traceability of tasks performed etc. etc.

Machine Translation

I would appreciate having a functional system, but unfortunately have yet to find one. There is nothing more to be said, other than the fact that I will keep my eyes open. What I find interesting are two aspects:

a) We translators are told more and more that there is a an enormous and ever-growing market for bad ( i.e. machine) translations. Well, that is fine for those who are happy to read dross, of which there is an appalling abundance on the Internet. The main problem as I see it is that the time will come when readers actually believe these to be bona fide translations.

b) At the same time, I hear that trained MT systems within limited domains and certain language pairs can produce results that are supposed to be better than those produced by human translators. But the decisive point is that so far, nobody has been capable of showing me such a system or its results. Last year, several MT vendors explained to me just how remarkable their systems were, but when push came to shove, I saw nothing convincing other than impressive statistics that were of no consequence whatsoever.

Now that I have set up Trados Studio with TMs including several millions of words and autosuggest dictionaries of up to 1 GB in size, I can reach a level of productivity where I can indeed ask myself to what extent I need MT for our language pairs and specialized areas.

Education and Continued Training

Here, there is something afoot. Germany’s BDÜ and DVÜD, as well as other providers, have significantly increased the range of their online CPD facilities. In fact at first glance, it might seem to be superfluous that we are entering the market with our own offering (http://alexandria-library.com). However, with the Alexandria Project, we do indeed have several objectives in mind. With it, we would like to create a central platform (by means of collaboration with as many vendors as possible e.g. Diléal and Localize.pl), upon which we can offer continued training and resources for new entrants to the profession and specialists within the various languages. In addition to that, we would like to offer specialists a platform that enables them to present themselves in order to improve their reputation in the profession and with future clients. Thirdly, we want to start using this platform as soon as possible to draw the attention of potential customers to the necessity of qualitatively acceptable translation, whilst attempting to educate them about how they can identify suitable language service providers, or rather what they themselves can contribute in order to achieve optimal results. In that department, we still ‘have the builders in’ but we shall soon be expanding what we have on offer. Feedback and suggestions will be very welcome indeed because Alexandria is – after all – intended to provide an interesting service to as many translators and customers as possible.

The Interests of the Translation Profession

So far, I was disappointed to observe that translation associations carry out too little to promote the profession externally in a way that generates interest. Translators and translation associations seem to be too occupied with themselves (i.e. with translation per se) and enter much too little into contact with possible customers, whose lack of information about translation, quality, processes and rates tends to lead them down into the depths frequented by the so-called ‘bottom feeders’. It would be laudable to see several national associations deciding upon closer cooperation with each other and being outwardly active in terms of customer education and representing the profession. A common European job portal of translation associations could help in this respect. Here, customers looking for translation service providers would at least have the reassurance that the translators fulfil certain minimal criteria of professionalism. This would draw attention away from the Internet platforms such as Proz and TC, where all the cut price vendors who often provide bad quality lurk, since customers seeking quality would finally have a qualitatively more valuable service at their disposal.

Conclusions

I am not sure to what extent much changed in the profession during 2012, but I see a careful trend for translators taking on more responsibility for their own fate and success and emancipating themselves from the clutches of major organisations and company groups. In 2013, this positive development can lead to a wider movement coming together that brings us forward as a profession. I will be delighted if we can make our contribution to that with Alexandria and Trikonf 2013.

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4 thoughts on “Medical/Pharmaceutical Translations 2012-2013 Trends

  1. Pingback: Medical/Pharmaceutical Translations 2012-2013 Trends | Metaglossia

  2. I disagree that MT is not already effective. I know its an unpopular theme amongst translators, but it does and can improve productivity substantially. It can not be relied upon, but it can help in a world which getting more and more competitive and downpriced. Where is the evidence that rates are likely to go up? This flies in the face of all conventional wisdom. The quality of the translation to be delivered depends on what it is needed for, Ad copywriting demands much more diligence than the translation of internal company documents.

  3. Pingback: Blog « Blog

  4. Pingback: Weekly favorites (Jan 7-13) | Adventures in Freelance Translation

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