“Optimize your LinkedIn profile” webinar replay available

The video replay of my webinar “Build yourself an optimized LinkedIn profile” is now available online!
If you attended the live webinar, you have free unlimited access. If you did not attend, you can purchase access for 15 €.
Click here to view the on-demand replay page. Note that you need to have a ProZ.com account (member or non-member) to access the contents.

View a list of all past and future webinars and training sessions from the GxP team (with links to replays when available) here.

Guest post: Translating with and without medical background – a retrospective study

Medical Translation: A Retrospective Study on the Quality of Medical Translation Produced by Translators With and Without a Medical Background

Newest guest post on the Stinging Nettle! Yana Onikiychuk (MD and freelance medical translator and interpreter from Limassol, Cyprus), Ekaterina Chashnikova (freelance medical translator and editor from Moscow, Russia) and Artem Karateev (specialist on social research, PhD, Moscow State University in Moscow, Russia) conducted a study on medical translation by medical professionals vs. background translators. They give here very detailed results of the study – a fascinating read! We are very proud to have been allowed to publish it here as a guest post – many thanks to the authors for conducting the survey and this excellent article, but also for allowing us to publish it on our blog as well!

Abstract

During the last century, the volume of investigations and scientific knowledge in the field of medicine has grown exponentially. At the same time, the exchange of  information among medical professionals has increased to enormous amounts, becoming a fundamental aspect of the development of medical science. However, this exchange would not be possible if people were not speaking the same language. We can see that English is becoming a main language of science in the world scientific arena, as a vast majority of publications and reports are done in this particular language. Yet, some linguistic barriers to effective communication still exist.. Medical translation is a highly specialized field, dealing both with translation of medical-related written information and with interpreting of medical events. Healthcare interpreting is of particular interest because of its role in establishing communication bridges between healthcare practitioners and their non-native language patients. This report elucidates the role of medical translation and interpreting in modern society and in promoting medical and related sciences. We also bring out preliminary results on a new study in the field of medical translation, in which we compare medical translators with and without a medical background and the types of mistakes they tend to make more often when translating medical documents. According to the preliminary statistics, translators with a linguistic background are more prone to terminological and logical mistakes, while translators with a medical background are more prone to grammatical and stylistic mistakes. With an increase in years of experience, this difference becomes insignificant, and translators start to make fewer mistakes overall.

Introduction

For the last centuries, we have seen a burst of development and innovation in the field of medicine. New information arises everyday on diseases, therapy and patient management. And this new information has to be transformed into other languages and cultures to ensure its global use. The field of medical translation and interpreting serves this purpose. Medical interpreting plays a vital role in the exchange of oral information at medical meetings, conferences, workshops or even at the hospital unit between doctor and patient (so-called healthcare interpreting). Medical translation deals with all variety of medical documentation, from scientific articles to patient information leaflets for drugs or marketing materials for medical devices. These documents vary significantly in terms of style and terminology, but they have one thing in common: the price of a mistake during translation is enormously high and equals the health and life of a patient. What kind of professionals are involved in medical translation? We can divide alltranslators and interpreters working with medical information into two big groups. The first group is comprised of professionals with a linguistic background specialized in the translation/interpreting of medical content. They acquired such specialization with specific training or just with practice, frequently dealing with medical documents/events. The second group consists of professionals with a medical background. This could be medical/nursing school, or an education in biomedicine or pharmaceutical science. Such professionals usually have a good command in their native language and one or two foreign languages, which they learn at university or at different language courses. Some of them, but not all receive dedicated training on the translation of medical documents, which is included on the curriculum in many medical and pharmaceutical schools. Very few professionals from this group obtain additional education in translation and linguistics, and this is usually offered in a truncated curriculum. Medical translators/interpreters with a medical or relevant degree are not common within the translation industry, especially in Western Europe and the US, as the cost of obtaining a medical education and going into the medical profession is extremely high in those countries. However, in Russia and Eastern Europe (e.g. Poland, Hungary) there are some translators of this kind in the market. The reason for this is that specialized medical translators are in high demand in these countries, and the moderate income level of medical professionals forces them to find an additional part-time or even full-time translation job. These two groups of medical translators/interpreters have some significant differences in product quality when they work with medical information.
In our study, we reviewed test samples from medical translators with and without a medical background and assessed the differences in the types of mistakes they are prone to make while translating medical documents.

Methodology

Our study has a retrospective design and consists of two phases. In phase 1 we evaluated test translations from freelance medical translators. Translation was performed from English into Russian on medical text. This assessment was performed by two independent reviewers in a blinded fashion. Every sample was assessed for stylistic, grammatical and spelling mistakes, adequate translation of source terms and medical concepts. We also assessed the formatting and layout of the target text. After this assessment, the blinding was broken and results were matched with CVs from the translators who preformed those tests. Statistical analysis was performed by an independent expert in social studies and statistics. Primary information processing was performed with statistical grouping. The sample was divided into 3 cohorts: translators with a linguistic background (L), translators with a medical background (MD), and translators with a combined medical and linguistic background (MDL). Every subject was assessed by 2 endpoints: number of stylistic (St) and grammatical (Gr) mistakes and number of terminological (Tm) and logical (Lg) mistakes.Our initial hypothesis was that medical translation professionals with a linguistic background tend to make more ‘terminological’ mistakes, while professionals with a medical or relevant background make more ‘stylistic’ mistakes. With years of experience, the total number of mistakes decreases, and the difference between these two groups becomes insignificant. For phase 2 we developed a questionnaire for experts in medical translation to evaluate their opinion on training for medical translators/interpreters, the importance of a medical background for translating medical content, and potential problems with medical translation by professionals with and without a medical background.

Results

The study is still ongoing. At this moment, we have enrolled 60 sample translations. Four samples were excluded as non-evaluable. The enrollment plan is 2000 samples to provide statistical power for the study. Test samples were divided into 3 cohorts: translators with a linguistic background (L), translators with a medical background (MD), and translators with a combined medical and linguistic background (MDL). Primary endpoints were (1) number of mistakes per sample, (2) correlation between the number of mistakes and background and/or years of experience, and (3) quality of translation from MDLs. The following mistakes were assessed: terminological (Tm), logical (Lg), stylistic (St) and grammatical (Gr). For statistical analysis, Tm mistakes were combined with Lg mistakes, while St mistakes were assessed in combination with Gr mistakes. Preliminary results on sample distribution are shown on Figure 1.

According to the preliminary results, we can divide all translation samples into 3 groups: best-performing group (BPG) with the lowest number of mistakes, moderately performing group (MPG) with an acceptable number of mistakes, and poor performing group (PPG) with a high number of mistakes. BPG includes 8 professionals (2 Ls, 4 MDs and 2 MDLs), MPG includes the highest number of samples (37 professionals 18 Ls, 16 MDs and 3 MDLs), and PPG includes 11 professionals (3 MDs and 8 Ls). The method of averages confirms that MDs and MDLs make fewer Tm and Lg mistakes than Ls. MDLs also make fewer St and Gr mistakes than Ls and MDs. Surprisingly, MDs make fewer St and Gr mistakes than Ls. This result doesn’t correspond to the initial hypothesis, but more samples are needed to consider this difference significant. The yellow line in the plot separates the group of translators with a tolerable number of mistakes, and most of those professionals were hired by the translation agencies providing test samples for this research.

Discussion

The majority of mistakes from all three cohorts were done by Ls. Perhaps a better understanding of the source text makes a translator produce better target text in Russian. Working out on Tm and Lg mistakes improves St and Gr mistakes, as we don’t see subjects behind the blue line. The number and type of mistakes in L cohort was characterized by significant variability. This could be explained by differences in background, specialization and years of experience. MDs and MDLs make fewer Tm and Lg mistakes than Ls. MDLs also make fewer St and Gr mistakes than Ls and MDs. Surprisingly, MDs make fewer St and Gr mistakes than Ls. This result doesn’t correspond to the initial hypothesis, but more samples are needed to consider this difference significant. With these additional samples, we plan to analyze the type of distribution and the density of distribution, and also to reveal any correlation between years of experience and number of mistakes for all 3 cohorts.

References

Samoilov D. (2011) “On Medical Translation”. Publication on-line at http://www.practica.ru/Articles/medical.htm (in Russian)
Shahova N. (2012) “Discovering the Russian Translation Market.” in SlavFile. vol. 21(1), No. 1
Garbovskiy N. (2004). Translation Theory. Moscow: Moscow University Publishing House (in Russian)
Komissarov V. (1990). Translation Theory. Moscow: Vysshaya Shkola (in Russian)
Komissarov V. (2001). Modern Translation Science. Moscow: Vysshaya Shkola (in Russian)
Latyshev L. (2001). Translation Technology. Moscow: NVI-Tesaurus (in Russian)
Lvovskaya Z. (1985). Theoretical Issues in Translation Process. Moscow: Vysshaya Shkola (in Russian)
Alekseeva I. (2004). Introduction to Translation Science. Saint-Petersburg: Academia Publishing House (in Russian)
Buzadzhi D. (2009). New Approach to Classification of Mistakes in Translation. Moscow: Vserossiyskiy Center Perevodov (in Russian)
Kunilovskaya M. (2008). “Mistakes in Translation: Types and Classification”. Publication on-line at http://tc.utmn.ru/node/76 (in Russian)

Download the article as pdf here on Yana Onikiychuk’s website

Wikipedia project takes on global healthcare information gap

English Wikipedia has more than 25,000 medical articles, which receive approximately 200 million page views a month. The encyclopedia is one of the foremost health care resources in the world, used by the lay public as well as professionals. Surveys have found that between 50 and 100 percent of physicians use Wikipedia in their clinical practice, and Wikipedia is consistently at the top of Google web searches for medical terms.

Wikipedia’s Medicine Translation Task Force is an initiative established in late 2011 to make sure that the content readers are finding is accurate, unbiased, and accessible. As part of this endeavor, the task force is taking 80 core medical articles–articles like cancer, malaria, HIV/AIDS, and tuberculosis–and improving their quality to a good article or featured article status through a process of peer review by task force participants. Though 80 might not seem like much, these articles are very popular, with over 10 million page views per month. Eventually they hope to have these articles formally peer reviewed, published in the journal Open MedicinePLoS Medicine, or the Journal of Medical Internet Research, and then ultimately indexed in PubMed. The first article is already in the publication process.

The ultimate goal is to provide health information for every person on the planet in the language of their choice. One of the biggest challenges has been reaching out to the often ignored non-English demographic.

“The only viable platform to get health care information out to the whole world is Wikipedia,” said Dr. James Heilman, an editor and English Wikipedia administrator (Jmh649). Heilman, or “Doc James” as many people refer to him, is the founder of the task force. “I asked myself, ‘How can I get high-quality health care information to everyone in the world?’”

A plan developed to take the improved English Wikipedia articles and translate them into the multiple language versions of Wikipedia. Heilman sought out Translators Without Borders (TWB) a non-profit whose mission is to provide humanitarian translation for other non-profits and NGOs worldwide. The initial goal of TWB’s inolvement is to take the 80 peer-reviewed, core articles and translate them into 80 different languages.

Lori Thicke, co-founder of Translators Without Borders, said partnering with Wikipedia would help “bridge the language last mile for access to high quality health information.”

“Wikipedia has the reach to make a major impact on public health in the developing world. Because of language and physical barriers, the health information we take for granted is locked away from the people who need it most — those with the deadly combination of relentless poverty, a high disease burden and grossly inadequate health resources,” said Thicke. “Yet these people are connected. Increasingly their phones are Internet-enabled and they are ready to move into the digital age. We need to help them.”

While the task force aspires to translate content, another goal is to do so at a level of complexity that is accessible for every reader. Heilman and Thicke enlisted the support of Content Rules, a company that specializes in professional simplification of technical content. Although they typically focus on information technology, Content Rules offered to take on simplifying the entire first batch of 80 medical articles (13 have been simplified as of this writing).

“When people can actually read medical information and understand it, it can save lives,” said Content Rules CEO Val Swisher, who put a call out for pro-bono editors to work on the Wikipedia medical articles in late 2011. “The response I got from my network was so overwhelming that I literally had to turn people away.”

Swisher explained that although the articles are outside the core area of her company, Heilman is there to review them and Content Rules does have some medical experts on staff. “Our purpose is to take deep medical information and make it understandable,” said Swisher. “So, if we don’t understand it, then we have to rewrite it. And if we do understand once we are done, then we know we’ve been successful.”

Once the simplified articles have been translated, Heilman and the task force members search for Wikipedia editors who can integrate that content into their own language version of Wikipedia. Heilman said he is currently on the lookout for editors from the Dari, Turkish, Polish, and Vietnamese projects, as well as any others who think they can help.

“No one else is attempting to solve the problem of delivering medical information in the other 280 plus languages we work on,” said Heilman. “We need to make sure that when the next billion people come on line — those who don’t speak English, Spanish, or French — that there’s something there for them.”

(You can monitor the progress of the translations here or sign up to become involved here. For further reading, see the Wikipedia Signpost’s coverage of WikiProject Medicine)

Source: Wikimedia blog, 9 August 2012
Author:  Jake Orlowitz

 

 

Translators Without Borders Newsletter II

  Click on the image below to read the original newsletter in your browser

Registration open for the 2013 IMIA Conference

Registration Opens for the January 2013 International Medical Interpreting Conference: Guadalupe Pacheco, from the Office of Minority Health, USHHS is Keynote Speaker

The International Medical Interpreters Association is happy to announce that Guadalupe Pacheco, Senior Health Advisor to the Director Office of Minority Health Office of the Secretary, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is the keynote speaker and will speak on the revised National Standards on Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Services (CLAS) as well as the National Stakeholder Strategy for Achieving Health Equity. “The 2013 IMIA Conference will provide a forum to hear national and international perspectives on the emerging practices of providing quality interpretation services to a growing global village,” said Guadalupe Pacheco.

Medical interpreters have been benefiting from an annual conference since 1996. The field of medical interpreting has grown in ways that few could have predicted. Innovative approaches have evolved into common practices that are being widely disseminated and adapted. Several standards and language access policies have been adopted at the state, national and international levels, spreading awareness about the importance of accurate communication and interpreting services to reduce health care disparities due to language access.

Registration just opened, and for the first time the IMIA has added a super early bird rate that expires July 15th, 2012. IMIA is encouraging early registration, which helps interpreters and other stakeholders better budget their trips. IMIA recommends the following to attendees: register first, book a hotel second, and buy the tickets last, as rates are not always cheaper earlier.

This IMIA led 3-day event has expanded and in just seven months will take place in Miami Beach Florida. “It was important to take the conference out of Boston to bring it to interpreters in other areas”, said Izabel Arocha, M.Ed., CMISpanish, and Executive Director of IMIA, “and Miami Beach seems like a great place to start”. The theme of the conference is Specialized Interpreting-Getting Beyond the Basics: Exploring Quality Interpreting for Multiple Specialtiesreflects on the in-depth level of skills and knowledge asked for by interpreters, and shared at the event.

It will take place in sunny Florida on January 18 – 20, 2013 at the Miami Beach Convention Center. “Florida is a state that is in constant motion and is more diverse than people think due to international tourism, medical tourism, and new residents from all over the world. There is a need for medical interpreters in many more languages, in addition to Spanish. We are happy to work in collaboration with IMIA to make this event a success”, said Gio Lester, President of the Association of Translators and Interpreters of Florida (ATIF). Panels and forums offer interactive discussion on relevant topics of the day, as well as over sixty very interesting workshops for interpreters, from Demystify Simultaneous Interpreting to New Trends in the Provision of VRI Services. To learn more about the conference, and to register, please visit the IMIA website .

About IMIA

The International Medical Interpreters Association (IMIA) is an umbrella association that promotes all standards and best practices in the field of medical interpreting. As an international non-profit organization of medical interpreters, it represents over 2,000 practicing medical interpreters as the ultimate experts in medical interpreting and as the best option for equitable care for minority language patients around the world. It promotes language access as a human right. The IMIA contains the only free international registry of medical interpreters, where they can be found by language, state, or country.

About ATIF

The Association of Translators and Interpreters of Florida-ATIF, a Chapter of the American Translators Association, is a 501(c)6 non-profit professional association incorporated in the State of Florida. Our association was established to provide support to professionals, students and end users of translation and interpreting services. ATIF is dedicated to promoting professional recognition and growth opportunities through educational and training initiatives targeting T&I professionals in the State of Florida. Website: http://atifonline.org

Source: IMIA – imiaweb.org
Photo: IMIA
Event schedule: http://www.imiaweb.org/uploads/pages/682..pdf

How (not) to contact a translation company

This article has been at the back of my mind for ages and at the bottom of the articles priority list, but after receiving the same email from the same translator eight times since 9:00 this morning (it’s 1 p.m. now, just to give you an idea) and though I know it will not stop those translators who have been spamming us for months (yes, spamming), I feel it needs to be written – some may find it basic and I apologize in advance to them, but it seems it’s not that basic for many.

So here we go. Of course it is perfectly normal for translators to send their CVs to agencies, to get known, to say “Hey guys, I exist” in an industry where gaining visibility is anything but easy. We receive about two to three spontaneous applications per day, and sometimes a true gem may be found among them, someone who becomes one of “our” translators. By no means do we want to stop receiving applications, quite the contrary. So, just to be clear, I am not questioning the “why” of applications here; we are on your side. But what matters is the “how” – and here, take our word for it, is where many translators get it wrong.

When agencies don’t answer, most translators think it is because we are drowning in applications every day. I’m talking here about spontaneous applications. For most of the smaller, specialized agencies, like us, three unsolicited applications on average per day is not exactly ‘drowning’ and we at GxP do actually take the time to read every single one of them. However, when the application is clearly sent via a mass-mailing system and the contents do not match our needs at all, why should we reply? It feels like being spammed with something we don’t need.

So here’s tip 1: don’t send out mass-mailings to agencies. You’re just spamming them when doing so – at least that’s how it may feel for them.

Logically, the second tip is to personalize the email as much as you can. I always reply to applications starting with “Dear [title plus last name or first name]“, even if the translator applying does not match our needs at all. After all, it’s only normal to reply to someone who took the time to research the company, who we are, our names, etc. Starting an email with things like ” Dear Sirs”, “Dear Mrs or Miss” etc. is, um, off-putting. If you can’t find the name of the person who is going to receive your email, then be creative, something like “Dear [Agency name] Team” for example – something nice, warm and attention-getting. Personally, I’m much more likely to read until the end of an email starting with “Dear GxP Team” rather than one starting with “Dear Sir or Madam”.

So, tip 2: personalize the email as much as you can, which means doing a minimum of research about the agency.

Which brings me to the third point: also research what the agency does. If an agency clearly states on their website, ProZ profile, etc., that they are doing only medical translations and you are specialized in architecture and household appliances, applying is probably a waste of your time – and theirs. Even worse, it shows you did not research the agency at all and if they ever coincidentally get a job from an end-client that fits your areas (you never know, a medical devices company might need a different text translated), they might not contact you because you will be remembered as a “spammer”. So, take the extra few minutes to research what exactly the agency does.

Of course a medical translation agency does not only need medical translators. Sometimes, their own clients need a contract translated, user manuals, etc. Use your best judgment; if there’s a link, even small, between your area of expertise and theirs, it may be worth a shot to apply. If you do, be sure to phrase it this way, for example: “I see you work in the medical field – I myself am a legal translator, but if your clients ever need agreements/contracts translated, feel free to contact me…” etc.

Tip 3: research the working fields and areas the agency works in and trust your common sense : if your fields have nothing to do with theirs, applying may be a waste of time. Ask yourself whether your expertise may still be useful to them (e.g., medical instruments manufacturing companies still need contracts, user manuals, marketing brochures, annual financial reports, etc. to be translated). If this is the case, say so in the application email to show you have done your homework, that you are aware your fields are not entirely compatible but that they might need you sooner or later.

Next is the content of the actual email. Don’t recite your CV; remember, you’re enclosing it. Keep the email short and to the point, you want to make the PM curious enough about you to want to open your CV attachment. So, if you’re applying to a legal translation company and you’re a former lawyer, then that info is the only thing you need to put in the email. Ditto if you weren’t a lawyer in a former life, but already have some large or highly specialized projects behind you – put the most mouth-watering ones in the body of the email. In short, what makes you different from another translator?  The same goes for your language pairs – where you learned English is irrelevant (“I spent 2 years as an au pair in London when I was 18″), but your working pairs should be right there – personally, it’s very annoying having to search everywhere in the email and the CV to find a translator’s language pairs. They are the first elements that differentiate you from other translators, so highlight them.

So, tip 4: Keep the email short and simple, but to the point. The basic, yet important facts about you as a translator should be right there: language pairs, specialties and experience in these fields. No need for a long list of past projects in the email; this is what your CV is for. Just include the most “mouthwatering” experience you have. Remember, what you want is to capture the attention of the PM reading your email, so that they want to learn more about you and open your CV. The first few seconds after they open your email are the most important: this is when they decide if they want to know more.

Last but not least: don’t spam. If an agency doesn’t reply, it’s pointless to send the same copy-paste email over and over and over again (even more so if they have actually replied at one point). Pointless and extremely annoying. And copy-pasting the entire email you sent and putting it in a LinkedIn invitation is even more annoying. If you want to connect on LinkedIn or other sites with the PM you already contacted, don’t copy-paste the email you already sent to that person. Keep the invitation text simple, it’s an opportunity for you to remind them that you exist: “Hi, I contacted you a while ago about my translation services. I’d like to connect with you here as well and look forward to having you in my professional network”. You’re trying to get the person to be interested in your services, so don’t do it online using an approach you wouldn’t use if you had met that person in the flesh at a translation conference.

Tip 5: Keep a clean and up-to-date list of your prospects in which you enter whom you have contacted and when, whether they replied, and what the reply was. Send a follow-up email every six months for example, in the event you don’t receive a reply, but make sure it’s a different email (“I was wondering if you had received my email from last January in which I offered my translation services”). Don’t resend the exact same text you have already sent – and the same goes for social network invitations.


On the topic of translators’ CVs, I can only recommend these two very useful resources from my friend Marta Stelmaszak from Wantwords (she’s the expert for translators’ CVs!):
CVs and Cover Letters that Work (Webinar replay)
Download her e-book: How to write a translator’s CV

Barcelona conference presentation – Social Media Marketing for translators : why, what, how…

Last weekend I attended the ProZ.com International Conference 2012 in Barcelona. It was really fantastic seeing old friends again and making new ones, and to finally have a chance to see some of the wonders the city of Barcelona has to offer.

The conference was also the opportunity to give my presentation on social media marketing and online reputation – 1 hour is terribly short to cover the topic, but some basics were thrown at the audience and hopefully all attendees got something to chew on. The purpose, as outlined in the introduction, is not to make anyone a Social Media expert (and in an hour, that’s impossible), but rather to help translators in the decision-making of investing in that marketing strategy – or not – by giving them as many elements, pros and cons as possible to help them decide whether it’s something their own business could use/need  – and of course, for those who decide it may be something for them, make them curious to find out more and take the next step.

The presentation felt relaxed and was quite interactive. I don’t like to push the Q/A at the very end, attendees can just interrupt me if they want to rebounce on something I just said. IMO it is simply more comfortable and informal that way. Hopefully people feel this as well, because it not only creates a relaxed atmosphere, but it also makes the presentation more lively and ultimately (hopefully) fun. And well, egoistically, I have to admit it’s much more fun for me as  it makes each presentation different from the previous one and the audience has often really interesting, original and unexpected questions, comments or experiences to share. So, no routine. As always, I wish it could have gone on for another 3 hours – and hope attendees do as well!  ;)

A really big thank you to all of you for our attention and patience, I hope you all left the room with a clearer idea of this wide Internet marketing world and some (more) elements at hands to make your decision – if that’s the case, then I did the job in Barcelona (if that’s not the case, feel free to contact me via e-mail and shout at me ;))

An interesting thing happened during the session and in the plane back from Barcelona – or at least I consider those thoughts interesting. It occured to me that, compared to a year ago, I was focusing less on actual Social Media and always more on SEO, online reputation / online presence – that was the case at the Germersheim University a few weeks ago when I gave that same presentation and, to an extent, at the conference in Warsaw in April. This is definitely material for a future article (and sooner than later), but for the past 3-4 months, it seems social networks themselves are loosing the importance they had a year ago in online marketing – they are still important, no questioning that, but SEO and online image in general seem to grow more and more important. Social sites actually always were SEO and online reputation tools but this was maybe not always clear, or hidden behind the WOW factor of social sites. I have this feeling that perspectives are changing – client don’t ask “How can I be on Facebook for my business?” anymore because it’s Facebook and it’s hype. They ask today “Why would I be on Facebook for my business?”.

Interesting shift in perspectives here – but again, this is material for a future article.

In the meantime a big thank you to Patricia for the organization of this great conference, and a big thank you to all – it was simply fantastic being there with all of you. See you next year at the Porto 2013 Conference!

Translation Tools Could Save Less-Used Languages

Tom Simonite – Wednesday, June 6, 2012, Technology Review (published by MIT)

Languages that aren’t used online risk being left behind. New translation technology from Google and Microsoft could help them catch up.

Sometimes you may feel like there’s nothing worth reading on the Web, but at least there’s plenty of material you can read and understand. Millions of people around the world, in contrast, speak languages that are still barely represented online, despite widespread Internet access and improving translation technology.

Web giants Microsoft and Google are trying to change that with new translation technology aimed at languages that are being left behind—or perhaps even being actively killed off—by the Web. Although both companies have worked on translation technology for years, they have, until now, focused on such major languages of international trade as English, Spanish, and Chinese.

Microsoft and Google’s existing translation tools, which are free, are a triumph of big data. Instead of learning as a human translator would, by studying the rules of different languages, a translation tool’s algorithms learn how to translate one language into another by statistically comparing thousands or millions of online documents that have been translated by humans.

The two companies have both departed from that formula slightly to serve less popular languages. Google was able to recently launch experimental “alpha” support for a collection of five Indian languages (Bengali, Gujarati, Kannada, Tamil, and Telugu) by giving its software some direct lessons in grammar, while Microsoft has released a service that allows a community to build a translation system for its own language by supplying its own source material.

Google first realized it needed to give its system a grammar lesson when trying to polish its Japanese translations, says Ashish Venugopal, a research scientist working on Google’s translation software. “We were producing sentences with the verb in the middle, but in Japanese, it needs to go at the end,” Venugopal says. The problem stemmed from the system being largely blind to grammar. The fix that the Google team came up with—adding some understanding of grammar—enabled the launch of the five Indic languages, all used by millions on the subcontinent but largely missing from the Web.

Google’s system was trained in grammar by giving it a large collection of sentences in which the grammatical parts had been labeled—more instruction than Google’s translation algorithms typically receive.

Venugopal says that, so far, the system can’t handle the underserved languages as well as Google’s existing translation technology can handle more established languages, such as French and German. But, he says, offering any support at all is important for languages that are relatively rare online. “It’s an important part of our mission to make those other languages available on the Web,” he says. “We don’t want people to have to decide whether to publish their blog in their own language or in English. We want to help the world read your blog.”

Microsoft is also interested in helping languages not in common use online, to prevent those languages from being sidelined and falling from use, says Kristin Tolle, a director at Microsoft Research. Her team recently launched a website that helps anyone to create their own translation software, called Translation Hub. It is intended for communities that wish to ensure their language is used online.

Using Translation Hub involves creating an account and then uploading source materials in the two languages to be translated between. Microsoft’s machine-learning algorithms use that material and can then attempt to translate any text written in the new language. Microsoft piloted that technology in collaboration with leaders of Fresno, California’s large Hmong community, for whose language a machine translation system does not exist.

“Allowing anyone to create their own translation model can help communities save their languages,” says Kristin Tolle, a director at Microsoft Research. Machine translation systems have been developed for roughly 100 of the world’s 7,000 languages, says Tolle.

“There is a lot of truth to what Microsoft is saying,” says Greg Anderson, director of nonprofit Living Tongues, which documents, researches, and tries to support disappearing languages. “Today’s playing field involves a digital online presence whether you are community or a company—if you don’t have a Web presence, you don’t exist, on some level.” Anderson says that sidelined languages making a comeback are usually those from communities that have embraced online life using their language.

Margaret Noori, a lecturer at University of Michigan who works to preserve the Anishinaabemowin or Ojibwe, a native American language, agrees, but adds that preserving a language involves more than the Web. “There is a reason to be online in today’s world, but it absolutely must be balanced by songs sung only aloud and ceremonies never recorded.”

Microsoft’s Translation Hub is also aimed at enabling the translation of specialist technical terms or jargon, which general purpose online translation tools do not handle well. Nonprofits could, for example, use it to translate materials on agricultural techniques, says Tolle, and the technology can also be useful to companies that wish to speed up translation of instruction manuals or other material.

“Companies often want to have their data available to them privately and retain their data—not to provide it to someone else that will train a translation system,” she says. Volvo and Mercedes have expressed an interest in testing Microsoft’s Translation Hub, says Tolle.

Tom Simonite – Wednesday, June 6, 2012,
Source:  Technology Review (published by MIT)

The Translation and Localization conference 2012, Warsaw, Poland

After a rich week in Berlin at conhIT 2012, off to Warsaw for the weekend where I was a guest speaker at the Translation and Localization Conference 2012 (“Konferencja Tłumaczy”- don’t ask me to pronounce it in Polish! ;))

It has been around a year and half since my last Translation industry event and it was truly a pleasure to see familiar faces again and meet new ones.  The event had the good idea of offering bilingual tracks: throughout the weekend, we had one room with English presentations only, while the other room featured only Polish contents. Given my non-existent Polish, this was very welcome!

The general subject areas of the conference were Computer-Aided Translation (how far can we stretch CATs, how do we manage CAT resources, segmentation, data formats, consistence and cohesion, virtualisation, dictation instead of typing and other pivotal issues in the area of computer-aided translation),  audio-visual translation and localization (computer games, dubbing, subtitling, copyright and related rights, going rates, audio-description, accessibility of films and theatrical performances and other cutting-edge developments on the audio-visual translation market), legal and specialist translation  (from fascinating case studies to popular debates on certified translation (and sworn translators): new strategies, food for thought and the big picture,  the business of translation and interpretation (hard data on freelancing, VAT and flat rate tax, as well as translation and localisation agencies. Expert insights on marketing translation services. (Down-to-earth, tried and true advice and fresh perspectives).

I made some interesting contacts and above all, we had very interesting discussions around a cup of coffee at breaks – discussions about the Polish market but also about the way the industry is going, particularly about machine translation (MT). The overall  shared opinion was the fact that MT was now inevitable and that it could be a translator’s best tool in terms of quality and productivity – when used wisely and with a strict quality-control procedure as well as the need to implement confidentiality measures. In short, the consensus was that MT was not completely mature yet – but will be very soon and that the industry should get ready to embrace it.

Entitled “Social Media Marketing for Translators: a must or a should?”, my presentation took place on Sunday morning with a small and lively group of translators with a broad background. There were many “young translators” (beginning in the industry) and experienced ones, curious about finding out whether this new marketing trend could apply to them and could work for them.  I hope that the colleagues who attended left the conference room with their own answer “Yes, Social Media marketing may be something for me, I want to know more” or “Nope, not for me.” At least that was the goal of this presentation, my aim was to give them some keys to help them decide. At the end of the day, as I specified many times during that hour with them, every translator is unique, every business is unique, and they all should see this presentation as a buffet where they just pick up what suits them, their needs and their goals. The presentation went well, there were quite a few questions and I had some very good feedback, so I guess the buffet formula worked for those colleagues!

It was also a fantastic opportunity to discover Warsaw and its gorgeous Old Town – a very enjoyable tour with two locals who know the history of their city by heart.

It was an excellent weekend, informational, interesting, fun (and incredibly hot, 30°C in Warsaw!) – thank you Agenor and Jacek of Localize.pl ;) , Maria Szpor and Anna Konieczna-Purchała of TexteM and their teams for organizing this great conference!

Visit the conference website and the Facebook Page with the photos and feedback – and hopefully see you next year for the 2013 Conference! :)

Social Media Marketing for translators – Part 4: Power Networking

This article is chapter 4 of the series “Social Media Marketing for translators, back to the basics”.

Part 1: Back to the basics & Introduction
Part 2:  Online Reputation & credibility
Part 3: Online visibility & SEO


Welcome back – and sorry for the delayed posting of this chapter 4, long overdue!
Today we’ll be talking about the basics of Social Networks as a Networking tool for the marketing of a freelance translator.

The best and ideal scenario remains in-person networking – there’s no denying that.  The vast majority of marketing successes (acquiring new clients) comes from real life meeting and sharing a cup of coffee at a given event – be it a trade show, a conference or a networking business breakfast.

But we can’t spend our time and our money attending events every week – as translators, we have to, well, translate to keep the ball rolling. Bills won’t pay themselves!

Here’s the good news: Web 2.0 offers an impressive array of tools allowing to network in a powerful way, right from behind your screen.

Here’s the bad news: it takes not only A LOT of time and energy – and patience – to get clients from online networking, but it’s a real jungle out there: there are so many tools, so many platforms : which one(s) to use?

In this article you’ll find some tips and starting ideas based on my own opinion and experience. It is by no means exhaustive nor exclusive. I keep repeating in my seminars and presentations that each translator is different, each business is unique and what works for a translator may not work for another. If you’re really serious about online networking, you’re going to have to take the time to experiment, try out and see what works for you and what does not – whatever your criteria for “what works for you” are, you’re going to have to define those and no online markting consultant can help you do that, it’s your decision, your choice, based on your culture, experience, goals, personal life, etc… Again, you are unique.

Differentiate business platforms from personal platforms

LinkedIn and Facebook have actually nothing in common, so whenever I read translators saying “Facebook and LinkedIn are so stupid, it does not work”, I consider – sorry – that it’s a stupid thing to say. I’m more than willing to believe that Facebook is not a very efficient marketing tool for a freelance translator, but LinkedIn is a WHOLE other story.

Let’s say there are 3 kinds of social platforms on the Web:

- Personal platforms: Facebook, former schoolmates platforms, photo sharing services (Instagram, Flickr…), location platforms (Foursquare…)

- Professional ones: LinkedIn, Xing, Viadeo and translation platforms obviously like ProZ.com, Langmates, TranslatorsCafé, etc…

- Blurry ones: those are platforms that can allow for both personal or/and business, like Twitter, Google +, Facebook (here as well), etc.

I’m categorizing those based on the translation industry, of course, I’m being simplistic – some platforms listed as personal above can be used for business in other industries – a  Flickr has a clear professional dimension for professional photographers for example, Foursquare is a very interesting local marketing tool for shops, restaurants and other B2C industries).

The particular case of Facebook

I’ve already written about the Facebook dilemna in this article, though there is a lot more to say as it is not a black and white issue. But bottom line is, for a freelance translator, Facebook has yet to prove its marketing value. It does however have a certain networking interest as there are many – many! – groups of translators there, some of which are extremely active and where every sorts of discussions take place: terminology help, CAT-Tools help, jobs, general discussions, fun ones, etc. Those are like “mini-ProZ.com forums” actually, very similar in contents. There’s even a group called “Networking translators” and its member are doing just that.

So in a pure networking perspective, yes, Facebook Groups are an interesting tool, provided you protect your profile and make sure your personal stuff in there is not visible to members of the group that you are not “Friends” with. Again, see my Facebook article from April and I suggest to take a look at Part 2 of this series of articles: Online reputation and credibility.

Twitter: a very powerful networking tool

Twitter is a very interesting case. It can be used for both professional purposes and personal ones without hardly any conflict if done well – most professionals there have 2 accounts: a professional account with their full name and a personal one, either locked (that is your tweets can’t be seen unless you accept someone as a follower) or under a pseudonym (or both for paranoids like me ;)), of course if you feel no need for a personal Twitter account (to talk about stuff like politics, for example), you don’t need one. But I’m a big fan of separating personal from business in my online activities, while keeping the professional account a minimum personal. It’s about finding the right balance between too much and not enough.

Back to the topic at hand: Twitter as a networking tool is one of your best friends. Its Netiquette allows to connect with complete strangers, jump into discussions between strangers and therefore showing your expertise, making yourself known, etc. Most people on Twitter are open to discussions and exchange and keen on making new contacts. Twitter is a very informal way of communicating and this applies to business communication – in other words, on Twitter you can break the ice very easily and quickly, there are thousands of potential business contacts and you can have business exchanges in a very informal context. Isn’t that an ideal networking environment?

LinkedIn: the ultimate networking tool

Business networking is the core of LinkedIn. Every single feature on the site is designed and meant to help you network. I seriously made excellent client contacts via LinkedIn. But if you want to make it work, it is extremely time-consuming and you need to be very proactive. LinkedIn has a strict and particular netiquette and you have to mind how you communicate – and what. Last but not least, a rock-solid and mouth-watering profile is an absolute must. Believe me, LinkedIn is a great networking and marketing tool for the translation industry but you have to  use it to your full advantage – how often do I repeat that just having a profile here is not enough and that clients won’t start falling from the sky? You have to make your opportunities on business networks like LinkedIn (but that also works for sites like Xing or Viadeo, for example) because even though sometimes – but rarely – they come to you, the truth is, 99% of the time they are yours to create.

Google + : the elegant combo of Facebook+Twitter+LinkedIn

I love Google +. Yes, this is not being objective but seriously, I love it. It allows you to do whatever you want and share it with wohever you want in a very user-friendly and elegant way: circles. Yes, Facebook lists enable to the same separation and to choose exactly who sees what, but let’s face it: these privacy settings on FB are not as simple and user-friendly as G+ circles. No need to have a personal account and a business one. You can do all your communications from just one profile while keeping a clear private/public separation. Unlike Facebook, the risk of awkward pictures from last night’s party or pictures of you in your swimming suit at the last family barbecue is almost zero. Besides, the Netiquette and spirit of Google + is a really sweet combo of the facebook netiquette (allowing for personal stuff), the Twitter one (informal exchanges with complete strangers) and the LinkedIn one (loads of business people using G+ to network). Last but certainly not least, Google + is an extremely powerful SEO help. But then again, like all the rest, you need to be proactive and to work on your G+ presence – and that takes time.

In short…

Using Social platforms is an excellent way to network, meet suspects, potentially turn them into prospects and ultimately, hopefully, into clients. The same works for partners, and of course for translators – it’s a great pool for agencies and companies to find service providers. Furthermore, these platforms allow you to bypass the hierarchy: if you send an e-mail offering your services to a large translation agency, your CV may not make it to the hands of a PM. Same goes for telephone marketing efforts: you often find yourself talking to a secretary who will “block” your way to the decision-maker. Thanks to social networks, this is not a problem anymore, you can directly contact and connect with these decision-makers. But the coin does have another side: social networking is complicated, there are many unwritten codes and rules, netiquettes strongly vary from one network to another and there’s such a big crowd out there already that you have to make yourself visible in order to be found. Avoiding faux-pas, having a great profile and actively seeking and creating opportunities, those are some winning-strategies  winning, but time-consuming. Be aware of it before going into social networking.


Stay tuned for Part 5 of “Social Media Marketing for Translators, back to the basics” on the power of information!
All your comments, suggestions, thoughts are more than welcome, so go for it!