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Microsoft’s Speech Translation is still all talk

At an event in China last month, Microsoft’s Rick Rashid unveiled a piece of technology that will likely attract a considerable amount of hype. In front of the company’s Asian 21st Century Computing gathering, the Chief Research Officer showed off speech recognition and automated spoken translation technology, his words being accurately transposed into Mandarin with his vocal tone synthetically carried through to the translated version. From the reaction of observers, the demonstration appeared a success, and the technology raises interesting questions about the possibilities, and the limitations, of automated translations.

 

Much has been made of the voice recognition and emulation side of Rashid’s translation, which is at best an optional enhancement, and in some cases would appear as undesirable excess. It’s exciting, for sure, that a computer can imitate a person’s vocal habits – but it’s not earth-shattering. On the other hand, the suggestion from some quarters that we are now capable, to some degree, of replacing interpretors with computers, is one worthy of serious intrigue.

 

The question we need to ask, though, is how this would ever be possible. You might pin me as naïve, and you’d be half-right, but language factually entails more than a series of algorithms. Consider the relationship between semantics and pragmatics; one concerns itself with somewhat strict meanings and definitions, while the other is wrapped up in the implicit nature of what we say, how we really use language. Which of these is more important? You could certainly argue that each requires the other to act as a balance, but it’s absolutely clear that the way we communicate has more about it than mere dictionary definitions and the frequency of a word in proximity to another.

 

It is common for us to assume that we can build machines capable of anything and everything, but the simple fact is that most of language is conducted on a very human level, in our instinct and the traits we share. For us to understand one another, we need to have a good idea of unspoken context, of the intricacies of a conversation, and of the peculiarity of much of our language. If a computer can do this at all, it cannot do it well. It cannot purposefully soften a verb to keep a diplomatic meeting from boiling over and it cannot understand the in-joke and explain it to a new audience. Those things exist in a different ball park to what we’re currently excited about; the art of professional translation is still as essential as ever.

qTranslate: The easy way to talk to everybody

 

For all our proclamations that the Internet has rendered geography null and void, it’s startling how many business opportunities are still missed because of language barriers. Though much progress has been made since the turn of the millennium in bringing global reach to a huge number of successful brands, many great organisations still don’t know how to even begin communicating with audiences abroad.

 

In this light, it’s a wonder that the fantastic qTranslate plug-in for WordPress has taken so long to flourish. Once activated, qTranslate transforms the control panel into an incredibly simple and reliable interface for making your site’s content multilingual. It organises your pages neatly and intelligently, and offers a user-friendly integration which is compatible with Search Engine Optimisation add-ons and a huge range of content types. In essence, qTranslate condenses the work involved in reaching foreign-language users down to an absolute walk in the park.

 

 

If you’re fluent in the second language you want to target, it’s as simple as opening that language’s tab in WordPress’ Post Editor and writing your new content – you can even change the layout of your posts based on the language in play. But if you’re not a native speaker, part of the beauty of qTranslate is how easy it makes getting what you’ve written translated by professionals at LiveTranslation. There’s an option to turn on the translation service, which allows you to pay for an affordable, professional translation, courtesy of Live Translation, with just a couple of clicks.

 

There’s no mess involved: you get your content, in a range of different languages, all housed on one site but still clearly distinct from both your users’ and a search engine’s perspective. It’s simple to install and even simpler to maintain.

 

 

When combined with the supplementary qTranslate with Slugs, what results is a multilingual WordPress control panel which is both intelligent and uncomplicated. It’ll translate your dates and times without being told, let you optimise your URLs for each individual language, and even give you multilingual menus. And if you’re missing a language that could help you crack a key market, you’re literally five clicks and no effort away from taking the first step across the border. Online, you can talk to everybody. Now, they’ll be able to understand you, too.

 

Download qTranslate.

 

First Time Exporters: Full Support for your Website Translation

As the liberalisation of global commerce continues, more and more companies are joining the international market every year. Exporting has traditionally been seen as one of the most risky, and expensive ways to grow a business.  While there are many pitfalls and challenges when trading internationally, the Internet offers an excellent way for you to reach out and grow your market share, without investing millions.

Global trade has never been so easy with the First time Exporters Guide. By working with Web-Translations you will have a partner to help you at every stage in your journey.  We combine years of experience, with top-quality language and web skills to offer a hand-held, strategic approach to boosting your global trade.

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Olympic Gold Website Package – Fit for London 2012

Get Fit for London 2012 with the recently launched Olympic Gold Website Package by Web-Translations.

The 2012 London Olympics represents a great sales opportunity. As mentioned in the Getting Fit for the Olympics blog post published last week not everyone is capitalising on this sales opportunity. Do you want to go for Gold in the 2012 London Olympics?

Last year the largest ever campaign by a national tourist board was launched by VisitBritain; the £100 million GREAT Britain You’re Invited campaign. Primarily fronted by five major global celebrities who agreed to film TV ads and help promote Britain overseas.

As VisitBritain’s Mark Di-Toro says, “Now is the time to wave the British flag”. Thanks to the GREAT campaign a global audience of billions will have their eyes firmly set on Britain like never before. Will you be profiting from this interest?

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Meet the Team – Fiona Henderson

Project Coordinator - Web TranslationsHi Everyone!

I’m Fiona Henderson and I have just joined the Web-Translations team as a Project Coordinator.

I was born in Edinburgh and grew up in the nearby seaside town of North Berwick. After studying Russian and Slavonic Studies at the University of Glasgow, I moved to Leeds to study towards an MA in Applied Translation Studies at the University of Leeds.

I’m delighted to have found a position which allows me to engage with my knowledge of languages on a daily basis, whilst learning new skills and building on my experience in this exciting and constantly evolving industry.

Other facts about me: I am extremely musical and love going to the theatre to watch an opera or ballet, or to listen to some classical music. I am not very sporty but I do enjoy horse riding, ice skating and dancing. My dream is to take the Trans-Siberian Railway from Moscow to Vladivostok!

Meet the Team: Dominic McGrath

Dominic McGrath, Project CoordinatorHi everyone!

I’ve recently joined the Web-Translations team as a project coordinator. I am originally from Bradford but familiar with the local area and went on to University of Manchester where I graduated in 2009 with a BA in German and Business Management.

Since graduating I have worked in a couple of different industries – finance and logistics – but always with the view to these jobs being short-term. I have been on the lookout for a role that could essentially combine my knowledge of another language with my innate passion for business, and have found a perfect match with Web-Translations. I furthermore believe I have found somewhere with the right tools to enable me to develop and to launch a successful career.

I am highly driven to achieve goals and to deliver for our customers as the business looks set to grow and expand into new markets, and what’s more, I look forward to helping other businesses do exactly the same.

Outside work I’m passionate about sport, in particular football, and have never wavered in my support of a team going through dire straits at the moment. I also love to travel and experience different cultures and meet people from different nationalities. Building on the time I spent living in Frankfurt, I travelled around Central and South America during the summer of 2010, and am certainly keen to do more of this! I got to go on the recent trip to the dmexco event in Cologne with my new colleagues Lynn and Cassandra, and am looking forward to putting my skills and newfound knowledge into practise.

I look forward to the challenge the future holds.

In the mood for foreign films?

It’s a comment you may have heard expressed before by many native English speakers: despite possessing an interest in foreign films and a willingness to embrace their ‘quirkiness’, it sometimes feels as though you have to be “in the mood” to watch them. After watching a French film the other night and hearing my housemate make this exact comment, my thoughts consequently drifted to how world cinema seems to have rapidly gained popularity over the last ten years in the U.K. (more…)

Pre-translation preparations

There is a lot more to translation than meets the eye. Yes, the essence of the process is translating a piece of text from one language into another, but there is a lot more to consider than many people are aware.

There are lots of factors that need to be taken into account both before starting work, and during the translation process itself. Clarifying these points, and identifying any issues at the start helps to ensure a smooth translation process, and avoids delays while any difficulties are overcome.

Depending on the size and complexity of the project, clients should be asked several key questions, including (but not limited to):

What is the purpose/end use of the translation?

File formats – what format do they need the translation back in?

Processing text post-translation – will it be added to a Content Management System, or typeset into a design ready for print? If so, are those responsible experienced in doing so?

Reference material – could include previous translations and any background information to guide the translators. Clients who take the time to provide such information reap the benefits by getting an accurate translation that reflects their company style and is immediately fit for purpose. Without background information, the translators are often working in the dark, and it can take longer to produce text that is ready to use or publish.

Is there an  in-country manager who will be reviewing the text, or who can help with any terminology queries?

Is the author of the document available to answer any queries about its contents?

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Domain names are going global

Until last year, domain names could only be created using Latin characters a-z and numbers 1-9. This excluded accented characters and scripts such as Arabic, Chinese and Korean. In 2010, the use of non-Latin scripts in domain names was enabled, limited at first to the use of the country’s name in the official language.

Just how important is it to have domain names in various languages? We have previously discussed the importance of translating a website (obviously something we believe in!) in order to reach a wider audience, and surely domain names are an extension of that. Do Arabic speakers trust sites with domain names ending in .com or .co.uk? According to recent reports by the BBC, whilst some argue that domain names are becoming less important, given the ever-increasing popularity of social media networks such as Twitter and Facebook, others believe a good domain name is a sign of the importance and standing of a website. If potential visitors are discouraged from visiting a site that is only available in another language, surely the same applies to domain names? (more…)

Can we communicate solely through gestures?

To those who say communication is key in a successful relationship… Katie Price, aka English glamour model Jordan, has proved you wrong…

Just in case you are not up-to-date on Jordan’s latest romantic liaisons, she is currently dating an Argentinian named Leandro Penna.  As reported in The Guardian, in a recent interview she gave, it conspired that the couple do not talk as they do not share a common language, and that actions do apparently speak louder than words.  An example given by Leandro is that sometimes he will be sitting and moving his head, and Jordan will realise that he is looking for the remote control.  She also commented that “In the car, I’ll think, I bet he wants his glasses, just before he asks for his glasses.”  (This does raise the question: how does he ask for his glasses if he can’t speak English and she can’t speak Spanish?!  In addition, if he can ask for them, why does it matter that she thought that’s what he was going to ask before he did so?!) (more…)

How important is it to translate a website?

In a recent poll, 90% of internet users in Europe would visit a site in their own language when given the choice. Meanwhile, 53% would still use a site if it was in English rather than their native language. However, despite this relatively high figure, these users would not necessarily be happy about the lack of information available in their own language, with 44% of respondents stating that they felt they did not necessarily receive all the facts when the website was only available in another language. (more…)

Translation and Tourism: getting multilingual ready for 2012

Looking at facts and figures relating to tourism in the United Kingdom can give us an insight into why people visit the country, what they look forward to the most, and why they would return.  This is very important in the world of translation, in order to offer services to industries that would benefit the most from translating their websites, brochures and menus, to name but a few.

With the Olympics coming up next year, which will attract a huge number of multilingual tourists from all over the world, this is the perfect time to look at the statistics, and determine which areas of British culture are likely to attract visiting tourists.  Companies within these fields could potentially reap huge rewards from offering details of their services in the right languages so that foreign tourists can understand what is on offer, and make the most of their trip to the UK.  Not to mention that upon receiving a warm welcome, and being addressed in their own language, those tourists are more likely to think highly of our culture and country in general, and potentially more likely to recommend a visit, or even to return themselves. (more…)

"25 things translators should never do"

I recently read an interesting blog article citing “25 things translators should never do”. Whilst a company’s employees may have a contract or be given guidance by fellow employees or their boss, freelance translators trust their opinion, instinct, business acumen, or all of the above, in order to decide how to behave. This raises the question as to whether these ideas vary greatly between translators, whether there are any generally accepted rules, and how clients view different behaviour. (more…)

Mr Prawo Jazdy

You would think that, with all the resources they have at their disposal, the police in Ireland would be able to translate text in the blink of an eye, to ensure no embarrassing mistakes are made. It would seem, however, that such mistakes are not always avoided…

Back in 2007, police in Ireland took note of over 50 people with the name “Prawo Jazdy”. A popular name in Ireland? A common name among Poles who have emigrated to Ireland? Or, alternatively, the Polish translation of “driving licence”?

It is, of course, the latter. “Prawo Jazdy” was originally believe to be the name of one person who had repeatedly committed offences, until it became clear that the same name had been used on numerous occasions in order to refer to a number of different people. As a result, the police system contained over 50 people with the name “Prawo Jazdy”. Finally, upon investigating this seemingly unlikely occurrence, police discovered that this is actually the Polish for “driving licence”.

Whilst this mishap may have occurred a few years ago, it is a story that we can all learn a valuable lesson from – translation is vital!

Football proves popular with foreign tourists

According to research carried out last year by Visit Britain, “foreign tourists spend £2.3 billion a year watching and playing sport”.  Unsurprisingly, football is the main sporting attraction in Britain, with matches throughout the country attracting 1.2 million foreign visitors in 2008 (the most recent year with complete figures).  A percentage of these were from English-speaking countries: 267,000 were Irish, 95,000 were American and 55,000 Australian.  However, a large number of these spectators were from non-English speaking countries: 88,000 Germans, 86,000 Norwegians, 75,000 Spanish, 65,000 Italians, 52,000 Dutch, 46,000 French and 39,000 Swedes. (more…)

The relevance of online translation

Love it or hate it, the internet is increasingly becoming an essential tool in everyday life. This rings especially true in the field of translation. (more…)

The rise in non-English Internet communication

I studied International Business and Spanish at university. Why Spanish? Because I liked it, I wasn’t half bad at it and I thought it might come in handy somewhere down the line. Lucky for me, my chances of that happening are slightly raised because Spanish is the official language of 21 countries with around 400 million speakers worldwide, making it the third most widely spoken language across the globe after English and Chinese.

According to a study published last year, Spanish is the third language of international communication on the Internet.

Following my initial paragraph, that doesn’t sound out of place or surprising. However in reality, this third place position actually means that only 4% of Internet users communicate in Spanish, which corresponds to just 136 million users out of a total of 1750 million.

Obviously this figure now seems a lot lower than it should be when bearing in mind the high numbers of Spanish speakers internationally. So why the discrepancy? Many Latin American countries have low levels of access to technological developments and the study concluded by saying that if this were similar to that of English speakers then the presence of Spanish on the Internet would be around 16%. Improvements are being made though as Spanish did actually see a 1% rise.

English held the top spot in the study with 45% of Internet users’ communication and German came in at number 2 with 6%. French and Italian also figured in the top 5.

What’s really interesting to note is that English suffered a huge 29% fall, which has been attributed to the rise in the use of Chinese, Arabic and Russian on the Internet as these economies and markets develop.

So the importance of different languages on the Internet today is obvious – English can no longer be assumed to be the only language that matters, and catering for these differences will be a key issue in the success of businesses in the coming years as more and more non-English speaking users come online, and I for one, les doy la bienvenida.

“Translations can only be as good as their source text”

A recent poll on Proz.com invited users of the site to agree or disagree with this statement. It is fair to say that opinions varied. Just under half – 48.5% of respondents – disagreed, opining that translations can be better (perhaps indicating that translators feel it is expected of them to improve on the source text); 34.5% stated that ‘It depends’, whilst a mere 15.2% agreed with the statement. A very small percentage – 1.8% – chose the ‘Other’ option.

In the forum attached to this poll, there are comments from a number of translators who have strong opinions on the topic.

Whilst some translators argue that as long as the meaning is represented, the translated text can be edited in order to produce a more fluent final piece, others disagree, stating that regardless of the standard of the source text, the translations must be faithful, and it is not up to the translator to edit the meaning or style of the text. The latter, it is argued, is particularly relevant when working with legal or technical documents. One translator comments that some mistakes such as spelling errors and examples of incorrect punctuation can be easily corrected, however improving a badly written piece of text to the extent that the resulting translation is a smooth, fluent text, often proves quite difficult.

“Although they say you can’t make a silk purse from a sow’s ear, we usually have a bash anyway” is one translator’s contribution to the discussion, whilst another remarks that it would be “absurd” to reproduce a poor piece of writing in the target language.

On the other hand, one contributor, who clearly feels very strongly about the subject in question, states that it is not his job to correct the source text, but merely to translate what he is given. He gives the example that an interpreter would not say what they thought their client was trying to say, but would faithfully translate what their client had said. He states that it is up to the author of the text to ensure that the text is coherent and comprehensible. Another translator agrees, opining that the translator’s principal job is to preserve the meaning of the text.

One point that the majority of the participating translators seem to agree on is that the final decision lies with the client. If the poor quality of the source text is highlighted to the client, and they give their permission for the translator to take more initiative and edit the text to create a more fluent final piece, then translators are generally happy to do so. Although this does raise the issue of rates and charges – should translators charge more if they are expected to proofread and edit the text, as well as translating it?

“The better the original text, the higher the probability that a skilled translator will produce not only an excellent translation, but one that accurately reflects the original text without being a “transcreation” is the concluding view of one translator. Therefore, if clients provide translators with well-written, fluent, accurate documents for translation, this will be reflected in the resulting translations, and everybody is a winner!

Google to machine translate patents

Google has confirmed that it will machine translate patents into more than 29 languages, using the Google Translate interface.

On 30th November, an agreement was reached between Google and the European Patent Office (EPO), in order to facilitate the understanding of patents throughout the world.

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How to find the best translation agency

Wouldn’t it be great if there was a rating system to identify the best translation agency?

Buying translation is a daunting prospect for those who have no prior experience of commissioning this type of service, and if the buyer has little or no knowledge of languages, then it’s hard for them to have a point of reference on what is needed to produce a good translation; specifically: the level of skill, and the combination of education and experience that qualifies one person as a translator rather than simply a native speaker of a language.

Consequently many fall into the trap of buying translation as a commodity; as if buying rice or cotton; and go about comparing quotes on the basis of cost and/or speed of delivery. Translation is a service, however, and like all services, it is performed by people whose education, skills and time all contribute to delivering the final ‘product’ (for want of a better expression).

While it’s logical that you would want a service to be performed by the best people, it’s actually quite alien to most of us to buy a service from a) someone you don’t know b) aren’t ever likely to meet and c) where you as a buyer do not actually consume or experience the service first-hand.

Here’s what translators say about translation agencies

Every now and then I take a peek at what our translators are saying about us on the Proz Blue board, the litmus test with contented suppliers – we are well on the way to being the best translation agency.

Company Rating over last 12 months Overall rating
Web-Translations 5 5
Lingo 24 5 4.9
Thebigword 3.4 4.2
Applied Language 4.4 4.4
Transperfect 3.6 4.1
SDL International 4 4.4
Lionbridge 1 4.6

* Note: The links are to the corresponding blueboard page used by translators to rate each agency for likeliness to work again on a scale of 0-5. The scores in the table above are accurate as of the 29th October 2014.

Think of the last service you bought…

You might have had your car serviced, or maybe you had your hair cut in a salon/barber’s, perhaps you’ve visited the dentist recently? These are all personal examples that everyone can relate to. It’s easy to pay more for a service when you’re the direct beneficiary, the experience you go through and the interaction with the person providing the service can easily and quickly justify the value. Personally I get my haircut on the corner of Leeds city train station, not for its location, I just like the guy that does it and he does a great job.

It gets harder to gauge the value on a service where you have no idea what has been done – we place the trust in our car mechanic when they say there’s a split in a pipe and it needs to be replaced, or when your dentist explains that although there’s no pain, its important you have a filling. This is where trust is important, but because you are personally involved you can quiz the person directly; there is something comforting about looking in the whites of the eyes of a person asking you to buy a service from them.

Business is different…

Unless you need a haircut, don’t drive or need to see the dentist you should be able to relate to the personal examples, however business services are different in that they tend to fall into the rather broad categories of: Legal, Financial, Web or IT. When you choose a lawyer or solicitor you might go by recommendation or you might have looked someone up for a particular skill. The natural thing to do is arrange to meet. Once you get to know someone’s background, invested the time to communicate your situation (giving rise to the need for the service) you have some comfort factor in knowing that you now have a relationship with a person you will entrust to do a good job. You feel confident, you like the person, and so you buy the service.

Now imagine…

You need a document in another language so that someone can understand it. There isn’t any desirability in this purchase; -it’s not something that will ‘happen’ to you personally (like a haircut), neither is it likely to be an on-going business need so you don’t feel the need to establish a relationship (in the way that you might with a lawyer or an accountant). You don’t speak the language, so feel uneasy that you can’t even tell if what you are getting back is excellent, good, average or worse. You weren’t the person who wrote the text in the first place. You just want a document in another language, surely that’s pretty standard right?!..

Not just any translation will do…

Conveying something in another language in a way that reads naturally is actually quite hard. When a text needs only to inform, the reader needs to understand. When a text needs to sell or influence, the reader needs to be motivated and compelled. Achieving the desired outcome isn’t easy.

So please… be kind… show a little appreciation

Web-Translations understand that delivering good quality translation can be a pretty thankless task to the many millions of freelance translators out there. If it wasn’t an art from which people derived satisfaction it would be on a par with legal and accounting services, which (as I understand it) are not quite as much fun in providing. But translators can’t just work for the love of it. They need agencies that fight their corner, justifying better prices, upholding greater values, raising standards.

Web-Translations is a high quality agency

Ultimately it is our freelance translators that provide our service, so in keeping them happy; we are in the best position to pass on a great service. We use highly skilled, educated project managers to develop and nurture great working relationships with suppliers in the same way that we do with clients.

Take a look at our Translation Buying Guide for more tips on how to buy translation.

Help us get the word out…translation quality is worth paying for!

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