Technology in the Translation Industry: Is it working for or against us?

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As a Translation Service Provider, we are sure you have been asked if your translations are done by machines. And your obvious answer is:

“No, our translations are all done by qualified translators.”

And you thought that is enough assurance for you to seal the deal.

Nope. Not for our “well-informed” clients.

Apparently, they have heard quite a lot about translation, its processes and how a “special tool” is used to help re-use translations and they want to benefit from it too.

That’s when you try to introduce the translation process and how you integrate the use of Translation Memory tool to help leverage on repetitions and existing translations.

“I thought you say you don’t use machines?!” they interrogate in horror.

You then try your best to bring them up to date on the functions of Computer Assisted Translation Tool and how they can benefit from it.

“Oh I see! Then in this case, why should I be paying so much. You already have translation memories of most the words, your system can pick them out and use them right? If you are using tools like this, I am not going to pay for words like I, he, she, it, the, is (and the list goes on…)”

Is technology really helping us, the TSPs, or is it making our job seemed so trivial that it is not worth the price we are charging?

From the initial rejection of machine translation to using it as a bargaining chip for cheaper price, a typical client swings from one extreme to another.

Competition is tough in our industry but our industry is not the only one facing such “calamity”. Many other industries are also facing revolutionary changes that will change the face of their industries.

The same thing is happening here too.

But the low barriers to entry for our industry has made things even tougher for us.

Translation Memory tools may be expensive in the early days, and enterprise versions are still beyond reach for many smaller TSPs but through the years, we have seen it’s prices dropping and “lighter” versions made available and affordable to independent translators, effectively equipping them with the weapon to potentially compete with TSPs but without the high operation costs.

However, tools are but tools. Most of the time, it is not how good these tools are but how well it is being integrated into the translation process that is more important. We know it but do our clients know it too?

To overcome this situation education of clients seemed key but a more worrying trend is how independently and self-preserving most TSPs act in the industry and how cut-throat it has become just to stay afloat.

But that’s another discussion altogether, isn’t it?

The question now is not whether it is worthwhile investing in technology.

It has already been established that it is a necessity to do so. But while we are doing that, it is important to ask ourselves if we are also feeding a potential force that will ultimately annihilate all of us? A double-edge sword it seemed.

But for the moment, we would like to call for TSPs in the industry to act more uniformly when it comes to charging for the use and adoption of Translation Memory Tools. Instead of stressing the importance of adopting such tools on one hand and allowing ourselves to succumb to price pressure by waiving these charges in the final invoice on the other, we should make these tools work for us by charging appropriately for the integration and the use of these tools to produce better quality translations at a faster rate.

Increasing productivity does not necessary mean a reduction in price, don’t you agree?

And if we act as one, we can overcome these problems, at least for now, don’t you think?


Written by

Lingua Technologies International


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