The Association of Translation Companies goes all the way back to 1976, making it one of the oldest associations of its kind in the world. Their 2017 Summit was my first time at a large conference of the sort, but I was excited to be back in the translation world proper.
Variety abounded, ranging from SEO and the importance of digital content to a tech talk (including the inevitable AI vs. the translator), fabulous jokes to Sci-Fi analogies, a crash course in hostage negotiation to an extraordinary new dictionary tool. And – of course – plenty of tea, coffee and biscuits.
First up was Udo Leinhäuser’s master class on SEO
He brought it back to basics to show us we can all be involved. He asked me a surprisingly difficult question: “Which bit of SEO are you interested in?” Given I currently work for an SEO company, it might seem odd that I was there precisely because I know so little about it.
In managing translations for SEO specialists, I am fortunate they have never asked me to literally translate a list of keywords; yet they have never seen enough of a connection between translation and SEO to teach me it in any detail.
Udo provided us with a detailed definition of SEO and the elements involved. I’d like to explore those details after I have played around with the list of tools that Udo provided. But in the meantime…
Why teach SEO to LSPs and translators?
Marya, from Surrey Translation Bureau, hit the nail on the head in her Day-Two speech, “How Digital Marketing can grow your brand”: translators and translation project managers need to understand SEO because Google is the bigger “audience”. We’re here to help our clients communicate globally, how can they do so if they’re not ranking on the search engines of their target audiences?
Stability in an ever-changing market
After a coffee break, Renato Beninatto inspired confidence in us about the importance of human employees in the translation industry. He believes our core functions are PMs, Sales and VMs – and that will never change. We’re not in the business of “translation”, we’re in the business of “Project Management” and we need to sell that.
From a translator point of view, this is relevant – we need to sell to all the peripheral activities that combine to perfect our services to clients (Ever tweaked the formatting after a job? Created a Trados package? Recommended a peer when the client requires extra hands or additional languages? Translated for SEO?). Our clients will stay with us over the machines because we’re providing a service… but more on machines and machine use later.
What about future planning?
I mentioned recently that I returned to blogging because of a need for self reflection – I’ve developed a strict plan for my business and a PDP to help me get there. By contrast, Louise Killeen explained she had no “grand plan” for what she calls her “accidental LSP”, LK Translations. But her message was similar to Renato’s: they don’t “translate”, they “enable” clients to sell, do business, etc.
And now for something completely Sci-Fi
Tony O’Dowd from KantanMT woke up a sleepy, well-lunched audience with an amusing Star Trek analogy, equating RBMT to the USS Enterprise, and Neural MT to its space-ship successors. It’s just so much better – and even Kantan don’t know how it does some of its stuff.
Although the first paper on NMT was delivered in 1970 (so Star Trek came first…), computer power of the time couldn’t support it. SBMT (in Tony’s words, “a TM on steroids”) replaced RBMT and was an improvement, but NMT goes further. The latest technology in MT looks at sequences i.e. sentences, rather than just phrases. It takes more hours to train but the BLEU score – an algorithm used to measure the success of MT output – is better.
And by the way Kantan, well done on the SEO – you’re the first hit, with a featured answer, for “BLEU score” on Google!
Machines can even help in VM
Alessandro Cattelan at Translated.net says they manage 250,000 suppliers with just two VMs by combining a Bayesian classifier and their own “T-Rank” system. It reads CVs automatically and, by inputting certain fields to Translated.net, companies can find the best translator for their job.
I asked Alessandro what this might mean for my PDF CV, with an email address watermark. It uses OCR to convert to text and then looks for keywords, so it shouldn’t cause any issues. It doesn’t eliminate the need for cover letters either – they creates more chance for the system to pick up your keywords.
The “You spent how much?” pose
The following day began with a talk from Richard Mullender, a hostage negotiator. Why? When we’re selling – persuading our clients to buy our services – we need to know what makes them tick. To bring them round to your side, you need to “find out their motivator, and provide their currency”.
He proved the importance of body language by showing that leaning forward shows you’re listening – if you only do it for the bits you’re interested in, it’s a dead giveaway (like finding out how much your partner just spent on an item!).
A thesis: coming soon
Andrew Hickson from Ludejo followed, discussing his localisation paradox and a thesis he hasn’t written yet – Nostalgia, Nationalism & Nuance, or: How I learned to stop worrying and love alternative facts.
He gave a neat definition of nostalgia, nationalism and nuance through sports and music analogies, including insulting half the room and putting up a topless photo of Justin Beiber. He had the room in tears of laughter, but his point was salient – we’re actively promoting cross-border cooperation, selling services to people worldwide and telling them each culture needs to be respected… so we should really understand culture ourselves.
Eat humble pie
Erica Manning of Imperial gave a cheerful talk about managing people based on her own experience in HR. We all need to consider doing a personal “strengths and weaknesses chart” (and avoid coming up with many strengths but few weaknesses!). Once you understand yourself, you can understand others and so figure out where you can help them.
My own PDP has a similar aim: figure out where I’m going and when. To do so I need to know how to improve and monitor my progress through targets. It’s like a long-term to-do list: not only does it make you more productive but it feels good to tick things off!
And the extraordinary new tool?
WordFinder is a dictionary, but it’s not just any dictionary! I spoke to President & CEO, Ola Persson, who gave me a demo.
For a monthly subscription, you can access all the mono- and multi-lingual dictionaries with which they have a contract. You can select dictionaries to save to your profile, then choose which are active at any given time. If you want to work offline, you can download them to your desktop, or to the tablet or mobile app.
Hot keys allow you to select a word in any application – it’s compatible with CAT tools – and jump to its dictionary entry. Inserting your chosen equivalent into your translation is simple. There is already a wide range of dictionaries available and he’s adding new ones. I sent him a list of publishers for Italian-English legal dictionaries, as he said he’d look for the publishers at an upcoming book fair. Brilliant!
The Summit’s summit
The two-day conference drew to a close with a panel discussion from the ATC council. They want to hold more sway over government, for better recognition for the profession, and to build stronger links with other associations. All sound good to me – oh and on that topic, a belated happy International Translation Day to all.