Our take from Elia’s ND Focus for Executives

by Vasso Pouli, CEO at Commit 

How does the theatre of Epidaurus, Zeus, the king of gods, and Talos, the ancient robot, play into a Mission, Vision and Execution workshop? Well, to start with, the ELIA ND Focus for Execs conference took place last month at a magnificent resort just one-hour drive from Chania, Crete, thus the allusions and references to Greek history and mythology were unavoidable, to say the least.

On the other hand, the comparison between the old and the new (the ancient theatre of Epidaurus and a contemporary state-of-the-art concert hall), when addressing a rather dissimilar group of executives in the language industry, some having founded companies as many as 30 years ago, some being rather new in the localization industry and some representing the new blood in already year-old companies, offers a new perspective to the concept of business transformation: how important it is for the viability of the company, how tricky it is to get it right and how the success stories and failures of others can serve as useful examples to imitate or to avoid.

Zeus, the god of the sky, thunder, law and order was a nice introduction to the M&A scenery, and how one can lead and strategize for potential alliances, mergers or buyouts even from the beginning. Then, the story of Talos, the mythical giant automation which circled the shores of Crete three times daily to protect the island from pirates and invaders, was a smart allusion to the concept of operating leverage and how an organizational model can tweak and shift to accommodate new realities.

Tuyen Ho, VP of Corporate Development at Welocalize, offered great insight in how one can plan, implement, stay the course, pivot and change, but especially how one can go about executing on what they have envisioned as leaders for their people in order to ensure that their offerings stay relevant to their customers both today and in the future.

Thank you, ELIA Program Committee, for an insightful event and for the traditional Cretan dance experience!

Translation memory: blessing in disguise?

by Tasos Tzounis, Assistant Project Manager at Commit 

First things first! It would be wise to clarify right from the start that when we are talking about a translation memory (commonly known as TM), we are not talking about machine translation. Quite the contrary! The translation memory is “man-made” and very much in the spotlight of the translators’ community.

A TM is also not a dictionary, even though they both serve the same purpose, i.e. to help translators around the world deal with the obstacles they encounter in their professional everyday lives like searching, finding and documenting terminology.

But what exactly is a TM?

It is a database which is created, updated and maintained by a translator. During the translation, each piece of text, or segment in CAT tools terms, is saved in a memory file together with its translation, creating a translation unit.

The TM is not just a glossary for terminology search, but it may include from one translation unit up to whole corpora, allowing the translator to search entire sentences as well as individual words.

Furthermore, it is not only created during a new translation project. Luckily for linguists, there are translation memory programs that allow the user to create memories from large-scale documents that have been previously translated. This function is called alignment and, basically, it is a process in which the source text and its respective target text are aligned to segment level inside a brand-new TM. These aligned segments will be used for new searches and will be updated with new content in the future.

But what is all this fuss about TMs and what are the benefits for translators?

First of all, TMs speed up the translation process, saving extra time for the translator and significantly increase their productivity especially when it comes to extensive texts containing jargon. However, this requires that the translator keeps TMs for each client, for every language combination they use as well as for any kind of technical documents they delve into. Their efficiency depends primarily on the linguist who creates and maintains them as they must be updated with all the recent changes and all content should be thoroughly checked for correctness. Moreover, TMs ensure high quality, consistency and homogeneity, especially in the case of ongoing major projects involving many translators and/or reviewers with partial deliveries or individual projects that relate to the same language combination and client.

What are the benefits for the client?

Benefit No. 1: TMs reduce cost. As long as a TM is well maintained, we are up for some savings! The TM can detect previously translated content, and depending on the new text’s similarity with that content, it can be charged at a reduced rate and sometimes not even charged at all. Also, by analyzing the translation project with a TM, we get a pretty good analysis of the content to be translated i.e. new content, repetitions, fully and partially translated content etc. This way, the project manager who is responsible for the planning and execution of a translation project can accurately determine the delivery time, organize and coordinate their team and ensure a quality translation that is also consistent with previous translations for the same client.

For many translators, the creation, update and especially the maintenance of TMs seems like a demanding process. Some might see it as “necessary evil” but without any doubt, its use facilitates the life of the linguist, ensures consistency, increases productivity and cuts down costs for the clients. It’s truly a blessing in disguise!

 

The 6 Laws of Translation Project Management*

by Effie Salourou , Customer Operations Manager at Commit  

  1. Murphy’s Law: If anything can go wrong, it will

First of all, you need to embrace the fact that this risk is real. Be proactive at the early stages of project planning and try to accurately interpret project requirements. Adopt a risk management methodology and try to spot any future problems, needs and setbacks. Whether that is poor scope stability, time consuming processes or insufficient project prep time, you need to identify and eliminate all major shortcomings. Setting clear goals from the start will help you avoid extra work and possible delays.

  1. Lakein’s Law: Failing to plan is planning to fail

Quite often, when project managers receive tight-turnaround projects they rush into execution without doing the proper preparation and planning first. But it is exactly in those cases when we lack time to plan, that we should take the time to plan. Very often, at the early stages of a project, when no one is doing actual project work, rather they are engaged in project preparation, analysis and planning, this is often wrongly interpreted as doing nothing. Yet when it comes to project planning, you should take the time you need. Do not give the go-ahead unless you are certain that you have gathered all the necessary information and covered all aspects of the project.

  1. Parkinson’s Law: Work expands to fill the time available

You have a week to finish a proposal, and yet you wait until Friday afternoon to finalize it. You have two months to work on a localization project and you make the last QA checks 2 hours before delivery. Do those scenarios ring a bell?

Another example of Parkinson’s Law is cases when you have a whole week to complete a 2-hour task. When you have all this time on your hands, there is a good chance that this task will creep up in complexity and become more intimidating so as to fill a whole week. It doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s extra work that will fill up all the extra time, it might just be the stress and tension about having to get it done. These situations can be nerve-racking and mentally challenging. To avoid them, set clear deadlines for all project stages, from vendor hand-off to QA, DTP, LSO and final delivery to client. Impose strict but reasonable time constraints for every project step and make the whole team stick to them.

  1. Cohn’s Law: The more time you spend in reporting on what you are doing, the less time you have to do anything

Avoid long, unproductive discussions and meetings. A successful meeting should be all about sharing ideas, asking the right questions and finding the right answers and should only be held if it adds value to the project. Pick the right team members to attend the meeting, assign responsibilities, focus on solutions and end the meeting with action items.

The same goes for written reports. Avoid long, extremely detailed reports. Nobody has the time (or actually wants) to read a 10-page report on the progress of a project. Make sure it’s accurate and contains all the right information but keep it short and simple!

  1. Constantine’s Law: A fool with a tool is still a fool

Software tools are meant to make our work (and life) easier. But with the vast range of translation management programs, CRM software and CAT tools that are offered in the translation market, sometimes we get so overwhelmed that our work ends up being more complicated than it should. Primarily, try to leverage the software you already have at your disposal and make sure you are using all the features it has to offer. If you are experimenting with new tools, do your homework first, then choose the ones that fit your business and make sure you get a proper and thorough training.

  1. Kinser’s Law: About the time you finish doing something, you know enough to start

Do a post-mortem after every major project or in defined intervals for ongoing projects. Sometimes that would be a simple “What have we learnt doing this?” and other times it will be a complete report on time, cost and performance.

Part of it is also measuring the success of your project. A project constitutes as successful if it results in profit, if it brings new knowledge to the organization, if it helps the business expand to new markets or if it improves the existing processes.

Also, try to have your post-mortem directly after a project concludes, while the details are still fresh in your mind. After a while, we tend to forget the things that went wrong in a well-executed project and vice versa. If a project doesn’t go that well, we lose sight of successes as we try to figure out what the problems were.

*This article was part of the 1st edition of “The Elia Handbook for Smart PMs” published by the European Language Industry Association

Commit appoints David Serra as Senior Business Development Manager

CGT Commit Global Translations announced the recent addition of David Serra to the company’s Business Development Department. He will be assuming the position of Senior Business Development Manager and he will be collaborating closely with the Business Development and Management teams in San Diego and Athens, Greece. David is the second addition to the company’s fast-growing Business Development team this month, following the appointment of Clio Schils as Chief Development Officer.

David has a profound 20+ year industry expertise including various localization roles with Lionbridge, Welocalize, Wizards of the Coast (Hasbro), Microsoft and Xerox.

CEO of Commit, Vasso Pouli, said: “David brings a wealth of experience and valuable know-how to our team. His broad knowledge of our industry will be an invaluable asset to Commit as we enter our 20th year in business.”

David Serra added, “I am truly excited to join such a team of professionals in expanding localization services to new customers and to new industries and to bring my industry experience to an industry leader.”

David is based in Seattle, Washington and looks forward to expanding the company’s clientele in the west coast region.

About CGT Commit Global Translations

CGT Commit Global Translations is a leading language services provider founded in 1997. Today, with offices in Nicosia, Cyprus, Athens, Greece and San Diego, California, Commit helps corporations around the world deliver their products, services as well as market their brands in the local language. Key strengths include experienced personnel, responsiveness and flexibility, competitive local market prices and commitment to high quality. Commit is ISO 9001 and 17100 certified.

Media Contact:

Effie Salourou

effie.salourou[at]commit-global.com | +30 2108056930

Commit appoints Clio Schils as Chief Development Officer

CGT Commit Global Translations welcomes Clio Schils as the company’s Chief Development Officer.  Ms. Schils has joined Commit to provide strategic solutions for expanding the company’s client base and fostering new partnerships.

Clio is a well-respected veteran in the translation and localization industry, bringing in more than two decades of expertise in the localization industry and over 15 years in life sciences-related roles, on both the client and vendor sides.

Prior to joining Commit, she served as VP, Global Life Sciences at Sajan, Account Director for life sciences at Lionbridge, and Manager, Linguistics and Publishing at Medtronic.

Ms. Schils also serves on the Board of Directors of the European Language Industry Association and has been moderating the Life Sciences Business Roundtable, an established industry event hosted in conjunction with the Localization World Conference since 2005.

Founder and Chief Strategist of Commit, Spyros Konidaris, said: “We are delighted to have Clio onboard. I have personally known her for many years, and we are confident that her experience and strategic vision will be extremely valuable assets for Commit in our continuous efforts for providing even better solutions and services to our customers.”

About CGT Commit Global Translations

CGT Commit Global Translations is a leading language services provider founded in 1997. Today, with offices in Nicosia, Cyprus, Athens, Greece and San Diego, California, Commit helps corporations around the world deliver their products, services as well as market their brands in the local language. Key strengths include experienced personnel, responsiveness and flexibility, competitive local market prices and commitment to high quality. Commit is ISO 9001 and 17100 certified.

Media Contact:

Effie Salourou

effie.salourou[at]commit-global.com | +30 2108056930

4 tips for getting started with Machine Translation

by Dimitra Kalantzi , Linguist at Commit  

There is no doubt that Machine Translation (MT) is nowadays one of the major trends in the translation and localization ecosystem. Everyone is talking and debating about it in social media, blogs, newspapers and at conferences and almost everyone, including businesses, government bodies, translation agencies, technologists and even freelance translators, is trying their hand at it. If your business or translation agency is also considering getting on the MT bandwagon, you might find the following tips useful:

  1. Remember that MT is an investment and should form an integral part of your localization and overall business strategy. That is, unless you have your own IT/NLP (Natural Language Processing) department or are big enough to set up such a department, you’ll have to turn to the pros, in this case MT providers. With their experience, they‘ll help you determine what your needs are and how best to fulfill them in terms of system (rules-based, statistical, neural, hybrid), languages, types of texts, confidentiality, availability (onsite or in the cloud) and pricing, among other things.
  1. Make your market research as thorough as possible. You might be surprised, but as you’ll find out the market is rather huge with lots of alternatives on offer. Ask around and more importantly, ask from each MT provider you contact to provide you with a list of criteria they consider the most important in choosing an MT solution. This way, you’ll be able to collate the information you gather into a single list of criteria that are important to you and make an informed decision based on your own needs, capabilities and aspirations.
  1. Set realistic expectations. No MT system will work out of the box, no matter the amount of initial training it receives. You’ll have to invest time and money in order to reap the benefits of MT. In addition, be realistic regarding the adoption of post-editing by your freelance translators and beware of losing your most valued partners. Putting aside the gross generalisation that translators dislike MT and technology in general, many translators are indeed reluctant to take on post-editing tasks for a variety of reasons, the most important of which is the fact that because of the way they are currently practiced by some in the translation industry, MT and post-editing are often viewed as tools mainly targeted at lowering translation rates.
  1. Bring in the translators and/or agencies you work with from the outset, even before committing to MT and a particular system. Their collaboration and input might make all the difference to the success or failure of your MT venture. Bear in mind that although the role usually reserved for translators as far as MT is concerned is that of the post-editor, translators can also be of immense help in other related areas, such as MT evaluation and the maintenance and clean-up of translation memories (TMs) used in the training of MT engines.

Hopefully, these tips will help you in your first exploratory steps with MT. But remember, adopting MT is by no means obligatory and you’ll be able to review your circumstances and decision further down the road. And whether you decide to go down the rabbit hole or not, rest assured that your trusted Commit linguists are here to help you deliver your products and services, as well as market your brand in the local language, and who knows, accompany you on your MT journey.

Translation myths debunked – A linguist’s perspective

Commit_translators_workspace_by Eleftheria Tigka, Vendor Manager at Commit  

“What do you do?” I am asked. “I am a translator”, I reply. “Wow, you must know many foreign languages!”. I get that a lot. And I understand that this must be one of the most common misconceptions concerning a professional translator: The number of the languages known: Two (one source language and one target language) are enough. Of course the more the merrier, nevertheless a translator is not a multilingual dictionary, ready to provide the equivalent of the source language in, let’s say, ten target languages. Two languages are enough, provided that they are known in depth and that they are handled with responsibility.

“Was your grandmother French?” I am also frequently asked. When I reply no, she wasn’t, the question that usually follows is “Then how did you learn to speak French?” Well, I studied. And then I studied some more. And this brings us to the second myth: It is not about cultural heritage, it is all about hard work. A professional translator has to study hard in order to gain his/her credentials, to gain the trust of his/her clients, of his/her peers. A university degree, often a master’s degree are today’s prerequisites to becoming a translator.

“It must be easy to do the translation, if you know the language”. You must have heard that as well. Well, it is not. A translator takes the responsibility of his/her words, which can define other people’s lives when used in a court of law or in the case of medical translation. A professional translator does not provide the general context of the original text to the client, but the exact words that may change the client’s life forever. So let’s break the third myth: Translation is serious work. It requires dedication, scrupulousness, attention to detail and endless patience.

“But what is taking you so long?” clients often ask and who can blame them? After all, it is only translation. But let’s be clear. We are not transcribing, we are translating and that makes all the difference in the world. An English word can have five to seven different meanings in Greek and choosing the right one can require time, research and many queries. This leads us to breaking the fourth myth: Translation can take time. And as all serious businesses, it costs money, but it pays off and if it is done right it never goes unnoticed.

Translation is no more or no less than any other profession. It is not suitable for amateurs, for the faint of heart, as it requires in-depth knowledge and much time. But it can also be rewarding, fun, interesting and life-changing, as any journey that is worth taking.

Commit supports The Smile Of The Child

Last week, Commit team members and friends gathered essential items and supplies to support The Smile Of The Child, a non-profit child welfare organization based in Athens, Greece. This was an initiative taken by the Athens College Alumni Association and Commit was more than thrilled to contribute. To learn more about this initiative and how you can contribute go to: http://www.saka.gr/anakinoseis-ekdiloseis/athlitikes/athlitikes-saka-liga/i-saka-liga-stirizi-to-chamogelo-tou-pediou/

Commit_The_Smile_of_the_Child

Does your marketing material speak your buyers’ language?

Print

by Dina Kessaniotou, Project Coordinator at Commit

This is a very good question for businesses wanting to expand their activities beyond their boundaries and go global. Even though English is a commonly used language in many markets, talking to people in a language they understand in depth seems to achieve much better results.

If we take a step back and consider the role of global marketing or the reasons why businesses want to expand in foreign markets, we will start to see the usefulness of the content adaptation to the language the audience understands best. Businesses want to become global for two basic reasons: increase their sales and boost their brand’s reach. The fastest road to increase sales is awareness – through an effectively localized marketing content, that will be global and local at the same time. Global because it will still convey the same consistent message of a business throughout the world and local because it will be customized in a way to reflect the experiences, the values and the culture of prospective local clients. The fundamental purpose of marketing is to penetrate the target audience and get closer to people. This can be achieved only through the language the audience understands best, as this language will become the means to draw their attention, make them want to learn more, and finally persuade them that the promoted product or service is what they really need.

Even if people tend to use English terminology in some industries, the whole communication still needs to be in the audience’s native language as this is the only way the message can resonate with them and touch their heart and mind – leading them to the decision-making process. The language that people understand is the one they will use to search content, read articles, or view a quick video ad from their devices during their free time – it is also the language in which they will share the information with their friends. It is more than obvious that this is the way for businesses to create a personal connection with consumers. The traditional patterns of the one-size marketing campaigns seem to progressively give way to more personalized and interactive approaches. Going even further, localization in marketing material can be the key for differentiation.

That said, we can easily assume that what we need here is not just translation but localization in its full meaning – adaptation, customization and creativity, taking into account differentiation. This is the field where localization can be really fruitful. Modern tools open the way to localization for videos, interactive content and anything that could create a one-to-multiple, but also personal relationship with people, anywhere in the world. Studies have shown that marketing globalization can bring a drastically improved return on marketing expenses.

At this point, it would worth mentioning the role of Machine Translation. It has become one of the main trends in the localization world and we cannot ignore the advantages it can bring in terms of costs and time efficiency. However, its use in marketing content has been greatly debated. If we consider, as mentioned above, that translation in the traditional meaning of the term would not be remotely enough, we can easily assume that marketing material wouldn’t be the ideal candidate for Machine Translation, where the different nuances of a language are usually left out of the whole process. And, most importantly, we would lose authenticity. Marketing localization is a process that can be developed exclusively between humans. The original message should be felt and conveyed to evoke the same feelings to other people. There is no machine that can feel and adapt content and create feelings from one culture to another. This is also a way for businesses to show that they really care for their audiences…

 

Price pressures, a viable business, happy customers – can you have it all?

by Vasso Pouli, CEO at Commit

The pressure for price reductions holds strong throughout markets and industries, both for products and services, for many years now and will continue to do so for many years to come. However, according to the law of supply and demand, a low supply and a high demand increases price, while the greater the supply and the lower the demand, the lower the price tends to fall.

For parties in the translation industry, it is common knowledge and a topic visited often in conferences that reliable, experienced and qualified translators and editors are not that many – no matter the language pair – and even if someone argues that they are, then usually it is their availability that is limited or they are lacking in specialization – always compared to the demand!

So, the first half of the law should apply here, right? The answer is “no”! Despite the very optimistic predictions for the growth of the industry, compared to the stability or even slump in other industries due to the recent financial crisis, the pressure for price reductions in the translation and localization industry is more than ever. Why is that? Maybe because translation is considered as an afterthought in the development of any given product, and often of so little visibility that it gets a tiny bit of the allocated budget, if any? Maybe because we, as professionals in the field, have not fought enough to elevate our ‘product’ to the place it should be in our buyers’ minds? Maybe because technology has taken its toll? Maybe because non-professionals have entered the profession offering ridiculously low rates for a respectively low-quality ‘product’? You can pick and choose, but I would not want to get into that.

Instead, let’s take this for granted and see how we can respond to that fact in a way that is respectful of our customers, our businesses and our resources, and still lead a viable business.

Let’s start by trying to understand our customers’ needs and educate them on our workflow and its importance for their end ‘product’.

There are certain steps a text must go through before a high-quality translation can be delivered. Of course, there is a reason for that and it’s not out of a whim that localization agencies favor the translation & editing process, nor because we want to add to our customers’ spend. Language is flexible. Language is subjective. Language is preferential. Language is also fixed and objective (i.e. industry terminology). Humans create language and they choose how to do it, and each individual may choose a different way, a different word, a different meaning… and all may be saying the same thing! So, yes, humans need to be involved in your translation projects, and the more they are involved, the better it is for you and your content, because the more chances there are that their translation gets closer to YOUR way, to YOUR word, to YOUR meaning. How much time, effort and energy have you put in and how many different people have you involved in the creation of your content, or even your ’slogan’? If you think about it, from enough to too much. So, if it was so challenging to settle on a phrase or to finalize your initial content, how can its translation be considered an easy task, especially when it involves many different markets and cultures?

Our advice would be that you should not try to save from compromising processes and eliminating steps (which correspond to people). Instead you should try to locate what you really need to translate and into which languages, evaluate and streamline your translation processes. If this is something new to you or you don’t know how to go about it, ask us; we can help.

And some more seasoned translation & localization services buyers might question the role of humans and ask where technology is in all that. Although, technology was late to enter our industry and help us benefit, there are quite a few tools that can facilitate our work, and the savings time-wise have been translated to real savings for the customers. Customers must always make sure that their language service provider reflects those savings from CAT tools in their invoice offering discounted rates for previously translated (fully or partially) content. Another new trend is machine translation (MT). It is undeniably a considerable advancement in our industry and will most probably play a huge role in how the future of localization will be shaped, but it does not have a universal application. It can serve as a first draft in some types of fixed-language texts, like manuals, to increase the speed and the performance of human translators, and free machine translation engines can be used to give you the gist of a text for your personal understanding; but, raw MT output is not ‘publishable’ text — at least not yet and not where the message matters. Ιt is merely usable in only some language pairs and in no case does it serve the broad spectrum of the languages of the world, it cannot cater for more creative content, and don’t think of only sophisticated marketing content, just try to machine translate your Facebook status update and see what the engine comes up with in various languages.

In every case, we need to invest in and make the most of all available tools and technologies, not only to save money for our customers but to also streamline and standardize our processes, facilitate our project managers and our linguists, monitor and report on our workflows, and lead a transparent and healthy business.

In terms of business practices, price reductions are usually pushed down to the lower levels of the supply chain, which can either be us as agencies or our external resources. In both cases though, this level involves the actual people who do the actual work, and these are indeed those of value to the customer. In the same way agencies recruit for expertise and knowledge, and train their in-house staff to new trends, tools and methodologies to optimize efficiency, the same investment should be considered for external collaborators. Individuals have invested both time and money to specialize and should be able to keep doing so if they are to continue to efficiently support us and, of course, our customers. Hence, although, regular flows and high volumes or long-term projects can of course justify a negotiation to a certain extent, crunching fees should not be adopted as a standard practice, as it is important that all parties involved in this transaction, be it the customer, the intermediary(ies) or the resources, feel that this is a mutually beneficial relationship.

Ultimately, I feel that the way we conduct our business will determine the quality of customers we attract; fair and reasonable practices will most probably attract fair and reasonable customers, and talent will gravitate towards places it can grow.