Category Archives: Translation

Linguistic validation services in the Life Sciences localization industry

by Nicola Kotoulia, Project Coordinator at Commit

Among the multiple specialized localization services available in the Life Sciences sector we also come across those referred to as Cognitive debriefing, Backtranslation & Reconciliation and Readability testing. How familiar are you with these methods? What does each mean, why is it required and what does it entail?

Translation errors can change the meaning of important content in clinical trial settings resulting in medical complications or the rejection of an entire clinical research project. Ambiguity in translated health questionnaires or instruments can mean that items or questions can be interpreted in more than one way, jeopardizing patient safety and clinical trial data integrity. Unclear and hard to use translated drug leaflets mean that users may not be able to take safe and accurate decisions about their medicines.

In order to help avoid such hazards, IRBs, medical ethical committees, regulatory authorities and applicable legislation require that validation methods in accordance with FDA and ISPOR (International Society for Pharmacoeconomics and Outcomes Research) guidelines are put in place for translated documentation, such as Patient Reported Outcomes (PROs), Clinician Reported Outcomes (ClinROs), Quality of Life (QOL) questionnaires and package leaflets (PL) of medicinal products.

Cognitive debriefing (also known as pilot testing) is a qualitative method for assessing respondents’ interpretation of an assessment, using a small sample of patients. It helps determine if the respondents understand the questionnaire the same as the original would be understood and tests the level of comprehension of a translation by the target audience. The goal is to ensure that data collected from PROs can be comparable across various language groups used during trials. Steps of the process include:

  • Developing a debriefing protocol tailored to the target questionnaires/instruments, subject pool, mode of administration, anticipated problem items etc.
  • Recruiting respondents including in-country professionals experienced in interviewing techniques and patients that match the target population.
  • Conducting the interview (in person or otherwise) during which respondents complete the questionnaire/instrument and answer questions to explain their understanding of each question or item. They restate in their own words what they think each translated item means. This way the interviewer discovers errors and difficulties and locates points that are confusing or misunderstood.
  • Generating a report with demographic and medical details of the interviewees, a detailed account of patients’ understanding of all items, including information about the number of subjects interviewed, their age, time for completing the task and any difficulties that came up. It may also include investigator recommendations or solutions for resolving confusion or difficulties.
  • Review and finalization during which a project manager checks the reports completeness, and ensures that the detected problems are addressed by making revisions as needed for clear, precise and well understood final translations.
  • Creation of summary report where the service provider details the methodology used, as well as the results of the cognitive debriefing.

Backtranslation and reconciliation is a very effective and stringent process that provides additional quality and accuracy assurance for sensitive content, such as Informed Consent Forms (ICFs), questionnaires, surveys and PROs used in clinical trials. It is a process for checking the faithfulness of the target text against the source, focusing mainly on the conceptual and cultural equivalence and less on the linguistic equivalence.

In a back translation, the translated content (forward translation) is translated back into the original language by a separate independent translator. The back translator must be a native speaker of the source language and have excellent command of the target language. He/She should stick more closely to the source that he/she would for a regular translation to accurately reflect the forward translator’s choices, without attempting to explain or clarify confusing statements or to produce a “polished” output.

The next step, “reconciliation”, refers to the process of noting any differences in meaning between the two source versions. The original text is compared to the back translated text and any discrepancies are recorded in a discrepancy report. Discrepancies may be due to ambiguity in the source text, errors introduced by the forward translator, or back translation errors. The reconciler flags issues such as differences in meaning, inconsistent/incorrect terminology, unsuitable register, missing/added information, ambiguities or errors in the backtranslation. Several back and forth between the linguists may be needed to reconcile the versions so that edits and adjustments are made as needed to optimize the final translation.

Readability testing in the fields of pharmaceutics qualifies that the medical information contained in the drug leaflet is usable by potential users of the medication, that is, that they can understand and act upon the information provided. It is a critical step in the process of designing product literature.

Since 2005, manufacturers of medicinal products are legally required to have their patient information leaflets (PILs) readability-tested in order to acquire product approval. According to Directive 2004/27/EC, these leaflets should be “legible, clear and easy to use”, and the manufacturer has to deliver a readability test report to the authorities.

Readability testing may be carried out by the sponsor or CRO, or a language service provider undertaking the localization of the documentation. The process steps can vary, but stages may include:

  • Preparation of the PL, during which the text of the leaflet is carefully edited and checked, spelling and grammatical errors are corrected, and sentences are rephrased to ensure compliance with the appropriate EMA template.
  • Drafting of questionnaires with questions covering the most important details of the product and its use. These questions that must be answered correctly by any user to ensure correct use of the product.
  • Pilot testing for assessing the prototype in terms of clarity, simplicity, safety, non-ambiguity, etc. Results are used to further revise the leaflet.
  • Actual readability testing conducted using subjects of different ages who are native speakers of the language of the leaflet. Participants are interviewed on key questions about the product. They should be able to answer most questions correctly and no question should consistently cause problems. The goal is to achieve a 90% correctness in the responces.
  • Generating reports that detail the test result based on which final edits are made.

The above processes provide an additional safety net for clients in the clinical and pharmaceutical industry helping them meet regulatory requirements and allowing them to focus on their registration and marketing preparation plans.

Language: the Key to Entering the European Market

by Giannis Nistas, Linguist at Commit

Language has always played a pivotal role in our societies and lives. It is a means of communication; of understanding the world we live in; of giving a name and meaning to new concepts; of defending oneself in courts; of closing deals, however small or big; of hurting people or saying “I love you” to our other halves; of bringing people together or separating them; of exploring new cultures, and the list goes on. In a nutshell, language is what makes the world go round. OK, just to be fair, money does the same too.

Speaking of money, did you know that language can help businesses enter foreign markets to pursue their fair share of sales and earn millions? And do you know a place in the world where language is taken very seriously? That is Europe and the European Union (EU). Let us have a brief look at why a company should enter the EU market in the first place, why invest in localization, how to make it happen, and a language service provider’s role in this journey. But first, let us briefly present the language status quo in the EU.

EU Languages Overview

A politico-economic union of 28 member states, the EU is also known for its linguistic diversity or multilingualism. It has 24 official languages, while some other 60 languages are spoken in specific regions or by specific groups. The principle of multilingualism lies at the heart of the EU in line with the bloc’s motto “United in Diversity”.

Why Enter

The EU is home to some 500 million citizens with above-average living standards, which means they have high purchasing power. The Europeans have set up a single internal market to facilitate the provision of goods and services within their territory. It is a highly regulated market with standardized rules and regulations across different economic sectors that ensure predictability. It is an open economy with a great impact on global trade. No one can sum it up better than the EU itself: “The openness of our trade regime has meant that the EU is the biggest player on the global trading scene and remains a good region to do business with.”

On a different note, the EU is now recovering from an economic slowdown. As with every financial crisis, in the aftermath there are also many opportunities for growth and the creation and development of new markets, both niche and large-scale. The Europeans are still among the wealthiest people in the world, and they can support consumption-driven, services-related, and technology-based offerings, among others. The youngest of them are familiar with mobile apps, video games and other aspects of the digital and knowledge economy.

So, YES, the EU market is worth your localization money and efforts.

Why Localize

As mentioned above, the EU is a multilingual union of states. While English is the most widely spoken foreign language in Europe by 38%, there is another 62% of people that speak other languages.

Also, when it comes to selling abroad and establishing foreign presence, you should always keep in mind the “speak-your-buyer’s-language” principle. As my colleague Dina Kessaniotou, Project Coordinator, put it in her article a while ago, “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.”

Furthermore, in certain sectors, such as the pharmaceutical and medical devices industry, localization is a prerequisite for entering the EU market due to the strict regulatory framework covering the marketing of drugs and medical devices in the EU, and, of course, due to the risks their use might entail.

So, YES, invest in localization. The ageing European population you may be targeting to boost the sales of your innovative handheld ECG recorders, for example, will surely want to read the Instructions for Use in their mother tongue. Or, the young French will feel more comfortable attending your e-learning course in their language.

How

This could be the topic of a separate article, but let us look at some basic options. You should first decide how you want to enter the EU market. For example, will you cooperate with dealers who will sell your products or will you sale them directly through your own website? In the former case, you may only need to localize your products’ documentation and maybe some limited marketing material. In the latter case, you should additionally localize your website in the language spoken in your target markets. In addition, if your product is an electronic device running a software you may also need to localize the user interface for better user experience. For software, video games, websites and other multimedia content, your efforts should revolve around the broader process of globalization, of which internationalization and localization form part.

But would just localizing your content do the job? In certain cases, you should go a step further and ask for transcreation services. This applies mostly to advertising and marketing material, and includes the process of adapting a message from one language to another while keeping its intent, style, tone and context. This ensures cultural adaptation to the greatest extent and helps to avoid translation blunders that can lead to laughs and, even worse, failed investments of time and money.

When deciding how to render your content in your target markets’ language, you could ask for consulting services from a language service provider to help you with your decision-making. Answer their questions about your needs and requirements, your products and services, the type of your content and file formats, your target groups and markets, etc., and let them set up the right localization strategy for you.

So, YES, do learn about all the available language services and choose the ones that best fit your needs.

For the end, here is our suggestion: Embark on the localization journey as part of your go-to-market strategy and discover new revenue streams! Trusting a team of experts can guarantee a safe landing on your European destinations. Just tell them where you want to go and leave the rest to them!

The effect of technological disruption on localization services

by Nikoletta Kaponi, Account Manager at Commit

The continuous emergence of new technologies keeps pushing businesses from all sectors and of all sizes to change, or even reinvent, the way they operate. With the promise of simplified workflows, increased productivity and reduced costs, these “disruptive” technologies constantly evolve and bring about an ever-expanding portfolio of applications relevant to many, and perhaps to any, industries.

While a large number of companies may opt for a more cautious approach towards such new technologies, those with a more “thrill-seeking” culture appear eager to embrace disruption, not only to transform their traditional processes and workflows, but also with the aspiration that this can ultimately serve as a competitive differentiator. Living in the era of the Internet of Things (IoT) and Artificial Intelligence (AI), the possibilities for businesses to set themselves apart from their competitors and reach out to new audiences and markets can be endless, and so can be the challenges, with localization being one of them.

Companies are increasingly focusing on creating a “brand experience”, one that evokes feelings and inspires consumers, and does not just depict specs and prices, and such approaches can only be effective when they “speak” in the targeted consumers’ language(s). With the average attention span being as low as 8 seconds, as recent studies show, the importance for brands to be omnichannel and reach out to different audiences in a way that is relevant and appropriate for each locale is greater than ever.

So how do all these affect the localization industry and which are this industry’s challenges when it comes to disruptive technologies? Below we take a look at applications that some of those technologies have in two business areas, those of marketing and customer service, and attempt to identify certain key points for what the future, or rather the present, holds for localization services.

Marketers around the globe are putting on their “all-things-digital” hats and combine, or radically transform, their traditional marketing campaigns with digital tools; pay-per-click (PPC), email and web banner marketing are just a few of those tools, but social media (SM) perhaps stands out as the tool with the most potential. With the number of SM users having grown on average by 21% globally – and as high as 73% and 46% in countries like Saudi Arabia and the UAE, respectively – in the past year (Digital in 2017 Global Overview by We Are Social), social media platforms prove to be more than just about cat videos, and so marketing campaigns are increasingly becoming “social”; they are enhanced by social media profiling techniques, channeled through a variety of social networking platforms and launched with the objective of reaching out to the world, engaging with specific audiences and achieving higher rates of conversion. Social videos become a powerful tool for raising brand awareness, while SM features like Facebook’s Marketplace boost the web presence and visibility of even the smallest businesses worldwide.

Tired of all the hassle of calling Customer Service when your credit card is not working? Quite a few banks are already using chatbots integrated within their proprietary apps to simplify communication and improve their customers’ overall experience. Chatbots are enabled by cognitive computing, what one could characterize as a “subset” of AI, and this is just one of the fintech tools that the banking sector is using for enhancing its services. Except for chatbots and their various applications in different sectors, further AI technologies, such as neural networks and machine self- and deep-learning, are also penetrating industries like those of healthcare, education and transportation (how would you feel driving next to a driverless car?), while retail adopts Augmented Reality (AR) technologies to facilitate consumers in choosing the right products for their individual needs.

Seeing how disruptive technologies are re-shaping these two business areas, it is no wonder that the client requirements for localization are shifting too. The content that the companies are creating is changing; multimedia assets are replacing lengthy texts, bringing about a “video revolution”, and thus more and more videos require subtitling or dubbing, depending on the habits of the targeted locale. Specialized Content Management Systems get into place, and thus new file formats and tool integrations are brought forward. The agile nature of digital marketing also calls for agile localization processes, stressing the need for global resource teams and “follow-the-sun” workflows. Additionally, with cloud computing being on the rise, cybersecurity and secure file exchange are more than ever critical for all businesses, rendering the standardization of related processes a high priority.

But apart from these technical aspects, the localization industry is also to undertake their clients’ biggest challenge, that of speaking to local markets in their local language. Social marketing is about conveying messages by means of an original, genuine and consistent “brand voice”, regardless of the language itself, so when it comes to going global, perhaps translation is just not enough, and so transcreation comes into play. In a company’s expansion to new, emerging markets of strong growth potential, localization partners are increasingly involved in providing their clients with cultural insights, or asked to conduct locale-specific research relevant to their branding strategies. And with time-to-market shrinking, new language solutions emerge, such as Neural Machine Translation (NMT), aspiring to address the increasing demand for fast, quality translations across all contexts, genres and formats.

These being just some of the ways the localization services are affected by the technological disruption of how businesses operate, they help illustrate that the partnerships between localization service providers and their clients are evolving and becoming broader, in an attempt to best handle and exploit the advancements and almost revolutionary changes that the new technologies render possible across all industries and market settings.

How to ensure the quality of your translated content

by Katerina Pippou, Linguist at Commit

Translating your content into multiple languages can help you expand your business to global markets and increase your brand prominence abroad. Quality is key to your global success, therefore you should make sure the translations you get are accurate, error-free and clearly understood by your target audience.

Although there is no specific formula you can use to measure quality, especially in a language that you don’t speak, there are several ways to ensure a positive outcome before, during and after the translation process. Use this checklist of quick tips and you’ll be able to effectively speak to your customers in their native language.

  • Be willing to invest in translation: If you think translation quality is not important, then think again! Low-quality translations may not only damage your company’s reputation but may also cost you a lot of time and money. If you want to get high-quality, professional translation, you need to have a budget for it.
  • Choose your translation provider wisely: With so many translation agencies out there, it’s hard to know which one you should trust. But if you do your homework, you can find some useful information that will help you pick the right translation provider for your organization. Make sure this provider has expertise in your industry by checking their current clients.
  • Plan ahead: Once you decide to have your content translated, you should contact your translation provider as soon as possible. Remember, a good translation takes time – it may take the same time as creating the content. If you expect large volumes or short turnaround times, you should inform your translation provider in advance, so they can plan their resources accordingly.
  • Prepare your content for translation: A great translation starts with a great source text. You cannot expect the translation to improve upon the poor quality of the original. Ask from your copywriters to be concise and clear, and to double-check the content they create for grammar, spelling and punctuation errors. When it comes to software strings, try to include comments and/or screenshots, so as to provide the translators with as much context as possible. This will help you prevent back-and-forth communications and speed up the translation process.
  • Collaborate closely with your translation provider: Translation is a difficult process. Providing precise instructions, reference material, glossaries and style guides, not only could make this process easier, but it could also ensure high-quality results from the start. In case of queries or clarifications, try to answer to all questions promptly and clearly and, what is most important, listen carefully to your translators’ concerns and be open to their suggestions.
  • Use third-party evaluation services: A great way to assess the quality of your translated content is to have a third-party provider review it. Third-party reviews add value to your content if they are performed by experienced, in-country linguists who have a good understanding of the local market and your brand, are not focused on mere error detection, and approach the initial translation in a collaborative and not competitive way.
  • Ask your audience: The best way to evaluate the quality of your translated content is to ask feedback from your users. Consider adding a feedback/rating feature to find out whether your content is clearly understood. This way you will get useful information about the quality of your translations directly from your customers, and you will be able to improve your content.

8 tips for creating global eLearning content

by Eftychia Tsilikidou, Project Coordinator at Commit

According to a recent report, the corporate eLearning (or eTraining) market is constantly growing and it seems that this tendency will continue in the coming years. This comes as no surprise given that the business world is already lead by new-generation employees who are more independent and like to do everything in their own way, and the fact that eLearning is a cost-effective solution compared to the in-class training.

In our internationalized era, where content can reach global audiences in the blink of an eye, the choice to localize eLearning content is self-evident. Therefore, if you are considering creating an eLearning course that will be subsequently localized in one or many foreign languages, there are certain points to take into account:

  1. English is the main language most organizations choose to create their eLearning courses and thus International English is the recommended variation to adopt for the development of your online course. At this stage, it is very important to create culture-neutral content. Avoid idiomatic expressions, colloquialisms and country-specific references, extracts from literature or poetry as this may pose certain restrictions in the translation process. Use humor cautiously as it is very culture-centric. What is considered humorous in one country might be offensive in another.
  2. Carefully examine your target audience and consider issues related to their geographic location, customs associated with the audience, certain language requirements or possible restrictions that may occur in the localization process (for example, right-to-left languages and their support in various platforms, various language variations and the appropriateness of the translatable content for these languages).
  3. A picture is worth a thousand words. An image is, in many cases, a strong means to back a certain theory or illustrate an idea in a clearer way. So, it is essential to choose culturally appropriate and acceptable images for the target audience. Try to opt for neutral images of people, humanoid images or vector images. The aim is always to have a natural target result to achieve the desired purpose. It is also advisable to avoid adding text into images. Texts within the images may increase cost and time, as there is a certain amount of extra work involved in the extraction and import of the text.
  4. Audio: choose the right narrator for your audience. It is very important to know that in some cultures, as in the Middle-East and South Asia, people expect the voice of the narrator to be very authoritative and firm. In other cultures, as in Western countries, people would expect a friendly, informal tone. Make sure your narrator sounds professional for the intended audience.
  5. Use the appropriate authoring tools to create your eLearning courses (Articulate Storyline, Adobe Captivate, and Lectora Inspire to name a few), as they provide a choice to export the course content into an MS-Word or XML document with just a click. These formats are easily supported by the software used by translators and translation service providers and once translated, they can be imported back with yet another click.
  6. Keep in mind that some languages are wordy and the translated content may expand by 30 to 50% compared to the English original. This means that you need to provide ample space in your course for this purpose and possibly provide more time for reading before releasing the next text block in the screen.
  7. Make sure the content can run in most platforms, including mobile devices, which appears to be the most widely used means for viewing eLearning content.
  8. Hire professionals. Professional native translators who are subject matter experts (SMEs) possess the skills required to incorporate appropriate cultural variations and terminology into the translated version. Choose to work closely with your translation partner sharing meaningful information for the correct understanding of your intended message.

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

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.

Does your marketing material speak your buyers’ language?

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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…