ELIA Together 2018 – In review!

by Effie Salourou, Customer Operations Manager at Commit

ELIA Together, the premium event that brings together language service companies and freelance linguists took place last week and we couldn’t have been more excited! You see, it was hosted in our hometown, Athens, and we got to welcome and meet old and new business partners, colleagues and friends.

The venue

The event was hosted at the Megaron Athens International Conference Centre (MAICC) that is undoubtedly a stunning, state-of-the-art venue for conferences and events. With three different halls covering the three different tracks of the conference (Specialisation, Trends and Technology), there was a session for each taste!

The food

You can’t go wrong with Greek food! The menu on both days included fresh salads, mouth-watering appetizers, typical dishes for meat lovers, lots of options for vegetarians, and luscious desserts!

The program

The theme for the third edition of Together was Specialise to Excel and had 31 different sessions. Here are some of the sessions that we managed to attend:

  • Óscar Jiménez Serrano gave the keynote speech on Technology disruption in translation and interpreting mentioning a lot of successful examples (and some not so successful ones) from his personal career.
  • Wolfgang Steinhauer’s session had a very intriguing title as he promised to show us how to drastically increase our productivity in order to manage to translate 10.000 words per day! His method and point of view was very interesting, and this is something that we will definitely investigate further.
  • Another informative session was the one presented by Sarah Henter, which was an introduction to clinical trials. She focused on what makes the linguistic work on clinical trials so special, what kind of texts and target audiences there are and what knowledge linguists need to acquire in order to efficiently work in this area.
  • Josephine Burmester and Jessica Mann gave a presentation on Marketing localization and the complexities of this field. They gave very vivid examples taken from the German advertising industry and showed us how something global can become local (or not!).
  • Daniela Zambrini focused on the purposes of Simplified Technical English, illustrating the structure of the ASD-STE100 Specification and its advantages for translators and technical authors. This session was quite interactive since at the end we had to re-write sentences according to the Specification.
  • If you wanted to learn more about patent translation, you had to attend Timothy Hodge’s presentation called “You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to translate patents”. Showing interesting facts and examples from our everyday life, he gave us an insight on the life of a patent translator and also gave us some tricks for finding and using the right terminology for translating a patent document.
  • This year, Commit presented a session as well! Our CEO Vasso Pouli addressed an important point about specialisation: the huge value we can add by combining vertical, task and technology knowledge. She made an interesting point by showing how we can expand our localization services by adding new skills to our portfolio.

Our booth/our team

Commit had a booth and we got to showcase our new corporate image and marketing material. We got to meet and greet lots of familiar faces as well as new business contacts that we hope will lead to fruitful collaborations. We would like to thank everyone who visited our booth and of course the ELIA organization that made this conference possible. Ευχαριστώ!

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.

ELIA ND Bucharest 2017 – In Review

And off we went…

Destination: Bucharest, Romania

Purpose: ELIA’s 21st Networking Days

… an opportunity to meet with friends and partners from around the globe, share insights and pick the minds of peers on industry trends.

With six tracks in just two days, and as many as 22 presentations, this was yet another inspiring and thought-provoking event.

What impressed us was Andrej Nedoma’s presentation on KPIs, goals and incentives, who explained how we can turn most challenges that many of us – LSCs – face into key performance indicators and how in this way we can resolve very common-place issues. He made it sound easy enough, but let’s see what happens when we put it in practice (more to follow on our progress with that, and possibly some pics as well).

Another interesting session on the technology spectrum was the presentation of the TILDE team, Rihards Kalnins and Didzis Klavins, who shared valuable figures and graphs on how MT has come to impact the localization industry and how feeding an MT engine with clear data can drive performance to unprecedented levels. Did you know that with well set-up and trained MT engines per field, and the use of account-specific terminology glossaries, you can increase the productivity of your translators by 150%?

Moving on to People Power, Annette Lawlor touched upon a rather painful aspect of our industry and that is talent shortage. Is it really that we are lacking talented people or could it possibly be that we are either too picky or not looking in the right direction? Maybe if we tried to engage with the candidates we are interested in through motivating job ads instead of boring and impersonal job specs, we would be more successful in finding better matches for our companies and our teams.

A session that ignited passions and heated discussion was Laurentiu Constantin’s about the relevance of Single Language Vendors in today’s translation chain – are they obsolete as the model of MLVs working directly with freelancers (amongst others) is gaining acceptance? No definite answer was given as the session also pondered upon the eternal question: Grow or Die?

A double session on SEO and Digital Marketing for LSPs shed (a lot of) light on the science behind Internet/search rankings. Especially Chris Raulf demonstrated how Google treats our lives and businesses and lots of hints, tips and tricks were shared to be used immediately by our IT people (say who? – most LSPs admitted during the UnSession that they are outsourcing IT management and administration 😊).

Two sessions that were particularly interesting for Project Managers were Lena Sarbacher’s session on Project management and Christopher Carter’s session on Gross profit margin. Lena talked about the number of roles a Project Manager should adopt and the complexities of today’s disrupting reality, and shared some interesting tips from her personal practice on how to control the complex and dynamic environments on a long-term basis and communicate better with teams and clients. At the end of her presentation Lena shared a very interesting check list to help make motivation and improvement an ongoing everyday process. Chris presented a detailed case study on how to increase margin by providing a detailed step-by-step guide and tools that would help companies achieve their goals through detailed measures of every small or big aspect of the business and shared some ideas on how to measure change in staff’s behavior.

To sum it up, this year’s edition of the Networking days was all about ideas, meeting old and new industry peers and gaining a lot of new knowledge. We enjoyed it thoroughly and can’t wait until next year’s event in Vienna!

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.

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