Does translation really make any difference to our lives?

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by Giannis Nistas, Linguist at Commit

Have you ever thought about the importance of language services? How translation and interpreting shape the world we live in as well as our everyday lives?

Well, let’s check some numbers first regarding the size of the translation and localization industry: According to Common Sense Advisory, in 2015 the global language services industry turnover totaled 40 billion USD–with Europe accounting for a market share of 53,09%, and North America and Asia covering 34,82% and 10,49% of the global market respectively. For 2019, the translation industry value worldwide is projected at 50 billion USD.

These are quite big numbers, so let’s shed some light on the role this industry plays in areas like international politics, global business, and our everyday life.

International Politics

Language services are crucial for day to day operations in international politics. You have interpreters facilitating communications in multilateral negotiations in international forums, discussing topics ranging from climate change and human rights to international trade and security.

Then, you have numerous language professionals working for intergovernmental organizations, like the United Nations. These can be copy preparers, editors, interpreters, reference assistants, terminologists, translators and verbatim reporters.

And if you consider a “place” where linguists play an absolutely decisive and vital role, that is the European Union. Being a supranational politico-economic organization of 28 member states, the EU is widely dependent on language services to maintain a close contact with its over 510 million citizens.

Since the EU is based on the multilingualism principle, all laws, treaties, secondary legislation, regulations and directives should be translated into the 24 official languages of its member states. For a democratic organization like the EU, language professionals serve the principle of transparency, promote the right to information and help reinforce many other democratic values.

Global Business

Most corporations with global presence have based their dominance in the global market on translation/localization strategies. In this context, they offer localized versions of their websites into numerous locales; they have developed dedicated online portals for their partner communities; they communicate with their distribution channel partners through translated material; they provide their channel partners with translated training content to help them get familiar with the features and capabilities of new products; they localize demand and lead generation campaigns to expand their pipeline.

But even in the case of small-scale corporations, it goes without saying that they have better chances of succeeding in foreign markets if they localize their marketing content, like their websites and their brochures. Another key to success for many companies is the localization of their product names. For example, many food companies end up having their product names localized, so that they do not sound awkward or offensive in different cultural contexts and locales.

However, when it comes to companies doing business in the pharmaceutical and medical device sector, the risk can be a lot greater than an embarrassing translation. For such companies, the translation of relevant documents, e.g. Summary of Product Characteristics (SPC), Product Information Leaflet (PIL), Instructions for Use (IFU) etc., is obligatory for regulatory approvals to be granted. Public health is an issue to be taken seriously, that is why the field of medical/pharmaceutical translation is the most regulated one.

From the above-mentioned examples, it is more than obvious that translation helps to ensure a smooth economic activity and contributes to positive business results.

Everyday life

To better understand how important language services are in our everyday lives, just think of the following examples:

  • Many patients need to use medical devices at home, like nebulizers to inhale medicinal drugs. What if they didn’t have localized instructions to instruct them how to use them?
  • How difficult would it be for someone to learn how to operate a home appliance or a personal computer without reading a manual in their mother tongue?
  • Clinical studies aiming to contribute to the improvement of medical treatments or to the establishment of new ones need volunteers. But who would accept to take part in such studies without first having fully understood the complications and risks, their rights and obligations before signing an informed consent document?
  • Asylum seekers need to be heard in their mother tongue, so what if there were no interpreters to facilitate communication? The same applies to medical interpreters who help patients communicate with doctors and nurses and, also help doctors understand the needs of foreign patients and choose the indicated treatment.

And the list goes on and on!

So, to answer the question in this article’s title, YES, translation really does have a strong impact to our lives. It gives us access to valuable information, it opens doors for global trading and helps international politics go around. Language services are everywhere and judging from the 2017 predictions, the demand is increasing at a fast pace. We’ll only have to wait and see what the future will bring for our industry!

A look back at your favorite posts from 2016!

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Now that 2016 has come to an end, we thought it would be a good idea to do a round-up of our most popular content from last year. So here it is:

The contribution of linguists in times of crisis

Refugee crisis, terrorist attacks, so many unfortunate crisis situations seem to have happened last year that affected everyone in our globalized world: civilians, governments, businesses. However, how often do we think of the importance of communication in times of crisis?

How glossaries improve the quality of your translations

This post explains exactly what a glossary is, what we should include in it and how and why we should create one.

10 tips on expanding your business globally

Are you considering taking your first steps in the global market, in an attempt to reach international audiences with your products or services? With the use of social media and the Internet, the world has become a much smaller place. Our society is globally connected and many people around the world can now access your products or services. But going global is no easy task! It requires time, effort and money. Read our 10 tips and make sure you’re on the right track.

ISO 17100: Ensuring quality translations for your business

This blog post explains exactly what the ISO 17100 standard is, what are its main differences from the EN 15038 standard and what are its added benefits.

Localizing mHealth apps: Do special regulatory terms and conditions apply?

As mHealth apps are changing the standards of healthcare services and open up new possibilities for patients and doctors alike through a constant evolution of innovative technologies and brilliant ideas, the regulatory standards and localization processes are called to take a step further and grow in tandem, putting the spotlight on the safety and accessibility of mHealth app users. In this post, we take a look at all the special regulatory terms and conditions that apply to the localization of mHealth apps.

What is machine translation and how can your business benefit from it

In this post, we take a deep dive into the world of machine translation explaining exactly what it is and how it can help businesses all around the world.

Crowdsourcing translation: Pro or Con?

An important advantage of the “connected world”, apart from the unlimited access to all kinds of information, is that it brought together previously “disconnected” people, groups or crowds – giving them the opportunity to become more active and engaged in the world around them. Read this post and learn more about the advantages and disadvantages of this method.

Crowdsourcing Translation: Pro or Con?

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by Dina Kessaniotou, Project Coordinator at Commit

An important advantage of the “connected world”, apart from the unlimited access to all kinds of information, is that it brought together previously “disconnected” people, groups or crowds – giving them the opportunity to become more active and engaged in the world around them.

The concept of “crowdsourcing”, meaning the involvement of non-specialists to tasks that were traditionally held by professionals, found a more fertile environment to evolve. Localization could not be an exception, being an already open-minded field by nature. The continuously increasing needs for localization make us want to sit back and reconsider the pros and cons of crowdsourcing. Let’s see some basic points:

What is considered as the main and obvious benefit of crowdsourcing is cost saving. People are much less compensated than professionals – or work for free.

Moreover, there is no doubt that crowdsourcing ensures more availability – it is much easier for a big community of people to achieve super-fast turnarounds than a restricted group of professionals working on a specific project.

Thanks to crowdsourcing, more languages are saved from oblivion because when it comes to minority languages it is not always possible to find professional support. The input of the crowd is extremely valuable at this case.

On the other hand, the value of professional services is undeniable. Not because a community of volunteers cannot provide good translations, but because of the possible lack of expertise and skills. If we think that even experienced linguists are not always qualified for all kinds of projects, we can easily imagine that it is even more difficult to find specialized people in a free community. And then the basic purpose of localization can be lost: we want to speak the language of our audience in order to approach them in a more direct way. But this cannot be achieved without high quality translations.

Going further, why should we expect from non-specialists who work for free to provide high quality translations and be responsible for the accuracy of their work? We would therefore need a specialized pool of reviewers in order to ensure the quality of the final translations. And we should always take consistency into account, which is one of the most important aspects of the content we provide. But how easy is it to keep consistency among people in a free community?

Another basic characteristic of crowdsourcing, is that it should be open to everybody, by definition. How easy would it be to handle the risks that this open model can incur?

It is obvious that a strong professional support is necessary for the coordination of crowdsourcing. Should we still think of crowdsourcing as a much cheaper solution for our localization needs?

All that being said, one would think that crowdsourcing has mainly disadvantages. This is not true. Because we haven’t still mentioned the most valuable benefit of crowdsourcing: the input of people. The feedback of our clients or the users of our products. In short, the “wisdom of the crowd”. This is the opportunity we have to listen to our audience and an alternative way to get their feedback. The more input we have (and this is a matter of statistics!), the more likely we are to end up with the best suggestion.

Summarizing the pros and cons of crowdsourcing, we could say that it can be a very fruitful process if put in place based on some standards. The ideal way to use it is in parallel with professional support and as a separate process. But we should be sure that we are able to mitigate the cons in order to benefit from the pros…

 

ELIA ND Brussels 2016 – In Review

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It’s been a week after the ELIA ND event in Brussels but it’s never too late for an impressions review, right?

This year, Elia’s Networking Days event was held in the heart of the city of Brussels, very close to the astonishing Grand Place and the Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert. Commit was represented by General Manager and former ELIA Director Spyros Konidaris, Operations Manager Vasso Pouli and Account Manager Nikoletta Kaponi.

The mix of people, sessions, topics, venue and location made this edition of Networking Days another successful event. Here are some highlights of the conference through our eyes:

The workshop From Manager to Leader – develop your leadership skills by Eszter and Tamás Avar gave us some very useful insight into what leadership consists of and how it is different from managing, and they did this by allowing us to experiment hands-on with the abilities and potential of human behavior. The workshop was a window to a new school of thought and we hope we get the chance to see more of that in the future.

On a different note, Inger Larsen shared some of her valuable experience in recruitment and explained why we should value the ‘trouble-maker’ and the ‘finisher’, as she very aptly put it there is usually an angle these people see that others may not.

Analisa Delvecchio’s presentation on the successful adoption of a Translation Management System was literally breathtaking, as she moved from one slide to the next without taking a breath. It was one of the most comprehensive and composed, though more time for Q&A may have been a good idea.

The Customer Analytics session by Madhuri Hegde was rather intriguing, as most attendees could identify with the inflow of unexploited data and Madhuri’s modest tips on how to use this huge pool of customer information to grow our business have definitely hit the spot.

We also got the chance to learn more on the intricacies of crowdsourcing during Yota Georgakopoulou’s session on Microtask translation workflows, which included some very interesting findings from Yota’s work with “external and internal crowds” for the purpose of developing high-quality machine translations for all text types included in MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses).

On the QA front, Alan Melby presented the Multidimensional Quality Metrics (MQM) framework for developing metrics appropriate for various types of translations, and he also put forward a very interesting definition for translation quality, stating that “Translation quality is: meeting good specs”.

And of course– we were in the heart of Europe after all – the EU track was full of comprehensive information about how to get into the European (and international) institutions’ translation market, and what is expected after we are awarded a contract, with detailed and practical sessions by Claudio Chiavetta and Jean-Paul Dispaux, long-time experts in this field. Additionally, Aikaterini Sylla highlighted how the EU is finally taxonomizing our industry professions.

With our eyes set to the future, we attended the panel discussion on globalization to find out What the future of the future looks like. The panel consisted of globalization-involved professionals from some of the most exciting companies in the world: Netflix, Prezi, The Nielsen Company and ANZU Global. Their insights on the client needs which constantly evolve, diversify and multiply, as well as their different workflows and approaches to localization gave us the bigger picture of the priorities and strategies that leading companies are putting forward when it comes to going global.

Last but not least, the keynote was indeed an eye-opener to how biased we are by definition as human beings not to mention in our professional and business exchanges. It is amazing what a fly in the men’s toilet bowl can do, besides entertain them also reduce cleaning costs, and it is fascinating how we can ‘play’ with human psychology to achieve our goals. “I suppose it is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail.” (Abraham H. Maslow), so here’s to thinking outside the box and to more incisive decision-making!

Training, learning and networking, amidst chocolate, beers and (a lot of) mussels – we wonder what’s in store for the next edition of ELIA’s Networking Days next year in Bucharest!