Friday, June 28, 2019

5 tips to stay on budget with your translations

  1. Discuss your budget goals with your translation service provider
    • A key part of our business is forming partnerships with our clients. As a trusted advisor and service provider for our customers, we are always happy to discuss budget, timeline and any other details as you begin looking into a potential translation project. If a client of ours has a strict budget, we are always happy to chat beforehand and discuss, if the budget seems reasonable for the project, or what we can do to help them stay within their desired spending range. This could involve changing the project scope, timeline, languages or other key details to ensure we meet our clients’ goals. Reach out to us early on during your project planning phases, and we will be happy to provide estimates, and provide helpful advice to lowering the cost, turnaround, or any other special requirements you have. 
  2. Send larger volumes of text at one time
    • One of the most important factors on project pricing is the volume of text we are translating. The more text we are translating, the better per unit rates we can offer our clients. Whenever possible we tell our clients to combine files together into one project. Grouping as much text together as possible will provide you the cheapest possible per word rates. Smaller projects are charged more based on the time involved than the amount of content being translated, so this results in higher per unit costs. If you find yourself frequently sending small projects for translation, see if you can hold off and group several of the projects together. This helps streamline our processes, utilizes fewer resources and can therefore offer better prices. 
  3. Translation Memory (stick with your LSP)
    • Our translation memory system is crucial for offering discounted translations, improving accuracy and consistency across documentation, and speeding up turnaround times. However, this only works to its maximum potential when we have been working with a client for a significant amount of time. If you are frequently switching language service providers, or using multiple vendors, it is possible that you are increasing your spending and missing out on translation memory discounts. The longer we work with a client the larger our database of translations grows for their company. The larger that database grows, the more likely it is that we will have translated some similar content in the past. Some of our largest customers wind up with more than 50% off their translations, or even getting translations back for free, simply because most of the work is already completed through our TM. If you find a translation provider who does good work, is quick and professional, stick with them and you will see even greater benefit down the road.
  4. Sort through your text first, keep a record of previously translated content
    • If you frequently translate very similar content, another way stay on budget is to keep a record of and store anything you previously had translated. Some of our clients keep an excel sheet with content that has already been translated. They can then do a CTRL + F search in the sheet to find the content and its corresponding translations. This can save some serious time and money by not having to resend content you’ve already had translated. You can use this tactic to eliminate pages from a catalog or paragraphs on a brochure that no longer need to be processed or worked on by your LSP.
  5. Leave plenty of time for translations
    • The final big impact on translation cost is time. Our highly budget conscious clients know that translations take time, and so to avoid paying higher fees, they ensure that they have plenty of time allowed for our translation teams to do their work. Our team is always prepared to meet a tight deadline, work overnight, or through holidays, but this typically comes with added costs to our clients. If you know you have a project coming up in need of translation, and you already have a set deadline, reach out to us early on. Even if your content isn’t finalized or ready to be translated yet, giving our team a heads up can go a long way to ensuring we have our resources in place and can help keep the cost lower. Sending something with no heads up and needing same day or next day translation, will almost always require our team to add rush charges. 
Use these 5 tips as you plan around your translation needs, and you will be sure to keep your budget under control!

Trade War vs. Trade Trend – PLG’s real-world observation

In the first half of the year we have witnessed a surprising trend with our business card translation requests dropping by nearly 50% compared to the average numbers over the past several years. This may indicate a drop of business travel, reflecting companies are cautious in forecasting future business volumes due to uncertain international relationship among the U.S. and its major trade partners. 

In the meantime, while people many are worried about slowing international trade, we have surprisingly also seen a 60% jump in our document and multimedia translation business lately comparing to early months of the year. This is absolutely a solid evidence that international trade is still very resilient, and that companies are optimistic regarding the future. Based on opinions of how trade relations might change some newcomers in the game may be hesitant to begin investing in their international presence. While others, who may already be established in foreign markets are confidently doubling down, and ensuring their content is available in multiple languages. 

The question is: What will you do? 

Interested in reading more? Check out this New York Times Article which discusses the same topic.

Monday, April 29, 2019

Translation Memories

Translation Memories are perhaps the most important and vital technology advancement in the translation industry. They allow us to perform our jobs faster, more accurately, with higher consistency and lower costs than ever before.  TMs however, are NOT that same thing as machine translation, and take significant practice and skill to use effectively. 

At PLG we utilize the commercial software Trados, which is the leading TM program used to store previously completed translations and assist our translators in current projects. As our professional translators work, they enter their translations into a stored database built just for your company. When future material comes up that is similar to something that was previously translated, the software suggests the “memorized” translation to the translator. The translator then reviews the translation, makes any adjustments necessary, and saves the updated translation to the memory once again. This memory applies to content that is repeated not just within a given document, but across documents and projects.

Over time as we work with a client the translation memory grows larger, and our translators have more material to reference. This allows us to provide more accurate, consistent translations both faster and less costly. Two good examples are the TMs we have built for our customers at Walmart and HoMedics in the past years. The TMs combined have over 3 million translation pairs of sentences between a source language and the target!

Machine Translation

The question that every Translation Service Provider answers several times a week. “Why can’t I just use Google Translate?”, and the truth is that you can! Online machine translation tools are a great resource for quickly understanding content, learning how to say a simple phrase while traveling, or doing a trend analysis on large volumes of text. When it comes to professional content being used in a business, legal or medical setting which holds some liability or company image however, that is when it is imperative to seek professional help. 

Machine Translation (MT) has evolved greatly over the years. It started as a basic substitution program, which would replace one word in the source language with the “equivalent” word in the target language. Obviously, this had fairly bad results, as it doesn’t take into consideration changes in syntax, grammatical structure, verb conjugation let alone the issues of context, culture, and other nuanced issues while translating. 

Over the years this system has greatly improved to what is known as Neural machine translation, which is what Google Translate is now. NMT uses a neural network, aka a brain like network, which has the ability to learn grammatical structures and phrasing based on statistical analysis of translations that already exist. Over time the system learns to create better and more natural translations as more and more datasets (i.e. translations) become available to it. 

As amazing as the technology has become, and not doubt will continue to improve, it still has large flaws. For anything beyond basic phrases and sentences, any native speaker can look at a text output from google translate and know that something is off. Even if there are no glaring mistakes, or hilarious gaffes in the translations, they can often simply come across as not quite natural sounding. 

If your goal is what we refer to gist translation, then MT might be perfect for you. No point in paying to have an email translated, if you simply need to know if someone said yes or no to a request. But if your translation is going to be the face of your company in a new country, or hold the risk of physical, legal or financial injury should something be miscommunicated, then Google Translate just isn’t going to cut it. 

Translators spend decades of their lives becoming fully fluent in multiple languages, studying a myriad of topics in both languages, testing and certifying their skills with various organizations, and continuously improving their knowledge sets to perform their jobs well. While there may come a day in the future, where machine translation is flawless and beautiful; conveying everything from technical engineering datasheets, to love poems in perfectly balanced couplets, we are still a long way off. So in the meantime, reach out to your preferred translation vendor for your next multilingual project, leave the languages to us!

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Localization vs. Translation

Translation can provide difficulties in many formats. Some text is highly technical and requires hours of research to find appropriate terminology. Other text might have an idiom or play on words that doesn’t exist in the new language. These are dilemmas that translators must deal with daily, and this is where two forms of language services come into play. Localization vs. Translation. 

Translation’s first priority is the source text. It is the translator’s job to adhere as faithfully as possible to the original content. Without the liberty or freedom to alter the content, translators must be creative while still staying “inside the box” to come up with solutions that will be coherent and concise in the new language. Translators must always walk the line between literal word-for-word translation to stay as faithful as possible, and adaptation of the text to better flow in the target language. Where on that line of balance the translator lands will vary from project to project but staying closer to the source text is always considered the “safe” route. 

Localization is when translators have much greater freedom to alter the content in order to adapt it for the target audience. This might entail changing an idiom in the source text to a different idiom in the target that holds a similar meaning. In the case of an acronym or alliteration it may require even more thought and consideration to come up with a viable solution. Localization focuses the efforts of the translator on the target language. They must be willing, and have the authority, to change the original content and perhaps even alter the meaning to ensure better reception by the target audience. Translators often struggle to offer this service without very close communication and cooperation with the client. It takes a great deal of diligence as well as freedom to alter the content and can thus pose a lot of problems for those who are not the original content creators.

Outsourcing Translation to an LSP

Many companies face the internal decision of either outsourcing their translation needs or keeping them in-house. Over the past decade there has been a trend for companies to outsource as much translation work as possible, and for good reason. 

When keeping translations internal, companies face the choice of either staffing an entire translation department dedicated to translating various company documents or utilizing current staff such as sales or marketing reps to translate content. 

1. If you decide to create an entire department for translation, you must first have significant enough translation demand to justify hiring and paying salaries for dedicated translators. As with any company you can expect increases and decreases in the demand for translation over a given year. This can result in significant downtime for translators with nothing to do, or slow down production when everyone is waiting on the translation department to work on their content. 

2.If you decide to utilize current staff to translate content as it comes up, then you likely don’t have as high a demand for translations. This, however, means that you must take time from your employee’s standard day-to-day functions in order to allot time for translation. Additionally, in these situations we tend to see that employers assume that being bilingual automatically qualifies an employee to translate content, when in fact this is not true at all. Translators undergo years of training and practice to become proficient at the art and skill of converting content from one language to another.  Utilizing untrained staff for translation work can result in embarrassing errors, or mistranslations that can cost a company dearly.

Outsourcing translation work ultimately eliminates all these dilemmas. By working closely with an LSP, companies have access to a larger network of resources, lowered costs, quicker turnarounds, and greater flexibility. LSPs have the resources to build glossaries, store translation memories, access to content specialists, and stay up to date on industry standards and certifications. 

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Loanwords – When Languages Share Words

The German language is quite infamous for its long words. This comes out of the general rule that you can combine words together to make new compound words, pretty much whenever you like. German, despite its reputation as a harsh language, can often be quite poetic because of this linguistic feature. 

We see examples in words we have borrowed such as Kindergarten, which literally means children’s garden, bringing forth imagery of cultivating a proper environment for children to grow. Kindergarten is an excellent example, as it maintains the exact same meaning across both languages. However, this is not always the case. 

As often as German lends its words to be used in other languages, it also borrows from others, including English.  A truly interesting linguistic phenomenon occurs when foreign languages borrow from English, either using terms that aren’t typically used by native English speakers or altering the meaning of a word or phrase to mean something new. This can often pose a very tricky situation for translators as they attempt to convey meaning between languages. 

Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, has used the word “shitstorm” on several occasions often to the shock of native English speakers. Afterall, this is seen as a rather vulgar term in English and would not typically be expected to be heard coming from the mouth of a political figure. 

The word, however, has been casually adopted into German, entered the country’s dictionary back in 2013. The meaning in German has changed slightly from the English original. Where in English the term would typically just mean a situation marked by extreme controversy and conflict, in German it specifically denotes a situation of intense blowback or outrage on the internet/social media.

It is in instances like these that international communication and translation can become difficult to navigate. As words are borrowed between languages, they often shift meaning slightly due to cultural and linguistic differences. It is the translator’s job to be vigilant of these alterations in meaning and to ensure that content is appropriately understood and transferred between languages, while avoiding any unintended offense or meaning.