Archive for March, 2011|Monthly archive page

So, your manager / your colleagues / your partners want you to use Google Translate to save time and money?

Monday, March 28th, 2011

There are probably quite a few translation and localization managers out there, who often have to fend off that “idea” to use machine translation. Colleagues or managers look at the likes of Google Translate and they look at the time and money spent on creating human-made translations – and suddenly machine translation seems like a fantastic option.

Translation guy has a few insights on this in his recent blog post.  As usual, the post is well written, insightful and does not shy away from critique. There are many other examples of machine translation gone wrong, such as the infamous “translate server error“.

In essence, there are four use cases at present where machine translation does add value:

- so-called “gisting”, i.e. if you want to quickly and roughly understand what a text in a certain language says;

- translation of highly controlled and structured source content (e.g. weather reports or virus warnings); cf. “controlled language“.

- pseudo-localization, i.e. testing a piece of software with regards to internationlisation or localisability.

- translation of content that wouldn’t otherwise get translated: this is a grey one, though. It certainly doesn’t apply to highly visible or printed content. You might want to use MT on support cases or forum posts, but they should be clearly labeled as having been translated using MT.

If someone thinks that you should use MT for anything else, simply provide them with a few examples, back-translations etc. This will quickly change their minds. Or refer them to the comment to this post which is a back-translation from this post translated into German and then English again using google translate.


Alain de Botton on Pessimism

Thursday, March 24th, 2011

Alain de Botton is a Swiss-born philosopher and writer, residing in the UK, who has the great gift of putting new or forgotten thoughts into simple words – words that are as simple as possible, but not simpler.
Nowadays, where we have many professors of philosophy and few philosophers, de Botton has stepped up to the task of analysing, commenting on and evaluating daily life, be it by writing in an airport or by re-reading Proust. His writing often takes the form of a mock-self-help book, but avoiding the usual banalities and superficialities of that genre and instead presenting a critical view on Western life-styles and on their inherent lack of life and style.

This here is a great speech on why pessimism (or at least stoicism) is an appropriate attitude and will prevent unhappiness:

A fantastic speech to listen to when things don’t go as you believe they should, be it in love life or at work.


The disappearance of LISA

Tuesday, March 22nd, 2011

(in response to this here blog post on Content Rules)

Industry associations provide more than networking opportunities and conferences. LISA had it in their name that they were primarly a standards setting organisation and we definitely do need standards bodies. LISA’s demise might have something to do with the organisation not focusing on this core activity that much anymore in recent years. They did provide us with TMX, but TMX exists in many different levels and versions and hasn’t fully delivered on the promise of lossless TM exchange. How about GMX with its various flavours? How many tools are actually using it? How about TBX (which is way to complicated for daily use)?
LISA could have concentrated much more on making the existing standards rock-solid. In this regard, LISA should have been looking to the Unicode consortium as a model, for instance.

LISA have also missed the way into the cloud. We have a number of web-based TM technologies competing today (TDA, Wordfast, Globalsight etc.), but no standards for the web services APIs that are used to access these systems and applications. In a similar manner, we will probably soon see web-based terminology databases (and Wiktionary might provide the foundation for these). Again, this is an area where LISA as an independent organisation could have been leading the way by defining API standards and working with tools developers to implement them.

It is a pity to see LISA disappear and I do hope that another organisation will continue to maintain and develop the exchange standards. Because we need them badly, especially in an interconnected localization world that is more and more moving into the cloud.



Comment on the Mashable blog post “10 Ways to Turn Your Local Business Into a Global Success”

Thursday, March 3rd, 2011

I have just read a blog post on Mashable with the intriguing title “10 Ways to Turn Your Local Business Into a Global Success“. The author mentions several good points, some of which are not immediately obvious. For instance, allowing for Bidi languages, such as Arabic and Hebrew, in your web layout or respecting local preferences for payment systems.

However, the first item on the list I have to disagree with. The author advises to quickly translate a business’s website on the cheap, using services like myGengo or machine translation. With more than 10 years localization experience under by belt and the last three years dedicated to web localization, I can tell for sure that this is a recipe for disaster. Marketing-oriented web copy does not lend itself easily to MT. MT is usable for translating highly controlled source text or for the purpose of gisting, but not much more. Besides, there is a lot more involved than just translating the text when localizing web content. There are editing and review steps, web production, and other technical work.

Web localization is a complex craft that should not be diminished by suggesting that it could be achieved quickly and cheaply in the manners described by the author, while achieving results that provide professional quality. Maybe the blog post really is about only “9 Ways to turn your local business into a global success” and “One sure-fire way to turn your local business into a global failure.” IMHO.