Impressions from the Nordic Translation Industry Forum

The last industry event of 2011 Memsource has sponsored, was the Nordic Translation Industry Forum. It took place in Malmö from 24 to 25 November and was one of the higher-quality smaller events I went to this year. The reason is, I guess, it was not just a small gathering of regional LSPs but a wider audience was present, including translation buyers and technology providers. And most importantly, a lot of the attendants/presenters had something interesting to say - not always the case at regional industry events.

One of the more interesting conversations I had was on machine translation. The CEO of one of the larger LSPs there told me about the experience they made with introducing machine translation into the LSP’s translation workflow. They were able to save about 10% of the overall translation cost - which can be a lot of money if projected annually. But: the cost to introduce MT in their case was not negligible either - it more or less equaled the savings.

There will be other, more successful, MT deployment experiences but this one is kind of typical, I think. Many LSPs start their MT effort by first investing considerable time and money into developing their custom MT. This could work for a translation buyer who has a limited number of language pairs and just a couple of domains. It cannot work that well for an LSP serving diverse customers with content spanning over multiple domains and dozens or hundreds of language pairs.

A more efficient approach is, I believe, to start an MT pilot with a readily available MT service, which can be subscribed to as a service. The first that would come to anyone’s mind would be, of course, Google Translate. “Yes, but what about information confidentiality?” It is a very common misconception (carefully nurtured by enterprise MT providers) that Google Translate does not guarantee confidentiality to its users. In fact its Terms of Use state that Google “will not share” the content with a third party. Still do not trust Google? Use Microsoft Translator. Or use anything else for your MT pilot, just make sure you know in advance how you are going to recoup the money spent on machine translation before you commit to invest in it.

by David Canek, Memsource CEO