Introduction: Welcome to the 100 Percent Translations Podcast. Information and advice for translators and those who are just passionate about languages and business. Here’s your host, Paul Urwin!
Paul: Hello everyone! Paul here, and welcome to Session No. 5 of the 100 Percent Translations podcast. Hope you are all doing well and I’ve got an excellent interview for you today, with Andrew Martin. Andrew Martin is an expert in computer-assisted translations, so we are going to be talking about that. He also runs his own translation company. So very, very interesting guy. Got a lot of really, really good information for you. So, let’s get straight into it. Here we are: Andrew Martin!
Paul: Hello there! Well, here I am today with Andrew Martin. Andrew is a translation company owner. And he is also an expert in computer-assisted translation or CAT. So, we’re going to be talking a little bit about that. Great to have you on the show, Andrew! How are you doing?
Andrew: Hey Paul, thanks for having me today.
Paul: No, great to have to you, Andrew. And you’re talking to us today from Tennessee?
Andrew: That’s it!
Paul: Okay, and how is it up there today?
Andrew: It’s an nice day. Sunny, summertime. Very much like to be outside right now, as soon as we get done with this.
Paul: Okay, well what we are going to do is talk a little bit about some translation stuff. And then I’ll let you get back to the great outdoors! First of all, Andrew, tell us a little bit about yourself, just to get this show started.
Andrew: Yeah, sure. So I grew up in Tennessee, and studied industrial engineering. Graduated in the late ’90s, moved on to Bogotá in 2000 and spent nine years of my life there…
Andrew: …where I founded a translation company and that’s what brings me to the conversation today.
Paul: Okay, brilliant. And how did you get started in the business of languages, or the business of translations in particular?
Andrew: Mine was kind of a backward path. Like I said, I’m an industrial engineer. I married a linguist, and we liked the idea of being in business together.
Andrew: We started translating because that was her strength. I learned Spanish, it went well with me. It was for whatever reason, it came very naturally to me.
Andrew: So we worked well translating together.
Paul: Okay, and then you set up a translation company down in Bogotá?
Andrew: Yes. We translated for a couple of years, and at some point we began to get enough work that we needed additional support. My background was more in a business environment. So for me, it was a very natural and very nice transition to move from translating only to managing a small group who would help with projects.
Paul: I think is very interesting we see a lot of translators that come through a traditional path of studying translation, but we also see a lot of translators that come from a business background that may have worked in a company, or have actual business experience. But before getting into translation, I think if you do it that way ’round, you actually have a head start in some ways in terms of how a company works, corporate affairs, that kind of thing.
Andrew: It is helpful for sure. You see the world through a different light, through the business affairs of best things like how to implement technology platforms or how to carry out a quality control program or how to select personnel. Those things all benefit from a previous business experience.
Paul: Okay, absolutely. As well as the translation company, you’ve also been heavily in involved, or you are heavily involved in, translation software. In particular, CAT or computer-assisted translation software. How did you get into that business, Andrew?
Andrew: That one’s really just a natural addition to the translation service, if you will. We sell computer-assisted translation software as an authorized re-seller of SDL Trados. We’ve formed that relationship starting back I think as far in 2006. And naturally we wanted the relationship because it fit well with what we were doing.
Paul: Okay, right. So this is software that you used in your own business. But you are also a representative to sell other businesses. Is that how it works?
Andrew: That’s right. We re-sell and we are an authorized training centre.
Paul: Okay, brilliant. Alright Andrew, I just want to take a step back and ask you a question that I’m hoping you can explain to our audience. What is the difference between computer-assisted translation and machine translation? I think there is quite a lot of confusion now out there in the marketplace. You know, when you start off as a translator, you might get a bit of work working for an agency and so on. And then the issue of software comes up. So perhaps you can just start off on that question: the difference betwen CAT and machine translation?
Andrew: Sure. So computer-assisted translation is really exactly what it says. The computer is a tool; it supports us in the process but it never really takes the place of the person.
Andrew: And the computer-assisted translation process, someone uses one of the different possibilities of software on the market. And there is probably 15-20 these days.
Andrew: But they all have a similar underlying functionality which is they all permit the translator to connect to a database in a basic form, and save what’s referred to as “units of translation” or “translation units,” where you keep up with source text and target text, which can later on be reused, because the translator’s always connected to the database, which is called a “translation memory.” In computer-assisted translations, translators benefit from databases which help us remember things that we would not naturally remember.
Paul: Okay, as opposed to machine translation, which is…? Well, Google Translator would presumably be a machine translation software.
Andrew: Sure. There’s a lot of other options, but machine translation would show up as statistical machine translation, or rule-based machine translation. These days, the more common trend is statistical machine translation engines. And they do all the work for us.
Paul: Okay. So they’re basically automatically translating documents; you put the text in and they will give you the text out.
Andrew: That’s correct.
Paul: Okay. And the problem with the machine translation in today’s marketplace, is that they are not perfect, right?
Paul: So the computer-assisted translation is a memory software that’s going to help, let’s say, translate a passage early on in the document. And then I come across the same passage later on in the document, it is going to remember that and it’s going to record that and suggest that I make the same translation. Is that right?
Andrew: When you use it correct, that is exactly what it does.
Paul: Okay. And how easy are these types of software that you use, Andrew?
Andrew: They vary. Like most professional tools, the more complex the tool becomes because of feature richness, the more challenging it will be to the user. If the user is happy with less features, which a new user often will be, they might incline towards certain technologies.
Andrew: And if they are really are an advanced computer user, they might benefit from some of the more robust options on the market. And there’s a range out there.
Andrew: But in general, I think they should be understood as a tool that the person needs to invest time in to learn.
Paul: Okay, so let’s say I’m a freelance translator just getting started in the business. I’ve got a couple of clients, either direct or through an agency, how relevant is this type of software or these software programs going to be to me?
Andrew: In today’s marketplace, I wouldn’t recommend a translator to start without having a serious perspective on how to get a tool. Maybe they can’t get it right away, because of money or whatever, but they need to have a perspective that their profession requires this sort of tool
Paul: Okay. And that is because some clients will insist on the use of translation software?
Andrew: Somewhat because of that, somewhat because it just makes you help you do your job better.
Andrew: There are some areas of the profession, where certain linguists may never need the tool. If you translate only poetry, you might never benefit from this type of tool. But the majority of us who make money from this profession, we depend on an industrial-type documentation.
Paul: Sure, sure.
Andrew: Which turns out to be highly repetitive and highly consistent in the ways it is shared in one language and it needs to be shared in the other language, with the same level of consistency. These tools help you achieve that, or work in teams. The benefits are kind of endless; we can talk long about those. But in the end, you wouldn’t be a carpenter without a hammer, and in today’s marketplace, I would find it odd for an translator to pursue the profession seriously without taking on this sort of tool.
Paul: Okay, okay. And how much time do you think–I don’t know if you have any sort of statistics–but how much time would you expect to save when using computer-assisted translation software when, presumably, after you invested in the time and knowing how to actually use it?
Andrew: Sure. And that’s a real good point, the way you laid it out. Let’s take a step back. When you first in invest in the tool before you know it will, you will lose something. Because you are still perfecting a process and a use of the tool that you don’t understand. We see people have a dip in productivity, and if they become proficient, high quality users, it is not uncommon to save 30% or more of the time it would take on a given assignment.
Paul: Wow, 30%! Well, that’s absolutely massive, isn’t it? Especially when you think that someone, you know, a translator, might be working eight hours, ten hours a day, five-six days a week, possibly for even in 20 years. That’s an absolutely enormous saving, isn’t it?
Andrew: Sure. Like I said, for that reason and many more, I just couldn’t imagine pursuing this career without it. That’s my perspective–I know there’s others.
Paul: Okay, okay. And you represent the biggest company on the market? Is that right? The biggest premium option, would that be fair to say?
Andrew: SDL has the largest supply chain worldwide. At one time, they were two companies, SDL ETS was a company, and Trados was another, and they were two of the top at the time. SDL bought Trados; they became, at this point, they marketed their product as SDL Trados Studio, their best translation product. They have the largest supply–go ahead.
Paul: The largest…sorry?
Andrew: The largest supply chain. So the most users worldwide of CAT tools are using that product, above others.
Paul: Okay, sorry Andrew, I just lost you there for a second. So you are saying that SDL has got the largest supply chain?
Andrew: Yeah, they have the largest supply chain worldwide. They have the most translators worldwide, using CAT tools or using their CAT tool.
Paul: There are, approximately, how many other options available?
Andrew: I would say 15-20. I don’t have a clear enough number on that, but in that range at least.
Paul: These are companies like Wordfast, OmegaT, those type of companies, right?
Andrew: Sure, sure.
Paul: Okay. And can you give us some idea, for someone getting started in the industry, how much they might to expect to invest in this type of software?
Andrew: You can begin at cheap as free, so you can use something like OmegaT, which has a free version of their software.
Andrew: And that’s not bad, you know. If you are a starting translator and you are only working for end customers, which, granted, that would be a very odd situation, but if that was your case, maybe you don’t need anything more. To get something like SDL Trados in certain markets, you would have to pay $995, for example. That is the price in the US right now. In Latin America, we have a regional pricing structure that allows us to sell it at a bit cheaper.
Paul: Okay, okay.
Andrew: So it varies, but you can go from anywhere from 0 to $1000 to get started.
Paul: Okay, so 0 to 1000. So someone might be able to start off on a free version. The problem I’m seeing is that if you get started on a free version, or a cheaper version, is something you learn there, is that going to be transferable to a better version with more features? Let’s say, when you have more money?
Andrew: You would benefit. It is like any tool, basic concepts are the same. The concept of using a data base to recover information and reuse that information, no matter how you dress that, it’s the same concept.
Paul: Yeah, yeah.
Andrew: But the interface change can be pretty challenging. If I was a starting translator, I would say, look for university student discounts–almost all the different softwares out there have them.
Andrew: I know we do. And that’s common in all markets. Look for seasonal discounts, look for regional discounts. The different groups out there, they do things like this to help make their product available to people in different parts of the world. So, if you’re a starting translator and you are looking for impact, I would say study the market. If your goal in getting the software is to make yourself available to a larger base of customers, then consider your choice accordingly.
Paul: Okay. So you mentioned anywhere between 0 and $1000. Another question I’ve got is that, would that $1000 be a one-off course or that would be a sort of annual fee? How is that?
Andrew: That’s a one-off cost. But as with any software, you should expect that it will have to be upgraded. And they do become obsolete. One particular challenge with CAT tools is that they have to be compatible with many other software packages.
Andrew: So when one software vendor changes their product, it requires further development for the CAT tool. So just by nature of the industry, the way the industry works, you will have to upgrade sometime.
Paul: Okay, at some point you have to make another investment, possibly after a few years.
Paul: But let’s face it–if you’re saving up to 30% of your time in documents, I don’t think that is going to be a major, major concern. As you said earlier, every profession has certain tools that you’re expected to have, that are going to make your life easier. Okay, great. Well I’ve got another question for you, Andrew. How do agencies use this type of software? I know that some of our listeners out there are freelance translators. Do translation companies or translation agencies, do they buy their software, or do they expect their translators to buy their software? What is your experience with that one?
Andrew: If you’re only thinking of the use in terms of the investment, most agencies are not going to buy the software for their freelance translators. Just as a natural result of the contractual relationship.
Andrew: Some do, some do. Most of them that do at some point quit doing it because it is a lot of expense to assume for external vendors. But most agencies, they will think about that when they invest. Whether the agency invests in SDL Trados or another market option, they are thinking about options of how they make it liveable for their translators.
Andrew: So an agency–they can implement anything from a pretty small to a pretty large solution. On the larger end they will have a server, where they will expect their projects to become a bit automated, and they expect people to log in to their supply chain and just work based on a system that is put in place.
Paul: Okay, yep.
Andrew: That’s kind of ideal for an agency once they hit a certain volume. Until they do hit a certain volume of work, it’s not worth the money and the technical resources that require that solution.
Andrew: But when they get there, one of the interesting things that an agency almost has to do, no matter what solution they’ve chosen, they have to work with people who are using the same software.
Andrew: Even though you will hear in the industry that you can–you know, translation memories are portable. They can be exchanged from one vendor to another.
Andrew: That’s true, but workflows are not quite as simple. As transporting and exchanging memories and term bases, for example. So when you talk typing a vendor into a workflow, they really to use compatible software so that the experience is seamless.
Paul: Okay, okay. So basically, there are agencies out there that say, “We only work with a particular type of software.”
Andrew: That’s correct. Almost none of them will say, “We only work with…” because you are always going to have a special situation.
Andrew: But you will have the agency who says, look. In the majority of our cases, we have to work with someone who is doing this.
Paul: Yeah. Sure. That’s also because clients sometimes ask for, or like to have, the translation memories. Is that true?
Andrew: It can be. The customer, in some markets, requests the memory of the work they did, and that opens up a whole another door to many more challenges in terms of negotiation and pricing and things like that. Most agencies aren’t going to feel comfortable just giving that memory to the customer.
Paul: That’s right, and also say for, if you’re a freelance translator, you’ve paid for the software, you’ve paid for the product, you’ve really seen that as your information, your tool. And I think most translators feel that they would have the right to charge something extra for that.
Andrew: That’s right.
Paul: Okay, yeah. I am being inclined to agree with them, I think. That would be my first take on it.
Paul: So, yeah! Alright, I’ve got another question for you Andrew. I think what a lot of people are concerned about, what a lot of us want to do, is to get more business! So, how much do you think an SDL or another software–once we’ve passed the tests and all learned exactly how to use it, and I say to my potential clients that I’m using SDL–how much do you think that might potentially help me to grow my business?
Andrew: I think growth potential is huge when you develop a new capability around cutting edge tools. That potential is huge. The challenge your listener base will face are how to position themselves, how to price their trade after taking on this new tool, because the industry has certain expectations. It is always negotiable, but there are certain limits that every company will be working around. Do they raise their price per word, because then they will have to discount more. Do they really expect to see their volume increase enough to maintain a price while discounting match types that come from the database.
Paul: Okay, so that’s an interesting one. Could you just go into a little bit more detail? I believe what you’re talking about is raising the price per word. But then, reducing the overall cost based on certain match types that come up with the translation memory…the client is not going to pay for the same thing to be translated twice, is that right?
Andrew: That is exactly the goal of the customer. So customers who invest–a large corporate buyer or an LSP buyer who invests in the software–is doing it because they understand the large amount of money that they spend, needlessly is the perspective, on translating the same information over and over. Of course, someone who does that would logically think that, with today’s technology, what do I have to do to avoid that?
Andrew: And when you find the way to avoid it, you of course don’t want to pay full price for it anymore. So that’s the underlying motivation, I think above everything else, to invest in this technology. I think there is many other motivations: there’s quality, there’s consistency, there’s a lot of other motivations. But the financial return on the investment–if that’s not there, for freelancers or for LSD or for a corporate buyer, none of them can get excited.
Paul: Okay, okay. So how’s this working in practice? If we take a large company, let’s say a FTSE 100 company or something like that, presumably they’ve got a lot of translation work, they can either install a complete translation team or they could hire an agency that works with this kind of software and then ask for a discount based on the translation memory.
Andrew: Right. So, I’m sorry, what’s exactly the question on there?
Paul: Okay, so the question is: how exactly does this work? A large company is looking for cost savings, and the other benefits that you mentioned–quality, etc.–so how would they go about setting this up and getting the reduction in cost? They can set up an in-house translation team? Or do they hire an agency and insist or make sure that agency is working with SDL or another software.
Andrew: Okay, yeah, I follow you.
Paul: And then they look to get the–sorry–the discount, based on the repeated translation?
Andrew: It is one of the two options that you just mentioned. Both happen.
Andrew: It is not always immediately justifiable to create a translation department in a company when they recognize the need. And there’s a lot of effort and a lot of expertise and a lot of investment in technology and human resource training. Expenses of this sort. So I think the most common path is to first find external vendors.
Andrew: Maybe freelance, maybe companies. As the volume gets high enough, the external vendor will usually become a company, a language company. As long as that language company keeps prices within a level that the corporation perceives as appropriate, and quality meets their needs, they probably don’t look further.
Andrew: At the point that quality becomes a concern–and it always does at some time, no matter how you’re working, whether it is an internal or an external. When it becomes a big enough concern, most corporate groups will begin to look more internally.
Andrew: Because you can control quality better when you have a whole team that is daily learning about your way of saying what you say about your organization and speaking your industry speak. That internal team will become intimately aware of the dialect your company speaks. And then you add the term on top of that and the cost savings can be pretty huge.
Paul: Okay. So if these things are implemented correctly, then there can be some pretty big cost savings for the company…as there can be some pretty big time savings for the translations!
Paul: So this software really is something that should we look into as a translator, or a big company. We should look to get involved and understand it; I imagine it is not going away anytime soon. Something that we would be very wise to keeping up just being with.
Andrew: I think the summary of what you just said is that you can almost say that this has become an industry norm.
Andrew: In the ’90s, it was cutting edge. Nowadays, it’s a norm, it’s expected.
Paul: Okay, great. Andrew, another question for you. How does the use of this type of software, how does it vary between continents? Let’s say, the U.S. and Latin America, two areas that you are great experience in, of course.
Andrew: It’s pretty hard to compare. There’s pockets in any continent where it is being used on a very high level. And when I mean pockets, I refer to companies who really take it and press the envelope, and they’ve done very big things with the solution. Typically, their internal staff, their freelance supply chain, those people will become very advanced users quick. And that happens both in the U.S. and in Latin America.
Andrew: In Canada, Canada happens to be a very advanced market because they are a two-langauge country, French and English are required throughout. They have a very advanced industry. It is interesting to go up to Montreal and see what they are doing there, they are quite impressive.
Paul: Okay, very good. And how do you see the current levels of usage, how do yo use that changing, let’s say over the next 10 years of so, Andrew?
Andrew: Hmm. You know, the one change that I see that is really on the horizon for the next ten years and I only expect it to grow exponentially. There is one thing we haven’t talked about well, but it’s the hybrid mix of using machine translation with computer-assisted translation.
Andrew: That’s happening a lot right now, so most CAT tools on the market can tap in to a machine translator, like Google Translator, like BE Global from SDL or like SYSTRAN. They can tap into those tools and, as a translator is working on connecting to the database, they are also connected to a machine translation tool which, if it doesn’t, in order of priorities, if it doesn’t first find a match from the translation memory, then it opts to machine translate a segment, and the translator cannot function as a post editor.
Paul: Very interesting. So that’s where we’re going then!
Andrew: I think it will spike. It’s happening right now very well from some of the larger companies; SDL is doing a really great job of it and they’ve showed pretty significant growth in it. But I think other smaller- and medium-sized companies will pick up and run with it also. I think that the market requires it.
Paul: How do we adapt? Is this something–it is really fascinating with what you just said about CAT with machine translation. But there is a lot of translators out there who do old school style, if you like. Is that something that they should be worried about? What would you say to those people? Should they try and adapt? Or should they be worried about their jobs over the next 10 years or so?
Andrew: First, I wouldn’t worry. I wouldn’t encourage them to worry. I think…
Paul: Okay, yeah.
Andrew: …I think any profession that I can think of requires some level of continual development.
Andrew: I would look at these tools as the thing to pursue in a steady path of professional development.
Andrew: Look to take a course every now and then. Courses are available for most of the major tool vendors as well as through sites like pros.com.
Paul: Okay, yep.
Andrew: As well as through local re-sellers like our company. So there’s lot of training options today compared to 10 years ago. When I started I didn’t find many training options. And there were very expensive.
Andrew: Today, the price has changed dramatically and there are many options. What seems very confusing the first time around will sound much more logical on the second, third course you take.
Paul: Sure, sure.
Andrew: Also, you know, depending on your level of comfort with software, you might choose a tool that permits you to work with Microsoft Word. Which is a software that most of us are comfortable with.
Andrew: If you are more comfortable with software and learning new technology, maybe go for something more robust, that is going to have a more powerful editing environment and allow different quality control and editing features.
Paul: Okay, yep.
Andrew: But there are tools available for more advanced and less advanced users. Even the highly robust tools, they have some pretty simple functionality available. I’ll throw out, I know you didn’t ask, but just to throw out a figure: I know we can incorporate someone into our supply chain, shakily, so they’re not going to incorporate perfectly, but we can incorporate them within about a half-day period.
Andrew: If they have the linguistic talent to address a project that we need to undertake, and there are willing to let us give them some one-on-one time, within a half-day they can be functioning.
Andrew: And then many questions will arise and we can help them along. When I think most agencies in some way are willing to help their vendors like that.
Paul: Brilliant. Well, like anything, like we’ve talked before, you’ve got to put in a little bit of work, a little bit of time in it at the beginning. But really, as you mentioned earlier on, this can lead to absolutely massive savings of up to 30% in the time that you’re spending. I mean, let’s suppose it was only 10%, that’s still absolutely huge on something you’re doing every single day! This is your job, this is an absolutely massive saving.
Paul: So yeah–this is certainly something that we need to look into even more. Okay Andrew, I’m going to wrap it up there. Absolutely brilliant, all the information you’ve given us today. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the interview; you really are an expert in this area! I wanted to ask just before we go: how can people get a hold of you? Where they can find you, what’s the name of your companies, your websites? Someone who wants to get in touch about CATs or about translations, where can they get a hold of you, Andrew?
Andrew: I’m director of two different companies; one is named Precision Translators, its headquarters is in Bogotá, Colombia. And that is a service-oriented company, so we’re developed to provide translation and interpreting services, and other similar language industry services.
Paul: Okay, yep.
Andrew: The other company is Pantoglot. And that is spelled P-A-N-T-O-G-L-O-T. We can be found there at pantoglot.com, and we really exist just to make this type of technology available to the Latin American market. That’s really what we focus on, we focus in training and the best prices we can get for the software. So either of those companies can be reached through the company name dot com.
Paul: Okay, excellent. Excellent, Andrew. And if someone is in the U.S. or U.K or anyone else, where would they look for software?
Andrew: So in the U.S., most major CAT tool vendors are going to have U.S.-based sales forces. So you would look for their U.S. offices, I know SDL has an office in Chicago. I can’t speak for the other companies, SDL is the one I’m more aware of.
Paul: Sure, yeah.
Andrew: But I would look for the local market in the U.S. or west Europe. In east Europe or Latin American, or Asia, you’re probably going to be working with re-sellers for most of the tools.
Paul: Okay. Right, brilliant. Alright, Andrew, thanks again! Absolutely fascinating. A wealth of information there from someone who has many years of experience in the industry–thank you very much, Andrew. I look forward to catching up with you when you’re down in Bogotá.
Andrew: Thanks Paul! Have a good one.
Paul: Alright, cheers Andrew! All the best.
Paul: That was Andrew Martin, expert in computer-assisted translation tools. Brilliant, brilliant information. I hope you enjoyed listening as much as I enjoyed doing the interview. Certainly, you know, a lot of good, really great information there from Andrew. He’s a fantastic guy and very, very knowledgeable in this area. If you want to get a hold of Andrew, check out his websites. He’s at www.precisiontranslators.com. Or you can get a hold of him through Pantoglot. That’s www.pantoglot.com. If you want to get a hold of me, of course I’m through the blog, www.100percentlanguages.com, or you can speak to me via Twitter, I’m @paulmurwin. Really appreciate your feedback from the other shows! Please let me know what you think about this one. Look forward to talking to you soon! Cheers! Bye.
Want to improve as a Translator or Interpreter?
- Links to Important Industry Info
- Updates from highly-regarded Colleagues from around the Globe
- Resources and Tools to help you Succeed!