Fiverr revisited: can German translators do any better?

Following on from the experiment I conducted with Natalie Soper a few weeks ago, in which we tasked four translators from Fiverr.com with the translation of a French travel news piece, I decided to readjust the parameters and try again. “What if there are actually a few good German translators trying to get their career off the ground on that platform?” I thought to myself.

 

So I took this text and went about my search. This time, the text is shorter – our last text was around 500 words and not all of the translators we asked were happy to be paid $5 for so much work. Rather than trawling through the many profiles listed on the website, this time I decided to send out a request. It read as follows: “I need a text translating. It’s German & I need it in English. 234 words total.” No text attached. I could have given more information but I wanted to see whether any of the applicants asked questions, for example the subject of the text or the target audience.

 

They didn’t.

 

Within 24 hours, I had 22 requests. All but a handful were completely out of the question. Headlines such as “Translate your documents from english to french[sic]” (um, how about German to English?!), “translate any language to any other required language” (omg), “translate to any known language from english and hindi” (wrong direction for starters) and “html ccs bugs, and front end designing for you” (err, what?!) grabbed my attention… for all the wrong reasons.

 

Once I had deleted these inappropriate requests, I narrowed it down to the following four:

Translator A

Had more than 600 reviews on Fiverr, and a five-star rating. I was definitely ordering from him, even though he said he was a native German – technically translators should translate into their native language. (This can be a grey area, especially with German.) He even claimed to be specialised in marketing, SEO and business. Excellent!

Translator B

Had 21 reviews and a 4.5-star average rating. Not bad! Native English speaker, even better. Claimed to have lived in Germany and had experience of DE-EN translation. Excellent! I’d be a fool not to book her. Although, when I clicked through to her profile, there was very little mention of translation. Oh…

Translator C

Offered “Top QUALITY” German to English translation. Once I clicked on her profile, I saw 61 five-star ratings. She also claimed to have 12 years’ experience as a translator in English, French and German. Seemed promising. This translator is also a “holder of a masters in modern letters”. I wasn’t quite sure what this meant, but I was willing to overlook it.

Translator D

Promised a high level of accuracy and said he was a native German and English speaker. He has 50 five-star reviews. Although, once again, when I clicked on the profile there was no mention of translation. There wasn’t even a mention of him speaking anything other than English, even though he claimed to speak German and English. Maybe I made a mistake with this one…

 

The ordering process

I decided to order these translations bright and breezy at 9:45am on a Sunday morning. The first translation was delivered precisely two hours later by Translator D. I could certainly translate 234 words in two hours. I wouldn’t be delivering my best quality work, though.

Next to deliver was Translator A. At 5:38 am on a Monday morning. Translator C followed two hours later. Translator B messaged me on Monday morning: “Hello, Thanks for your order, I’ve been really busy but I’ll get on it right away and I’ll send it immediately I’m done. [Last name], [First name]”. She claimed to be a native English speaker, but there are several things in that message that set alarm bells off: immediately I’m done? And signing with your last name first? Hmm… She delivered the next day, at 2am. So I got all translations back from my original translators, that’s already progress compared to the last time!

 

Analysis

General comments

It is once again clear to see that all four translators heavily depended on Google Translate, with all four texts looking very similar to the machine translation version with a few tweaks here and there. I could go through the entire text with a fine-tooth comb in this analysis, but I’ve chosen to focus on four issues with the translations.

 

Michael Kerkloh and Reuters

In the first paragraph, Google Translate inadequately translated “[…] sagte Flughafen-Chef Michael Kerkloh der Nachrichtenagentur “Reuters”” as “[…] said airport chief Michael Kerkloh of the news agency “Reuters””. As a result, three of the four translators mistranslated this simple phrase, and Translator A, B and C decided to keep Reuters in quotation marks. The only reason why Translator D didn’t was because he put the quotation marks in the wrong place. Translator A went with: “[…] as told the news agency “Reuters” was told by the airport’s manager Michael Kerkloh” (yes, with two mentions of ‘told’ in one sentence). Translator C wrote: “[…] said airport Chief Michael Kerkloh of the news agency “Reuters”” (thus making it sound like Kerkloh was talking about Reuters, not to them) and Translator D opted for “[…] “said Michael Kökloh, CEO of the airport,” Reuters.” (thus quoting text that did not need to be quoted, and spelling the man’s name wrong).

 

My solution was to flip the sentence order and have this phrase at the start rather than the end. So my sentence begins with: “Munich Airport CEO Michael Kerkloh told news agency Reuters that […]”.

 

Breaking tents

The following sentence was pretty tough to translate: “Auch den überraschenden Abzug der Air France-KLM-Günstigairline Transavia, die ihre Zelte in München nach nur einem Jahr abbricht, erklärt der Flughafen mit fehlenden Start- und Landefenstern.”

Translators B, C and D  all decided to translate the “ihre Zelte in Münschen […] abbricht” literally with “breaks its/their tents”, which is not an idiom we use in English, and every native speaker should know this. I was also shocked by the sloppy translations of “Start- und Landefenstern”, especially as the word “slots” had been used in the German text. Translator B opted for “starting and landing windows”, C for “start and country Windows” and D for “, And land windows.” (yes, omission of a translation for “Start-“ and a random capitalisation of “and”.)

 

My solution was to split the sentence into two: “After just one year, Air France/KLM’s low-cost carrier Transavia unexpectedly withdrew from Munich. The airport blames this on a lack of take-off and landing slots.” I did this to make the text flow better, but my phrasing meant that I could omit the translation of “breaking tents” as it became superfluous. I also translated “Fenster” as “slots” to keep it consistent with the rest of the text.

 

Airport owner(s) and referendum (results)

The following section also proved to be tricky, and several issues arose in the translations. I want to focus on the text in bold:

“Noch im Frühjahr wollen Staatsregierung, Bund und Landeshauptstadt als Flughafen-Eigentümer entscheiden, ob sie den Bau einer dritten Startbahn vorantreiben und dazu einen neuen Bürgerentscheid abhalten. Das Projekt liegt seit dem ablehnenden Münchner Bürgerentscheid von 2012 auf Eis.”

 

Translator A: The state government, federal government and state capital as airport owner will decide whether to campaign and conduct a new referendum for a third runway in Spring. The project had already been halted with the negative referendum result of 2012.

Translator B: In the spring, the state government, federal government and the state capital as an airport owner will meet to decide whether to push forward the construction of a third runway and to hold a new referendum. The project has been on ice since the negative Munich referendum of 2012.

Translator C: In the spring, State Government, Federal Government and the city as the airport owner wants to decide whether they should promote the construction of a third runway and to hold a new referendum. The project has been on the ice since the disapproving Munich referendum of 2012.

Translator D: In the spring, the state government, the federal government and the state capital will decide as owners of the airport whether they are pushing for the construction of a third runway and make a decision on it. The project has been on the ice since the disapproving Munich citizenship of 2012.

 

Listing the three entities and adding “as the/an airport owner” is not technically incorrect, but it is very clunky in English due to verb used in the sentence. Do you go with plural as there are three owners or singular referring back to “airport owner”?

 

My solution: “In their capacity as the airport’s owners, the state and federal government and the city of Munich plan to decide on whether to proceed with the construction of a third runway and hold another referendum on this matter in spring. The project has been on ice since the residents of Munich voted against it in a referendum in 2012.” Although the first sentence is still long, I’ve avoided repeating the words “state” and “government” (see Translator A, B and D) and made everything plural so there is no confusion with the verb. I was also careful with the wording of the next sentence to avoid the phrasing used by the Fiverr translators.

 

The subjunctive

In German, authors can use the subjunctive mood to express doubt or to distance themselves from the opinions stated in the text. This is frequently used in journalism to indirectly quote speech. There is an example of this in the text:

“Kerkloh wirbt daher für den Bau einer dritten Start- und Landebahn. Ohne deren Kapazität werde München Wachstum verlieren.“

All of the Fiverr translators failed to spot it, translating this sentence as fact rather than Kerkloh’s opinion.

A: Kerkloh therefore campaigns for the construction of a third runway. Without it Munich will lose out on growth.

B: Kerkloh is therefore promoting the construction of a third runway. Without their full capacity, Munich will not continue to grow.

C: Kerkloh therefore promotes the construction of a third runway. Without their capacity, Munich will lose growth.

D: Kerkloh is therefore promoting the construction of a third runway. Without their capacity, Munich will lose growth.

As you can see, all of these translators have made it look like Munich will definitely lose out on growth if a third runway is not constructed. What the text actually says, though, is that Kerkloh thinks Munich will not be able to see growth without the construction of a third runway. Hence my translation: “He [Kerkloh] is therefore canvassing for the construction of a third runway as he believes Munich would not see growth without this capacity.”

 

This is something that Google Translate always struggles with because it needs to be translated differently depending on the context. For example, you can use allegedly/apparently to create distance or you can add in the speaker’s name with believes/reckons/thinks (or another synonym) to make it clear that you are referring to something they have said rather than a fact. The latter is particularly difficult for a machine to replicate because it requires understanding of the text, not just an ability to string words together based on translation patterns detected in texts already translated by humans and fed into the machine’s database.

Conclusion

All four Fiverr translators used Google Translate, and none of the texts are fit for purpose. Every single one of them had me scratching my head at least once, and if I couldn’t speak German, I would not be able to figure out what they were trying to say. The quality of these texts is sub-par as these texts do not accurately convey all of the information written in the German.

 

This is the second experiment I have conducted on Fiverr, the first one being a French translation in collaboration with Natalie Soper. The results of both experiments are the same: the translators use Google Translate and tweak the output slightly in an attempt to iron out Google’s mistakes. But it’s still not good enough. But as somebody pointed out on the Fiverr forums, what do I expect for $5?!

 

Once again, here are the translations and Google Translate’s output for comparison:

Translator A Translator B Translator C Translator D

Google Translate

Fiverr: Do you get what you pay for? (Part 2)

A friend and translation colleague, Natalie Soper, recently messaged me to tell me about a friend of hers who was considering using Fiverr to translate professional texts. The text needed to be translated from English into several languages and Natalie’s friend didn’t know where to start. We were both horrified that anybody would think Fiverr is a viable option for finding translators. Personally, if I can’t recommend a trusted colleague, then I refer them to the directory of a professional translation association, depending on the languages required.

 

So we decided to put Fiverr to the test. We selected a text from a newspaper website relating to one of our common specialisms: tourism. This is a field that is sometimes considered “easy” in comparison to other fields, say legal or medical. Yet it has its unique challenges, and this text was tricky, ready to trip up our translators in every paragraph. And it did. The least we’d expect from a professional translation is a text that reads fluently in English, that adapts to the new audience (with clear research and extra explanations where needed), has taken numerical formats into account and has creative solutions to the uniquely Francophone complexities… and we got none of that.

 

You can read more about how we selected the translators and the intricacies of Fiverr on Natalie’s blog.

 

Natalie and I also translated the text as if we were delivering for a client. We met to discuss our versions plus the versions delivered to us. I am going to outline a few of the parts we found difficult, and compare the translations.

Analysis

General

startup-photosFirst of all, it was plain to see that every translator used a machine translation tool and made slight edits to the output. We suspect they used Google Translate. The texts delivered by Translator C and Translator E were so similar in parts that I thought they may have been delivered by the same person. This is despite the fact that, as Natalie mentioned in her blog post, each translator claimed to translate their texts “manually”. (One translator also claimed not to use “spinning software”, whatever that means!) When we compared our own texts, they were vastly different but still accurate, which is what we expected from our Fiverr translators.

 

Two of our translators, A and C, used US dates and spelling, whereas B and E adapted the date to UK English but used US spelling conventions. As Natalie mentioned in her blog, none of them asked if we’d prefer US or British English, but we hoped that they would at least stick one style consistently.

 

For some reason, Google Translate added in a space at the end of the third paragraph:

The director general of Atout France, the French tourism promotion agency, confirmed that France “really started a recovery from September / October”, and that the end of 2016 had been better than expected “.

Miraculously, this erroneous space turned up in every single translation we purchased.

 

La France séduit toujours autant.

For me, the very first sentence was one of the toughest in the text. Each translator (including Natalie and me) dealt with it differently.

Translator A: France still seduces as much.

Translator B: France is still very attractive, […]

Translator C: France is still quite seductive.

Translator E: France still remains attractive as before.

These are all pretty literal translations, and some are less effective than others. Translator A’s solution is an outright word-for-word translation, and it doesn’t work. Nor does Translator C’s version as the French author did not mean seductive here. The verb ‘seduce’ has sexual undertones in English, which is certainly not what we were going for here. Natalie and I thought that ‘attractive’ was a better option, although Translator E’s version seems to be missing an ‘as’ (“remains *as* attractive as before”. Yet this still makes the reader wonder: “Before what?”) I used ‘attractive’ in my version: “France remains an attractive destination.” Natalie, on the other hand, went for a much more stylish: “France hasn’t lost its charm”.

 

Jean-Marc Ayrault

Another challenge came in the second sentence: “C’est le constat tiré par Jean-Marc Ayrault, qui a annoncé, le 10 février, que pour l’année 2016, le pays conservait sa place de première destination touristique mondiale.”

Being published on a French news website, the French text is mainly aimed at a French audience who is expected to know who Ayrault is. Yet a generalist English-speaking audience probably would not know who he is. Natalie and I both added his title in this sentence, but none of our Fiverr translators did.

Natalie: This was the conclusion made by the French Minister of Foreign Affairs Jean-Marc Aryault, who announced on 10 February that the country has held onto its crown as the world’s top tourist destination in 2016, […]

Me: This conclusion was drawn by French Minister of Foreign Affairs Jean-Marc Ayrault, who, on 10th February, said that the country remained the number one destination in the world in 2016, […]

 

Le directeur général d’Atout France

About halfway through the text, the author writes:

Le directeur général d’Atout France, l’organisme de promotion du tourisme dans l’Hexagone, a confirmé que la France “a vraiment amorcé un redressement à partir de septembre/octobre”, et que la fin 2016 avait été “meilleure que prévu”.

All of our translators came up with a different title for this man. Translator A chose ‘general director’, Translators B and C opted for ‘general manager’ and Translator E went for ‘executive director’. A simple Google search reveals two viable options for his title, CEO or Director General. I plumped for the former, whereas Natalie chose the latter. It’s important to get the person’s title right as he could be mistaken for somebody else, especially as his name was not mentioned in the text.

 

Umih

In the last paragraph, all of the translators stumbled on the following sentence:

2016 a été une année difficile pour nos entreprises, surtout à Paris et sur la Côte d’Azur”, a confirmé Roland Héguy, président de la principale organisation hôtelière, l’Umih.

In fact, Translators A, B and C all stuck to Google Translate’s version:

confirmed Roland Héguy, president of the main hotel organization, the Umih.

And Translator E wasn’t far off this with:

affirmed by Roland Héguy, president of the main hotel organization, the UMIH, simply changing “confirmed” to “affirmed” and capitalising the name.

The problem here is that Umih is a union, not a hotel organisation. A little bit of research would have helped our Fiverr translators here, as both Natalie and I managed to spot this:

Natalie: says Roland Héguy, President of the French hoteliers union, UMIH.

Me: confirmed Roland Héguy, President of UMIH, the country’s main union for the hospitality sector.

Conclusion

As highlighted throughout this post, the Fiverr translators depended on Google Translate, adjusting it slightly where they thought appropriate. None of them researched any part of the text or added glosses for aspects that English-language readers would not understand or be aware of, which a professional translator will do as a matter of course. Although these translations only cost $5 each, we got neither speed, quality nor good customer service – we basically paid for Google Translate with a few tweaks, some of which weren’t even appropriate. Was this a good investment? No. If anything, this exercise demonstrates that it takes much more than language skills to craft a good translation: knowledge of the subject of the text and target audience are also crucial factors, and although Natalie and I are clearly biased, we feel that hiring an expert translator is still the only option for translating professional texts.

 

Edit: here is the French text plus the translations we received.

Text for translation

Translator ATranslator BTranslator CTranslator E

The FAQ series: what is the difference between a translator and an interpreter?

I’ve been an avid networker since starting my translation business in 2012. When I talk about what I do, there are a few questions that pop up time and time again. This blog post series aims to answer those questions in detail. After all, you don’t always have enough time at these kinds of events (and, being passionate about my profession, I could waffle on about what I do for hours!)
microphone-704255_640

Interpreters work at events, conferences, etc.

There is one major difference between a translator and an interpreter: translators work with the written word and interpreters work with the spoken word.

So a translator may translate books, press releases, presentation slides, manuals, website content or even subtitles, whereas an interpreter may interpret at international events, conferences, in the courts, at international institutions and for the police. As you can see, these two roles are very different.
book-1798_640

Translators have the luxury of scouring dictionaries for the perfect word

The two professions are by no means interchangeable. I am not trained or qualified to work as an interpreter as this role requires tonnes of practice at hearing words and (sometimes immediately) interpreting them in another language. Interpreting is a psychologically demanding profession whereas my work as a translator allows me to go at my own pace, consult dictionaries and other reference works so that I can produce an effective text in English. Conversely, some interpreters prefer not to translate because they are familiar with the fast-paced world of interpreting and are not used to working with the intricate nuances of some texts.

So there you have it. Are you a translator or interpreter and have something to add? Are you a (potential) translation client and want to ask a question about the process? Leave a post in the comments or send me a message via the contact page!

The FAQ series: why don’t you translate into French/German?

I’ve been an avid networker since starting my translation business in 2012. When I talk about what I do, there are a few questions that pop up time and time again. This blog post series aims to answer those questions in detail. After all, you don’t always have enough time at these kinds of events (and, being passionate about my profession, I could waffle on about what I do for hours!)
pexels-photo-28764There are two main reasons why translators don’t tend to translate from their native into their non-native language. The first is time: it would take me at least twice as long to produce a text if I translated from my native English into German or French. Why? Because words and sentence formulations don’t come as quickly to me in German or French as they do in English. When I translate into English, I can usually read the sentence in the original French or German and compose the English sentence as fast as my fingers can type (once I’ve done the required research and with a proofreading stage later, of course). This process would be much longer and more laborious the other way around, and would be quite a strain on my brain! As a consequence, my services would also be more expensive as I factor time into the way I price projects. So translating into my native language is faster than translating into my non-native language and thus less expensive for my clients.
letter-761653_960_720The second reason is style: a translation should not stand out as a translation; the reader should not (usually) be aware that this text exists in other languages and is based on another text. It should be easy to read, “blend in with its environment” and act as a stand-alone text. Clients usually need their translator to be a native speaker of the translation’s language to achieve this effect. If I translated into German or French, it is possible that I would make non-native speaker mistakes, be it with sentence structure, words not being used in the correct context or evoking the dreaded we-just-don’t-say-it-that-way reaction that every multilingual person will encounter at some stage. Ultimately, translation clients want a stylish text, so they need their translator to translate into their native language, not out of it.
So there you have it. Are you a translator and have something to add? Are you a (potential) translation client and want to ask a question about the translation process? Leave a post in the comments or send me a message via the contact page!

What do you translate?

When I go out to networking events or when I talk about my work with friends and family, I find it hard to explain what I do. One of the reasons for this is that the content of my work changes on a weekly, if not daily, basis. One day I’ll be translating press releases, the next I’ll be doing a guidebook or content for a hotel’s website.

To give you an overview, here’s a selection of some of the work I’ve done over the past few months.

September 2016

stonesGerman to English translation of website content for a luxury spa hotel

travelGerman to English translation of hotel descriptions for a corporate event booking

August 2016

map-of-roadsGerman to English translation of a mini tourist guide on Helsinki

cutleryGerman to English translation of website texts for a consultancy company specialising in hospitality

earth-globeGerman to English translation of a group of press releases evaluating the results of an international comparison of OECD countries

billboardGerman to English translation of an analysis of several campaigns undertaken by a German advertising agency

July 2016

usbGerman to English translation of a compilation of press releases written in 2015 for a cable manufacturer

newspaperGerman to English translation of a newspaper article about an American actor that appeared in a weekly German newspaper

job-transitionGerman to English translation of a transcript for a video made by a national postal company on the results of their employee satisfaction survey

June 2016

dictionary-book-with-letters-a-to-zGerman to English translation of an A-Z of useful information for a hotel

consulting-messageGerman to English translation of a letter from the owners of a hotel asking guests for feedback and online reviews

travel-1German to English translation of a blog post by a national postal company on travel destinations and local culinary delights

 

My insights into the ITB travel show: day 3

Read about day one here.

Read about day two here.

On day three I mainly focused on meeting fellow attendees and networking, but I did attend a few talks:

The first was a fascinating talk on the future of luxury tourism. The panel included a cruise analyst who focused on high-end luxury cruises and shunned “mainstream” cruises and a businessman from South Africa who insisted you could create luxury from nothing by taking people out into nature, keeping things simple and getting back to basics. It was debated whether companies like Secret Escapes are even luxury if they have such low price tags. The panel generally seemed to agree that the word “luxury” is abused in the travel industry.

I then attended a talk on blogging and how DMOs work with bloggers. The general gist was that bloggers do get paid, but the expectation is then that the content is owned by the DMO and they can do with it as they please. The DMOs on the panel stressed that bloggers need a large organic following for this to work as the benefit of collaborating with bloggers over any other marketing expert is that a blogger will create exposure and distribute their content, which isn’t always a given with other marketing professionals.

My last talk of the day was on the sharing economy. Are companies such as Airbnb really dominating the industry? “No” was the response from Wouter Geerts at Euromonitor, who had analysed the market and was presenting his research. He suggested three ways to counter the sharing economy:

  • Hotels have done a great deal of lobbying against Airbnb and even seen success in New York and Barcelona.
  • Marriott have created a lower-end brand called Moxy. These hotels feature tiny bedrooms but their lobbies are designed in such a way that encourages socialising.
  • Hyatt has teamed up with Onefinestay (a company similar to Airbnb offering high-end accommodation) and Wyndham with Love Home Swap (a home-swapping service) in an effort to get in on the sharing-economy action.

He also presented other examples of the sharing economy in travel, such as the company that rents out your car while you go on holiday. You save on airport parking and make a commission on the rental. The company also cleans your car before returning it to you. Personally, I would be a little worried about renting my car out to any old Joe Bloggs, but each to their own!

My insights into the ITB travel show: day 2

Read about day one here.

My second day at the ITB started with a presentation on the all-singing, all-dancing (literally) Mario, a humanoid robot who works in the Marriott Hotel in Ghent. The charming automaton works on the welcome desk greeting guests in 19 languages and handing out key cards. He also gives PowerPoint presentations in meetings, talks at events and chats to guests at the buffet. Worried about him replacing human staff? Don’t be. His popularity has increased bookings in the hotel, apparently leading to more employees being hired!

There were a lot of interesting talks in the wellness auditorium today, including a talk by an exclusive, luxury resort by the sea in northern Germany. The speaker was convinced that it’s possible to create unique wellness experiences in Germany that are just as good as those in Mexico or Dubai, and from the video she showed us, it seems she’s right. She stressed that every hotel should do its best to incorporate nature into its business model and do something with it.

Next up was a talk on wellness trends with a PowerPoint full of facts and percentages. Here I learned that more than 70% of hoteliers are planning investments in 2016 and just under 60% of guests would prefer to book an adult-only hotel. The speaker, Wibke Metzger, also made it clear that people want to use their time effectively, which makes life go faster. As a result, people work too much and don’t take enough time out (something I definitely recognised in myself!).

In the afternoon I attended a talk on digital natives, which highlighted the work trends among millennials. Connectivity, sharing and flexibility seemed to be the overarching trends woven through this talk. According to the speaker, people want flexible workplaces, e.g. coworking spaces, and the ability to choose when to work and when to take time off. Workations (working + vacation) are apparently going to be a trend of the future, which I found pretty interesting as I’m planning to take my laptop to Malta and work from there in May.

After this, I attended a networking event organised by the Adventure Travel Trade Association. I got the chance to meet and chat to a range of very interesting people, something that I had thus far struggled to do (even at lunch, people preferred to sit on their phones and read magazines around me yesterday and today every empty seat I found was apparently taken by an invisible person). Unfortunately I didn’t win one of the many prizes the association had to give away. Maybe next time!

Tomorrow is my last day at the ITB. Stay tuned for the last update!

Read about day three here.

 

My insights into the ITB travel show: day 1

This is my first year of attending the ITB, the world’s largest tourism convention, in Berlin. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, despite having done plenty of research and reached out to many exhibitors prior to my arrival. Here are my insights into day one.

I arrived at 10am and decided to spend most of the day listening to presentations. The schedule for the day was fascinating and ranged from talks on how the refugee crisis affects tourism to what virtual reality has in store to the ins and outs of being a digital nomad. As talks took place simultaneously in various parts of the exhibition centre, it was sometimes quite difficult to choose which talk to attend, but I managed to pick a multitude of aspects relating to the tourism world.

I started off in the MICE Day talk on digital transformation. Before the speaker, Prof. Wolfgang Henseler, graced the stage, there was a short talk by Bernd Fritzges and a robot who entertained the audience with the Gangnam style dance – very entertaining. Prof. Henseler’s talk was less to do with travel and tourism and more to do with innovative technology in everyday life and how it changes the way we think. He focused in on Amazon’s latest innovations, including Echo, the Dash button and Dash Replenishment Services. The latter involves products, such as water filters, reordering themselves as required. I don’t know about you, but I find that idea a little creepy!

I then sat in one of the most interesting talks of the day: Old Europe, New Borders? Coming and Going, Travel & Staying at Home: Tourism & Refugees. The four speakers on this panel tackled issues relating to terrorism and refugees, i.e. the fact that people shouldn’t stop travelling to a destination where a terrorist attack has occurred. One speaker quite rightly pointed out that if we stop visiting countries affected by terrorism then their economy will suffer, so the locals are hit twice as hard. The notion of safety was also discussed: is anywhere in the world actually 100% safe?

The next talk I attended was by Microsoft on digital disruption. It made me wonder whether digital disruption is actually as negative as it sounds. The speaker gave me the impression that if companies keep up with the latest trends and be proactive, rather than reactive, then digital disruption becomes more of a way to promote innovation than a mechanism to destroy existing businesses.

After lunch (which consisted of a very expensive prawn cocktail), I sat in on a talk on pricing in the tourism industry. Did you know that a frequent flyer is more likely to be offered an expensive flight than somebody not on the airline’s loyalty programme? (At least according to the speaker, Dr Mark Friesen.) The gist of the talk boiled down to the fact that airlines and hotels know a lot more about us than you would think and there is a trend towards pricing flights/hotel stays individually based on a customer’s past behaviour and preferences rather than on current availability. So if you have a favourite airline and book directly with them every time, you may not actually be getting the best available price. Dr Friesen also discussed concerns, such as price fairness and the legal implications of this.

The last talk of the day for me, before I wondered around some of the stands (including the truck giving out free ice cream), was by two “digital nomads”, i.e. people who travel and work. One of them was Sarah Lorenz, whose blog I follow on my Translator Travels twitter account. It was a really interesting talk as I have been seriously considering incorporating travel into my business model and working abroad while travelling. It was great to get a realistic picture of what that would actually be like!

After this, I went for a stroll around the stands. I was a little bit reluctant to do this, as when I attended the WTM in November, it was quite clear that the exhibitors either a) had no idea about how translation is managed in their company and/or b) were there to attract business rather than acquire services, so trying to strike up conversation was painful at times. I did, however, manage to chat to a few people this time around without feeling like I was getting on their nerves or wasting their time. Hopefully that’s a sign of progress and the following days will be even better!

I am also going to be at the ITB tomorrow and Friday. Feel free to follow me on Twitter for live updates. If you’re going to the ITB and would like to set up a meeting, get in touch!

Read about day two here.

Read about day three here.

The benefits of hiring a translator to translate your travel or tourism text

The Internet is peppered with statistics on the boom in tourism in recent years. For example, UNWTO has stated that worldwide destinations received 21 million more tourists between January and June 2015 in comparison with the same period of 2014 with Germany being the second most popular European travel destination after Spain. This means increasing numbers of people from all over the world using tourism services in every corner of the Earth. Needless to say, this scenario requires multi-lingual communication and what better way to speak to people than in their own language!

This is where translation comes in. As a translator myself, I sometimes find that translation by a qualified translator is omitted from the budgets of internationally focused companies. This may be because they didn’t consider it in the first place or they don’t value the difference in quality between a translation produced by a professional or by an amateur (or even a machine). So why should you hire a professional when there are so many other options out there? This article will discuss a few of the benefits.

First and foremost, your translator will have extensive knowledge of all of their mastered languages and the countries’ cultures. As is often the case with tourism, cultural elements will crop up in texts that may be unknown to your target audience. Translators will know precisely how to word the new text to incorporate this unknown entity seamlessly into the translation. Let’s take the term Feuerzangenbowle, a Christmas tradition that can be seen at German Christmas markets, as an example. It refers to an alcoholic beverage made by placing an alcohol-soaked sugarloaf onto a bowl of mulled wine and setting said sugarloaf alight so that it melts and mixes into the drink. But how do you translate this for an audience who are unfamiliar with the term, particularly if the writer refers to this concept in passing and it’s not the major focus of the text? Amateurs may not know how to deal with these instances of unfamiliarity. So one of the benefits of hiring a translator is that the qualified translator can add value by helping the reader to understand the foreign concept.

The next argument I would like to put forward is that you are entrusting the person who writes your foreign-language content with your brand. If this person does not have the appropriate language skill level or knowledge of the topic that they are translating, the resulting document could be poorly written or even misleading. This is sure to have a negative impact on your company’s image. Not only is it worth hiring a professional with experience, it is also worth giving them information about your company, what you represent, how you market yourself and what you hope to accomplish with your text. This way, your brand will be correctly represented to your potential foreign customers.

I should also mention that well-known machine called Google Translate. I have to admit, it could come in handy when travelling in a far-flung country where you don’t speak the local language and they don’t speak yours. However, when it comes to translating your written content, how will you assess the quality of the text if you do not speak the language in which your translated content is being generated? How can you be sure that it is representing your brand well and creating a desirable image of your company? Working with a human translator means that you can contact them to ask questions about the translated text and make adjustments if needed. You cannot ask a machine why it translated X as Y. Of course you can tweak and edit a machine-translated text, but will the text be as good as a text translated by a professional translator from scratch? Personally, I don’t think it would. The benefits of hiring a professional here are diverse: quality, communication and collaboration are just three of the advantages of working with translators.

It was also recently revealed that Google deems content translated by Google Translate to be “automatically generated” content, which bumps it down in the list of search rankings. Google’s SEO rules prioritise original content with the right keywords to ensure that their rankings are relevant. According to Brightlines, the e-tourism sector in France loses €120 million every year as a result of this. On request, translators can do keyword research to ensure that your writing is ranked as high as possible on Google. In other words, automatically generated material is not acceptable for clients publishing content on the Web. Investing in translation should certainly be appealing if you publish online content.

My final argument is this: even if you are highly skilled in your non-native language, translating perfectly worded written material will take you a long time. Especially if you plan to craft it so that it doesn’t read like a translation. This time could be better spent elsewhere in your business, while you leave translation to the trained professionals. In any business, it is worth outsourcing extra tasks, e.g. translation (and in my case: accounting, marketing), to professionals, as any fan of the SWOT analysis will tell you.

So why should you hire a qualified translator to translate your tourism text? Because they will craft the text into a beautifully worded piece, taking into consideration any cultural aspects unknown to the target readers. They will put in a great deal of research, even for the simplest of texts. They will make the translated text flow so that you are unable to tell that it is a translation. If any (or some, or all) of these factors are important to you, I urge you to hire a professional translator to render your texts in your chosen foreign languages.

News update: AITI membership status

Hello readers!

I just wanted to write a short post to inform you that I am now an associate member of the Institute of Translation and Interpreting (ITI). The process of joining as an associate member involves submitting a number of professional references from my clients with whom I have been working for more than a year plus at least one character reference from a non-relative. The professional references are a testament to the quality of my work and my reliability as a translator.

I am thrilled to be part of the UK’s national association of translators and hope to use my membership to keep track of my continuing professional development (CPD), attend ITI networking events and grow as a translator.