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

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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!)
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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.
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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

 

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.

A beginner’s guide to conferences

I recently attended the BP Translation Conference in Zagreb. It was my first conference and initially I had no idea what to expect. I did my research and as it turns out, I came over-prepared. This blog post presents my tips for a successful conference.

**Please note, seasoned conference-goers are likely to know this stuff like the back of their hand**

 

Before the conference
Business cards at the ready!
If you have business cards already, great. If you don’t, get some designed (or design them yourself). They will be handed out to new people you meet so that you can keep in touch, so they are an asset. Good business card websites include VistaPrint and MOO.

Get your profile on the conference’s attendees list
This is something I didn’t do until last minute, so my profile didn’t actually end up on the website. If your conference has an “Attendees” section, submit a professional picture of yourself and say a few words about you and your work. This will attract the attention of anybody who happens to come across the website, not just fellow translators.

Connect on twitter
Visit the conference’s website and look at the attendees list. As you browse through, check whether any of them have linked their twitter accounts and follow them. Have a look on twitter to see who is tweeting about your conference and interact with them by replying, retweeting or following them.

Check out the programme
You will probably have looked at the programme before you paid to attend, but go back and have another look at which talk is on at what time and plan which one you want to go to. There may be more than one talk scheduled at a time, so it pays to be prepared.

What to pack?
This was one of the focuses of my pre-conference research. I suggest: business cards, pens, paper (although this was provided at BP15), a business card wallet for the cards you get from fellow attendees, your tablet (optional, I never ended up using mine) and smart outfits.

What to wear?
This was another one of my pre-conference focuses. Conferences vary, so try to find out about the dress code beforehand. Search for pictures of the previous years’ conferences to give yourself an idea of what to wear. If, like me, your feet suffer in new shoes, get foot plasters or make sure your shoes are well-and-truly broken in before wearing them to a conference.

Where to stay?
I’d recommend staying at the conference hotel. This was a lesson I learned once I got there. I stayed at a hotel down the road and found myself getting jealous when fellow conference attendees decided they needed a break and retreated to their hotel rooms. If you forget anything, you can also just pop upstairs. It also makes getting to the conference a lot easier. I was almost late on the first day as I hadn’t allowed for the fact that 1st May is a Bank Holiday in Croatia, so I was still stood waiting for a tram at 8:50 when the conference started at 9.

Fringe activities
If attending the conference isn’t enough for you, conferences usually have a couple of days on either side where they organise activities: workshops, day trips to popular tourist destinations, dinners, evening entertainment, etc. Have a look through these offerings before you go and sign up to the ones you find interesting.

 

During the conference
Be sociable
Get to know as many people as you can, even if you are shy and quiet like me. This was pretty easy at the BP Translation Conference as many of the talks were interactive. There were also several coffee breaks (and of course lunch) which allowed for plenty of time to get to know your colleagues.

Take good notes
If you hear something noteworthy, write it down. You are more likely to remember it if you put it in writing rather than hearing something and trying to keep it in mind.

Hand out business cards
If you meet interesting people you want to keep in contact with, give them your card and ask for theirs in return.

Enjoy it
Although conferences are a business function, they can also be fun. Relax and enjoy networking with your peers!

 

After the conference
Touch base with the people you met
Have a look through the business cards you were given and find a way to contact those colleagues, be it through Twitter, LinkedIn or by dropping them a line via email.

Ask for presentation slides
If you went to a brilliant talk and you find your notes don’t do it justice, get in touch with the speaker and politely ask them for their presentation slides.

Read this article

 

Do you love going to conferences? What would you add to this list?

What to look for in a freelance translator

Are you looking to have your work translated and have opted for a freelancer, but you’re lost in the jungle of search results? Don’t be put off by the masses of information that search engines throw at you. The translation industry is not regulated, so knowing what to look for can be a bit of a minefield. This blog post contains some specifics to help you in your search.

Qualifications
Qualifications are an important factor – a translator should produce good-quality work if they have a master’s degree in translation from a university or if they hold another equivalent qualification, such as the DipTrans. It should, however, be noted that not all translators have translation-specific qualifications. If your translator doesn’t, check whether they are a member of any professional translator associations, as some of these, such as the ITI, require translators to pass their entrance exam.

Experience
It goes without saying that a translator who has many years of experience should be good at their job. When searching for a translator, look at how long they have been working in translation, whether they have worked in-house or just freelanced, and the types of documents they have translated. These factors will give you a better picture of your translator’s abilities.

Specialisms
A translator’s qualifications and experience in the industry is not where your search should end. What type of text do you need to have translated? Is it a legal, medical, marketing or technical text, for example? A translator’s website should contain information on their specialisms, so when searching for “translator in [insert language pair here]” in a search engine, you should also include the type of text, e.g. “translator German to English business” to make sure your translator has the necessary knowledge to translate your text.

Professional translator associations
As with most industries, the translation industry has a set of professional associations, e.g. IAPTI and the ITI. If a translator is a member of one (or more) of these associations, it may reveal information about his or her business. Professional translator associations will have some form of code of conduct that they will expect their members to observe. Some translator associations will also expect their members to take a translation exam to verify that they have the appropriate skills to be a translator. So if your translator is a member of a professional translator association, you should expect professionalism and quality.

Translator portals
If you find your perfect translator via their business website but would like more information, you could search to see if he or she has a profile on a translator portal. Most translators will have a profile on one or more portals, even if it just contains basic information. Some will have spent time on their profile, and it may contain information that you cannot find on their website, e.g. rates and feedback. If you want further information before contacting your chosen translator, it may be worth cross-referencing their website with their profile, for example on ProZ.com or translatorscafe.com. These are just two of a wide range of portals you could search through.

Feedback on your translator
Before you enquire about a translation with your chosen translator, it may also be worth reading feedback and testimonials about the translator written by the translator’s clients. This may be included on the translator’s website, but some portals also have this feature. Feedback may contain information on quality, client satisfaction, and reliability, which will be helpful in your search.

There you have some tips to get you started. Happy hunting!

Feel free to add your comments and questions below.

This month in the translation and language-learning world…

… NewStatesman discussed the role of translators in the ebola crisis

The Council on Foreign Relations expanded on John Oliver’s rant about Afghan translators

… The Guardian wrote about the changes in teaching languages in primary schools

… LaPresse.ca profiled three people working in the translation and interpreting industry

… The BBC explained why English is the language of science

MT, CAT, and Skype Translator: clearing a few things up

Last month, an article was posted on the Guardian’s website about translation, machine translation (MT) and computer-assisted translation (CAT). You can read it here. Reading this as a freelance translator, I have to say that some of the information conveyed in the article was either flawed or confusing. I’m writing this blog post to clear a few things up.

First of all, what the article lacked was a clear definition of MT and CAT. The Oxford Dictionary defines MT as “translation carried out by a computer”. There is no human input involved here, and this is the technology ‘threatening’ to make the translation profession extinct.
Cattools.org defines CAT as “a form of translation wherein a human translator translates texts using computer software designed to support and facilitate the translation process”. In other words, CAT is a type of software used by translators in the translation process.

When the article quotes Angelique Petrits, a language officer at the European Commission, it should have been made clearer that her comments referred to CAT tools, not to MT. Her quotes only refer to “technology”, which is ambiguous. Yet her references to technology “automatically replacing strings of texts which have been already translated” and contributing “to the consistency of terminology” make it clear to those familiar with the profession that she’s talking about CAT tools. CAT tools involve importing documents to be translated into the software, storing the translations created in translation memories, and saving repeated terms in term bases to ensure consistent translation.

One last thing to note is that the Microsoft “Star Trek” Skype Translator is not “impressive, making only a handful of mistakes.” The demonstration at the Code Conference was over-simplified, full of errors, and quite frankly, awful. It looked good to anybody who couldn’t speak German, but anybody who can will confirm that it is far from being impressive. Andy Way, associate professor of computing at Dublin City University, was quite right to say “You’re more likely to have everything else in Star Trek before you ever get a universal translator” in the Guardian article.

Did anybody else read the article and have similar reactions to mine? Feel free to post them in the comments below!

Working in-house vs. working freelance – pros and cons

When working as a translator, you have a few job options available to you. The main ones are: working in-house at a translation agency, freelancing, and working in-house for one particular company. So far in my career I have done the latter two. There are pros and cons to both, some of which I discuss below.

Pay

One of the major advantages of working in-house for a company is that you know exactly what you will be paid at the end of the month, and this payment will be on time. By contrast, the disadvantage for freelance translators is that this sum will vary, as will the payment terms: some clients are happy to pay immediately, but many ask for a 30- or 60-day payment period after receipt of invoice. There is also no guarantee as a freelancer that your client will pay on schedule. As an in-house employee, you will receive benefits including holiday pay, sick pay, and a pension. When working freelance, it is recommended that translators put money aside for these benefits, plus their tax bill!

Hours

In theory, freelance translators can be flexible in picking their hours to suit them – they don’t have to stick to a Monday to Friday 9-to-5 routine (although I try to!). An in-house employee will have set hours. They may have a certain amount of flexibility, e.g. being able to start their working day at any time between 8am and 10:30am, but will still be expected to work a certain amount of hours in a day or week. Having said this, in-house staff are not necessarily expected to work weekends, whereas a freelance translator having a slow week may decide that the project that landed in their inbox at 4pm on Friday, due at 9am on Monday, is perfect to top up their income for that particular month.

Projects

As a freelance translator, you are your own boss. This means that if you’re offered a translation project, you have the option of turning it down. If you work in-house, you have less choice in the matter. This may result in the freelance translator working on a greater variety of texts in their specialism, which, in my opinion, makes work a bit more fun. When it comes to finding a specialism, the in-house employee will become specialised in what the company that he or she works for does. A freelance translator will be able to carefully select and refine their specialism depending on their educational and training background as well as the projects that they choose to accept.

Those are three of the many issues that a translator will face when deciding on their career path. Are you reading and have something to add? Feel free to leave your comments below!