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Translation Isn’t a Commodity

Translation isn’t a commodity; plain and simple. With the rise of machine translation and automated translation portals for projects, we hear more and more about the dehumanization of translation services.

I would argue that this couldn’t be further from the truth. Translation is so much more than filling a virtual shopping cart with a file and approving translation for a set cost or typing a sentence into a window and seeing an instant (often incorrect) translation. Human power is still an integral part of the language services industry. Let’s not forget that there are humans behind these machine processes; even MT has a human component.

Today’s machine translation engines have been built off the backs of millions of words previously translated by humans. The slick websites and customer portals used for submitting translation are powered by human project managers, human translators and human editors. Without a doubt, machine translations continue to become more and more accurate but their inherent lack of ability to understand context and localized behavior means that humans remain a vital component, not only for review of translated material, but also for providing knowledge of culture, idiosyncrasies and deeper meaning in content. This is what we focus on everyday.

I always challenge our team to look beyond the dollars and cents and paperwork involved with our customers’ orders. For example, it is easy to think of an order as just a web project we are doing for a new customer. Instead, we prefer to think of it as a new website that will facilitate a brand relaunch for a non-profit organization that will help them raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for those in need. The translated website allows for an expanded audience and engagement with sections of the population that were previously not included in the conversation. For many non-profit organizations, their website is a primary method for communicating with others who are willing to help.

You could also consider the translation of a simple press release which often goes overlooked. Employees should be thinking about the proper translation for a company news story announcing record earnings and a plan for global expansion. That release means new jobs in new markets. That type of news has a huge impact on the local communities where those jobs are located.

We recently translated a mobile application that turned an ordinary tablet into a mobile doctor’s office. The project came in as two simple XML files (Android and Apple application files) and a series of audio files. It would be easy to overlook this as a standard software project, when in reality, our hard work made it possible for physicians to gather the patient’s vitals and information without the patient having to leave his or her home. This ability is a wonderful tool for physicians to use in the treatment of older and infirm patients.

The work we do in support of school districts across the country includes the translation of important policies, student handbooks, school lunch menus and Individualized Education Programs creating a connection between educators, administrators, students and parents regardless of their native language. Our telephonic interpretation service helps educators with day-to-day communication with parents, making sure that interim goals and disciplinary issues are resolved as quickly as possible.

Translation work for immigration attorneys helps to start dreams of a new life for very talented individuals seeking work here in the United States. The attorney will typically need to translate vital records like birth certificates and marriage certificates along with content about the immigrant’s educational background including college diplomas and transcripts.

As a translation services firm, we are very fortunate to be part of projects like these that showcase how important the human experience can be to a successful translation experience. While we regularly aid our clients in driving revenue growth and market expansion, our team excels at bringing in their collective knowledge and history to make any translation project as accurate and understandable as possible.

The hard work being done every day by our project managers, translators, editors, sound engineers, developers and administrative staff allows for the efficient removal of language barriers. This has been our story for 24 years. From our perspective, it’s hard to find a machine-centric substitute for something like that.

Simply treating this type of effort as a commodity is a mistake. So ask yourself – how much effort is your translation service provider putting into your projects and could they be doing more?