I’ve just written an article on Linkedin about our new API for post-edited machine translation. Enjoy it! Translating, fast and slow
He escrito este artículo para el blog de GALA… Innovate or Disappear.
The world changes so fast. Industrial revolutions took several decades to spread, but nowadays disruptive innovations become available worldwide in a matter of months. This is the age of speed. The models describing change are no longer linear but exponential. If you are leading an organization, you need to redefine yourself in real time to keep up with competition that might not yet be known. The sustainability of your company may be at stake.
When we were kids, we all had the necessary skills to innovate: questioning, observing, associating, networking, and experimenting. Maybe because of education, the intensity of each is somehow lost during our youth, and when we become adults, only some lucky ones such as Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, or Jeff Bezos can create companies that disrupt entire industries. Certainly, those inspiring leaders do not have an extreme performance for every skill, but rather a fruitful combination or the right DNA.
Innovators are usually continuous questioners who enjoy asking lots of questions that challenge the status quo. As we learned from the Toyota Production System invented by Taiichi Ohno, you must ask Why at least five times to find the real cause of a problem. Many managers tend to ask Why just once, which implies that they patch problems without any real change or improvement. Another good question is What if. Leading by questioning usually leads to new insights and directions that might have been previously disregarded because of fear.
Observe. Everything. With intensity. If we do that, new ideas might arise to improve the way we do things in our own company. We must see life as if everything was new and continue to be surprised by everything that surrounds us. Just like when you were a kid, when everything was so new it was challenging to keep up. Can you see things others can’t? You should never stop learning, and don’t be afraid of surprises that might be closer than you expect. Just open your eyes.
Many innovations come today from associating, i.e. connecting ideas from different fields into the one we know best. This is T-Type knowledge, where only a little is known about many different fields, and wide know-how of a particular area. The best innovations are located at the intersection of several disciplines. Some experts define creativity as the ability to connect things. So play around and enrich what you do with ideas from other fields.
Networking is also a key to successful innovation. Get to know people, and talk about their passions and things you could do together. Build trust among the people you know, and create something of worth with them. Certainly, people like you are easy to connect with, but people that are completely different might become your most innovative partners. Attend industry conferences (such as GALA’s upcoming event in Istanbul) but learn also from people in other fields. You’ll never regret it.
Last but not least, experimentation is the first step to making things happen. Wanna-be doers just think about their ideas, fall in love with them, but never go beyond that, creating zero value for society. If you want to achieve something and improve the world, you need to start playing, experimenting, breaking things, and asking for forgiveness rather than permission. This experimentation will help you validate your hypotheses, and will show you what works and what doesn’t. You never know until you try.
In my session at GALA 2014 in Istanbul, I’ll discuss how to add these innovative skills to your organization. In preparation for this session, you may wish to read the book The Innovator’s DNA: Mastering the Five Skills of Disruptive Innovators, by Jeff Dyer, Hal Gregersen, and Clayton M. Christensen. And if you want to share your experience with innovation at your company, be sure to attend KnowledgeFest with me!
No doubt, you have used one of the many online machine translators (MT) to translate a short text or a web page. If you didn’t speak the target language, you probably looked at the result and thought, “Well, that French looks like good enough to me!” On the other hand, if you did speak the target language, you probably thought, “MT doesn’t work. This isn’t the quality I want to offer my customers. MT produces awful results. MT is the enemy that will put me out of business.”
However, online MT might not be the best approach to solve your pains (or your customers’). Nowadays, you can select among several MT providers that offer a wide variety of solutions ranging from rule-based MT (e.g. Systran or Lucy Software) to the best-of-breed statistical MT (e.g. tauyou, Asia Online or Safaba), or you can even develop a system yourself using Moses, Joshua, Apertium, or any other open-source software. Your decision depends mainly on your available resources and the time to market. Now might be already too late.
After choosing the engine, there are languages that work best with MT. If we take English as the source, translating into Latin Languages with MT can lead you to realistic productivity increases above 200% with a customized statistical MT in a controlled environment. On the other side, languages such a Polish, Arabic, or Chinese yield to the worse results, although still with some minor productivity gains. The general rule here is that the closer the languages, the better the results, no matter if the engine is statistical or rule-based. You shall measure everything you can, ranging from post-editing time, subjective evaluation, and metrics such as the Word Error Rate or the Post-editing distance.
The domain you choose is also relevant, since it has an impact on the quality. The domain might be decided by your customer, although it is a better decision if you decide based on your overall revenue, your skills, and the domain results. Since it is easy to try and see how good it works, take your decisions based on available data. In our experience, technical domains, as well as legal or medical, yield to significantly better results than marketing or news. The metrics you will be extracting from your projects will tell you where to focus your efforts.
Integrating a new tool in your workflow is never straightforward, because people need to change the way they work. In that sense, the less number of steps, the better. Thanks to current APIs such as the one defined by TAUS, MT systems can be plugged into any CAT tool fairly easily. However, other differentiated workflows can also provide the best adaptation and use of resources. Many of our customers first pre-translate the files, and then they run that file through MT, which will translate the remaining segments. This approach provided optimum results before the widespread availability of APIs. Choosing an API or the pre-processing step depends mainly on the CAT tool, your current process, and the translation speed of your MT provider.
After putting MT into production, the key task is to optimize the engines and provide automatic feedback so that they can improve over time. The first one, and maybe the most important one, is correcting the errors translators feel are important. After that, you can analyze the metrics and develop rules either at the input or at the output to improve the quality. The most common approach is to feed the engines with the updated translation memories (TMs) periodically. At the beginning of the implementation this is done more often (e.g. weekly), and after around 3 months, updates become less important because the quality will improve, as metrics will state.
We have not mentioned the most important aspect of human quality MT, which is the post-editing staff. Certainly, the skills required by post-editors differ slightly from the translators. That is the reason why organizations such as GALA are promoting initiatives such as the GALA Talent Program. Post-editors should be given clear guidelines, they shall know whatis expected from their job. For instance, a client translating e-commerce listings has a clear description of the types of edits they should do and the maximum amount of time that should be invested in any item. Regarding payment, a fair scheme is needed where everybody wins: end client, LSP, and freelance. Do not simply apply a rate reduction that might lead to jobs rejection and decrease in the morale of your team.
Nowadays, we see many more types of content than we used to – e-mail, multilingual chat, social networking, document filtering and selection, etc. – and more are sure to come in the future. Some of the customers with translation needs in these areas would be quite happy with a customized MT solution that produces “good enough” quality without any human intervention. Your best option is not to try to convince them they need better quality (and refuse to use MT at all), but rather to embrace the chance to diversify your portfolio with MT-based services that bring new, recurring revenues for your company. The business model is also a key aspect of the implementation of MT in your organization. Think about it in advance!
(This article was published in Dragosfer in 2013)
1. Less is more.
2. Slow to excel.
3. Smile and grow.
Being at the ATC Conference was fun. Lots of things learned and many new people met. I believe that this is one of the most important points when you go to conferences, learning and sharing. Those events that enable it are a success, you have them all in your mind.
I presented “New Business Models for the Translation Industry” (almost 700 views in 2 weeks!) which tried to challenge the status quo and propose new business models that enable Language Service Providers (LSPs) evolve, or even not die in the future. Any industry that does not adapt itself and addresses the needs from the customers will risk its future positioning. Newcomers and disruptors will take the lead and others will be forgotten.
It was interesting to see the reaction from freelance translators to the last slide, which intends to start a debate about the future, to see if a 0.00 price per word could exist in this industry. Of course, I’m not stating that freelancers won’t be paid, or that machine translation will take the lead, but rather that LSPs and other companies shall try to find innovative ways to generate more revenue. Much more than now, which will ultimately be benefical for all the translation and localization value chain.
It’s obvious that good translations have an impact on sales. Good human translation is more important than ever. And more content is to be translated. The future is yours, you choose.