A Few Words

Troy Helm

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Optimizing Performance From Your In-House Translation Team

Posted by Troy Helm on Mar 21, 2016 1:44:28 PM

images-1-1.jpegMany globally active companies have internal translation resources ranging from in-country reviewers to internal translation teams. There are many advantages to having dedicated language resources, including their intimate knowledge of the company’s style, voice, technical terminology – all which help protect their brand around the world. As with any form of vertical integration there are tradeoffs with scalability, cost-efficiency, speed, and possibly not having the best-in-class tools and processes that specialist firms offer.  To make sure you are getting the best from your internal resources and in particular, preventing all of your knowledge from “walking out the door every night,” here are a few tips and best practices.

Some companies find themselves facing sudden demand for localized versions of their products, marketing materials, manuals, website, or other content. Often, they locate someone within the company that speaks the needed language – and the in-house translation team is born. Since this person may not be a trained translator, some of the basics might be overlooked. Creating and maintaining a company Glossary and Style Guide formalizes and codifies language choices that the translator (and any future translators) may make and ensures vital consistency for internal terms-of-art and nomenclature.

Carpenter-Tools3.jpgSimilarly, the use of modern Computer-Assisted Translation (CAT) tools might be overlooked. We don’t mean Machine Translation (MT), but instead a translator’s workbench that provides a streamlined environment to perform translation and automatically applies the company glossary for consistency. It also uses Translation Memory (TM) which automatically recycles previously translated sentences and helps suggest translations for similar phrases. A basic CAT tool provides great benefit for quality, speed, and internal-cost savings – your internal translator should not be spending time (and money) translating the same sentence over and over – a common situation for documentation and website revisions.

An added benefit of working with CAT tools is it helps establish best practices for translation process. For example, they encourage more robust import/export routines for software (external resource files), websites (XML), and documentation instead of the trap of using an Excel spreadsheet for translated strings or error-prone cut/paste into page layout software.

Internal teams bring valuable continuity and unmatched company/product knowledge to the translation process. However, when faced with large volumes of translation and tight deadlines, it’s very difficult for them to exceed the typical throughput of 2,500 words per day - that's only about 10 pages of text. While they might be able to reach higher productivity levels for short periods, without a second set of eyes to check the translation the potential for simple human error creeps in. For larger volumes of translation work, consider partnering with a professional translation services firm. Since you will have an established glossary, style guide, and translation memory, these will help with consistency and quality. For many clients, their original internal translators become “language leads,” responsible for review, answering language-specific questions, and otherwise maintaining the company’s language intellectual property investment. (For more tips, see “Making the most of In-Country Review”)

It is a luxury to have internal translation resources. By using simple best practices of a Glossary, Style Guide, and CAT tools, your firm can adapt to increases in volumes and languages more efficiently. Partnering with a professional translation provider is a way to bring scale – and can also provide benchmark metrics for cost-efficiency (words/day of output/dollar) with the benefit of fully variable costs. Some firms may let your internal teams use their CAT tools bringing you the best of both worlds. Let us know how we can help you get the most from your in-house team, we'd be happy to share our experiences.

Topics: Best Business Practices

33 Useful Translation Industry Abbreviations

Posted by Troy Helm on Aug 13, 2015 9:24:00 AM

We always try to be efficient in our use of language.  That’s why we make use of so many acronyms and abbreviations.  Here is a list of the most common abbreviations you may run into when working with an LSP.

API Application programming interface; a set of programming instructions that allow web-based software applications to communicate with each another.

CAT Computer-assisted translation; when a human translator uses computer software to help make the translation process more efficient. Not to be confused with MT, but typically uses TM.

CJK Chinese, Japanese, and Korean – a common Pan-Asian language combination.

CMS Content management system; tool that stores, manages, organizes and retrieves data, such as content for websites.


DNT Do not translate; a label to assign certain phrases and words that are typically not translated, such as trademarks

DTP Desktop publishing; the use of software, such as InDesign, to create precision layouts of documents, such as brochures or manuals.

FIGS French, Italian, German, and Spanish – a common European language combination. 

GE Graphic editing; the process of editing graphic files to update text elements with translated copy. 

GILT Globalization, Internationalization, Localization and Translation 

G11N Globalization; in the hierarchy of L10N and I18N, the overall planning context by an organization to develop products and support customers in multiple language markets. Also used in macroeconomic contexts to refer to the expansion of international trade. 

ICE In context exact; used in reference to a TM match that occurs in exactly the same context 

I18N Internationalization; the design and development of a technology or product that enables easy localization in different languages, such as externalized text strings.  

ISO International Organization for Standardization; ISO 639 is a standard to classify languages in two or three letter codes. Some of the more common 2 letter language codes include:

ar - Arabic
de - German
en - English
es - Spanish

fr - French
hi - Hindi
ja - Japanese

pt - Portuguese
ru - Russian
zh - Chinese

L10N Localization; Process of adapting content or a product for a locale or market. Translation is a step in the L10N process, which may include modifying design or layout, adapting formats such as dates and phone numbers, or addressing legal/local requirements.

LE Layout editing; adjusting a text and graphics layout in documents and websites to accommodate text changes after a translation.    

LSP Language service provider; a company that provides services such as translation, localization, and/or interpretation.

MLV Multi-language vendor; a language service provider (LSP) that offers services in multiple languages. 

MT Machine translation; the automated translation of text by software.

OCR Optical character recognition; the conversion of printed or written text by a computer into machine-readable format.

PEMT Post-edited machine translation; when a human translator edits machine translation (MT) output for the purpose of improving the accuracy and/or readability.

PM Project manager; an individual who manages and coordinates all tasks of a translation project. 

PPW Price per word.

RBMT Rules based machine translation; machine translation systems based on linguistic information about source and target languages commonly retrieved from dictionaries and grammars.

SLV Single language vendor; a language service provider (LSP) that provides translation and/or localization into only one language.

SMT Statistical machine translation; statistical probability models for how text should be translated by machine translation. 

TEP Translate-edit-proof; a common set of steps to ensure translation quality. 


TM Translation memory; pairs of previously human translated text segments stored in a database for reuse.

TMS Translation management system; the combination of tools, typically including a glossary tool and translation memory, that are used to manage a translation project. 

TMX Translation memory eXchange; a standard data format enabling the exchange of translation memories between translation technologies. 

UI User interface; the means by which a human interacts with a computer or software, typically meaning the text elements to be localized.

V/O Voiceover; the voice of an unseen narrator. 

XLIFF XML localization interchange file format; an XML-based data format to standardize the way localizable data are exchanged between tools during the localization process 

XML eXtensible markup language; a markup language that defines a set of rules for encoding documents in a format that is readable to both machines and humans

Topics: Resources, Translation Basics

Thanks for the Memories: The Many Benefits of Translation Memory

Posted by Troy Helm on Aug 5, 2015 4:05:00 PM

Understandably, occasional buyers of translation services may have misconceptions about what’s involved in a translation project. More often than not, they think of translation as a commodity. They shop around for the cheapest vendor, much like they do for office supplies.

Carpenter-Tools3It’s important to realize that translation isn’t a commodity. It’s a service. Who performs the service and the tools they use to do the job matter. Just as you would expect a skilled carpenter to use a hammer, drill, and square, there are certain tools you should expect your language service provider (LSP) to use. Translation memory (TM) is arguably one of the most important of those tools. And you should be wary of any LSP that doesn’t utilize it - you might be paying twice to translate the same sentence.

A Translation memory is a database that stores sentences, phrases, or other “segments” of text that have been previously translated by humans. These saved “translation units” are then automatically reused so a translator never has to translate a sentence more than once. The TM tool applies the translation memory to the source file (original material to be translated) to identify any 100% matches (identical segments) or fuzzy matches (similar segments). The translator can then accept the matches suggested by TM or override them with a new translation. Any new translated segments or updated segments are added to the TM for future re-use.

TM should not be confused with machine translation (MT) or glossaries. MT attempts to entirely replace the human translator with software; TM re-uses human translations. It is the translator using a TM tool who ultimately decides whether or not it is correct to use a match. Glossaries contain a list of approved terminology so that human translations are consistent and follow a defined style. They typically do not provide matches for segments of text. There are also tools to manage and use a glossary, and when combined with a TM and other tools are called a Translation Management System (TMS).

Using a TM provides many benefits that extend to both language service providers and translation buyers. Here’s how: 

  1. WatchandKeysSpeed. Think of translators as a scarce and valuable resource whose time should be used wisely. TM allows translators to concentrate on new material rather than wasting time on translating the same sentence over and over again. This is especially important when working with content such as a technical manual that stays consistent from year to year. Translation memory can save significant amounts of time in these cases by eliminating the time to re-translate entire sentences, paragraphs or pages.

  2. Cost. Translation is typically charged by the word. For example, if a document is 10,000 words and your LSP charges $0.15 per word, you will pay $1,500 to get the job done. But, let’s suppose the document is a revision to the technical manual from the point above. Chances are the bulk of the text is the same as the previous version. TM will already have those segments saved, meaning there are fewer words to actually translate. Of course, this also means that copywriters should not change acceptable sentences because they can, or the full benefit is lost. Anything that isn’t matched by TM will be translated.

  3. Consistency. Translation memory allows for greater consistency within a document and across a company’s content. The preferred way to translate certain phrases has already been approved so those translation units will remain the same across all documents, no matter which translator is working on the project.

Translation memory is one of the important tools that makes the difference in quality, speed, and cost of delivering professional translation work. A translation service provider that doesn’t talk to you about translation memory or doesn’t use it is not providing top-notch service or reasonable pricing. If you have an ongoing need for fast, accurate, and easy translation, it’s not something you should do without.

Topics: Translation Basics, Translation Tools

Why is the Translation So Expensive? Understanding and Reducing Cost

Posted by Troy Helm on May 13, 2015 10:11:00 AM

Free online translation services like Google Translate or Bing have opened eyes to the value and importance of translation. They also make it difficult for consumers to understand the costs associated with professional translation.  Simply put, “Why should I pay for something that I can get for free?”

imagesHere’s the thing, when it comes to communicating with your customers, there is no such thing as a free lunch.

We’ve all seen examples of regrettable translations – many from low cost products produced in other countries or as tourists (see engrish.com for a good laugh). Good laughs aside, what does it say about how the company values their customers when they communicate with them so poorly? More importantly, there are business risks with unclear translation of manuals or instructions. That’s where professional translators come in – despite advances in technology they remain the essential ingredient to successful communication in other languages.

Translation is a profession, one that requires more than simply being bilingual.  Professional translators are highly educated and trained. They are also subject-matter specialists. They have an advanced understanding of both the language and the subject. In the same way that you could not easily explain an article about something you did not have any experience with, a translator can only translate a topic fluidly when they deeply understand the terminology and how it is used in their language.

Why is it expensive? Professional translators translate about 2,500 words per day -- about 10 pages at 250 words per page. Once you consider a fair skilled wage (which varies by where the translator lives and by their expertise), cost for the editor, cost for project management, markup by the translation company for the technology/infrastructure, absorbing capacity variation, currency fluctuations and international payments, and a modest operating income, prices of $0.15 – 0.25 per word reasonably adds up. With this in mind, it is clear why one should be wary of a rate that seems too good to be true.  With professional translation, there is a reasonable correlation to “you get what you pay for.” Maybe those translators live in a low-cost part of the world, but it’s more likely they aren’t native speakers or perhaps are fixing up machine translation without telling you.

images-3-3Although there may be some room to negotiate cent-per-word rates, there are better ways to manage translation costs. Here are some ways to make professional translation more budget-friendly:

  • Remove unnecessary steps.  Cutting and pasting website content from a spreadsheet or into a graphic file takes valuable time and allows for errors.
  • Translate less content.  Utilize industry standard tools like translation memory, which reuses previously translated materials providing time and cost savings while maintaining consistent quality. This also means that for subsequent versions of the same content, don’t edit/change it unnecessarily.
  • Use subject-matter expert translators and editors. Although they cost more than part-time generalist translators, they will save you money in the long run. Correcting and reworking a bad translation costs both time and money – and potentially ruins your customer’s first experience with your product.
  • Use technology wisely.  Free online automatic translation may seem like a good idea, but as outlined above, shouldn’t be trusted where your brand touches your customers. There are other more effective approaches such as post-edited machine translation (PEMT).  For example, our VeriFast(sm) platform combines state-of-the-art machine translation with human editors to provide fast and accurate translations at a lower cost.

In the end, the benefits of a good translation far outweigh the perceived cost savings of a poor one. Translation is a profession, not unlike attorneys or accountants. Accurately conveying the source text into the target text takes skill and time. When you are looking to save money, there are good places to look for savings and it is not always simply collecting bids for a cheaper word rate.

Topics: Best Business Practices, Translation Basics

Troy Helm at Localization World: Workflow Technology to Support Agile Development

Posted by Troy Helm on Nov 6, 2014 12:15:00 PM

Last week, language service professionals gathered in Vancouver for one of the industry’s biggest events:  Localization World. It is the leading conference for international business, translation, localization and global website management. Basically, if you’re doing business across borders, LocWorld is where you learn how to navigate between different languages and cultures in the global marketplace. 

Localization World isn’t just for those looking to operate businesses overseas. It is also an invaluable experience for language professionals.  New tools, methods and practices are introduced, many of which change the way we do our jobs and run our businesses.locworld

During the conference, I had the opportunity to take part in a panel discussion called (Re)Mixing Workflows: Localization Processes Forum. The forum covered the future of localization project management. While the other panelists were championing machine translation as the best strategy, I was there to make the case for automated project management in our new “Agile” world.  By the end of the discussion, for me it was even clearer that automated project management (rather than relying more heavily on machine translation) is what enables Elanex to remain the leader in fast and accurate translation.

The era of multi-month mega projects is over. Content development and deployment is changing. Content is never final due to rapid and continuous updates and corrections. Initial deployments are smaller and faster and small requests are increasingly becoming the significant feature of client relationships. 

Elanex has long seen this market shift coming and has developed new strategies to meet our clients’ changing needs.  Our new expressIt platform allows us to manage projects more efficiently. By automating our project management activities, our PMs can focus their limited time and attention on what they do best:  solving problems and ensuring the highest quality human translations. They move from project managers to exception managers who handle unexpected problems or special situations that automation is not equipped to manage.

expressIt has been a homerun for both our clients and our employees. By automating project management, we have shortened timelines, cut down time spent on administrative tasks and made it easier for PMs to simultaneously manage multiple projects. The expressIt platform also allows clients to place orders instantly and without the help of an account manager (or any other human).

For more information on expressIt and Elanex’s view on operating in an “Agile World,” you can check out my presentation here or visit the expressIt website.


Topics: Localization, Agile Translation, Announcements

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