How did you come to join Supertext?
I met Supertext’s CTO at an event more than 10 years ago and I’ve followed the company’s development with interest ever since. I’m a translator by nature, but I’ve chosen to focus on technology in my career, and it so happened that I was looking to make a change at the same time that Supertext was looking for someone with experience in these areas. Et voilà – here I am.
What differentiates us from other language service providers?
We don’t just have the best copywriters and the most creative translators in our pool – we also have an efficient Supersystem to manage them all. Having an in-house IT team allows language service providers to offer customers a much more direct service oriented to their needs. We built our order system ourselves, which means we can tailor it to individual clients as needed, while we also use the latest CAT tools, termbases and TMS integrations in our translations. That gives our language experts scope for creativity and creates breathing room for our clients.
You’ve already worked at a range of major players in the translation industry, from Lionbridge to Apostroph. Is there a single topic that’s come up at all of them?
The collapse in prices. I’ve long since stopped calculating how far language service providers’ prices have fallen since I started working in the sector. Managing cost pressures is a major challenge – but an exciting one. Whereas we used to simply respond to changes in the economic environment, we’re now proactively optimizing and speeding up our workflows. Cost pressures are one reason why everyone in the translation industry now works with CAT tools – and why there are so many translation management systems (TMS). Instead of pressure, we should see it as motivation.
You’ve joined Supertext as our Technology Solution Manager. What do you offer our clients?
I serve as an interface between our customers and software developers, or between business and technology. Customers benefit in a range of different ways: on the one hand, they have a point of contact at Supertext who can offer technical advice and represent their interests to IT. On the other, we’re constantly working to improve our order platform and its integrations, and I coordinate these projects.
Which technological trends do you think will influence the language industry over the next few years?
Neural machine translation (NMT) will continue to improve. Supertext is testing new providers constantly to evaluate whether they provide high enough quality for customer projects and whether it’s worth training their engines. Paragraph-level approaches will revolutionize the quality of machine translation once again. We are in close contact with a researcher in this field and are actively monitoring the process. I’m also hoping for optimization in the area of translation prediction: tools to predict which texts in which language combinations will be especially suitable for machine translation. There’s promising work being done here too.
In addition, improved workflows will remain a key factor. From newly developed subtitling software for video localization, through connections to third-party systems and design tools, to integrations into international e-commerce solutions: in an era in which digitalization is affecting every area of our lives, customers want a direct, seamless translation process that doesn’t demand any additional steps from them.
So to sum up: more words, less time?
That’s partly true, yes. But also fewer words in as little time as possible. There’s a clear trend towards very small orders, and a demand for rapid translation. We’re currently testing a solution for these orders with some of our customers.
NMT, TMS, plugins and translation memories: you could be forgiven for thinking that technology is all that matters in today’s translation industry. What role will humans and human creativity play in future?
What role won’t they play? People like me are here to remove unnecessary technical stress from the process so that everyone else can concentrate on their work – and that goes for both translators and customers. We believe that it’s people who add value to the text creation process. And when those people have the right technical support and don’t have to waste time on tedious processing steps anymore, they can spend longer on the things that really matter. In short, creativity is the goal. I help get us there.
What’s your favorite answer to the classic “Will we even need translators in five years?” question?
I was already getting asked that question during my studies back in 2003. But it goes back even further: machine translation got its start in the 1950s. Seventy years later, translators are still here. Perhaps the simplest answer is that language isn’t a binary question: it also requires instinct.
What tip would you give startups and established companies looking to expand internationally?
Oh, just the one tip? To start thinking about making their tools multilingual as early as possible. Translation is usually the last step in the localization process, so they need to make sure that they leave enough time and budget for it. And if they want more tips, they can just get in touch with me.
Cover image via Supertext