Tag Archives: Google Translate

How much time does it take to do a translation?

18 Apr

Although the question is quite simple (you just have to count words or characters), the answer is not so simple and obvious. Several factors should be taken into account. What are these factors?

Before we start discussing these factors, I would like you to accept certain assumptions. I’m going to actually impose some of them on you. I think that my experience in the industry allows me to help you understand underlying principles and norms that regulate the translation process.

When you browse jobs and profiles of translators, you can sometimes find people promise you to translate 10,000 words per day without subcontracting your project to another translator. Although this is not a blatant lie, a very tiny percentage of documents can be translated at such a speed. This has to be really monotonous list of spare parts, standards,norms, etc. In other words, when cleverly using a computer assisted translation tool, you can achieve amazing efficiency, i.e. translate “at speed of light”. But these types of texts are quite rare. A short film marketing brochure does not have a lot of repetitions and has to be translated “as a book”, when a computer-assisted translation tool is almost useless. The speed then drops to 3,000 words.

In case you have a highly specialized material with a lot of terms, you have to Google a lot to find right expressions or words. That means that you have to spend time, your working time. Moreover, almost always the text you are translating will include fields that have nothing to do with the subject your client told you about. A couple of days ago I saw a job at that one of the online portals where the job poster tried to find a translator capable of dealing with equines and pipelines at the same time. And there is nothing wrong with job ads like that. Frequently you see the complexity of the text only when you have started translation. It all means that your normal speed of 3,000 words per day is reduced to 1.5 thousand words per day “thanks” to extensive research of terms.

What other factors can affect the speed of translation? These include situations when several projects are processed by one translator, which means she has to switch between different texts. This is an obvious impediment to increasing your speed. Although your speed will not drop drastically, it distracts your attention. It’s better to have a translator fully concentrated on one single task.

Poorly written texts (usually translated into your source language by non-professionals) usually require more time to decipher. You start losing your time. That’s why it is so important for translator to have a look at the file before he says his final “yes”.

Poor project management can also cause delays in the project completion process. A translator has to have easy access to her project manager, who is there to answer questions about the project or file.

Recommendations: 1) show your translator the file or files you want to translate. She will tell you time frames required for this project. You can then discuss and change (if necessary) the project timeframes. 2) it is always better to have one translator working on the project. Quality comes first. it’s better to allocate extra time than to hire a bunch of translators and then combine stylistically different pieces. Plan you translation project. 3) if you want your translation back as soon as possible, do the homework. Prepare files for translation, OCR them, etc. Let the translator concentrate on the translation process per se. Or just give her extra time to do this homework.

As usual – have a nice day!


Long Live Machine Translation!

8 Apr

We believe that if men have the talent to invent new machines that put men out of work, they have the talent to put those men back to work.
John F. Kennedy

February 16, 1996. Kasparov lost his fifth game to Deep Blue computer. I remember this news; although I was 11, I played chess passionately, that`s why this news could not escape my attention. They showed a big black box and said that this was the winner. They BTW also showed owners of the winner – IBM managers.

The computer we had there within our hobby group in 1996 was much smaller, like a today`s tablet. It was also less powerful and  “smart”, still, you could practice some simple moves and basic chess openings. But none of us could seriously think of a computer winning a chess match until we saw the news. It literally ignited fierce debate about the future of chess and the human race within our group of teenagers.

I haven`t touched a chessboard since that time. Why?  This game is too slow for me now. But I do remember this debate: will machines, desktop PCs or smaller devices ever be able to replace us, humans? The answer came from another passion of mine – languages, namely translation.

First let me shock you: they will.  They are doing this right now. For the last 10 years I see more and more people relying on different off-line and on-line tools helping them obtain a very rough translation of this or that text. So basically these tools do the job they are intended to do – they help people grasp the meaning of the text.

In case these tools produce something that remotely resembles a meaningful material, why not hire an experienced editor? The reason why this idea fails is that any decent editor (when asked to do PEMT – post-editing of machine translation) will charge his/her normal translation rate. To regret, the condition of any text Google Translate will produce now is far from sound (you can run any piece of text through GT and see the results). So, this editor will have to simply re-translate the text. In other words, your costs of hiring a person to copy`n`paste your text into Google Translate will be added to the cost of actual human-led translation (bear in mind that Google Translate has some limits on how many words you can translate at a time. You will have to allocate resources to this task as well).

Some editors/translators will go further – they will double their rates (you don`t have time to argue; you are too lucky to find someone to edit this nonsense. Why not use this advantage?)

The most hidden secret: translators happily use machine translation when they have lengthy tables with almost identical information in each cell.  They gladly use Google Translate when they have these endless spare parts lists. But a big BUT! You have to distinguish between this absolutely controlled and ‘humanized” machine-assisted translation from uncontrollable production of letters by a machine which previously simply collected fragments other people indicated as equivalent (this is what Google actually does. It translates nothing, in fact). Operators run cranes, so why not? Still, they don`t let cranes build up something on their own.

So, long live Google Translate! You help experienced and seasoned professionals drive amateurs away, since they produce something you can get free-of-charge.

My recommendations: 1) stay away from agencies which post jobs about “post-editing” of machine translation. This is another way to deceive both translators and you, my dear clients. 2) Encourage your employees use Google Translate! If you need a quick translation of two words in Japanese, go on-line!  But don`t allow statistics ruin your marketing campaign. 3) Accept the future: MT (machine translation) will sooner or later replace humans for the most of dull everyday tasks.

Still, let me remind you that Deep Blue won only once, on the fifth try.

As usual – have a nice day!