Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Some Ideas for Associations to Generate Revenue

Every time I bring up the fact that there are too many events in the industry and that they tend to overlap, I am asked the same question: "How do you suppose we can cover our expenses if we don't raise money through events?"

Since I don't like to be the easy critic who doesn't contribute with any solutions, I have compiled some activities that associations could engage in to raise the visibility of the industry, instead of organizing events (which cost a lot of money for the organizers and participants, especially in an environment with limited willing sponsors).
  • Special Advertising Section in business magazines. Associations can buy 4 or 8-page sections and sell advertising to its members. The material could be written by Common Sense Advisory. Good publications would be the likes of BusinessWeek, The Economist, Time Magazine, Fortune, just to name a few. This activity meets the goal or providing visibility for the industry and raising money (buy the space for X and sell it for 2X).
  • Online fundraising is the wave of the future. As the “wired” generation matures, online may become the dominant form of fundraising. Associations should all have a "Donate Now" button on their sites.
  • Membership drives. Dues are the main source of revenue of any association. By increasing the number of members through campaigns and direct sales associations can boost revenues. Instead of Managing Directors, associations should focus on hiring Sales Directors.
  • Publications that can be sold in bulk to member companies with basic information about the industry. A "Localization 101" book would come in handy in the sales process. If an association had such a book available, I would buy 200 today as a Christmas gift.
  • Government grants are often offered at federal, state or local level to non-profit associations. The American Association of Grant Professionals has links to professional grant writers. I don't know if any grants exist, but I have not searched for them either. I would look for grants in the U.S., E.U. institutions, and maybe Ireland.
  • Gala dinners or concerts. Organizing fundraising events around other industry events is cheaper and requires less resources than organizing a conference. A night at the opera, a black tie dinner at a castle or museum, or special tickets for a rock concert can do wonders.
  • Celebrity endorsement. I know it is hard to find someone like Angelina Jolie who is interested in the promotion of translation and localization companies. But if the industry aligns itself with initiatives like Translators without Borders, we might get someone to be the face of the language business. This is a good example of initiative that could be embraced by all the industry associations together.
  • Viral marketing. Associations could get together to fund a generic 3 or 4 minute "Localization in Plain Language" video, similar to Twitter in Plain English. A video like this could go viral very easily and would cost about  $15,000. This is a typical cost that is too expensive for an individual company to bear, but an association could easily facilitate.
  • Smart Public Relations is probably the most powerful tool associations have to promote the industry. Unfortunately, good public relations is something that takes time and costs money. But it is also the best way to spend money. In my humble opinion, next time associations get together, they should only talk about Public Relations. They could find two or three core messages that everybody (individual translators, translation companies, tools companies, associations) agrees on and pool their resources to promote those messages in local, regional, and global markets. PR is what is going to put us in magazines, on the radio, and on TV.
I am sure there are more initiatives that can be thought of and I am happy to continue thinking about them, but I don't want to come to a discussion where organizing conferences is the only idea or solution.

I understand that nonprofit organizations have limited resources (money, staff, technology, time) with which to raise money, but I want to make sure that the effort  put into fundraising has the highest return on investment. What I ask myself is: Are we sure that the event that just raised $10,000 was the best use of our staff time and effort? We need to calculate the direct and indirect costs of an event and determine the real net income generated. Are there better, more effective ways to raise more money for less cost and effort? I believe we need to take a hard look at how we are raising money (or wasting money) and come up with better alternatives to achieve our goals.

Finally, I need to acknowledge the efforts of the leaders of the different industry associations. They are all volunteers and contribute to the industry while still running their own businesses and taking care of their personal lives. All of this in exchange for criticism and bad manners from people like me.  For you, my gratitude and admiration (but that doesn't mean that I agree with you!)

Thursday, December 17, 2009

About Associations and Events in the Translation Industy

It's that time of the year when we have to renew memberships in associations and decide where we are going to spend our hard-earned dollars, euros, and yens.

I am particularly fond of industry events. Over the years, I have developed friends, won clients, learned a lot (and I have even met my wife at one of these events). I like the camaraderie and the intercultural aspect of events associated with translation and localization, and I regret having to decline so many invitations every year. And this is what brings me to this blog post: There are too many events.

The tipping point for me was the announcement by GALA of their next conference in Prague.

Before I expand on why I think that GALA is making a huge mistake in organizing this event, let me lay out how I view the landscape and how I think it should work. First, when I talk about associations and events, this is what I mean.
  • Associations. The role of associations is to bring together people with common interests to achieve common goals. The assumption is that the group is more powerful than the individual members. Associations can be local, regional, or global, and they assemble individuals, companies or even other associations. Associations elect directors to work on behalf of the individual members and generaly meet once a year.
  • Industry Events are gatherings of professionals or organizations to discuss, promote, educate, and sell products and services related to an industry.
 Now, a little bit about the current landscape:
  • LISA and GALA are global associations that try to attract both buyers of language services and LSPs. GALA was originally founded by LSPs who were members of LISA and were not happy with the treatment they were getting there.
  • ATA-TCD (U.S.), ACCTI (Canada), ELIA (Europe) are examples of regional associations of LSPs. Their goal is to address issues related to doing business in a certain geographic region and to develop the skills of the employees of its members. Some of these associations are involved with standards. 
  • EUATC is the European Union of Associations of Translation Companies and it is an umbrella organization for national associations of translation companies throughout Europe. Its main focus is on quality standards.
  • ALC (U.S.), ATC (U.K.), ATA (Netherlands), FEDERCENTRI (Italy) are but a few of the many local country associations of translation companies. They address issues related to labor regulations, taxation, professional development, and more day-to-day issues related to running a translation company in a specific geography.
  • UNICODE and TAUS are special interest associations addressing specific technology issues like internationalization and translation automation.
  • Localization Institute and IMTT are examples of for-profit event organizers that focus on the translation and localization industry. 
  • ATA (U.S.), TAC (China), Abrates (Brazil) are some of the local professional translator associations that also accept corporate members.
What do these organizations have in common? They all organize events. They all want my money as a member, a sponsor or a participant. Many of them overlap.

Are they all legitimate? I am sure they are. Are they all good? Some are better than others. Do they do what they are supposed to do? Barely.

Here is where I would like to see improvement and change:
  1. LISA should focus on what it stands for: Standards. Unfortunately we see very little movement in that area. The association focuses more on events than on enforcing true interoperability among translation memories, which is a huge demand in the industry.
  2. Localization World is a great event, but it suffers from its own success. LSPs complain that there are not enough buyers attending. The organizers should put in place a true sales organization and attract a larger number of buyers to their events with incentives and promotions.
  3. EUATC and ELIA should focus on lobbying European organizations on behalf of their members. They should work together, as their charters are similar, though their constituencies are different (EUATC gathers associations, ELIA gathers companies).
So where is my beef with GALA and its event?

As I wrote in a Global Watchtower entry in July 2008, "one of the original goals of GALA was not to organize events, but to co-locate them with other associations. That was what made GALA unique. It wanted to promote the industry, it wanted to be an influencer, it wanted to collaborate. Now, it wants to make money."

You may recall GALA founder Hans Fenstermacher talking about a big P.R. effort for the industry, something along the lines of the Got Milk campaign which was hugely successful in increasing the consumption of milk. Where is that spirit? Where is that drive? Is the only way to promote the industry to organize another event?

As I wrote back in 2008 in that same blog post: "The bottom line is that fragmentation creates a problem of choice for members. But what’s worse, it dilutes resources that could be spent towards promoting the business of language or growing the proverbial pie. Instead, associations lose sight of their original goals, non-profits begin to act like for-profit businesses, and bureaucracies develop. The result? Everyone ends up spending more money to maintain countless organizations than in providing benefits for disoriented members who are now unsure which associations offer the best value."

GALA claims that their first event in Cancun was a big success with 86% positive reviews about the location and content. I wasn't there, but some attendees told me that they were underwhelmed. Optimists say that there were 100 people attending including spouses, pessimists say around 70, including 20+ speakers. I would like to see what the 14% had to say about the event. And I would like to see the effort and money placed in hiring a General Manager and organizing another small event go into what the industry really needs: Visibility!

Now my full disclosures: I am a member of the Board of Directors of ELIA, I have participated on the Board of Advisors of Localization World, my company is sponsoring the IMTT event "Think Latin America," my company just rejoined GALA as a member. I have voiced these concerns in person to almost all the GALA Board members.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Video of My Presentation in Bangkok

Here is a video of my presentation in Bangkok. If you missed the presentation at the ATA in New York, you will see that this one is very similar. The video lasts 36 minutes.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Localization and Translation Thailand 2009: A Great Event!

Sometimes I think that my job is participating in translation and localization events. Although I really enjoy the networking and the content, I must confess that there are too many and several of them just copy each other (but this is the topic of a future posting).

But every once in a while, in the most unexpected places, even a veteran like me can be surprised and re-energized by the contents of an event. For me, 2009 was the year of the small and unpretentious events culminating with Localization and Translation Thailand last week in Bangkok.

In the same line as the 6th Language and Technology Conference, in Córdoba (Argentina), and the ELIA Networking Days, in Vienna, the Thai event attracted fewer than 100 people, which made it a perfect venue for in-depth conversations, real networking, and the development of excellent business opportunities.

The highlights of the event were the keynote presentation by Andrew Rufener, the COO of Lexis Nexis Univentio, and the panel on new developments in localization R&D.

Andrew Rufener reported on his experience in implementing large scale machine translation in patent information services. A real case study by a group that thoroughly evaluated seven MT solutions and ended up selecting Asia Online's solution.

Philip Köhn, from the University of Edinburgh, showed some data on the performance of "monolingual translators" post-editing MT output compared to generic human translation. The concept of a monolingual translator is revolutionary enough, but the fact that industry domain experts perform better than professional translators in post editing tasks was viewed as heresy by the weaker souls in the audience.

My friend Hans Fenstermacher, representing GALA and, made a compelling presentation about the challenges that localization has to face because of the way content is developed and handled.

Dion Wiggins, the master of cerimonies and the brains behind the whole event, unveiled some of the accomplishments of Asia Online's new technology and how the world will view language technology differently in the near future.

Finally, I really enjoyed Biraj Rath's presentation about the untapped opportunities about the Indian market. I was amazed at how much I didn't know about India.

All in all, an outstanding event that exceeded all my expectations. For 2010, I am looking forward to Think Latin America in Búzios, near my hometown of Rio de Janeiro, and to ELIA's Networking Days in Istanbul. Both events will be in April and I am really impressed with the line up of speakers and topics (full disclosure: I am helping both events with their programs).

And if you want to follow the Twitter activity of several of the participants with quotes and comments from the speakers and panelists, click here.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

It's the End of the World: Crowdsourcing in Literature Actually Works!

Ok, a little context before my comments.

On September 15, Dan Brown's latest book, The Lost Symbol, was launched with much fanfare in the United States and around the world. Because of the secrecy involved with the contents of the book, no advance copies were released to foreign publishers so that they could have it translated and launched at the same time in their markets.

As reported here, Swedish publishers decided to assign the job to multiple translators in order to limit piracy and to prevent impatient fans from buying the English version of the book, by expediting the publishing of the Swedish translation.

Well... they did it. On October 21, 2009 — only 36 days after the launch of the English version of the book — Albert Bonniers Förlag released the book in Swedish. In that period, they were able to translate, edit, format, print, and distribute 300,000 copies of a 614-page book.

And how did they do it? This article in Swedish (I read it using Google Translate) narrates the details of the adventure.  But for our purposes, what matters is that seven translators worked on this project. Their names are Leo Andersson, Tove Janson Borglund, Ola Klingberg, Lennart Olofsson, Peter Samuelsson, Gösta Svenn, Helena Sjöstrand Sven. From what I could see in AdLibris, the Swedish online bookstore, all of them are very experienced translators.

As one review says: "Another positive aspect: the translation is actually quite okay. Even here, I have put a sadly, because it would have been preferable if the insane circumstances surrounding the translation into Swedish - seven translators, a few mere weeks - had left its mark in the text."

What do I think about this? I think that this must have been a very exciting project, as it epitomizes the power of collaboration.

The publisher needed to have the book out fast (I saw the English version of the book exhibited very prominently at the Stockholm airport both times I was there before the launch of the Swedish version) in order not to lose 150,000 sales as the publisher of Harry Potter did because of delayed translations. Time-to-market was the critical element in protecting its investment and maximizing its return.

And before you say the Q word, I actually believe that several translators working together might deliver better quality than one working alone.

Special thanks for my friend Anne-Marie Colliander Lind, from Common Sense Advisory, who helped me collect some of the data for this posting.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Productivity Prediction and Google Translate

The slide show in my previous posting ends with a quote from the "Visionary's Handbook" by Wacker & Taylor, which says that “The closer your vision gets to a provable future, the more your are simply describing the present. In the same way, the more certain you are of a future outcome, the more likely you will be wrong.”

One of my most controversial predictions at the ATA Presentation was that in the future, translator productivity would be measured in tens of thousands of words. Looks like the authors of the book were right: I was just describing the present. In fact, I received an e-mail from SDL today promoting a quote by my friend Marian Greenfield that she did over thirty thousand words in ten hours of work, thanks to the features of her translation tool of choice.

The e-mail advertisement states:

34,501 words. 10 hours. One translator.
Sound impossible?

"I just completed a 34,501 word project in 10 hours thanks to AutoSuggest™, Context Match and the other nifty time-saving features within SDL Trados Studio 2009 SP1. That’s without having much of anything in the pre-existing TM!" Marian Greenfield, Translator and Trainer

There you have it. It is possible. And that is only the beginning.

And since we are at it, have you played with the new interface of Google Translate? It shows the translation as you type the original in the translate box. It's really cool to see how the translation changes as you add words, and therefore context, to the sentence. And if you translate from a foreign language into English, you can actually hear the translated sentence by clicking the sound icon next to the translation. How cool is that?

Last week I met with the Program Managers for Google Translate and Google Translator Toolkit and learned about some features that are coming up. I predict that in less than six months Google Translator Toolkit will be a perfectly functional tool that can be integrated into an LSPs Translation Management System. Play with it and get used to it... that's my recommendation.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Signals of Shift in the Language Industry: Are You In or Are You Out?

This is the content of my presentation at the ATA Conference in New York. The conference was very well attended with some 2,500 participants. The room was once again too small, so I apologize for those who had to stand outside.

Here is call for the presentation from the ATA program: "First, translations were handwritten. Then, there were typewriters, computers, and translation memories. Each milestone demanded a shift in the way translation work was done. We are on the threshold of a major paradigm shift where old standards and ideas are being left behind. Translators and language services providers who are ready to make the shift now will stand to profit and grow. Those who like the status quo and accept "the rules" will wonder why they just don't make money like they used to. This will be an engaging presentation that is guaranteed to make you think. You've been warned"!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Very Modern Management Philosophy

I was introduced to this set of slides from Netflix last week and I must have shared it with at least 50 people. It is a primer on modern management for service companies. My attention was particularly drawn to two areas of the presentation: "Freedom & Responsibility" and "Context, not Control."

Netflix's model is "to increase employee freedom as we grow, rather than limit it, to continue to attract and nourish innovative people, so we have better chance of long-term continued success." This sounds like music to my ears.

The company doesn't track vacation days, because one of their employees pointed out that "We don't track hours worked per day or per week, so why are we tracking days of vacation per year?"

To illustrate that you don't need detailed policies for everything, they quote Patty McCord: "There is no clothing policy at Netflix, but no one has come to work naked lately."

All in all, a well prepared document that lays out sound guidelines for a successful company.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

New Paradigm for Language Services

If you are a subscriber of Multilingual magazine, you must have already received the September issue, which focuses on Arabic language issues and opportunities. If you aren't a subscriber, what are you waiting for? Click here and subscribe now!

The last page of the current issue (called Takeaway) brings an article that collects my recent thoughts about innovation and impending changes in the translation and localization industry. I had a hard time recognizing myself in the pre-LASIK picture that they used to illustrate the article, but who am I to complain.

Here's the full text of the article for your enjoyment. Comments are welcome.

"I have been reading and thinking a lot about innovation. My motivation is an impression that there is very little of it in the language services industry. I also sense that the industry is on the verge of a major change, so I have been trying to pinpoint the signals of the shift to a new mindset.

But first, why change? Why the need for a new paradigm for language services? Because we need to do more with less, we must improve productivity. The growth rate of content is much higher than the growth rate of translators. I can double the volume of translation in one year, but I cannot double the number of translators that are available in the market. It takes many years to create a professional translator.

For a few years, I have been saying and writing that there are three dogmas that prevent progress in the industry.
  • Translation memories are an asset. This brilliant idea probably came from the founders of Trados in the early nineties. While an excellent argument to sell tools, this concept is a fallacy. In fact, translation memories have no intrinsic value -- they are only useful if there is a match and when the translator knows how to use it -- it is impossible to assign an economic value to them. Translation memories are at best a cost-saving tool and fulfill their purpose more efficiently when widely shared.
  • More eyes improve quality. The TEP (translation-editing-proofing) process is so ingrained in the collective mind that even industry standards like the EN 15038 have been designed around it. The reality is that any quality system predicates that more steps in a process increase the probability of incorporating mistakes and invite human error. The solution is not “catching mistakes,” but finding and paying the best resources to “translate it right the first time.”
  • Fewer translators produce more consistent output. The fact is that most of the consistency issues in translation are related to style and terminology standardization. These are elements that can be agreed up front and even automated, so that as many translators as available should perform a translation. There will be 30 to 40 writers who write the content in English, but we still believe that only one or two people should do the translation. More and better trained translators working together will produce good translations faster and cheaper.

In “Mastering the Dynamics of Innovation,” author Jim Utterback stresses that competitors in most industries not only resist innovative threats, but actually resist all efforts to understand them, preferring to further their positions in older products. This means that companies that are investing in the existing technologies, processes, and standards in our industry don’t think that change will happen and feel safe with their offerings.

The sign that I was looking for came in the form of Google Translator Toolkit. The first salvo of a revolution that is going to take hold of the language services industry. The tool itself is bare bones and not ready for significant commercial use, but for the first time, a significant player has challenged the three dogmas that I described above.

Instead of trying to "out-Trados" Trados, or trying to increase the productivity of processes and pump up technology that is old and cumbersome. Google Translator Toolkit incorporates machine translation and all the collaboration features that allow multiple translators to work on the same project, in addition to providing an environment for translation memory sharing.

The innovation guru Clayton Christensen says that breakthrough innovations come when tension is greatest and the resources are most limited. Now that buyers of language services are forced to cut cost and reduce staff, technology offerings from companies like Lingotek, Elanex, Sajan, and Lionbridge, which can easily incorporate the features of Google Translator Toolkit, suddenly become more attractive and much more affordable than the traditional desktop and client-server solutions that have dominated the market for the last 20 years.

Ultimately, as the next generation of localization managers starts making technology and service procurement decisions, the dogmas will fall and innovation will take hold. The new mantras will be collaboration, knowledge sharing, and increased translator output. At least until these ideas also become old.

Renato Beninatto is the CEO of milengo, a full-service worldwide provider of localization, engineering and testing services with operations in 18 key markets across the Americas, Europe, and Asia."

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Lionbridge Stock is Way Up

I'm not an investor in the stock market, but I must say that I am pleased to see Lionbridge's stock come up from around one dollar to $3.00 in the last three months (see graph). It's an impressive appreciation, and it gives me the feeling that I should have put my money there. Definitely a better return than many companies around.

Although I am not a stock analyst and I don't know why the appreciation happened, I am happy to see that Lionbridge stock is recovering its value. The market capitalization of the company is still low at $174.26M, but definitely a good sign for the industry as a whole.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Collaborative Translation Expands

This month, two interesting developments in the area of collaborative translation:

  • Facebook applies for patent for Community Translation on a Social Network. If you have translated on the Facebook Translation platform, like I have, you know that the tool works very well. The only limitation of community translation, when it is voluntary, is that larger chunks of text never get translated.
  • Swedish newspapers reported yesterday Dan Brown's first new novel since "The Da Vinci Code" will be translated by six translators. The objective is to limit piracy and to prevent impatient fans from buying the English version of the book, by expediting the publishing of the Swedish translation.
What's the relevance of these stories?

Collaborative translation or community translation is taking hold as a valid process for commercial projects. The usual contention is that in order to achieve consistency, it is better to have as few translators working on a project as possible is trumped by the commercial imperative: It is better to have a good translation - even in the literary world - that is delivered on time, than a perfect translation that arrives too late to the market.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

New York Has Six Official Languages. And It is Sued over Translations.

The New York Time publishes a story about a lawsuit against the city's welfare agency for not enforcing a law that requires the provision of translation services.

According with the Equal Access to Human Services Act of 2003, the city had sixteen months to have its forms made available in Arabic, Chinese, Haitian Creole, Korean, Russian and Spanish.

The commissioner of the Human Resources Administration says that the agency “provides between 7,000 and 8,000 interpretation services each year through our contracted services.” It also provides interpretation services by hundreds of bilingual staff workers, and other community resources. The agency has also translated 800 client-contact forms, brochures and notices into the six required languages, he said.

The article quotes Language Line as the provider of telephone interpretation services for some agencies.

Looks there is opportunity for more translation services in New York.

Not a good day for interpretation

President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton had their little issues with interpreters yesterday in Mexico and Congo, respectively.

At a press conference, Obama didn't get the interpretation to a question by a Mexican journalist. Apparently it was a malfunction of the wireless equipment. However, Obama's reaction was gracious: "Perdóneme, I didn't get a translation on that one," Mr. Obama said to a room full of laughs. "It sounded like a very good question."

In Kinshasa, Hillary Clinton responded angrily to a question posed by a student at the local University. According to CNN, the student asked Clinton what President Obama would think of a deal between China and Congo, but pool reporters in the room said the interpreter made a mistake, posing the question as what would Bill Clinton think.

Clinton looked surprised when she first heard the translation in the headset, and then sharply replied, "You want me to tell you what my husband thinks? My husband is not the secretary of state, I am. You ask my opinion. I will tell you my opinion; I'm not going to channel my husband."

As I have mentioned previously in this blog, this is confirmation that only bad translations make the news. When was the last time you saw a story about a good translation? Did you ever? If so, please share.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Elements of a Collaborative TM Environment

Last week I was in Québec City for the ATA-TCD Conference, which was superbly organized by Rina Ne'eman and Grant Hamilton.

The biggest takeaway of the event was the last presentation of the last day: A panel presentation by Don Shin, from 1-Stop Translation, and Rocío Txabarriaga, from Common Sense Advisory, named "The Future of the Translation Industry: MT, TM, Open Source, Crowdsourcing: Where’s It All Headed? And What Should You Do to Prepare?"

For his intervention, Don compiled some of the major efforts being done in those areas, but what I liked the most was his depiction of what the desktop of a translator working in a collaborative manner might look like.

The key point is that the translator is in control. At the top, you have the source text. Right below it, you have the translator's TM, the project's TM, and a Machine Translation of the segment. And below that, the translated segment.

It is up to the translator to choose which one of these sources she is going to use. On the right panel you have access to terminology and a chat window, to ask for help in live mode to other people working on the same project.

Finally, on the bottom right, there is a fare meter, that shows how much money the translator is making on the project. Whether this is a motivator or a demotivator depends on the price that the translator is getting.

Another panel discussing Translation Management Technologies, moderated by Duncan Shaw, failed to address what all the LSPs in the room were looking for: Interoperability. What I heard LSPs saying is that they want to let their translators work with any tool that they prefer (Trados, SDL, MemoQ, Across, whatever) and not to require them to have different tools for different projects.

What the industry seems to want, and the technology providers can't seem to be able to deliver, is a standard format for Translation Memories that does not get corrupted if you change from one tool to another. Like as Comma Delimited File that can be opened by Excel, Lotus, MySQL or Oracle, without any data loss.

I guess that was the original promise of TMX.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Interview about "Quality Doesn't Matter" and other topics

Ivette Camargo López and I had a long conversation about some of the topics that are close to my heart: Quality in translation, TEP, translator education and training, pricing and value.

Ivete did an awesome job transcribing and editing our talk, and I must confess that I didn't realize that we had covered so much. The interview is posted in her blog Lapsus Translinguae.

While you are there, also read the interview with my friend Kirti Vashee about the Future of Tranlation and MT.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Google Translator Toolkit: A New Player in Translation Technology

This week, Google launched its new platform for translation projects, the Google Translator Toolkit. The tool is designed for translators and is similar to translation memory (TM) tools available in the market -- such as Across, Déjà Vu, Trados, and Wordfast -- and integrates Google Translate's statistical machine translation.

As we have been discussing in Common Sense Advisory's research, and in recent industry gatherings, this is the long-needed revolution in an industry that has been trying to "out-Trados" Trados, or trying to increase the productivity of processes and pump up technology that is old and cumbersome. Google Translator Toolkit incorporates all the collaboration features of current technology in an elegant way and enables translators to regain control of the process.
Even though it is still a bare bones solution, it will attract early adopters. Hardcore TM users, on the other hand, will likely shun the new technology.

It is still early to predict the impact of this launch, but we expect that the following will happen:
  • TM tools will develop interfaces that will read/write Google TMs and Google MT if they want to stay in the market.

  • Pre-translation and post-editing will become standard practices, even for the most recalcitrant translators.

  • Discussions about intellectual property of translation memories will become irrelevant, with negative impact for efforts like TM Market Place and the TAUS TDA initiative.

From the Google Translator Toolkit website, we also learn that:

  • It supports 47 languages.
  • Translations and glossaries each have a maximum size of 1MB.
  • Documents can be uploaded in most common file formats.
  • Translation memories have a maximum size of 50MB per upload.
  • Google Translator Toolkit is free, but in the future, Google plans to charge users whose translations exceed high-volume thresholds.

Google Translator Toolkit is not perfect. There are valid concerns about using it, along with the predictable resistance to change by those tied to the existing model. However, Google has already changed our behavior in the way we look for information. Now, it is launching a platform that has the potential to revolutionize the translation process, especially if combined with Google Wave, which is expected to be launched soon.

The role of the language services industry is to evolve from this stage. Alea jacta est!