02 December 2013

Jaap van der Meer of TAUS on How We Can Reinvent Translation for a New Generation of Users

In your Translation technology Landscape Report published in April 2013, TAUS said that translation technology is at a deeply transformative point in its evolution, and that we were heading for a convergence era. Could you sum up for us this will mean for (Europe's) translation industry?

JVDM : This convergence – as we say in the Translation Technology Landscape report – comes from three different angles: the technology, the functional (or business) and the social. The simplest example of the technology convergence is the fusion of speech and translation technology. It is so natural that we are moving towards speech-to-speech translation. We have seen demos of that at TAUS conferences and it’s clear that the technology integration still needs more work, but I think we will see some rapid evolution on this front. The functional convergence has started already earlier: it’s all the different disciplines and functions in organizations looking at the relevance and value of translation. Once you have a relatively simple and somewhat automated process for translation, everyone will come to you and ask you to plug in: customer support, social media, marketing, search and so on. Translation and localisation managers are becoming very popular. Social convergence is completely in the hands of the users, the community, and the crowd. Adding self-service (machine) translate buttons to online support sites for instance can make a world of difference. What this all means for the (European) translation industry is that we have to reinvent ourselves: both the way we set up processes and use technology and the way we set up our business and pricing models. We are making a shift from a static model to a dynamic model where the customer and the user have many different options and quality levels for translation

Data-driven translation tech has now become a core feature of the translation landscape. Are there any legal, technical or commercial questions that TAUS is interested in solving in relation to the "market" for language data?

JVDM : Yes, technically it is still very complicated to train MT engines. TAUS would like to make it simpler. In the coming year we will add new features to the TAUS Data repository to allow users to identify data that are really close to the domain or industry for which they need to customize or train an engine. We call this the Matching Scores feature that is based on semantic clustering techniques. We are also considering setting up a library of language, translation and reordering models to help fast-track and fine-tune the development and customization of MT engines. That is quite an ambitious project but with the 55 billion words in 2,200 language pairs already in the data repository we have the right basis for it. Legally, yes of course, we are all still struggling with an outdated copyright law. I hope that policy-makers in Europe will recognize this issue and address it.

Will the emergence of new "device-based" and user-pulled translation apps that you mention in your report have any serious impact on the market as we know it for commercial translation? Or will the market just keep growing exponentially due to the massive creation of content?

JVDM : Our prediction is that the ubiquitous availability of translation will only drive the demand for professional and business-to-business translation at all levels. This means that business customers will look at their vendors to supply translation at different quality levels: from real-time customized MT to personalized transcreation and hyperlocalisation. We think there will be growth at all levels. The challenge though will be to establish the references and metrics that help all of us to deliver upon expectations. At our TAUS Annual Conference in 2012 we set up a competition for innovation insiders and innovation invaders in the translation sector. I think we will see many more innovators coming into the translation sectors with fresh ideas on how to differentiate the offerings.

TAUS is eight years old this year. Can you tell us how the organisation is evolving to address the changing needs of the industry?

JVDM : TAUS has evolved from a think tank to a platform for shared industry services, from ideas to execution. We set up the TAUS Data repository in 2008 and since 2010 we have started developing the Dynamic Quality Framework. Both the data sharing and the translation quality evaluation platform are good examples of general industry support services that benefit all industry stakeholders. They help the industry to mature and add credibility. TAUS provides a unique service as a neutral and objective industry platform.

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