THE TRANSLATOR AS AN ENTREPRENEUR:AN INDIAN PERSPECTIVE

By Ravi Kumar, Founder, Modlingua Learning
First presented at International Symposium on Technical Translation and Terminology for Cross-Cultural Dialogue. Reprinted with gracious permission by the author.

The Translator as an entrepreneur

After several years of struggle, in many countries Translation has evolved as a professional activity and its practitioners have been able to get a professional status. However, it is important to note that India, in spite of having recognized and documented the presence of 1635 rationalized mother tongues, classified into 234 mother tongues and grouped under 122 languages, has failed to achieve professional status for its translators. Translation is an activity that not only helps bridge communication gap, rather it facilitates the whole set of business activity in terms of localization and globalization thus generating employment. An individual translator not only generates employment for himself/herself but also facilitates multiple activities and thus multiple employment activities ranging from DTP, advertising, education etc. to development and facilitation of high-end software and products. A translator applies his knowledge, skills and competencies and consistently evolves and applies new ideas at the individual level or collectively and in most of the cases, he/she is one person enterprise that generates employment and wealth and contributes to the economic development of the country.

It is also notable that most of the translators in India are forced to orient their profession and tune it as per the language demand of the industry by being restricted to the roles of language teacher, BPO employee, tele caller, etc. Those who remain loyal to their professional orientation as translator become freelance translators and often slowly grow into translation agencies. Unlike big business houses, translation businesses are usually run from home or from sparsely-furnished small offices, have limited resources and often the owners don’t know where the next penny is coming from to keep the operation going. Most of the time, such translators or agencies work in isolation and lead lonely existences as few can empathize with their troubles.

Socio- Cultural situation of translators in India

Bilinguals have always been respected in India as persons with superior qualifications, and they have played a pivotal role in social and cultural change. Slowly, bilingualism has become so widespread that it is complementary in nature. For example, an individual may use a particular language at home, another in the neighborhood and the bazaar, and still another in certain formal domains such as education, administration, and the like. In addition, the languages of national and international communication, Hindi and English, are also part of the linguistic repertoire of a sizeable number of Indians. In India, linguistic diversity is not by accident, but is inherited in the process of acquiring the composite culture of India.

Economic Situation of a translator in India

On the one hand, bilingualism/ multilingualism have played a pivotal role in shaping the diverse society of India, and even UNESCO has appreciated India’s situation on maintaining its linguistic diversity. On the other hand, Indian translators face challenges that are byproducts of the bilingualism / multilingualism inherent in Indian society. For example, it is very common to equate a translator with a bilingual neighbor, friend, relative or office colleague who are readily available for help or extend their services either at a very low price or, many times, even for free. I define these actions as part of the entrepreneurship attitude inherent in almost every Indian who tries to make best use of available resources and economizes his/ her efforts by making use of available resources. In this case, the resources are readily available bilinguals or multilinguals. These challenges become tougher when a Project Manager, knowingly or unknowingly equates the service cost of a professional translator with that of his in-house bilingual colleague whose services he / she has been availing of, free of charge. The challenge becomes stiffer when a translator has to explain to the Project Manager or the Indian Businessman (who still insists on using online freeware like Babelfish, Google or Systran) the difference between a machine translation and a professional translation, while trying to bid for an international project. This further confirms the resolve of an Indian businessman to prove his entrepreneurship skill which finally leads to a fiasco.

Making of a translator in India

As explained above, in spite of India’s very rich and continuing diversity of languages, there are only a few universities that offer translation courses in their curriculum, and these find it difficult to sustain themselves because of lack of infrastructure, lack of trained faculty, lack of well formulated course curriculum and, above and all, public lack of awareness and government apathy.

In this situation, it becomes very challenging for a translator to evolve as a professional, and those who evolve as professionals can be easily put into the category of entrepreneurs as they develop the ability to create and build something from practically nothing, and they practice this process of building wealth daily and continue to face all odds with a hope that one day they would be established translators.

External challenges faced by the translator entrepreneur

Once a professional translator starts interacting with the Industry, external challenges multiply. The translator goes on to face many other issues, including payment issues with clients followed by lack of continuity of work, government apathy towards professional recognition, lack of established standards, lack of certification, lack of funds for up gradation of skills, etc.

Global challenges faced by the translator entrepreneur

Many of the leading portals have developed a strong foothold in India. It is true that they have given good opportunities to many of the translators to get in touch with domestic as well as International agencies and that this has resulted in an increase in income. However, it is important to note that most of these portals are operated from outside India and they follow their own rules. Many times, Indian translators are cheated and then, to add insult to injury, blamed for bad quality. This kind of situation arises because of a mismatch of expectations, lack of documented guidelines and supports that agencies or clients must offer translators. Outsourcing is a good phenomenon, but service takers as well as service providers need to develop trust and culture sensitive relationships that is so often lacking in these web portals.

Competition from International agencies

It is true that the majority of Indian translators still follow the translation approach of translation – many times translations are handwritten, followed by typing, re-checking – and final delivery; this translation approach has its own importance, but it results in delivery delay and lack of quality control, making the whole affair vulnerable to stiff competition.

On the other hand, International agencies who maintain in-house teams of translators are sophisticated. They make use of trained translators who are well versed with computer applications and CAT tools (Computer Aided Translation Tools). Unless Indian translators also upgrade themselves with this modern translation approach, they will continue to suffer the snobbery of a select privileged few. Also, there are a few MNCs who have already made their presence in the Indian market, and, as a matter of practice, with their organizational strength and economic power, it would be easy for them to develop an economically competitive process that would be a big challenge to Indian translators entrepreneurs who are still struggling for their identity. By the time they realize their weaknesses, it would be too late to start competing with these translation houses.

Internal challenges faced by the translator entrepreneur

An individual, after having gone through the hurdles involved in evolving as a translator, faces the next stage of problems and challenges that many times originate from his / her own self:

  1. Translation activities have been treated as a very personal and private affair by individual language professionals. Many times, even best friends do not share information between themselves about their translation projects.
  2. Translators suffer from an identity crisis – Let us say, an Indian language professional refers to himself as a translator in a gathering of friends or acquaintances who otherwise have no other association with the translation industry. The response the professional’s statement would commonly receive would simply be, “Okay, this is what you do. But what is your profession?” This underlines the very simple fact that the translation industry generally has very little professional recognition in the perception of the masses. This does affect the credibility and the position of a professional translator in the eyes of his social peers. This is what we translators refer to as an Identity Crisis.
  3. Ego clashes – identity crisis makes an individual more sensitive to issues that have been making him suffer, any new initiative is regarded with suspicion – once suspicion comes – questions are asked, many times resulting in absurd questions offending egos and ultimately, failure of any collective initiatives for professional development.
  4. If at all logic prevails – the established translators start fearing loosing their business which they have established since years, making personal efforts – but very privately. Under no circumstances do they want to come to a common platform and discuss relations or issues related to their clients. But this thought is not expressed directly (part of identity crisis), rather it is expressed in terms of pin-pointing personal or professional or organizational weaknesses of the individual who has taken the initiative.

Successful translators and diversification

In spite of all the odds mentioned above, there are quite a good number of translators in India who face these challenges and overcome all hurdles to finally make a living and contribute to the economic and cultural growth of the country. In addition, there are a few who grow enough to launch small and medium sized translation enterprises which further add value to translation as a profession.

Need for collaborative efforts

With the collaborative efforts of a few like-minded professional translators, the Indian Translators Association was established in December 2007. It seeks to unite the widespread translator and interpreter community of India on a common platform to address issues for the betterment of the industry and take steps to ensure that its members provide services meeting the professional standards of the industry. Its integration with the International Federation of Translators (FIT) in July 2008 and its subsequent collaboration with Termnet Austria prove its commitment towards achieving its objectives and goal of developing a vibrant platform for the translator’s community of India.

Networking as a Possible Solution

To counter external as well as internal challenges a translator needs to take into consideration the phenomenon of globalization that has brought tremendous dynamism into market forces. The world is evolving towards finding innovative ways of achieving customer satisfaction that is based on N =1 (one consumer experience at a time) and R = G (resource from multiple vendors and often from around the globe). [5] To achieve competitiveness and provide unique, personalized experiences to consumers the firm needs to create a system that involves individual customers in co-creating a product / service that provides a unique experience. No firm is big enough in scope and size to satisfy the experiences of one consumer at a time.

Therefore, all firms will access resources from a wide variety of other big and small firms – a global ecosystem. The focus is on access to resources, not ownership of resources. Not to go too deeply into the logistics of this innovative thought, it is very important to understand that even the biggest companies do not own all the necessary resources to cater to the needs of their customer, nor do they have complete production in-house as the new dynamics of market demands inter-dependency on internal and external sources.

The above thoughts are very encouraging for an entrepreneur and especially for the translator who depends heavily on external sources and who does not have enough funds to own resources. As explained above, nor do the big business houses have the complete ownership of resources. The idea is to have fast access to these resources. A translator entrepreneur needs to be connected to fellow translators within his own country as well as outside the country to have access to information and knowledge and develop teams for the execution of a project through available resources and provide services and achieve customer satisfaction. For developing connectivity and networking, there are already various online systems in place that allow free access to their platform and offer options to develop connectivity and develop social or professional networks that further helps individual members to build on relationships, share knowledge and help in the overall growth of a complete social or cultural system thus allowing the creator of the system to benefit from the presence of a large number of human networks connected to its server. Amongst many other networks, I find Google, LinkedIn, Face Book, Hotmail, Groupsite and Twitter to be examples of the N=1 and R=G phenomenon.

Even for translators, there are well known networks that work wonders, and a translator must tune himself / herself to changing dynamics and bring competitiveness through using these networks (for example, Termium Canada, Terment Austria or even Termtruk and various other initiatives). In the Indian context, although there has not been a very visible network of translators, empowered by big business houses, however many personal initiatives are in place (for example, www.modlingua.com) and it is expected that in times to come when better understating of the market comes, translators would start networking in an organized way and such private initiatives would become part of a collective initiative covering a considerable number of translators.

All that remains to be said in conclusion is that, while Indian translators as entrepreneurs are slowly evolving, in spite of many obstacles, they are yet to explore their fullest potential by adopting a common platform. On the one hand, this, and the other hurdles and set backs can be attributed, to a large extent, to vestigial colonial mind sets on all sides (the colonizer and the colonized) which have so far endured past their expiry dates yet continue to exert influence. Perhaps the time has come for change and, given the shared impacts of events, East or West, North or South, salvation for all lies in sharing knowledge, experience and resources. The future of translation as a profession lies in the “networking” of entrepreneurs to economize processes and sustain growth by using all available resources and infrastructure. All that this requires is the investment of goodwill across the globe.

REFERENCES
[1] R. Gopalakrishnan, Prosperity Beyond Our Cities by Spreading Enterprise, AD Shroff Memorial Lecture, October 17-18, 2007
[2] Dwijendra Tripathy (ed.), Business Communities of India: A Historical Perspective. 1984
[3] Tarun Khanna, Billions of Entrepreneurs: How China and India are reshaping their future and yours, 2007
[4] See Pawan K Verma, Being Indian
[5] This phenomenon can be more understood by going through the writings of management guru C.K Prahalad and M.S. Krishnan in “ The New Age of Innovation: Driving Co-Created Value through Global Networks, Tata Mc Graw Hill, 2008

This Article is written by Ravi Kumar, Founder of Modlingua Learning, India’s No.1 Certified Translation Service Providers

CAT CORNER: MEMSOURCE

 

By Daria Toropchyn
Recommended minimum configuration for reliable performance:
CPU: Intel Core 2 Duo 1.66 GHz
RAM: 1 GB
Bandwidth: 1 Mbit/s
For pricing, see www.memsource.com/pricing

 
 
Reprinted with gracious permission from SlavFile, the Slavic language division newsletter, and the author

There are continuing debates out there over whether machine translation will ever replace human translators. Personally, I don’t see this ever happening, but there are a few by-products of artificial intelligence development that translators can benefit from in the here and now.

As a student and translator, I have had the opportunity to try various translation tools as part of my academic program. This has included guided access to Computer-Aided Translation (CAT) tools, which I can use for various projects without the pressure of having a client to satisfy.

The two main features of CAT tools that translators find most helpful are translation memory and a terminology base. A translation memory allows users to save translated segments (in most cases, sentences) and reuse them later for future projects. A terminology
base helps translators keep terminology consistent throughout an entire project.

According to ProZ, the most the most popular CAT tools today are SDL Trados, Wordfast, memoQ, Déjà Vu, Across, SDLX, and OmegaT. I would like to discuss my own experience using MemSource. This tool is not as widely known as the SDL suite, for example, but in my opinion, MemSource is a great CAT tool for certain types of work. My working language pairs are English>Russian and Czech>Russian, so I will be reviewing this tool from the viewpoint of these languages.

MemSource was launched in 2010 in Prague, Czech Republic, by the company’s founder, David Canek. The CAT tool was released for public use in 2011, and by the end of 2015 it reported 50,000 users (SDL Trados, by comparison, has 225,000 users). MemSource has both cloud- and desktop-based software versions. That means you can install it on your computer (the files will only be available there) or use the cloud-based version and have access to the files anywhere from any browser on any device, as long as you have an Internet connection. I use a cloud-based version, and I’m glad I chose that option. (Note, however, that many clients have confidentiality concerns and won’t allow you to work via a cloud-based system.)

MemSource MemSource is available as a Personal Edition (free for up to two files for translation of 10 MB each at one time) or Freelance Edition (free for 30 days, then $27 per month, can be used by multiple users, allows for unlimited files, and includes translation memory and a terminology base).

I have been using MemSource for a year now both for school and for work. MemSource has become my primary CAT tool.It supports over 50 file formats for translation. Of those, the ones I am most familiar with are .doc, .ppt, .txt, and .srt (for subtitling). Here is what the Editor looks like in the browser, where all the work is actually done:

The Editor window is very user-friendly and clean. If you know how to use Microsoft Word, you won’t have any trouble using MemSource’s Editor window. MemSource also provides short video tutorials that explain the Editor and pretty much everything else this CAT tool has to offer.

MemSource has a couple of great features that I haven’t found in other CAT tools:

Halfway through a lengthy document (over 1,000 segments long), I realized that I had already translated a similar sentence. In the top left area, “Filter Source= Text,” I typed a few words that were definitely translated previously, and MemSource gave me six results where these words were used. So, to the right of the sentence, I typed in the translation. But how could I get back to where I was before? I could either erase my filter criteria and scroll down all the way to segment #602 (where I was last), or I could leave my cursor on the filtered sentence and delete my search parameters. In the latter case, MemSource automatically brings me back to segment #602, and I can carry on translating. This sounds like a non-critical feature. But if you don’t know it is there, you can waste a great deal of time scrolling up and down.

While translating, I try not to confirm segments (“confirming” the segment means saving it in the translation memory). Because my translation memory is already big enough and has similar sentences saved in it, in the top right corner MemSource shows me source and target sentences that can be helpful. These subsegment matches are marked with pink. While they are not 100% matches, most of the time they open up new possibilities or just inspire me to continue the search for “the right word.”

The green “101” means that MemSource has found a 100% match in my translation memory; the blue “MT”  offers a machine-translated variant; and the pink “S” is a subsegment feature that recognizes a repetition within the segment and offers a translation. (The A refers to an outline heading in this case.)

Of course, MemSource is not perfect. Here are a few features that need improving or might be a reason to wonder if MemSource would be the best CAT tool for you:

  • MemSource does not replace the & symbol with its translation in an MT-offered sentence. This is not a big deal, but when you work in the English>Russian language pair, you can waste significant time just replacing this symbol (in 100% of cases, the “&” does not change between languages). As you can see, though, MemSource does offer a subsegment version of the translation, since it has “learned” that I replace “&” with “и” in my translations all the time.
  • Once I had a Czech docx file to translate into Russian, and MemSource produced so many tags (indicators of a recognition problem) that I was forced to translate the old-fashioned way, without using any CAT tool. However, this was the only Czech file of the more than 20 I have translated that caused MemSource any difficulty.

Overall I feel that MemSource is a great tool for translators who work mostly with files such as .doc, .txt, and .ppt. I like the quality of the machine-translation suggestions, which are easy to work with. And when general topics are translated, the majority of suggestions do not need serious editing. I have been able to add and edit terminology “on the go” without the need to upload a new termbase every time I have to add or edit a term. For those translators who work while traveling, the cloud-based version is a highly
useful option and would save the day if the translator’s computer died when there was a tight deadline and no backup, since it allows the use of a borrowed, Internet café computer or even a publicly available computer. How awesome is that? And $27 per month (totaling $324 per year) for a Freelance Edition is relatively affordable, without the need to pay a significant amount of money up front (such as the $825 purchase price for SDL Trados). You can access your document from any computer or laptop with any operating system (Microsoft, Apple) anywhere in the world at any time. Isn’t this the kind of freedom translators dream of?

Written by Daria Toropchyn

FIT Position Paper on the Future for Professional Translators

Reprinted with generous permission from Translatio, the newsletter of the Fédéracion Internacionale des Traducteurs

What does the future hold for professional translators? FIT, as the voice of associations representing those professionals around the world, would like to draw attention to actual or conceivable developments and indicate what actions are recommendable.

Trends
Thanks to modern technologies the world is increasingly interconnected. This leads to a rapidly growing need for improved communication and access to knowledge across different languages. In addition, more and more companies are seeking an international presence. Consequently, there is a steeply rising demand for translation services, which is further amplified by continuing migration owing to armed conflicts, climate change and other occurrences.

Although volumes are growing, a strong downward pressure on rates is evident. Acquisitions and mergers on the part of big players in the translation world are likely to lead to further market concentration with a corresponding impact on rates. Yet the bulk of all translation work is ultimately done by freelance individual translators, who must be able to make a living commensurate with their high level of education.

Developments like machine translation are gaining ground, though not as fast as expected by some. High-grade systems which are already used in several specialised areas of translation will continue to need a lot of high-quality input, be maintenance-intensive and require constant training of all users.

Some people assume that, at a certain point in the future, computers based on neural networks will outstrip human intelligence. This “singularity” will allegedly render most, if not all, current occupations obsolete. But it remains to be seen whether this vision will become reality. Until such time, professional translators will continue to have an important role to play because machines still lack the creativity and intuition that humans have. These professionals will not simply act as post-editors of machine-translation output, but above all as translators in their own right who counter the degradation of human language and guarantee a high quality of language.

Actions
In response to these trends and the changing customer requirements, professional translators have to adapt, be creative and develop business models that make the most of the latest technologies. These models could include various types of added value or involve translation services provided as part of a diversified offering. New innovative ideas are needed.

The traditional image of the solitary translator is definitely changing. Specialisation, a team-oriented approach to the work and the willingness to constantly refine the knowledge of tools will be essential for a successful career in the translation industry. In fact, translators should seek to influence the development and become co-creators of the tools they will be using in the coming decades.

Furthermore, a strong focus on professionalism must be maintained. Standards play an important part as a reliable method of demonstrating and underscoring the quality of the services provided to customers, but the quality of the translation work can only be ensured by trained and experienced professionals.

Professional translators must therefore redouble their efforts to make it clear that they are service providers and counter the commoditisation of their world. Among other things, this may include contemplating fee structures other than those per word, line or page translated, such as charging on an hourly or project basis for their services, as is the case in many other professions. They must continue to strive for greater efficiency and should consider working in teams to handle bigger jobs as well.

Above all, these professionals should act as language services advisors or language consultants, advising their customers on the best approach to a particular assignment and explaining the benefits or drawbacks of certain translation methods.

Job profiles themselves are likely to change. In some areas, the roles of translator and interpreter may merge, leading to the emergence of “trans-interpreters”. Elsewhere “trans-editor” or “trans-journalist” may become a new job title. Professional translators must therefore be willing to move away from traditional roles and embark on new, rewarding areas of activity as well as defining their personal area of specialisation.

Requirements
for educational institutions
Universities and institutions that train translators will also have to adapt and refine their curricula in order to prepare their students for this changing environment. They must equip the students with the relevant skills needed for transcreation, localisation and other demanding types of human translation, without neglecting the basic competences needed by translators.

for professional associations
As the voice of individual translators, the national associations as well as their international umbrella organisations will have to inform both political institutions and the public about the importance and necessity of high-quality translation work. Furthermore, they have to offer their members information and training relating to new market developments.

Conclusion
Given the rapidly changing environment perceived as a threat by many, the future of the translation profession will therefore depend on the ability to transform the trends outlined above into new opportunities. This calls for a strong focus on professionalism and greater specialisation as well as the ability to act as language services advisor and display adaptability and flexibility.

NYCT May Meeting – Panel on Patent Translation

Panelists included Aaron Hebenstreit, Sand Jones and Sam Bett from Morningside Translations

Sam Bett explained what a patent is and what can be patented. A patent is a legal right that an inventor can apply for. They are generally for a 20-year term. No one is then permitted to use their invention without their permission. The panel then discussed the criteria necessary for a patent.

There is no international patent. Patents are granted in each country or selected countries. Various patents can be costly. (WIPO) World Intellectual Property Organization was discussed. They administer treaties and are a big source of translation work.

Many documents are associated with Patent Translation
1- The abstract
2- The claims, which sets out the legal scope.
3 – The description, or what it is
4- The drawings

How to get started in patent translation? Sandy explained that she worked with legal and one day a patent came across her desk. That started it all. Sandy emphasized and the rest of the panel concurred that a translator must have strong research skills. Research is half the job. Mistakes can be expensive. Consistency very important. However, no technical background is needed to start with patents.

What makes one suited to patents? Well, are you curious? Interested in how things work? These traits and language skills are what makes one suited to pursue patent work. At this time Japanese, German, Korean, Chinese seem to be the languages that offer the most work.

The panel also answered questions from the membership.

Literary Translators’ Associations Collaborate on both sides of the Atlantic

Following the First Seminar for Literary Translators’ Trainers held at Instituto Caro y Cuervo (ICC) in Yerbabuena, Colombia, in October 2016, hosted by the Mexican Association of Literary Translators (AMETLI) and the Colombian Association of Translators, Terminologists and Interpreters (ACTTI), the associations resolved to join forces for the benefit of the profession. They decided to create a network specifically designed to improve the visibility of translators of literary works into Spanish on both sides of the Atlantic, act as an advocate for the profession, and foster cultural exchange by sharing information, experience and knowledge, based on the promotion of joint efforts. In addition to the Mexican and Colombian associations, the Spanish association ACE Traductores and the Argentine Association of Translators and In¬terpreters (AATI) are part of the initiative to create an Ibero-American Network of Literary Translators. The boards of the associations decided to sign a declaration of intent, which was released simultaneously in various countries in April.