" Online Translation - The Future?" by Steven Forsyth

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/thumb/4/4c/Lost_in_Translation_poster.jpg/220px-Lost_in_Translation_poster.jpgIt is fair to say that most small to medium sized GILT (Globalization, Internationalization, Localization and Translation) companies have professional looking and informative brochure web sites. What is interesting is that more and more of these companies are now following in the footsteps of the industry giants and revamping their sites to facilitate online translation services.

The service to which I am referring is not machine translation, but an automated online translation service where the user supplies all project criteria such as materials (which are uploaded), personal details, project details, expectations etc. online. Once all requirements have been supplied the user is given an immediate quote onscreen and an estimate date\time of completion. Once billing and payment information has been entered by the user they will receive an automated response via email, confirming the transaction while a corresponding mail is sent internally to the company's project manager with all the project details.

It is then up to the project manager to assign the project to a translator before emailing the final product back to the client, or making it available by other means (ftp\managed server) depending on the projects size.

All very straightforward.

Some companies are now furthering the automation of the process. Based on the criteria of the project entered online the translator(s) will be selected automatically from a database. An email is sent to the translator, requesting their services, and they will have a certain amount of time to respond, before the project is offered to the next most suitable translator. Although based upon a complex IS system the obvious advantage here would be bypassing the bulk of project management costs and administration tasks.

To give the user an extra sense of satisfaction it is also possible for the client to track the status of their project via a personalised login to the company's extranet.

So it seems possible to automate the entire process, cut out the middlemen and make a reasonable profit, and if this is the case then why aren't more companies doing it? Maybe it is only a matter of time but the general feeling within the industry is that despite the obvious advantages to the system, customers remain unconvinced of having their translations completed without any human contact.

Presently, few companies offer this kind of service. It started with Bowne Global, Berlitz (who are now one and the same) and more recently SDL have entered the fray. Understandably, market leaders such as these are equipped to offer a complete range of services, therefore leading the way, it also is good to see that smaller companies in the UK such as K-International and The Big Word are also moving into this area.

As more and more companies realize the potential in this and begin to offer the same service it is my feeling that it will become the industry standard for translation services. Optimistic surely, but not inconceivable.


I developed such a system for K-International a few years ago, www.quick2translate.com but unfortunately the company has failed to properly promote the site thus far and it is not living up to its full potential. On the other hand, SDL's Click2Translate is doing exceptionally well through brilliant promotion via their free translation service. It's all in the approach and I believe it to be only a matter of time before most translation projects are done solely via the web.


By Steven Forsyth
Localization Manager, all languages.
Have been in this industry for over 10 years.


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