Technology and the Future of Translation

Ian Barrow

We sat down with Ian Barrow, Technical Services Manager at Acclaro, to get his take on the current technological landscape of the translation and localization industry and where we're headed in the near future. Read on for some concrete details on translation technologies and how Acclaro leverages them to make client projects easy, smooth, efficient and high-quality. 

Q: How has technology in the translation industry evolved over the last decade?

In the last 10 years, computer-aided translation (CAT) tools went from being desktop productivity tools for agencies and their translators to an integrated piece within a connected global content workflow. A decade ago, CAT tools were still fairly basic and many smaller translation suppliers or linguists didn’t even use them. Since then, we went from a single dominant first generation tool to a large group of new applications with innovative features. So that’s been very healthy and has pushed the industry forward; today no significant translation effort could be sustained without the aid in efficiency and quality driven by CAT tools. The basic early functionalities that progressed include:

  • In-tool QA
  • Context leveraging
  • Term bases
  • Powerful content parsers

Not to mention the obvious benefits of translation memory leverage and re-use.

In more recent years, we’ve seen the advent of server and web-based CAT tools that give us access to shared TMs (translation memories) and functionalities such as API connectivity, process automation and multiple translation roles. Also web-scraping and proxy hosting solutions appeared to help translate sites when the content was otherwise nearly inaccessible. The CAT tool is without a doubt the most important technology for any translation/localization company

Alongside this, we’ve seen an active rise in demand for machine translation. When utilized in the appropriate context (for example to translate a million plus words of non consumer-facing content, etc.), and coupled with human post-editing services, MT can open up large amounts of content to foreign speakers where standard translation would have been time- and price-prohibited.

It's now possible to combine all of the above into one large, nearly-fully automated workflow, minimizing the hours and risks for clients and suppliers alike. 

Q: What is the biggest impact of these advances for American companies investing in translation?

I see these advances as having four major impacts for American companies investing in translation:

  • With the workflow automations and shared translation memories, turnaround times for translation projects are now greatly reduced compared to 10 years ago.
  • The automation also reduces the time needed for handling and managing translation content. This frees up valuable human resource time.
  • Shared TMs, built-in term bases and improved in-tool QA greatly enhance the quality, both linguistically and technically, of deliveries being made by translators and translation suppliers. This also has the potential to further reduce turnaround times by shrinking rework of inconsistent and inaccurate translation.
  • All of the above bring about cost reductions to both clients and vendors.

Q: Which technologies are most vital to the overall quality of a translation? 

Although good technology cannot guarantee good quality of translation, I would say the following are the most important:

  • Translation memory: A good TM can help bring about consistency in translation between multiple translators as well as provide a well of reference material during translation.
  • Term base: A well stocked, built-in term base can help ensure key terminology is kept consistent and can be used for quality assurance during translation. This enables translators to use client-approved terms first.
  • A strong set of in-tool QA tools: This is a must for generating quality translations. Any built-in QA should be able to check large volumes of content for the following:
    • untranslated string
    • inconsistent strings
    • missing or incorrect, non-translatable elements
    • missing or changed numerics 
  • Context within the translation tool:
    • Tools should be able to display contextual comments, instructions and metadata that give the translator context.
    • Some tools can provide translators with a WYSIWYG editing environment for webpages to enhance the context available to them.

Q: Where specifically does technology save money and time over the course of a translation project?

  • Reduced lead time: Time between the identified need of the client and the beginning of translation can be reduced to mere minutes with strong workflow automation
  • Reduced translation time: Time to translate is reduced via newly created content being immediately available to all translators
  • Re-use of content: Existing content is readily available so nothing ever needs to be translated from scratch twice
  • Higher accuracy of terminology: Time needed to research terms is reduced
  • Reduced file handling: Strong parsers allow more complex file formats to be fed directly in and out of CAT tools with no additional manipulation

Q: How does Acclaro leverage technology to make client projects more turnkey and efficient?

At Acclaro, we build efficiency into our systems by developing automated content handoff and delivery between our client and production teams.  This automation is wrapped around our use of a consistent CAT tool that our linguists are familiar with. This system minimizes the need for any additional training and allows the linguists to start translation from day one.

Q: What other recent technologies does Acclaro work with?

Alongside these quality drivers, our teams work with a range of other technologies to meet our clients' needs. For example, we are currently rolling out a new API to improve connectivity with client workspaces.

We have partnerships with a range of third party technologies that enable us to offer services such as translated website mirroring, live and near-live translations services for small volume content and custom solution development to meet the diverse sets of requirements that our clients bring to us. 

Q: What does a technology-powered website localization project look like for the client? 

With our current workflows and technology, it’s really quite simple:

  1. Initial setup of connectivity: We create the connectivity between the web CMS and our translation management systems.
  2. Defining requirements: We determine with the client which elements should be translated and rules around the frequency and urgency of handoffs.
  3. Our clients sit back and relax (for translation only): When our clients create new source content, they need only flag it if they want it to be part of the translated website or not. Translated content is updated and added to the site automatically without further client interaction.

Q: What are your goals for Acclaro in terms of technological strides in the near term?

I have two main goals for technology at Acclaro in the near term:

  1. Internally: Implement fully-automated content handling processes where files received from a client require minimal manipulation before translation and only standard QA post-translation.
  2. Deploy our new API for connecting directly with client content management systems.


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Smart, fun and useful. Acclaro shares news and tips on translation, localization, language, global business and culture.


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