The demands placed on credit management are being also changed by the advancing globalization of the Economy. One aspect, for example, is the increasing communication with international customers, partners and service providers – which in turn leads to an increasing demand for translations. But what do I need to bear in mind when commissioning a language service provider? In an interview with the CreditManager magazine, Stephan Oeller, President of the international translation agency Noraktrad, headquartered in Madrid, gives tips and highlights current trends in the industry, although parallels with credit managers can be seen.
CM: How has the global translation market developed in recent years?
SO: The translation industry currently has a worldwide turnover of almost €50 billion per year, and this figure is rising. The German market has a volume of almost €1 billion per year. Market observers assume that the translation and interpreting industry will grow by at least ten percent per year in the foreseeable future. We can confirm this development: Over the past 15 years, we have always grown organically at double-digit rates.
CM: Credit managers have more to do with numbers than with words. How can you identify a good translation agency?
SO: First of all, certification according to ISO 9001 or DIN EN ISO 17100 is a basic requirement. Thus, language service providers guarantee transparent processes, among other things. They should also be able to provide references from the relevant business area. Serious providers also offer a free trial translation to get to know each other. In principle, every translation should be proofread internally by a reviser before it is delivered to the client. Ultimately, it depends on the right balance in the “magic triangle”: Price, quality and delivery reliability. So, one should not only buy by price, but also include the other two aspects in the evaluation. If the quality of the translation is not right or the documents are delivered too late, you won’t get anything out of the low price.
CM: As everywhere, there are “black sheeps” in the translation industry. At which signals should one be alarmed?
SO: Basically, one should obtain several offers. If a service provider offers services far below the market price, you should at least take a close look. If he does not produce any further certifications, caution is required. It should also be possible to present liability insurance. If something actually goes wrong, the customer is protected against recourse claims.
CM: What is important when translating texts in the financial sector?
SO: The language service provider must be able to prove that the selected translator and reviser are familiar with the subject matter. In this case, this means that the executive employees are at home in business administration, and it is best if they have completed an appropriate course of study. Ideally, they know what credit management is. The same applies to technical documentation: A translator and proofreader should be an engineer.
CM: How is confidentiality guaranteed when, for example, sensitive contracts or even patents are translated?
SO: All persons involved – from the sales representative to the project manager, the translator and the proofreader – must sign a confidentiality agreement. We have developed special documents for this purpose, and some eCustomers also have their own forms up their sleeve. This protection is immensely important. Especially in the case of patents, the damage caused by premature disclosure can be enormous. The same applies, of course, to company takeovers, operating manuals for machines or international real estate transactions.
CM: What role does software play in translation? Can’t online translators like Google Translate or Deepl be used better these days?
SO: This only makes sense if you want to get a first overview quickly. When one enters longer sentences you will see: The higher the degree of difficulty, the more incomprehensible the output becomes. Especially the syntax of the German language often plays a trick.
Machine translations (MT) are getting better and better, but an expert will still have to check and correct this output for decades to come – even with 99 percent accuracy. Machines learn, but don’t feel the nuances. Optimistic estimates go towards 20 years of development time, which means that the classic translator is becoming more and more a proofreader.
CM: How will the work of translation agencies change in the coming years?
SO: The worldwide volume of data is increasing rapidly. And Big Data offers enormous opportunities: Advanced translation technology enables companies to use the huge amount of data for multilingual communication. At the same time, the increasing computing power enables the use of Deep Learning. This is a form of machine learning based on artificial intelligence. In the translation industry, that means: Neuronal machine translation (NMT).
CM: What is NMT exactly?
SO: Until now, translation memories have supported translators by making use of previous translations in databases. This ensures, for example, that the same terms are always used, even if different translators are working on the texts. NMT systems add two more things: Deep learning and much larger amounts of data. On their basis, an artificial neural network is created. We at Norak are prepared for this and are developing our own engine together with some key accounts in the USA and Spain. An important prerequisite, however, is the quality of the data – just like in credit management. If the master data is not correct, the best software is useless. The same applies to translation software. If the algorithms are fed well and abundantly, you will always get better results.
At the end of the day, the specialist translator —like the credit manager— only takes care of the difficult cases. This considerably increases the productivity of the setter.
CM: Where do you see the biggest challenges in the language services market?
SO: The German market is still very atomized. However, an increasing number of large Anglo-American suppliers are entering the market, merging and becoming attractive to funds which provide them with ample resources for further acquisitions. Technological progress is rapid and you have to be a full-service provider. Translating alone is becoming increasingly rare. In addition, it is important to have a certain strategic size, in order to have an independent, modular presence around the clock in its main markets and to occupy niche markets. FC