As another successful year has drawn to a close, we’re amazed at how much has happened at AST in the last 12 months. Here are some of our highlights from 2016:
We really increased in numbers and welcomed project managers Roseanna and Josephine, accounts supervisor Siobhan and translators Charlotte, Maisie and Jessica to the team.
Because of our growing numbers, and so we can welcome visitors to the office, we are now inhabiting not two but three large business units at Ayr Street in Nottingham.
Bernadette recently started her MA in translation and has left the project management department in favour of the translation department.
We launched our own blog, were re-certified to ISO 9001:2008 and began a new marketing partnership with the Institute of Export, the UK’s professional membership body representing and supporting the interests of everyone involved in importing, exporting and international trade.
We now have a client portal for transferring large and sensitive files to and from clients, and we have been awarded Cyber Essentials accreditation from the UK’s National Cyber Security Programme. Cyber Essentials helps organisations implement basic levels of protection against cyber attack, demonstrating to their customers that they take cyber security seriously. This means you can now be even more confident that your documents are secure with AST.
A number of our project managers and in-house translators received certification from CAT (Computer-Aided Translation) tool programs Studio and MemoQ and we are planning to upgrade to the latest version of Studio (2017) early on in the year.
Not satisfied with the number of languages they already speak, some in-house colleagues started learning French, German, Italian, Mandarin and Croatian/Serbian at the University of Nottingham in their spare time.
We welcomed Alexandra back from her maternity leave and waved Lindsay off on hers. Three new babies have arrived to AST parents over the last 18 months; all lovely little girls.
We celebrated with Anna as she got married in September and Kim when she got engaged in June.
Finally, we translated well over 6 million words! Wow what a year! We look forward to working with you all in 2017!
Becoming a PM isn’t necessarily an easy career move. There is a lot to familiarise yourself with – the ins and outs of each client, the translators’ specialties, and the ways of a new office. I don’t like to shy away from a challenge, but you definitely need to remain switched on and preferably in the right gear 99% of the time (the 1% can be for the all-important biscuit, or as at AST, banana break). At the start it can be overwhelming – especially for someone who hasn’t worked in the translation industry before. You have to get your head around an array of texts, where the subject matter can vary from railway switches to petroleum dyes to installation of urinals!
Once the subject matter is mastered, you need to place it with the right translator. This part of the job would be a lot easier if you were telepathic. However, the reality is you have to do as much research into the translator’s specialisms as you can, record their future absences once made aware of them and with a spoonful of good luck the right person will be available. The next hurdle is finding the proofreader. Depending on the timescale of the job, it can sometimes be tricky to find a suitable proofreader who has time when you need them to. It is often the case that you start your morning staring at a sticky note with “find proofreader” labelled gloriously and optimistically by yourself on last night’s paperwork. Nevertheless, as I have found, the right proofreader does always come along and somehow miraculously (or actually down to hard work) the job falls into place and is ready to go. The final step is trusting yourself to have set everything up correctly so that the job runs smoothly to make way for an easy delivery and an easy delivery makes way for one happy client. As a famous duo once sang, you have got to try to keep the customer satisfied….
I cannot help but notice the smile on someone’s face when I tell them that I am a translator. Of course, I ought to be one since I have Turkish parents and grew up in Austria and can speak English. What else should I have been? A doctor? A scientist? Or even an astronaut? Oh dear, no. Someone who was practically born with two languages and who grew up learning two more thanks to an excellent education system is a de facto translator.
This is a conversation that I can never dodge when meeting new people. There are just too many people out there who assume that growing up bilingually makes one a translator. Does it?
As a qualified translator who has been surrounded by other translators for over 6 years now, I can assure you that the answer is a big NO! Translating is way more than transferring text from one language to another. There are so many factors that a translator has to be aware of during the process of translating. It is more than ‘I = ich’. One has to think of the context, the cultural references, the correct word choice, the author… And to do all that, growing up bilingually is not sufficient enough. Being a translator involves much more than knowing two or more languages. It is all about the constant development of language skills, broad general knowledge, even deeper knowledge in one or more disciplines. And that brings me back to the first part of my blog post. A translator is not just a translator or a bilingual person; a translator can also be a doctor, a scientist or even an astronaut.
Uttering the sentence, “Google Translate is becoming a ‘gold standard in business’”, is likely to make most linguists and translation professionals turn into slightly more articulate versions of the Looney Tunes character, Taz the Tasmanian Devil. Yet, that is exactly what it is on the verge of becoming, despite that fact that most of us know that what comes out of Google Translate doesn’t always qualify as “translation”.
Many of us have participated in the parlor game of running sentences through Google Translate, first into another language and then back again into the original, just to laugh maniacally bordering on hysteria at the absurd results (or does this happen only at parties with translators?). Yet Google Translate and other machine translation tools have slowly become a go-to instrument, and not just for those who simply want a rough guide to what something in a foreign language might mean while browsing the internet on some idle Wednesday. An increasing number of people rely on it for their professional translation needs, either as a substitute for consulting a live translator or in an often misguided attempt to save money.
Quite a number of translators have been approached by a not insignificant number of potential clients asking the translator to proofread a text that the client has fed through an online translation tool. Happily though these instances are becoming rarer. It would be nice to think that people are beginning to understand that the costs of having a professional revise a poor machine translation product are more or less equivalent to having a professional translator do the translation from start to finish. However, the likely explanation may well be that many companies have ceased to bother with professional translation altogether, opting simply to post a link that feeds their company website through Google Translate.
In a way, it is understandable how Google Translate has become such a ubiquitous tool of international commerce. First of all, it’s massively convenient. Everyone knows the url for Google, and the Google Translate link is just one more click away. It even has its own mobile app, for when you find yourself struggling with the dessert menu at a restaurant on holiday in Prague.
Moreover, it is fast. Just enter the word, phrase or sentence into the site or app, and it is instantly converted into words in another language. There is little to no waiting time, and Google Translate does not have to fit you into an already busy schedule. You need something translated yesterday? No problem! In less time than it would take to compose an email asking for an estimate on a translation, there is the finished translation product on your desktop.
And finally, it’s free. Translation quality of machine translations aside, Google Translate guarantees that the price is right.
It would seem that the incentives of convenience, speed and thrift have overpowered the need to communicate one’s business offerings in a clear, coherent manner. In the process, Google Translate has become something of a standard, a lowest common denominator of international business communication. The “McDonald’s” of translation, if you will. It is becoming an industry standard, not by being good, but by making it acceptable not to expect much better.
Needless to say, the growing acceptance of this lowest common denominator comes at a price. Machine translation, with its “hey, everybody’s doing it” pervasiveness, allows companies striving to expand their audiences across national borders to feel at ease with what is essentially poor and inarticulate communication.
But are there instances, where using Google Translate is a good idea, or its output is good enough? And under which circumstances? This blog is the first in a mini series that will explore the present and future of Google Translate, machine translations and computer-assisted translation tools, including insights into the professional translator’s toolbox and how to use Google Translate in the right way. Watch this space!