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Your vision of the translation industry by 2025 and your immediate future as a freelance translator
מפרסם התגובה: Vladimir Pochinov

Vladimir Pochinov  Identity Verified
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Jan 18

We all see how online platforms, social media, software, and apps have employed innovative business models that (more or less) changed entire industries and sectors. Just think about Airbnb, Alibaba, eBay, Netflix, Uber, YouTube ... and ProZ (I joined it back in December 1999).

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"As Berlin has become one of Europe’s top travel destinations, with 30.2m overnight stays last year, the Airbnb trend has affected the local hotel industry. According to researc
... See more
We all see how online platforms, social media, software, and apps have employed innovative business models that (more or less) changed entire industries and sectors. Just think about Airbnb, Alibaba, eBay, Netflix, Uber, YouTube ... and ProZ (I joined it back in December 1999).

----------------------
"As Berlin has become one of Europe’s top travel destinations, with 30.2m overnight stays last year, the Airbnb trend has affected the local hotel industry. According to research company GBI, the private online bookings represent a ‘parallel market of an additional 6.1m’ overnight stays a year.” -- The Guardian, 01.05.2016
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What about the latest developments in the translation market landscape?

Below are some well-known drivers affecting the translation industry and creating new opportunities, challenges, and threats for independent language professionals.

● Online translation management systems (Gespoint, LSP.expert, Plunet, Protemos, QuaHill, SDL Trados Business Manager, Wordbee, XTRF, etc.)
● Online CAT environments (Lilt, Lokalise, MateCat, Memsource Cloud, SDL Online Translation Editor, SmartCAT, Text United, XTM Cloud, etc.)
● Neural and adaptive neural machine translation systems (DeepL, Google Translate, Microsoft Translator, ModernMT, etc.)
● Post-edit machine translation (PEMT)
● Continuous speech recognition, a.k.a. voice-to-text (e.g. Dragon NaturallySpeaking)

How do the above drivers affect you, in a positive or negative way? Do you find it easy to adapt your knowledge, skills, and practices accordingly?

P.S. Sorry for multiple edits, it seems I am unable to highlight a specific phrase using HTML tags. The entire posting becomes highlighted.

[Edited at 2020-01-18 17:47 GMT]
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Stéphanie BERNOUX
 

Laurent Mercky
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thank you for the question Jan 18

Hi there,

Thank you very much for this question.
In the next 5 years, thanks to Internet, multimedia and business relationships, I will still be on air ^^
My worst nightmare ? Not the machine translation but a cheapest market coming from developing countries or China in my case. And more and more challengers too.
And concerning the layout techniques, well, it's fun to learn


Yael Ramon
 

Vladimir Pochinov  Identity Verified
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The cheapest market vs the high-end market Jan 18

Laurent Mercky wrote:

My worst nightmare ? Not the machine translation but a cheapest market coming from developing countries or China in my case. And more and more challengers too.



As I mentioned above, I joined ProZ in Dec 1999 (the site became operational in Feb 1999). Over the last two decades, I have been reading complaints by fellow translators about greedy agencies, sweatshop agencies, bottom-feeding agencies constantly trying to put a squeeze on poor translators.

Yet, there are many colleagues here who manage to secure rather comfortable rates, especially those working for direct clients.

It boils down to the fact that there are multiple translation markets that may be very different from each other. It is a matter of 'value for money', 'cost vs benefit', 'risk tolerance'.

An example from my personal experience. In 2002-2006 I worked as an on-site translator/interpreter in Cyprus with a team of Russian engineers and technicians who helped local staff operate and maintain Russian-built equipment. At one point, an engine worth ~US$250,000 was ruined by a local operator. An investigation revealed that the operator strictly followed the operation manual supplied with the equipment. The engine breakdown resulted from one mistranslated sentence in the operation manual. The manufacturer had to send in the replacement engine free of charge. This unfortunate mistake was due to the fact that the manufacturer decided to save money on the translation by hiring translators lacking proper knowledge of the equipment in question.

Another example... In 2008-2013 I worked as an in-house legal translator with a major international law firm. Many clients preferred to pay a rather steep hourly price to have their documents translated by the law firm's three-strong translation team (however, compared to the hourly rates charged by the firm's senior attorneys and partners, the rate for translation looked like chicken-feed:)). I believe they didn't want to take any translation-related risk in matters involving multi-million and multi-billion international arbitrations, litigations and cross-border M&A deals. As a matter of fact, one of the moot points in a major arbitration proceeding where our law firm represented a large Russian corporation in the London Court of International Arbitration (LCIA) concerned a mistranslation, again...

My point is there are and there will be clients who are unwilling to take high risks associated with poor translation. Thus, there were, there are and (hopefully:) there will be clients willing to pay premium rates for an impeccable AND TIMELY translation product.


Dan Lucas
Beatriz Ramírez de Haro
Laura Kingdon
Laurent Mercky
Christine Andersen
Michael Wetzel
John Fossey
 

Guofei_LIN  Identity Verified
אוסטרליה
Local time: 12:49
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Business as usual Jan 19

Vladimir Pochinov wrote:
Thus, there were, there are and (hopefully:) there will be clients willing to pay premium rates for an impeccable AND TIMELY translation product.

Since there have always been such clients and there will always be, what's the worry? What has changed?


Jorge Payan
 

Vladimir Pochinov  Identity Verified
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Clients' modus operandi is changing as well Jan 19

Guofei_LIN wrote:

Vladimir Pochinov wrote:
Thus, there were, there are and (hopefully:) there will be clients willing to pay premium rates for an impeccable AND TIMELY translation product.


Since there have always been such clients and there will always be, what's the worry? What has changed?


The gig economy, blockchain, smart contracts, AI... These drivers are changing the global market landscape. The higher-end clients need to adapt to the new reality as well in order to stay competitive. For instance, one of my direct clients develops GDPR- and CCPA-compliant privacy and cookie policy generators for website owners. Their clients choose relevant options and generate carefully worded localized policies composed of the text blocks translated by myself (in the case of Russian versions).

Some law firms offer the same service for all types of legal documents ranging from the last will and testament to residential property rental agreements to articles of association and share purchase agreements.

For translation per se, adaptive neural MT is changing the way we work dramatically. I have been keeping a close watch on the MT technology since the mid-1990s and tried new versions of various MT applications every two or three years. Yet, I ditched them again and again because the post-editing effort exceeded the regular translation effort. However, the situation turned around about 3 years ago with the advent of the (adaptive) neural MT.


 

The Misha
Local time: 22:49
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It's the skill (Mod edit) Jan 19

And good work ethics. And proper diligence. And the willingness to go the extra mile. I mean, really, how's your blockchain, or GDPR, or cookies and cream, or whatever, going to help you if you are a lawyer finishing a sizeable submission late on Friday night and need to have it translated by Monday morning, and in such a way that the judge wouldn't throw it back in your face?

The sad truth of the matter is that, whatever your occupation, you need to have skills. You need to be able
... See more
And good work ethics. And proper diligence. And the willingness to go the extra mile. I mean, really, how's your blockchain, or GDPR, or cookies and cream, or whatever, going to help you if you are a lawyer finishing a sizeable submission late on Friday night and need to have it translated by Monday morning, and in such a way that the judge wouldn't throw it back in your face?

The sad truth of the matter is that, whatever your occupation, you need to have skills. You need to be able to create value for the client - or else he will go elsewhere. Those who can, do - and deservedly enjoy the fruits of their labors. For them, nothing will change much - by 2025 or 2050, for that matter. Those who can't, agitate in the town square or nurse their coffees and existential angst in street cafes. They will always find a reason why it's not their fault or how the entire world owes them. That's the way it has always been and it will always be this way. And that's all there is to it. Nothing else left to discuss.

[Edited at 2020-01-19 09:14 GMT]
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Chris S
Olavo Nogueira
P.L.F.Persio
 

Tom in London
הממלכה המאוחדת
Local time: 03:49
חבר (2008)
מאיטלקית לאנגלית
Breakdown Jan 19

Vladimir Pochinov wrote:

The engine breakdown resulted from one mistranslated sentence in the operation manual.


My point is there are and there will be clients who are unwilling to take high risks associated with poor translation. Thus, there were, there are and (hopefully:) there will be clients willing to pay premium rates for an impeccable AND TIMELY translation product.


I agree- but how do we get that message out to the world?


 

Guofei_LIN  Identity Verified
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Local time: 12:49
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Can't agree Jan 19

The Misha wrote:

And good work ethics. And proper diligence. And the willingness to go the extra mile. I mean, really, how's your blockchain, or GDPR, or cookies and cream, or whatever, going to help you if you are a lawyer finishing a sizeable submission late on Friday night and need to have it translated by Monday morning, and in such a way that the judge wouldn't throw it back in your face?

The sad truth of the matter is that, whatever your occupation, you need to have skills. You need to be able to create value for the client - or else he will go elsewhere. Those who can, do - and deservedly enjoy the fruits of their labors. For them, nothing will change much - by 2025 or 2050, for that matter. Those who can't, agitate in the town square or nurse their coffees and existential angst in street cafes. They will always find a reason why it's not their fault or how the entire world owes them. That's the way it has always been and it will always be this way. And that's all there is to it. Nothing else left to discuss.

[Edited at 2020-01-19 09:14 GMT]


Sounds like this is a description of an ideal world, not the real world.

I doubt any judge would'nt throw any translation back in your face because they decide they are the judge of translation quality.

So from what you say, for those translators with skills, they can continue to work in the same way as they did in 1980s as if nothing has happened in the world.

I think you will be in for a surprise, maybe not in 2025, but it will come.


 

Vladimir Pochinov  Identity Verified
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Mindset + Attitude + Aptitude + Knowledge + Experience + Skills + Effort = Success + Prosperity Jan 19

The Misha wrote:

It's the skill... And good work ethics. And proper diligence. And the willingness to go the extra mile.


I am confident you have good work ethics, proper diligence, and the willingness to go the extra mile.

Those who can [create value for the client], do - and deservedly enjoy the fruits of their labors. For them, nothing will change much - by 2025 or 2050, for that matter. Those who can't, agitate in the town square or nurse their coffees and existential angst in street cafes. They will always find a reason why it's not their fault or how the entire world owes them. That's the way it has always been and it will always be this way.


I agree that the translator community was/is/will be very diverse ranging from doers to non-starters. To avoid any misunderstanding, I had no intention to complain about the collapsing world around me. No, I am fine, thank you.

And that's all there is to it. Nothing else left to discuss.


Quite the opposite. I mentioned in my original posting that innovative technologies create new opportunities, challenges, and threats. Being an early adopter, I am much more interested in emerging opportunities. So I am interested in sharing ideas about turning them to advantage.

I mean, really, how's your blockchain, or GDPR, or cookies and cream, or whatever, going to help you if you are a lawyer finishing a sizeable submission late on Friday night and need to have it translated by Monday morning, and in such a way that the judge wouldn't throw it back in your face?


Let's take server-based TEnT solutions. A combination of SDL Trados Studio Professional + SDL Trados GroupShare (2 PM and 10 translator licenses) made it possible for me to arrange for several translators working on a single lengthy document simultaneously while using centralized server-based translation memory and termbase. This approach ensured a much faster turnaround while maintaining consistency in terminology and style.


 

Guofei_LIN  Identity Verified
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Local time: 12:49
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The same challenge Jan 19

Tom in London wrote:

I agree- but how do we get that message out to the world?


The same way any people with any message today are trying to get their message out to the world, be it about climate change, about the threat to human beings from AI, about the danger of having Donald Trump to be the president, etc..


Vladimir Pochinov
 

Matthias Brombach  Identity Verified
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Knowing the right people ... Jan 19

... will be of more value also in 2025. Forget about translator plattforms or even sophisticated working ethics as a freelancer working for agencies. The (here on proz) invisible "creme de la creme" of our business, working for direct clients only, will always be formed by people who know (and like) each other from University (or other institutions, companies, military, whether or not they are actually suitable for the specific jobs) and who recommend each other on that basis, perhaps accompanie... See more
... will be of more value also in 2025. Forget about translator plattforms or even sophisticated working ethics as a freelancer working for agencies. The (here on proz) invisible "creme de la creme" of our business, working for direct clients only, will always be formed by people who know (and like) each other from University (or other institutions, companies, military, whether or not they are actually suitable for the specific jobs) and who recommend each other on that basis, perhaps accompanied by those, who take matters into their own hands and look for direct clients on fairs or elsewhere.

[Bearbeitet am 2020-01-19 10:52 GMT]
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Chris S
Vesa Korhonen
 

Dan Lucas  Identity Verified
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Not everybody succeeds Jan 19

Guofei_LIN wrote:
So from what you say, for those translators with skills, they can continue to work in the same way as they did in 1980s as if nothing has happened in the world.

The Misha explicitly argues that you need to have the skills and you need to create value for the client. I can't see that approach ever not being popular, regardless of the specific steps required to achieve it, and whatever the industry.

The cruel, hard truth is that not everybody has the right mix of skills to become successful as a freelancer, and it takes more than language ability. You yourself recently admitted that you have exited the translation industry due to a lack of success, which may be related to your language pair, or personal competency or whatever. Well, some of us are successful today, and were successful five, ten, or twenty years ago.

I think you will be in for a surprise, maybe not in 2025, but it will come.

I'm not convinced that somebody who has had difficulty succeeding in this industry is well-positioned to comment on its future. In that sense, I think your pessimism will prove unfounded. Most of those freelancers who are successful today will remain successful, provided they adapt. I still see older freelancers in my language pair arguing about CAT tools and so on - decent people, but still fighting the last war, while the rest of the world has moved on.

And over a long-enough time horizon, we're all dead anyway.

Regards,
Dan


Vladimir Pochinov
Laura Kingdon
John Fossey
P.L.F.Persio
Chris Spurgin
 

Vladimir Pochinov  Identity Verified
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Old-boy networks Jan 19

Matthias Brombach wrote:

The (here on proz) invisible creme de la creme of our business, working for direct clients only, will always be formed by people who know (and like) each other from University (or other institutions, companies, military, whether or not they are actually suitable for the specific jobs) and who recommend each other on that basis, perhaps accompanied by those, who take matters into their own hands and look for direct clients on fairs or elsewhere.


Not necessarily. I secured my best(-paying) client ever by responding to a job offer here on ProZ.com, with about 60 applications submitted by other translators. The client was interested in a longer-term collaboration that lasted for two years while Russia was a member of their ExCom on a rotation basis.


Dan Lucas
 

Vladimir Pochinov  Identity Verified
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Old school Jan 19

Dan Lucas wrote:

I still see older freelancers in my language pair arguing about CAT tools and so on - decent people, but still fighting the last war, while the rest of the world has moved on.


I remember an elder British gentleman who stated back in 2000 that he was not going to buy a computer. I wonder whether he is still in business taking journeys to his loyal local clients on foot to deliver his translations.

And over a long-enough time horizon, we're all dead anyway.


One 90-year-old man's response to the standard phrase:

- How are you?
- I am fine considering the alternative.


Dan Lucas
P.L.F.Persio
 

Dan Lucas  Identity Verified
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Really? I'm skeptical Jan 19

Matthias Brombach wrote:
whether or not they are actually suitable for the specific jobs) and who recommend each other on that basis

I don't think we live in that world any longer. This isn't the City up to (say) the early 1980s, when who you knew was all-important, and your ability to do the job was secondary. The explosion in data, which in turn allows employers to take increasingly detailed measurements in performance, means that everybody has to achieve a certain level of ability. Even Goldman Sachs traditionally culled the bottom 10% or so of its employees every year.

If you do a bad job, it will affect your peers, your line manager, and his boss - and their bonuses. Unless you have a truly privileged position (e.g. your father owns the firm) you can't escape your fate indefinitely if you're incompetent. I would recommend a friend for a position only if I thought they could do it well, otherwise it would negatively affect my own reputation, and I value that.

It seems to me that there are very few sinecures left out there. Possibly hidden away inside large international bureaucracies (UN, IMF, World Bank etc.) where there is no element of competition and no need for the organisation to justify its own existence. Or, at the other end of the scale, in small firms where the boss is still closely involved and doesn't care about a small loss of efficiency resulting from one rubbish employee.

Dan


Vladimir Pochinov
Olavo Nogueira
Mina Chen
 
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