There has been a lot of discussion about translation automation in recent years. One can have any kind of opinion about machine translation and other autoamtion technologies, but the fact is that technology has helped the translation industry to become more efficient. Technologies, like translation tools, text processing programs, grammar checkers, for example, ease the everyday translation work.
When talking about automation in the context of translation the picture of machine translation is very strong. However, basically all translation technologies increase automation in the translation process. Most translators use translation memories because they want to ensure constant quality and to take advantage of the work they have already done before.
In other industries automation has proven to be most profitable when applied to repetitive and monotonous tasks which are important but not the most crucial ones in the value creation process. The actual translation work is still often too difficult for a machine, especially when high quality is needed. Thus, the next step of translation automation may not be automated translation.
Automation isn’t a bad thing when it is applied to correct tasks. Everything can’t be automated in the translation process. The basic rule is to delete the unnecessary tasks, to automate the non-critical but unavoidable tasks, and to concentrate all the energy on the critical and valuable tasks. In other words, if you want to make your translation processes more cost or time efficient without compromising on the quality, don’t start automation with the core (i.e. the translating work).
The focus should be on finding those tasks which can be improved with automation. For example, often we are all waiting for something without even noticing it. Whether it is an email response, a file delivery, a double check, a confirmation or a phone call, time goes by quickly without any productive work. For a translator time is scarce. No one can translate 24/7. There’s no point of filling those valuable work hours with invaluable things. It would only raise the price of the actual work time.
Here are some ways to improve translation productivity with automation:
- The most critical thing is to find out where (else than translating) the time is spent on, and to try automating as much as possible.
- Clear instructions eliminate both the need for asking and the possibility of misunderstandings. Give and ask for enough information automatically because it removes all unnecessary messaging.
- If the relationship between the translator and the client is long-term, automated delivery processes could ease everyone’s work.
- Expertise and experience in the subject decrease time spent on finding right terms and expressions. It often pays off to pick only a few topics to work with and to automatically decline all the other jobs.
- Time based pricing may lead to higher productivity if all participants are highly committed and all the possible parts of the translation processes are automated.
Automation can be both technology and mind based. By creating automatic rules or automatic processes one can find new kind of efficiency in the translation work – and without any machine translation.
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