Translation in the enterprise

Globalisation is propelling translation software into the limelight.

Translation software and company attempts at localisation were once the butt of enterprise jokes. But now as the enterprise matures so has the technology. The long-established use of the internet for doing business, and the emergence of new markets has meant that translation software, and its providers, must be up to the task they promise to do. In these credit-crunched times global markets are becoming far more important. After all, if sales are down in one area, other, emerging markets may yet compensate.

Perhaps, because of this, because of its growing importance, the area has seen a huge increase in investment from enterprises, according to Mick MacComascaigh, research director at Gartner.

"There is a high demand for localised content. We see a movement in translation." he said. "It is no longer an afterthought."

The rise of Web 2.0

Another reason why localised content is now more important than ever is the growth in Web 2.0, as the social elements of the internet and communications can be used by firms to their advantage. "Web 2.0 has accelerated the trend. Users now feel that they have more power, and they want to influence business. Firms must adapt a response to this demand," explained MacComascaigh.

Pierre Bernassau is marketing director at translation specialist Systran. He believes that now that all elements of the industry have matured his firm has been able to improve its own software. "In the past, computer power was limited," he said. "The main problem was the machine translation quality, which wasn't enough for publishing use, but enough for understanding the text content - as we say for gisting.' Now, with hybrid engines - based both on rule and statistics - we are able to generate high quality translations which can be used within publishing workflows."

Bernassau believes that offering machine translation technologies within a localised or multilingual documentation workflow is key to improving productivity and reducing the time to market - as some translation can be completed quicker than from using humans, and have many more benefits. "A company that does not implement standardised localisation workflow could have potential risk to publish inconsistencies, which lead to misunderstandings. A company that does not localise its product information cannot be competitive in the global market" he warned.

"Localising product information for companies who address the market globally is also a key point to reduce their expenses. It is much cheaper to engage foreign customers on localised web sites than receiving phone calls to the support centre," he added.

The human touch

However, although machines can now do a lot of the work involved in rolling out translated content, many still underestimate the importance of the human element of the translation process. Bernassau added: "Humans are still the main piece of the puzzle. For any publishing workflow there are human steps for revision and approval. Machine translation integrated within these publishing workflows speed up the content delivery - time to market - and make consistent the corporate communication. Using machine translation is a good booster to deliver bigger volume of translated text to revisers with a cost-effective way."