Celebrating the role of the professional human translator

With the advances in machine translation, AI and machine learning, we’d be forgiven for thinking that the role of the professional human translator is becoming increasingly marginalised and under threat. At the same time, as linguists and professionally trained translators, we understand the art of translation better than anyone, the processes involved, the cognitive skills required and the linguistic flair needed to create a translation that doesn’t in fact read like a translation, but rather like a natural sounding text that has been crafted by a native speaker.

Understand your role

It is an inevitable truth that everything that can be automated, will eventually be automated, and the translation industry is no exception. There are certain types of translation that are either already automated or will be in the years to come. But the role of the professional human translator isn’t dead, in fact, we are still very much at the heart of the industry.

And we are by no means demonising automation or the advance of technology – on the contrary, we love technology and the new ways it empowers us as translators. We recognise that there is a role for every translation type, whether that’s human, machine, or a hybrid model like post-edited machine translation. We know that, in certain instances, machine translation has more merit than a human translation, such as real-time translations of user-generated content.

But we also recognise that with these different translation models emerging, the general perception about what a human translation should look like, and what it should cost, is shifting. We have a duty to ourselves to promote our specific ‘market segment’ of professional human translation. Every single translator, whether you are just starting out or have years of experience, whether you are a freelancer or employed, whether you translate for direct clients or agencies – we all need to educate those around us about the different translation types that are available and their individual virtues.

Educate your audience

For a potential customer who has never before bought a translation, they might well ask themselves: with free translations so readily available at the touch of a button, why should I even consider paying for translation at all? It’s a fair question, and it’s our collective job to educate them about what type of translation should be used for which type of content, and when it is really important to work with a professional human translator.

For example, if your client is a marketing, localisation or export manager of a successful brand who has worked extremely hard to define and build a brand personality, and has perfected the way they communicate with their customers, then using a professional human translator with experience and a flair for communicating effectively is imperative in order to correctly localise their messages for each of their target markets. The same goes for any content that is creative, has personality and tone, or is heavy in colloquialisms or metaphors.

Promote yourself

We think it’s important that we, as professional human translators, clearly identify ourselves as such, that we differentiate our work from automated output and that we celebrate our contribution to our clients’ international strategies. That’s why we have developed these simple, easily identifiable translation icons, so that we can promote ourselves and position ourselves as providers of professional human translation within the translation market place.

If you are a professional human translator  and proud of it, then join us in celebrating the importance of professional human translation in our industry today, and help us spread the word.

Download your free translation icons

Download your free translation icons today! We have made these translation icons available in a variety of colours and sizes to suit your own brand – you can add it to your website, email signatures, social media or professional online profile.

A big “thank you” to the talented illustrator James Birks who created the icons for us!

If you would like to download the icons and use them on your website or content, all you have to do is fill in a short form, agree to the Licence Agreement, and we’ll send you a link where you can download the files. Ready? Go to the Downloads Page.

Human, machine or hybrid: choosing the right translation type for your content

With the advances in machine translation and machine learning, we are experiencing a shift in the general perception about the need for human translation. With free translations so readily available at the touch of a button, why should we even consider paying for translation?

It’s a fair question and it’s easy to understand why some people are starting to believe that it’s only a matter of time before we won’t need human translation at all.

However, if you are a stakeholder in a successful brand, and have worked extremely hard to define and build a brand personality and have perfected the way you communicate with your customers, then you will know, all too well, how important it is to correctly localise your messages for each of your target markets. And, for this, you need professional human translators with experience and a flair for communicating effectively in your particular market.

It’s this experience and flair that will, arguably, always be out of reach for machine translation, regardless of AI capabilities or processing power.

The role of the marketeer is to constantly develop new and engaging ways to communicate their messages, to captivate, educate and inspire their audiences, and in so doing the way they communicate is constantly changing. And as a consequence, language is constantly evolving too. Machines, over time, will identify these changes and adapt to them, however it’s unlikely they’ll be able to develop innovative, engaging, and most importantly, culturally accurate (and up-to-date) translations by themselves, anytime soon.

Which translation type is for you?

Certainly, in the world of creative marketing content, the role of the professional human translator is imperative. However, that’s not to say there is no role for machine translation. In fact, in some situations, it may be the best way to go. What’s important is knowing which situation requires which type of translation.

For example, if your source content is non-marketing, simple in terms of grammatical structure, has short sentences and is literal, i.e. doesn’t contain idioms, clichés or colloquialisms, then machine translation may be ideal. Firstly, it will be free. And secondly, if the content is low value or has low visibility then if there are errors or inconsistencies, there will be little impact on the reader or the brand.

You could also add a proofreading step to your machine translation. This process is often referred to as post-editing machine translation; we simply call it hybrid translation as it involves both machine and human input. This proofreading step should be carried out by a professional human translator or linguist. It should result in error-free output similar to that of professional human translation, but it may not necessarily be idiomatic or ‘on brand’. This may be sufficient as a low-cost solution for low-value content that perhaps has slightly more visibility or may have more impact on the reader or the brand.

However, if your content is creative, has personality and tone, or is heavy in colloquialisms or metaphors, then you should use a professional human translator. Ideally, there should be a ‘learning period’ at the start of any localisation project where the content creators and the translators work together to define the brand personality for each market and build a style guide and glossary. There should also be an ongoing dialogue between the two parties to discuss specific translations as and when they arise. Just like a copywriter writing for a new brand, a translator needs time to understand the market, the brand and its persona. This will ultimately be more expensive than a machine translation (or a machine translation with an additional human proofreading step), but the output will be of a much higher quality, the meaning better conveyed and therefore more ‘on brand’.

Manage your readers’ expectations

The important thing, from our point of view, is that the brands or content creators make an informed decision on the type of translation they require, and that the customer understands the type of translation they are reading.

For example, if a customer reads some poorly translated copy, from a brand they admire and are usually loyal to, then it could very easily damage their perception of that brand and could negatively affect their buying habits. However, if that copy was clearly labelled as machine translation, at least the customer would be warned and would perhaps be less critical of the translation.

The same goes for websites or social media platforms that process a large amount of user-generated content. It would simply not make sense to invest in professional human translation for user comments and replies. ‘See Translation’ features (on Facebook, for example) make much more sense as they are free and immediate. Users are generally aware that the output is a machine translation. Their expectations are low and being able to get the gist of a comment in another language is often all you need, so it serves a very specific purpose in a very specific context.

However, if a customer reads a beautifully written piece, from a global brand, which is labelled as professional human translation, they will appreciate the extra effort that has been made to connect with them in their mother tongue, and their perception of that brand will most likely improve.

Use these icons to educate your audience

Whether you opt for professional human translation, machine translation or a hybrid model, there is clearly a place for all three types. They are not opposites, nor are they enemies. They all can, and should, exist.

Companies shouldn’t be embarrassed about publishing machine translation or, even worse, try to pass it off as professional human translation. In our opinion, what’s important is that companies let their customers know what they are reading so they can manage their own expectations.

It is for this reason that we have developed these simple, easily identifiable icons, to help brands inform their audiences of the type of translation they are reading:

Professional Human Translation

This icon is based on a human figure, translating the English letter ‘A’ into the Mandarin equivalent. It can be used by brands on website pages or documents that have been translated by a professional human translator, to highlight the effort and investment that has gone into localising this content. It can also be used by translators and translation companies on their websites, social media accounts and business listings to promote themselves as professional human translators and therefore purveyors of high-quality creative translations.


Machine Translation

This icon is based on a simple robot figure, which represents all machine translation systems. It can be used by brands on website pages or documents that have, for whatever reason, been translated by a machine, warning the reader that there may be some mistakes or mistranslations, and that these are not the fault of the brand itself, but rather due to the limitations of machine translation.



Hybrid Translation

This icon, an amalgamation of the previous two, represents machine translation that has been proofread or edited by a professional human translator or linguist. It can be used to inform readers that the quality should be similar to professionally translated content, but it may not be idiomatic or completely ‘on-brand’.




To help companies and brands inform their customers and be transparent about what they are publishing, we are making these icons available as a free download. They can be added to websites and print or digital content, such as white papers, brochures and e-books, so they can be clearly identified as machine, hybrid or professional human translation.

We are also making these icons freely available to translators and linguists. We think it’s important that professional human translators clearly identify themselves as such, differentiating their work from automated output and celebrating their contribution to a brand’s marketing collateral. They can use the icons as a badge of honour and to position themselves as providers of professional human translation, hybrid translation or both, within the translation market place.

We hope that this will go some way to help remove the stigma attached to using machine translation and also help to celebrate the effort and expertise that comes with professional human translation.

If you would like to download the icons and use them on your website or content, all you have to do is fill in a short form, agree to the Licence Agreement, and we’ll send you a link where you can download the files. Ready? Go to the Downloads Page.

New Smartling CAT tool

Top 5 features we love about the new Smartling CAT tool

We are getting excited! Over the coming days and weeks, Smartling will be releasing their new and improved translation interface, which promises to increase translator productivity (so you can translate faster), improve translation quality (using comprehensive QA checks) and add some serious flexibility (by allowing you to customise shortcuts to your liking).

Here are five of our favourite features that we love about the new CAT tool:

1) Draft mode (never lose your translations again)

In the new interface, strings are shown in a table format (rather than displaying strings individually). This new layout makes it possible to translate and edit without immediately having to save your translation in order to progress to the next string. This is a nice feature allowing you to draft your translation and revise it before submitting it to the translation memory. But what happens when your internet connection is bit erratic or your browser decides to close down unexpectedly? Good news: translations are automatically saved in your browser cache, so if your internet, browser or laptop decide to have a meltdown, your work won’t be lost – if you reopen your browser and log back in, your work will still be there!

2) QA check

With the new CAT tool, Smartling will be introducing a very robust Quality Assurance (QA) check which is bound to massively reduce ‘mechanical’ translation errors. For the initial launch, the QA check will cover 5 error types (spellchecker, leading and trailing spaces, double spaces, missing placeholder and missing tags) but in the coming weeks, another 30 error types will be added!

3) Concordance search

Smartling already has a great concordance search, meaning you can search for a particular word or phrase in the translation memory simply by highlighting the source text and clicking on the magnifying glass. In the new version of the CAT tool, it will be possible to insert a concordance match directly into the translation memory – a great time saver!

4) Customisable shortcuts

The entire new translation interface is ‘pimped’ with shortcuts so that you hardly have to use your mouse at all during the translation process. But for those of you who are used to working in offline CAT tools like Trados, you don’t have to worry about learning new shortcuts, you can simply select the shortcuts from the tool you are used to working with. And you can even create your own shortcuts so that you can customise your ‘workspace’ just how you like it.

5) Tags

Traditionally, Smartling used to avoid the use of tags altogether in their translation interface by splitting strings that require formatting or contain links into several segments. In the new version of the CAT tool, Smartling will instead be introducing tags similar to traditional CAT tools like Trados. If like me, your palms are getting sweaty at the mere thought of using clunky tags, fear not, because tags in Smartling are a far cry from the traditional ‘tag soup’. Just for starters, tags are automatically inserted as pairs, so if you delete one of the tags in a pair, both automatically get deleted – no more trawling through translations checking and searching for missing tags. You can use a shortcut to insert a tag and then cycle through all available tag pairs to insert the one you need. But the icing on the cake is that you can toggle between a ‘simple view’ which shows tags as numbers and a ‘code view’ which shows you what a tag actually stands for. This is particularly useful for link text. Although it was previously possible in Smartling to see the formatting behind tags in the code tab in the translation interface, the same information is now available right inside the translation field, which greatly reduces the amount of time spent flitting between different parts of the screen.

If you regularly translate on the Smartling platform, now is the time to register for one of the many webinars that Smartling are running in the run-up to their release. Learn about the new layout, features and shortcuts so you can transition smoothly from the current to the new interface when the time comes.

Read more about the new Smarling CAT tool and register for a live webinar if you haven’t already attended one.

translation technology

AJT in December issue of Forbes Magazine

What does AJT have in common with Apple, Tesla, and GoPro? Aside from all being great companies, they’re also all mentioned in the December 2014 issue of Forbes Magazine!

To be more exact, Apple, Tesla, GoPro and co. have been listed as some of the most reputable clients of the innovative translation platform Smartling in the article “Translate Your App: How Smartling Goes Global With Apple, Tesla, GoPro And More”. And as one of Smartling’s preferred referral partners, AJT’s Anja was quoted too.

As part of their research for the article, Forbes had interviewed Anja back in November and clearly made a good choice when picking the following sentence out of the 45-minute telephone conversation in which Anja raved about the features and functions of her favorite translation technology:

The traditional tools work like a 1995 PC, but Smartling is more like Facebook or Twitter – it’s sexy,” says English-German translator Anja Jones. She expanded her own agency with work from Smartling. Jones says she onboards new freelancers in less than half an hour.

The article also elaborates on Smartling being “an early mover with more than 300 clients” and “the fastest way to help clients expand abroad”.

If you would like to know more about the Smartling technology or discuss your internationalisation strategy, please get in touch. After all, as Forbes author Brian Solomon concludes, “these days everyone wants to go abroad”. 🙂

Transparency through technology | Part 3: Open communication

Following the discussion panel ‘Transparency through technology’ at the recent Localization World conference in Dublin, which featured SmartlingRunkeeperShutterstock and Anja Jones Translation, we wanted to provide a more in-depth overview of how language service providers (LSPs) in particular benefit from increased transparency in translation. In this final part 3, we take a closer look at open communication.

One of our jobs as a translation company is to ensure that the translators have all the information they need to provide an excellent translation, and that customers are aware of any issues that arise during the translation process.

In the traditional translation process we would have collated questions from the translators and then sent them on to the client, who would reply with their answers, which we would then have disseminated back to our team. This tended to be a laborious and time-consuming manual process. Especially for websites and apps, where content is added, updated and outdated at a breath-taking pace, it’s nearly impossible to provide truly agile translations without a means for open, fast and uncomplicated communication.

Faster response times thanks to communication automation

Using a cloud-based technology like Smartling eradicates the need to send emails back and forth by allowing translators, editors, reviewers and clients alike to ask questions and highlight localisation issues right within the translation interface. Everyone who is involved in the project receives a notification and can answer questions and add comments inside the interface. This way of openly communicating with everyone significantly speeds up the translation process since there is no unnecessary manual middle step involved in getting questions to the right people.

Adding comments at segment-level and in-context view for more efficient communication

Within the Smartling interface, questions and comments are added at segment level, so everyone can see exactly what sentence or word the question is in reference to, and can see the context surrounding the segment as well. This is hugely helpful as it makes it easier to answer questions faster and more accurately. Any segments with questions or comments attached are clearly highlighted for everyone to see and can be filtered out  to ensure a fast response and issue resolution.

Ultimately, open communication among everyone involved in a translation project creates a collaborative and more efficient work environment and helps to achieve the two goals each stakeholder in the project strives for: providing quality translations and delivering the project on time.

Want to join the conversation? Use the comments feature below or tweet us on @anjajones – we’d love to hear your thoughts.

Transparency through technology | Part 2: Real-time visibility

Following the discussion panel ‘Transparency through technology’ at the recent Localization World conference in Dublin, which featured SmartlingRunkeeperShutterstock and Anja Jones Translation, we wanted to provide a more in-depth overview of how language service providers (LSPs) in particular benefit from increased transparency in translation. In part 2 we take a closer look at real-time visibility.

Real-time visibility is not a new concept, in fact, for many customer-facing industries it’s already standard practice. Just think about online shopping where it’s now a given that you can track your order from the warehouse to your doorstep. Even fairly traditional industries like real estate are offering more visibility into their processes. As little as five years ago, you still had to ring up your solicitor and estate agent, hassling them to give you an update on how the sale of your house is going. Now, they give you a login to their website, so you can check the status of your mortgage application, search reports etc at any time. It seems only natural that the translation industry embraces this trend as well.

Real-time visibility takes the guess work out of translation projects.

Moving away from the ‘black box’ approach

In our daily work as a translation company, we would have, traditionally, sent files to our translators and then we wouldn’t really know what was happening with that file until it got delivered back to us translated. Of course, certain measures can be put in place, ensuring the translator is sufficiently qualified, checking up on references, arranging delivery in batches, etc, but none of this is really fool-proof.

One of the main advantages of cloud-based translation tools like Smartling is that they offer complete visibility across the whole translation workflow, from the translation and the editing all the way to the review step. In comparison to traditional offline translation CAT tools where the LSP sends a file to the translator and then gets the finished result back, Smartling allows us to track the progress of our projects at every stage, in real-time.

Using Smartling, we can much more closely monitor different variables such as quality, project progress and translator activity.

Checking quality

Are the translators using the right tone of voice? Are they respecting the glossary? Have they got a good grasp of the client’s products and services? Being able to check the translator’s work already after a few hundred words (rather than a batch of, say, 2000 words) and addressing any quality issues from the start of a project can be a huge time saver.

Tracking progress

Getting a real-time insight into the progress of a project gives LSPs peace of mind and eradicates the need for constant email communication with the translators to make sure they are still on track with a delivery deadline. Now we can just log in and get a complete picture of what’s going on.

Monitoring translator activity

Most of our translators are freelancers, so one of the things we have to monitor as a translation company is that translators manage their time effectively and don’t rush translations at the last minute. As with any job, rushing your work is likely to result in translations that aren’t as well written as they should be and contain more errors, which then take longer to fix in the review step. With the ‘black box approach’ of traditional offline CAT tools, we weren’t really able to track this, we could merely hazard a guess that a translator might have rushed a translation. Now we can see a complete history of every single segment a translator has worked on, including date and time stamps. If we start to see a pattern emerge where a translator regularly leaves the translation to the last minute and we notice a quality fade, we can address the issue early and directly with the translator.

In essence, real-time visibility is an enabler for LSPs to work more efficiently for their clients and with their translator workforce. It fosters accountability on all sides, and this ultimately increases mutual trust.

In part 3, we will look at transparency through open communication … stay tuned!

Want to join the conversation? Use the comments feature below or tweet us on @anjajones – we’d love to hear your thoughts.

Transparency through technology | Part 1: Accessibility

Following the discussion panel ‘Transparency through technology’ at the recent Localization World conference in Dublin, which featured Smartling, Runkeeper, Shutterstock and Anja Jones Translation, we wanted to provide a more in-depth overview of how language service providers (LSPs) in particular benefit from increased transparency in translation. In part 1 we take a closer look at accessibility.

Global accessibility

Smartling is a cloud-based translation management tool that can be accessed from anywhere in the world; all our translators need is an internet connection and a web browser. No software purchase, no installation, no regular updates to be downloaded. In fact, last week we conducted a mini-poll amongst our translators to see in which countries they have translated using Smartling, and incredibly we could name 20 countries, including far-flung places like Mauritius, Dubai, Australia and Costa Rica. Not bad considering we only specialise in three European languages (French, German and English).

Increasing the talent pool

In terms of recruiting new language talent, this level of global accessibility compared to traditional offline translation tools immediately increases the pool of potential candidates as it allows us to recruit translators purely based on their merit, not on the software packages they use.

Easy-to-use user interface

Beyond transcending geographical boundaries through cloud technology, Smartling promotes accessibility through an extremely easy to use interface that is intuitive and includes all the standard translation tools like style guide, translation memory and glossary.

Faster on-boarding

A sleek UI isn’t just an important aspect in terms of on-boarding speed for our new translators, but also for on-boarding our clients. When we show potential customers how Smartling works, they can really see how easy to use the tool is, how easy content can be ingested, approved for translation and tracked throughout the different workflow stages.

Higher adoption rates

This is particularly important for bigger companies who have in-country teams. It’s notoriously hard to motivate in-country reviewers to check translations (after all, this tends to be an additional task of top of their usual daily work load). Taking away any unnecessary technical complexity and offering a user interface that is as intuitive as using, say, LinkedIn or Facebook, will ultimately drive higher adoption rates among in-country reviewers.

In short, accessibility should be a key driver for all translation software, for freelance translators, LSPs and customers alike, because it creates a truly inclusive and collaborative environment.

In part 2, we will look at transparency through real-time visibility … stay tuned!

Want to join the conversation? Use the comments feature below or tweet us on @anjajones – we’d love to hear your thoughts.

Drawing comparisons between music and translation – a brilliant video by Smartling

Computer-generated or carefully crafted? One-man band or the full orchestra? There are many similarities between music and translation.

This brilliant short video by Smartling explains that translation is both art and science. Professional human translation is the gold standard of translation. Find out why it’s so important, and how technology is delivering translated information to more people than ever before in human history.

Would you like to find out more about translation technology? Get in touch – we’d love to tell you all about it.

We translate your brand … and feed you wine and chocolate!

We’re happy to report it’s been a successful day at the Cornwall Business Fair 2014!

Our stand – sponsored by the fabulous team at Get Set for Growth – was very well attended, not least because of our special ‘taste off’, featuring French, German and English (Cornish actually!) wines and chocolates. We shall be crunching numbers tonight and announcing the winning country tomorrow – as well as the lucky winner of a lovely Cornish hamper 🙂

It was also a great event to officially launch our new website and branding, which was very well received indeed!

Thanks to all the people who came to our stand today – it was a pleasure meeting you all. If you’d like to find out more info about our translation services, or our experience with Get Set for Growth, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Website übersetzen leicht gemacht: Mit neuester Technologie

Translation technology: Translating websites and apps the smart way

With the rapid development of internet services and device technologies, the online world is becoming more and more accessible to people around the globe. Country borders no longer pose barriers to international trade and this presents a huge opportunity for businesses to reach more potential customers, not only on their home turf, but abroad as well.

Website translation

Translating websites used to be a rather cumbersome process of manually copying and pasting content into files, sending them back and forth between clients and translators, and then manually pasting the translations into web pages. The amount of man hours spent on manual tasks was enormous.

With new advances in translation technology, this process has been hugely simplified. We are very proud to be working with a cloud-based translation management tool called Smartling which allows companies to easily and quickly translate their websites and apps into other languages. We recommend this revolutionary translation tool to any companies who have websites with large amounts of content or who need to update their website regularly to keep their content fresh – and of course to those companies who quickly want to enter new markets.

App translation

Smartling is also a great tool for app developers. Instead of sending Excel spreadsheets back and forth without any context for the translators – like in the good old says – app developers now can simply upload a file for translation, add useful contextual information to each and every string, provide screenshots for clarification, add character limits and much more.

We have been translating websites and apps with the Smartling tool for over three years and know the platform inside and out – we love it because it really does make everyone’s job so much easier – our customer’s job and our own, too! From e-commerce sites to SAAS platforms, from social media apps to hotel booking sites, we have translated a wide range of websites and apps and can bring heaps of experience to your project.

Do you already have a plan on how to implement your translations from a technical perspective? Have you investigated the different options available?If you would like to find out more about website and app translation and the different technologies available, please get in touch and we would be delighted to discuss this in more detail with you.