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 A computer journal for translation professionals


Issue 17-10-279
(the two hundred seventy ninth edition)  

Contents

1. memoQ 8.2 (Premium Edition)

2. MT Roundup

3. The Tech-Savvy Interpreter: Invasion of the Interpreting Gizmos

4. Wordfast Pro 5 (Premium Edition)

The Last Word on the Tool Box

#ITD2017

International Translation Day on September 30 was both frustrating and exhilarating for me.

Frustrating because Google once again missed a real opportunity to honor both translators and translation by not having the appropriate Doodle.

I truly felt it was a disgrace, especially since so many of us lobbied for this to happen, especially in the year that UN officially recognized ITD.

Doodle Disgrace

On the other hand, International Translation Day 2017 was exhilarating as the day when my profession and my colleagues receive their well-deserved honor and when xl8.link was revealed. xl8.link is a URL shortener for translators and interpreters that allows us to show who we are when we share what we want to say. It's completely free, and there is no intent to collect data or anything else sinister. We just wanted to create community and a way to show some pride.

Here's an example of how it works: xl8.link/ciaogoogle.

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1. memoQ 8.2 (Premium Edition)

There is a reason why I haven't written about memoQ for a while. memoQ is a very powerful and highly capable translation environment tool, but there have been a number of miscalculations in its product packaging, one in particular, that caused a bit of frustration among some users. It frustrated me because of Kilgray's unwillingness to discuss this openly with me.

But now, after not having written about versions 8.0 and 8.1, I decided this was a good time to speak about 8.2 with Gergely Vándor, memoQ's Product Designer Team Leader.

 

. . . you can find the rest of this lengthy article about memoQ and about translation technology in general in the premium edition. If you'd like to read more, an annual subscription to the premium edition costs just $25 at xl8.link/ToolBoxJournal. Or you can purchase the latest edition of the Translator's Tool Box ebook and receive an annual subscription for free.   

 

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2. MT Roundup

I have previously written about the machine translation efforts of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). I've been impressed with what they do, not primarily because of the quality of their translations but because of their very inquisitive and creative approach to MT. The feature that I talked about in the past was a beta version of their statistical machine translation engine, which not only presented a translation of a given text but also dozens of variants of any fragment of that text that would show up when you highlighted said fragments.

A version of this has now been released as an official product, but it is now based on neural machine translation. You can choose between the different variants by simply highlighting the respective part in the target field. There is still a bug in the system's capitalization rules for the variants, and unfortunately the rest of the segment doesn't change when one subsegment is changed (as it would in DeepL), but once again the idea is really cool. It points to a process that might turn out to be very promising for translators who could choose from many variants of fragments while they translate. In reality, however, this might have to wait awhile since there is no API at this point, so it's not possible to integrate this right into a translation environment tool.

There is no clear language on the ownership of the data once it's contributed or edited on the website. I asked Bruno Pouliquen of the WIPO team, and this was his response:

To make it short: we are not using the post-editions at all. This is only a facility offered for users, not a way to gather "crowd sourcing contributions."

 

In the last Tool Box Journal, I mentioned Trados Studio as the only tool that offers easy access to Google Translate's neural and statistical machine translation engines, something that can be really useful for some language combinations and depending on how you use MT (if at all).

The latest beta version of OmegaT (4.1.2) also offers super-easy access (in the last official version of OmegaT, things were rather difficult to set up). In the beta version, all you need to do is select Options> Preferences> Machine Translation> Google Translate> Configure and then select "Premium Edition" if you want to use the neural engine, or unselect that option if you prefer the statistical engine.

Wordfast Pro 5 (see elsewhere in this Tool Box Journal) also seems to offer that option, but it apparently does not work (at least not in my attempts: I received only neural responses, no matter what I checked).

In my conversation with Kilgray for the memoQ article in this edition, there was simply no awareness on Kilgray's side that this would be a helpful feature and -- since it's very easy to implement -- should be supported. This is a good example of where we as translators and technology users need to have a strong voice and vigorously ask for that feature.

So, tool vendors, PLEASE implement a switch between the neural and statistical machine translation engines in your Google Translate interface!

 

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3. The Tech-Savvy Interpreter: Invasion of the Interpreting Gizmos (Column by Barry Slaughter Olsen)

The Race to Produce the First Working In-Ear Translator 

You may not have realized it, but a race is on in the tech sector, and it appears that Google has just broken away from the pack. The race? To produce the first set of actually usable earphones or earbuds that can translate (not interpret, more on this distinction in a minute) conversations across languages in "real time."

We can thank Gene Rodenberry's original TV series Star Trek and Douglas Adams' The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy for popularizing the idea of a gizmo -- the universal translator -- or a leech-like creature (eww...) that feeds off brainwaves -- the Babelfish -- being used to cross the language barrier. The two were no more than storytelling conventions that made it possible for any alien species to have its own rich and complex language and culture but still be able to communicate with Captain Kirk and other characters quickly and efficiently -- in the language of the viewer, of course -- so as not to bore them with too many pesky subtitles or some other bilingual character providing a consecutive "translation."

The whole concept of a machine doing our job has been scoffed at for years by professional interpreters, and with good reason. Yet, there is something terribly attractive about being able to put something in your ear and simply listen in your language to what someone is saying to you in another. In essence, this is what conference interpreters, with the help of technology, have been doing since the Nuremberg Trials. The difference now is that the technology not only delivers the interpretation but is beginning to be able to produce it as well, circumventing the human interpreter altogether. With the onslaught of these in-ear devices, we interpreters now face the same questions that our translator colleagues have been grappling with since the advent of machine translation.

I am not saying that these devices are here to replace us. They are not, nor can they...yet (never say never). This is where I would like to make a clear distinction. The tech world that is producing them always refers to these gadgets as "translators" rather than "interpreters." I say we let them. Not one of these new devices is capable of truly interpreting what a human being says. They are, in effect, speech-to-speech machine translators with speech recognition and speech synthesis tacked on either end. No human is involved in evaluating the social, cultural or other contextual elements that can impact understanding. Thus, interpreting the original intended meaning is left to the human listener.

Expanding Access? Maybe

When I speak to translators and interpreters about technology, I often divide technology's effects into two categories -- replacement and expansion. That is, technology can either replace us or expand our opportunities. In the case of these new mobile speech-to-speech translation devices, I see them expanding rudimentary communication across languages, the kind that professional interpreters likely wouldn't be hired to interpret for in the first place.   

It is difficult to cut through all the hype around these in-ear translators since the companies' promotional materials are all effusively positive, using phrases like "the world's first translating earphones" or "it all happens simultaneously without interruption." The tech and general media only compound this self-praise from the companies with headlines like "Google's Pixel Buds translation will change the world." Interestingly, many of the promotional videos for these products have an English-speaking-boy-meets-non-English-speaking-girl plot that can only be resolved with speech-to-speech translation technology, so the companies are definitely putting their marketing savvy to work.

The reality is much less superlative and problem free. In real life, this kind of technology-assisted communication is nowhere near as seamless or glamorous. Additionally, it is still unclear just how or if end users will employ this technology in useful or meaningful ways, but the possibility is there. The anecdotes of first responders using Google Translate in emergencies and other scenarios when finding a qualified interpreter is logistically impossible or financially impractical continue to appear in the media. Time will tell if these technologies will be up to the task.

The Main Contenders

This incipient speech-to-speech in-ear gadget segment of the tech sector has become quite crowded as of late. Here are a few of the contenders. It is important to note that none of these devices is currently available off the shelf. You can preorder with delivery starting as early as mid-October for some, mid-December for others.

  • Lingmo Translate One2One earpieces do not have to be paired with a mobile phone app to function, making them the only autonomous speech-to-speech translator on the list. Lingmo is powered by IBM Watson artificial intelligence. It can translate any combination of nine different languages. Unlike the other gadgets on this list, Lingmo only does speech-to-speech translation. You can't listen to your favorite music or talk on your mobile phone. I should have a pair of the One2One headsets in my mailbox later this month for testing and will be writing a review for The Tech-Savvy Interpreter soon. Price $279.00.
  • Google Pixel Buds made a big splash this week when they were unveiled at the Google launch event. Of course, they only work with Google Translate and the new Google Pixel 2 smartphone and on-demand translation is only one of their features. One big advantage of Pixel Buds over other in-ear translators is that they do not require a complete stranger to stick something of yours in their ear to converse with you. You hear the translation into your language in your earbuds, and your conversation partner hears the translation into his or her language through the front speakers of the Pixel 2 smartphone. This earbud and smartphone combination can translate 40 different languages. Price $160.00.
  • Waverly Labs Pilot Translating Earpiece -- This in-ear translator started as a campaign on IndieGoGo and has garnered just under $5 million without producing a single device for sale. That pretty well proves there is pent-up demand for this technology. The question now becomes, can they make it work? Delivery of beta-test versions is going on now with main production and delivery starting in December. The Pilot Translating Earpiece must be paired with the Pilot App (currently available in the iOS App Store and Google Play). I've tested the app without the earpiece. "Seamless" or "easy" are not words I would use to describe my experience. The basic edition provides speech-to-speech translation between English, French, Italian, Portuguese and Spanish. You'll have to pay more for languages like Chinese, German, Greek, Korean, Russian or Turkish. Price $249.00.
  • WT2 Real-time Translating Earphone -- The result of another more modest crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter, this speech-to-speech translator also pairs to an app on your smartphone using Bluetooth technology. Like the Pixel Buds, the WT2 also has a mode that allows you to use your smartphone to converse with others rather than requiring that they put the other in-ear translator in their ear. The form factor is futuristic and the promotional video slick, but this initial review from Linus Tech Tips brings a dose of tongue-in-cheek reality to this segment, showing that things are nowhere near as simple as the promo videos would lead us to believe. No retail price available yet.
  • The Braghi Dash Pro -- These earbuds are designed first and foremost as wireless earbuds, not as an in-ear translator. Think of it this way, enjoy these wireless earbuds to listen to your tunes, oh, and by the way, you can use them for speech-to-speech translation too when paired with the iTranslate (iOS and Android) or Converse (iOS only) apps. The translation feature seems a bit like an afterthought on these earbuds. Retails for $329.00

Why Should You Care?

It is easy for professional interpreters to be dismissive of these gadgets. They are nowhere near capable of providing the high-level interpreting we do as professionals in a multitude of settings. But we need to be -- at the very minimum -- aware of these speech-to-speech translation platforms and understand the premise behind them so we can intelligently explain the difference between what they do and what we do. Otherwise, we run the risk of appearing uninformed about a development that is directly related to what we do every day.

Do you have a question about a specific technology? Or would you like to learn more about a specific interpreting platform, interpreter console or supporting technology? Send us an email at inquiry@interpretamerica.com.  

 

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4. Wordfast Pro 5 (Premium Edition)

Before writing this review of the latest version of Wordfast Pro (5), I re-read what I wrote almost exactly two years ago about Wordfast Pro 4. I encourage you to read it. Wordfast was unhappy with me for appearing too critical but I thought (and still think) that I pretty much "nailed" it. Wordfast 4 was not a release that distinguished itself with a lot of new features (except a really new and different interface); instead, it provided overall enhancements of existing features or introduced features that the competition had long ago implemented.

I said this was somewhat surprising because other Wordfast products, in particular Wordfast Classic and Wordfast Anywhere, were real trailblazers.

Now with version 5 of Wordfast Pro, it's sort of the same: relatively few completely new features and lots of enhancements. But while my assessment might have felt a little critical two years ago, I tend to be more positive now. Why? Because Wordfast 5 feels surprisingly mature.

 

. . . you can find the rest of this article about Wordfast Pro and the future of Wordfast Classic for Mac and Windows in the premium edition. If you'd like to read more, an annual subscription to the premium edition costs just $25 at xl8.link/ToolBoxJournal. If you subscribe you'll also get access to to archives of Tool Box Journals all the way back to 2007.

 

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10 conferences you should not miss until the end of the year

As the conference reason becomes more active, the memoQ team is hitting the road again to meet their current and future users.

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We are looking forward to meeting you all over the world!

 

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