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 A computer journal for translation professionals


Issue 17-3-272
(the two hundred seventy second edition)  

Contents

1. PDF Transformer Transformed into Extinction (Premium Edition)

2. Certified Translators

3. Office 365 - The Good and the Bad (Premium Edition)

4. The Tech-Savvy Interpreter: First Look: Boostlingo -- VRI, OPI and Interpreter Management in the Cloud

5. This 'n' That

The Last Word on the Tool Box

Spring

For those of you emerging from a dark winter, I just realized this morning that March and April are the best cure for depression. Nothing like being thankful for an hour of blazing sunshine, immediately followed by a storm and massive downpour, followed by a couple of hours of grey skies that then give way to another beautiful clear sky for a spectacular sunset. And so on and so forth. It's certainly possible to focus only on the darkness, but the darkness doesn't seem nearly as threatening when you know that it's bound to change soon.

 

Most of you have received the announcement of a new version of the Translator's Tool Box ebook. And many of you responded by placing an order (by the way, I would recommend downloading it again at the same download location and with the same password to correct some errata in the first release). Here is one thing that persuaded me of the book's relevance once again. More than 60% of those who purchased the book since its release a couple weeks ago were buying an upgrade to a previous version. Yes, it's cheaper that way (only $25 rather than $50), but it makes me happy to know that those who know the value of this resource don't want to miss it with the latest updates. (Thank you!)

Anyway, you can find all the necessary information on "the book I wish I'd had when I started translating" right here.

 

Something completely different and yet relevant for some of you is this: If you are a translation volunteer for Translators without Borders or the Rosetta Foundation, I would like to do my part and say thank you by giving you unlimited access to the Premium version of the Tool Box Journal. You can sign up right here.

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1. PDF Transformer Transformed into Extinction (Premium Edition)

The following is a really interesting story (at least as far as I'm concerned -- and I'm aware that this is an important distinction, because whenever I start to say that at the dinner table at home, the rest of my family usually tunes out, knowing from experience that whatever comes next is interesting in a very Jost-centric way).

Around 2004, both Nuance (then still known as ScanSoft) and ABBYY released limited versions of their optical character flagship solutions (OmniPage and FineReader) that were geared only to conversions of image-based (and other) PDFs into editable formats. Unlike their bigger cousins, these programs did not deal with any paper documents that were scanned and then converted into text through an optical character recognition process, but they used the same process on digital PDFs. The products -- PDF Transformer by ABBYY and PDF Converter by Nuance -- were relatively inexpensive (about half the price of the big programs) and were much loved by translators who really were one of the main target audiences. ABBYY's product tended to be more popular because it made it easier to work in more than one language.

Now both companies have discontinued these products. 

. . . you can find the rest of this article in the Premium edition. If you'd like to read more, an annual subscription to the Premium edition costs just $25 at www.internationalwriters.com/toolkit. Or, if you purchase the Tool Box ebook, you get a subscription for free.

 

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2. Certified Translators

Did you know that according to the 2016 survey of the Association of Language Companies (ALC), the most pressing need of language service providers (LSPs) is "increasing sales" (64%), immediately followed by "finding linguists" (33%). The 64% category should not surprise anyone. But a third of language service providers are identifying their most pressing need as not finding the right translators? Now, I know that some of you have a policy of not working with LSPs and instead working only with direct clients. I also know that you are the minority. I think it's a fair statement that the vast majority of us work for a mixture of LSPs and direct clients and are quite happy with that (this includes me). And though many of us are sufficiently booked and aren't actively looking for new clients, there are many arguments for always being open for new clients so we can be in a position to work under ever better conditions.

So again, a third of LSPs are desperate to find translators!

I've been thinking about this for a while, and it seems to me that the best way to solve this problem is to find ways to filter qualified translators from the rest by actually looking at their qualifications, in this case their certification and/or degree. Yes, I know that just because someone has a certification from a translators' association or a degree from a translation program at a university does not guarantee that he or she will perform well in a particular (or any) job. But until you've assembled other data about that translator (such as ongoing evaluations by clients and editors), this is a really good starting point. You might even say the only starting point.

Of course, it's possible to find directories of certified translators at national translation associations, but there's no place that combines all these different directories. Plus, qualified translators of language combinations for which there are no association and/or certification have a hard time being found. Just ask your English> Amharic translator friend or, worse, your favorite project manager who last week failed to find that translator.

One option would be to go to a place like ProZ, which has a directory of approximately 800,000 translators. But that doesn't help much with finding a qualified translator.

I haven't talked much about ProZ here. I am not a member of their vast network, though I do sometimes refer to their terminology resources and every once in a while look at some of the discussions in their fora, especially when someone sends me a link to a discussion concerning translation technology.

But in the context of the conundrum mentioned above, I had another look at ProZ's network of Certified PRO freelance translators. I really liked some of their apparently very professional approaches, though there were others that didn't impress me as much (specifically that it's possible to not be certified by an external certification body -- even in cases where these are available -- and still become certified through ProZ's own testing).

I asked ProZ to give me some numbers about the Certified PRO network, and I was interested to find that the numbers reveal a more nuanced picture of the heart of the network.

The total number of certified members is 4,168 (or .5% of the total number of translators) and include some typically hard-to-find languages (each in combination with another language): Albanian: 9; Amharic: 1; Bengali: 18; Farsi: 6; Khmer: 5. These are not overwhelming numbers in terms of size, but I'm impressed that it's possible to find languages like these. And that one Amharic translator might indeed be the one who saves the day for some project manager.

Why do I say all of this? Because I would like to encourage some creative developers (or developers-to-be) among you to consider this and then have a look at the recently published API (application programming interface) that ProZ offers. One gives access to the directory of translators that (if you scroll down a little) can be set to the parameter "is_pair_cpn" which determines "whether the freelancer has earned a ProZ.com Certified PRO network credential in the given pair."

Here's what would be very helpful: a plugin to translation management systems like Plunet, XTRF, or QuaHill, or even to the PM editions of translation environment tools like Trados, memoQ, or Memsource, that would bring these certified translators right to the project managers' fingertips.

Hey, you could even build a business around this!

Again, do I think there could be an even better international network of certified translators? Yes, I do! In fact, I had drawn up a whole business model around one -- before I scrapped it because it was just too much for me to do. But is there actually a better one out there? Not that I know of, and certainly not one that gives you API access to bring it right where the project manager needs it. 

 

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3. MS Office 365 -- The Good and the Bad (Premium Edition)

Do you want to hear the bad news or the good news first? 

 

. . . you can find the rest of this article in the Premium edition. If you'd like to read more, an annual subscription to the Premium edition costs just $25 at www.internationalwriters.com/toolkit. This will also give you access to the archives the of Tool Box Journal going back all the way to 2007. 

 

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4. The Tech-Savvy Interpreter: First Look: Boostlingo -- VRI, OPI and Interpreter Management in the Cloud (Column by Barry Slaughter Olsen)

* Be sure to check out this month's Tech-Savvy Interpreter video to see the Boostlingo platform in action: https://youtu.be/MCqVKXLy1YY

For this month's installment of the Tech-Savvy Interpreter we're going to take a look at an ambitious cloud-based over-the-phone (OPI) and video-remote interpreting (VRI) platform called Boostlingo, "a next-generation interpretation platform" that is looking to take on the leaders in the OPI/VRI space. Boostlingo is not an interpreting services agency. It is a company seeking to provide the platform that agencies and interpreters can use to offer efficient and integrated OPI/VRI services.

For years, the big over-the-phone interpreting companies have dominated for three main reasons. First, they had the funds to invest in costly telecommunications infrastructure needed to provide an on-demand interpreting service, like dedicated fiber-optic voice and data connections, interactive voice response (IVR) and automatic call distribution (ACD) software. Second, they had the administrative wherewithal to keep track of and bill for the thousands and thousands of short interactions interpreted every day on their platforms. Finally, they developed vast networks of over-the phone interpreters working in call centers and from home offices to provide the service. This kept many smaller agencies and a lot of interpreters out of this market segment. Boostlingo hopes to change that. Here's how.

Going Big

If you are an avid reader of the Tech-Savvy Interpreter, then you know that I am a proponent of the philosophy "crawl, walk, run," by which I mean that when it comes to technology, it is usually best to start small, focus on a specific use case and then grow from there. But when you are introducing a potentially revolutionary interpreting delivery platform that creates a unified ecosystem for interpreters, interpreter managers and end clients into the OPI/VRI space, starting off small really isn't an option.

Boostlingo has "gone big" and built a remote interpreting delivery platform (IDP) designed for consecutive OPI and VRI that is coupled with a robust interpreting management system (IMS). The platform allows interpreters, agencies and end users to all maintain their own accounts to keep track of the interpreting services they either request or provide. In other words, it is an OPI/VRI marketplace of sorts. Companies can access a shared database of available interpreters and interpreters can make themselves visible to multiple companies over a single platform.

If you think about it, there are a lot of moving parts that go into an on-demand interpreting assignment. Which interpreters are currently available? What are their language combinations? What certifications do they hold? On the client side, who is registered to use the on-demand service? Whose account will get billed? What is the rate the client has agreed to for the service? Those are just a few of the things to keep track of. For a platform like Boostlingo to work, it must keep track of all those moving parts and still be simple enough to offer an interface for all its users that does not require a lot of training to use.

Another potential game-changing feature of Boostlingo is the ability for smaller agencies to customize or "white label" OPI/VRI services. As noted, large companies have dominated this space because smaller agencies cannot realistically build the extensive technological platform required for offering OPI/VRI. Using the Boostlingo platform, they can offer full-scale OPI/VRI services and seek to operate in a part of the market that has previously been reserved only for the big players.

The Human Factor: Partnership with ProZ.com

As many interpreting technology startups learn quickly, having the "killer app," or the right technology, is only one part of a successful strategy. The human factor -- in this case the interpreter talent -- is hugely important.  This fact was not lost on Boostlingo. The startup has built two key channels for getting interpreter talent onto its platform.

In November 2016, they announced a partnership with ProZ.com to onboard interpreters to their platform through the ProZ.com Certified PRO Network (CPN). Previous attempts to crowdsource interpreters by other startups have failed largely because they have not understood the difference between being bilingual and being a trained interpreter. Boostlingo gets it, and that is half the battle.   

Building a critical mass of qualified interpreters will be key to Boostlingo's crowdsourcing strategy. The Proz.com screening process is a new addition to Proz.com's database that seeks to identify and put in front of agencies trained, professional interpreters. The screening process requires three professional references, at least one interpreting certification from a recognized interpreter certification body and adherence to ProZ.com's Professional Guidelines. Interpreters holding certifications in medical (CCHI and NBCMI) and court interpreting (consortium states and FCICE) in the United States will probably be in greater demand as hospitals and court systems are likely clients that will use the platform.   

In addition to freelancers signing up through ProZ.com, hospitals and agencies are also using the platform to manage their interpreters and interpreting assignments. Each client using Boostlingo has that ability to create a garden wall around their interpreters and clients, a feature critical to convincing different entities to use this cloud-based interpreting infrastructure.

The end game, however, is to allow clients to also share their interpreter resources, if they choose to do so. The effect will be the creation of an interpreting marketplace where interpreters can receive assignments from many different sources. In the best of all worlds this will lead to the more efficient use of resources and more job opportunities for interpreters from multiple clients. This is an idea that several interpreting marketplace startups have had in the past. However, none has been able to successfully execute this idea at scale...yet. Boostlingo is well on its way to doing so.

Interpreting in the Cloud

Boostlingo is 100% cloud based and runs on PC, Mac, iOS, and Android. It can interact with traditional phone systems, cell phones or through apps installed on smartphones or tablets using VoIP and WebRTC technology. It can handle both audio and video calls. It is platform agnostic. From a technological standpoint, what they have built is impressive. In theory, this means that interpreters can take OPI or VRI assignments using a smartphone, tablet, laptop or desktop computer. In practice, it will be important to see how these assignments are carried out and what works well and what doesn't.

Cloud technology makes it technically possible to interpret while sipping Mai Tais on the beach (as one of my interpreting professors in the 90s said he hoped to do), but that does not mean that it is advisable or could ever be considered a best practice. The same goes for working from coffee shops, noisy airports and the like. Just because you technically could do it doesn't mean you should. Interpreters will still need a quiet place to work without interruptions.  

Interpreter Interface

With an ecosystem as comprehensive as Boostlingo's, there are a lot of moving parts and people with different roles on the platform -- interpreters, interpreter managers, agency administrators, clients and client account administrators, to name a few. Each has its own set of capabilities and specific access to relevant parts of the system. For this column, I'll focus on the interpreter interface.

The interpreter interface allows you to take audio and video calls from a desktop computer, tablet or smartphone. Since the platform is currently designed to handle consecutive interpreting in OPI and VRI settings, it is simple to use and easy to connect and disconnect. Currently, the video resolution maxes out at 720p with 30fps. That's standard for web conferencing today, but barely passable for VRI between visual and spoken languages. ASL interpreters I have spoken with have said 720p at 60fps makes their job much easier.

It is important to note that the Boostlingo platform currently allows only point-to-point video connections, which works fine for the vast majority of VRI scenarios today, where the parties who need the interpreting service are in the same physical space and only the interpreter needs to connect remotely. Boostlingo techs shared that multipoint video is on their development roadmap, which is important since more interpreted interactions are now taking place with the parties in different locations (e.g. telemedicine, where doctor and patient are in separate places, or attorney-client conferences that take place via videoconference).  

360-Degree Rating

One of the biggest challenges in interpreter staffing today is performance evaluation. For decades, the standard has been if the client didn't complain, things must have gone well. Hardly a best practice. With the advent of user rating systems (e.g. Amazon's product ratings, Rotten Tomatoes aggregate ratings for movies or Uber's driver ratings) consumers have become accustomed to giving a quick rating to just about any experience or product and checking these ratings when choosing a product or service.

Boostlingo has included a 360-degree rating tool (1 to 5 stars) for two variables -- experience and call quality. Both the client who requested the interpreting service and the interpreter complete this step at the end of each call, hence the 360-degree nature of the rating -- both client and interpreter are rated. As an interpreter completes more remote assignments, his/her rating begins to stabilize as more data is available to calculate the average rating from all interactions. The same is true for the client. The five-star rating system provides both client and interpreter with a quick way to assess their experience and an incentive to perform at their best. if the client is using the app for OPI or VRI, the interpreter's star rating appears below his or her picture when connecting to a call.

Although these quick rating systems leave much to be desired and allow for no nuance or feedback, they may serve as a step forward from the no-complaints-all-must-have-gone-ok strategy.

The Upshot

Boostlingo has built an amazing system that has the potential to expand the reach of OPI and VRI interpreting. It is one very important piece of a larger puzzle to make language services more available than ever (the other two being client adoption and interpreter recruitment). To riff off a celebrated phrase from the old Kevin Costner movie "Field of Dreams," -- they have built it, now it will be important to see who comes.

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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5. This 'n' That

Here are a couple of worthwhile things that came across my desk during the last month:

 

Microsoft developed a little tool called Image Resizer for Windows awhile back and then discontinued it. I used it a lot on an earlier computer but then wasn't able to find it again for my current computer. Until last week. A Microsoft employee picked it up and is now offering its free download. This simple tool allows you to right-click on an image in Windows Explorer and choose to make the size of an image smaller with one click. The smaller copy (!) of the image might be perfect for sending by email or for an upload to a website.

 

Tiago Neto, who has done really important work on exploring how translators who work in languages not supported by Dragon NaturallySpeaking can use voice recognition via their cell phones on their computers, has written another interesting blog post about how to train those programs by adding new, formerly unrecognized words. Make sure to look through his other blog posts as well.

 

And lastly, I would like to encourage you to read this article in the New York Times. It's about how lawyers are confronted by new technology and how they are dealing with it. I was struck by how similar it is to our profession (both in its description of how the legal profession is dealing with the challenges and the conclusion about the future of the profession). If you're worried about the future of translation, this should put your mind to rest. And if you're not worried, it should confirm what you already know to be true.

 

And one more thing. I had a really great discussion with a journalist on Twitter right before I was going to send this. Here is a summary:

Proft discussion

Social media can be a powerful tool!

 

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The Last Word on the Tool Box Journal

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