f you carry the office title agent provocateur
like our good friend Renato Beninatto,
it's your job to say things that are, well, provocative. Everyone would
be really disappointed if you didn't, plus this is one of the reasons
why we love our agent in the first place.
But here's the thing: The title of agent provocateur has
already been assigned, and there really is no reason why so many others
are trying to jump on the bandwagon these days or are forgetting to put
things into context.
Most TEnTs will be sold as a
Software-as-a-Service offering where you won't pay for an unlimited
license but instead will pay something on a monthly or annual basis.
What am I talking about? Well, there's a new corollary
to the five-year rule being bandied about. The old one, of course, goes
back to the 1950s. From then on it was predicted in regular five-year
intervals that machine translation was going to "get there" in just
another five years. The new corollary claims that translation memory
technology will be gone within five years.
In fact, I would contend just the opposite: Translation
memory technology had been dormant for many years, but in the past two
or so years it's woken up with exciting new developments that will in
turn spawn yet more developments and accordingly different usage cases.
So, where do these different kinds of evaluations come
from? There are certainly agendas that might be motivating some (such
as pushing other technologies), but I think much of it is about vantage
points. Folks who write about our industry have a tendency to write
about the very large translation buyers, and especially those in the
technology sector: the Microsofts, Adobes, and Oracles. These
translation buyers (along with their peers) are very technology-driven
and typically highly involved in language technology initiatives (look,
for instance, at the founding
members of TAUS, the Translation Automation User Society).
These are great drivers for our industry and they're fun to follow. But
how much of your work comes from these guys? Some of you will
certainly work for some of them, but I think it's fair to say that
these companies don't make up the majority of our business. (I've tried
to find some hard numbers on how the industry is split up between the
spending by very large clients and others, and I found to my surprise
that there are no such numbers, even from our industry's premier
research group Common Sense Advisory.
So you'll need to put up with my best guess, and that would be a ratio
of 20:80 - 20 being the very large clients and 80 being the smaller and
typically more profitable ones.)
What kind of technology are these very large translation
buyers currently investing in? Alongside the "good old" translation
memory technology, they are looking for ways to optimize translation
workflows, reuse and manage content, and of course improve and use
machine translation. Now some of these goals are shared by smaller
clients, but typically with much less emphasis overall and much greater
emphasis on translation memory. (As a side note about (statistical)
machine translation engines: They exist because they are fed with
translation memories, along with other bilingual data, and this will
continue to be the case.)
The tool kit of the translator in the foreseeable future
will contain terminology tools, quality assurance tools, and
translation memory tools--these three typically packaged into a
translation environment tool--and for some of us a machine translation
component. But even for those who will use a machine translation
component, will it ever be preferable to use a match from the MT engine
to that of a match from a well-maintained TM? Absolutely not. In fact,
most machine translation engines use a first translation memory pass
before the segment is sent to the MT engine.
True, the appearance of TEnTs will change. Most TEnTs
will be sold as a Software-as-a-Service offering where you won't pay
for an unlimited license but instead will pay something on a monthly or
annual basis; most TEnTs will have most or all of their work done in a
browser-based interface; most or all of our data will be stored in the
cloud; and there will accordingly be more sharing of data and
Still, if you are completely adamant about not wanting
to go that route, there still will be the "traditional" way as well
(after all, good old MS-Word-bound Wordfast Classic is
also still more popular than the more powerful Wordfast Pro).
Maybe it also helps to remind ourselves how translation
memory technology has evolved just in the last few years after
essentially lying dormant for 10 or 15 years:
has introduced target segment matching (if no source
match is found)
- Trados, memoQ, Lingotek, and Multitrans
now support subsegment matching (the latter two already for some time)
- memoQ and Multitrans support both
translation memories and corpora
- Text United now has term extraction integrated
into the very creation of a project by default
- Déjà Vu has the terminology
database and translation memory cooperate with each other to turn fuzzy
matches into perfect ones
These are just some examples that show that translation
memory technology has not reached the end of its line of development.
It's only too obvious that those tools that don't offer one or several
of the features mentioned above will look to adopt those at some point
and fine-tune them in the process.
(Plus, I can think of a few other features that I think
would help us all, and I would be quite happy to consult with some of
the technology vendors on those...)
So, is there a new five-year rule concerning the death
of translation memory technology? Absolutely. And just like the
original one concerning machine translation, it's going to go on and
on. And on.