Smartling at Google’s Localization Summit in Dublin

Yesterday, I had the exciting opportunity to represent Smartling, and present at Google’s Localization Summit at their prestigious Dublin site. I was a bit like a kid going to the seaside, because while I’ve known people who work at Google, I’d heard all the stories about their workplaces, but had never been on-site before. And yes, the stories are true. From the quirky graffiti-art to the dining chairs made of recycled clothing, it’s a fun working environment, and you can tell that their employees are valued. It’s also a place for some really hard work: more than 100 products, more than 60 languages, and a constant flow of translation projects. You can’t do that without automated processes!

The summit is a get-together of many of the people who work in translation, localization and globalization at Google, and they have presentations from both internal and external speakers. This time, Smartling was invited to present!

We started with our “Translation is like music” video. It’s a powerful message: translation is, indeed, part science and part art. Just like music.

Large, enterprise companies’ globalization activities are often very widespread, involving people from many teams and organizations, and many places around the world. Being able to bring them all together, in one place, is such a benefit. I wish all big companies would see that. And it goes with one of our discussion points today: how important it is for a real connection between the client, who is buying translation and localization services, and the person who is doing the translation work, often a freelancer or an employee of a smaller translation agency. And how important transparency of the supply chain and business process is.

Every time I talk to people “on the client side”, they re-emphasize how much it helps to have contact with “their” translators, and how much they value the services of the LSPs who manage all the expert translators working on their translations.

Of course, you can’t visit Google without talking about machine translation. They really made the world sit up and take notice when they introduced Google Translate, and started a whole new revolution in automatic, computer-generated, no-humans-involved translation. Together with online stores, where you can track your purchases, and online travel services where you can base your choice on other people’s real-life experiences, Google has put us into a place where customers expect easy access to knowledge, to timelines, to progress reports… all in their own language.

Most companies do not yet have enough perfectly-translated content, created and approved by human translators, to “train” machine translation to be good-enough for business use, or for human translators to review and correct (“post-edit”). Instead, they are looking for the best (and simplest) way to provide the languages that are needed for their own customers. But, if they make sure that all their translations are stored for reuse in a centralized translation memory, and they automate translation workflows, they will start to build the material for their own, good quality, machine translation. The starting point is the translation memory. And we now have technology that makes this possible, not only for giant enterprises such as Google and other high-tech companies, but for all companies, large and small.

Thank you, Google, for inviting us. It was a real pleasure to be there.