ALC 2011: Translation Technology – What’s Missing?

The Association of Language Companies (ALC) puts on its annual conference in Las Vegas on May 18-21, 2011.

Translation Technology: What’s Missing?
Jost Zetzsche  (International Writers Group)

Where are we with our use of translation technology? We all would agree that while technology plays an important role in our workflows, there could be so much more. Who is at fault? Are we too hesitant to implement existing technology, or are we waiting for technology that is not available yet? And if it’s not available, what’s missing?

Available technologies which do not intersect very much (if at all):

  • CAT technology
    • Translation memory
    • File processing
    • Terminology management
    • Quality assurance
    • Project/Workflow management
    • Machine translation

Need for open systems:

  • Open, readily accessible APIs
  • Server-based workflows
    • The “new” capture technology
    • Common web service exchange standards

Data exchange standards:

  • XLIFF used as an internal exchange standard; has failed to be a true exchange standard due to extensibility
  • Hope on the horizon (?): Interoperability Now organization; “Melby/Lommel project”

Machine translation:

  • MT developers need to understand our processes
  • Integration into TM and terminology processes is needed

“Lossless Roundtripping”:

  • Between translators, editors, proofreaders, desktop publishers, project managers…
  • Representation of the latest state of the project in TM

External data:

  • EU resources, TAUS, etc.
  • Little true integration
  • No common or easily implementable ontology


  • Completely integrated term extraction and processing needed
  • Currently a painful, manual process
  • Understanding the value of terminology: need to define field of translation terminologists
  • Morphological tool kits – available only for the most common languages; University of Illinois project has some potential

Cloud vs. Desktop:

  • Bridging the connection problem (translators are not always online to work with web-based tools; a hybrid system could be a solution)
  • No feature parity in user interface; common word processing features missing


  • Quote from a tool vendor: “It’s really quite magical technology when you see it work” – The reality is that technology is not magic, it’s data processing
  • We need to give the tool vendors reasons to implement the changes and introduce technologies that we need

The business case:

  • Lose the Good Guy vs. Bad Guy image; Microsoft and other companies are in the game for business
  • Make strategic investments

See Jost’s presentation in pdf format.