This is part two of my interview with Anne-Marie Colliander Lind, a Swedish translation industry specialist. She has worked in the translation industry since 1989 and is now running her own consultancy business, Inkrea.se. Part one of the interview was published in my last post, and the original interview in Swedish can be found here.
How much do you think the public knows about the translation industry or translation in general?
I have been working in the translation business for over 20 years and I am still greeted with a quizzical expression when I meet new people asking what I work with: Translation… what? Followed by: How many languages do you speak? I think many of our colleagues in our business have experienced the same thing. My feeling is that the public does not know that this is an industry that gives many, many people work, not only linguists and translators, but also project managers, technical engineers, sales people, accountants, business managers and more. But when I start talking about it many see the need for translation everywhere in our lives, especially in a country like Sweden, a multicultural country with so many international brands to be proud about.
How are you involved in the translation industry and how did you get there?
I started working in the translation industry in 1989, as a project manager for Interverbum, one of the largest translation companies at that time. Five years later I started working from the customer perspective, as a buyer of translations for a company in southern Sweden, before starting at Trados Scandinavia in 1998. I stayed at Trados for almost 10 years, a very exciting period with lots of developmets. When I started there, CAT-tools were more an exception than an industry standard, and 10 years later the product was a world leader in its niche. After that I returned to the translation company side again and helped Semantix to consolidate and develop its sales strategies, after the company had grown rapidly through purchases and mergers. Semantix was then a customer of the research company Common Sense Advisory, and after some prompting from CSA I decide to accept their offer to become their European representative. Two years ago I founded my own consultancy agency and now I am helping translation companies with strategies, sales and management. I also bring knowledge to the buying sector, e.g. to the companies that buy translation services, most often in regards to investments in technology or new buying processes and choice of strong partners, etc. I am a proud co-organizer of NTIF, the Nordic Translation Industry Forum, the second annual forum took place in Copenhagen in November 2012. As if this is not enough, I am also a volunteer for Translators without Borders, where my main task is to find company sponsors, and represent the organization at different industry conferences.
What do you think is most important for a customer when they buy a translation, when thinking of the value triangle (time-cost-quality)?
The most important for the customer is to receive what they expect, when they want it, e.g. the right quality, at the right time and price. The importance of these parameters can vary substantially. Time is probably the most important factor most of the time. If a translation job arrives late, the consequences can get very expensive for the project at large. Then it does not matter what price was agreed upon – “Better good enough in time, than perfect but too late” – so to speak. It is a different story for texts that will get published though, where quality is vital. Thankfully I am convinced that the price always comes in second or third place if we put it in relation to time and quality.
Do you think that translators will be replaced by machines some day?
Machine translation is here to stay – no one can slow this development down. I recently read that there are companies that have achieved a level of quality in machine translation where the error margin is less than 1.5 percent. With some simple-post editing they have achieved a good translation with minimal involvement by a translator. But still the answer to your question is no, there will always be a need for professional translators. The amount of information that we have access to increases exponentially and only a fraction of what should be translated gets translated. I believe (and hope) that companies will realize that you can get large amount of text translated at a lower price per unit with the help of technology, and that you can spend the rest of the budget on the texts that really make a difference and where the artistry of a professional translator is required in order to produce top notch results. I also hope that they then can afford to pay reasonable compensation for this. The more globalized we become, the larger role the local languages will play – I am convinced of that.