I had the pleasure of attending the TAUS (Translation Automation Users Society) European Summit last week in Paris. The Consortium has partnered with Jaap ven der Meer and the TAUS team over the past five years or so, facilitating the convergence of translation automation and customer service. The Summit had about 40 companies represented, eight of which are also Consortium members.
First let me say, if your support organization serves a global audience and you are not using (or actively looking to use) machine translation (MT) to support your customers in their language, you should be. MT has come a long way in the last five years and plays a major role in the localization programs for support content at Microsoft, Intel and Dell. Support content often has a limited shelf life and the accuracy requirement for support content translation is generally lower than marketing or sales information. The fact that support content needs to be findable and “sufficient to solve,” not perfect or pristine, makes it an ideal candidate for MT.
MT is also being leveraged for support activities such as chat and online communities. Heidi Depraetere with Cross Language NV presented an online community that supports participation in five different languages. MT engines are integrated into the community management system. The community members help by fixing the occasional inaccuracies that show up through a simple editing capability. Very cool. (Heidi helped run and present an MT study with Consortium members in 2009 – see the latest MT notes on the wiki.)
A number of common themes exist between the translation community and the support community. Turns out translators are knowledge workers in very much the same way support analysts are. MT uses translation memories (TM) for words and phrases that have been translated in language pairs. This is a “translate it once, use it often” idea… sounds familiar! TAUS has an initiative called TDA (TAUS Data Association) that is facilitating a global, collaborative effort to create a translation memory data base. All of the same challenges of people engagement/alignment, standards, workflow, tool integration and measurements exist. Additionally, online communities are a factor in the translation business; there was a lot of discussion around quality management, profiles, and reputation models for crowd sourcing.
A very compelling use of a translation community was presented by Lori Thicke, founder of Translators without Borders, a non-profit organization seeking to improve quality of life through access to knowledge in underprivileged parts of the world by facilitating connections between NGO’s and professional translators who volunteer their time.
Check out upcoming TAUS events here!