Watch out ProZ, here comes Google Translation Center

Within the translation industry, ProZ is widely known as the leading public network of freelance translators and buyers of translation services.

But here comes Google…

According to Blogoscoped, Google is about to launch the Google Translation Center.

This is an exciting development, though I don’t expect everyone to suddenly ditch ProZ for Google. Why? Because much of the appeal of ProZ is the community, which Google does not appear to be trying to support. Still, freelancers will certainly want to investigate this potential new resource.

I’ve called out ProZ as one company under threat from Google Translation Center. But EVERY translation agency needs to keep a close eye on this service. It could be a threat. It could also end up being something translation agencies use themselves — instead of paid platforms from SDL. Naturally, for this to happen this new platform has a lot of evolving to do. Still, I can’t help but wonder.

There is no mention of whether or not Google will support machine translation and/or translation memory. I’m assuming they will.

I have LOTS of questions and this service isn’t even live yet. So we shall see what happens. But this is big news, no question.

I wrote awhile back, that the translation industry as we know it is over. The technologists have taken over and they’re bringing brute force computing and massive networks to the table to reduce costs and increase time to market. This is just another sign of this macro trend.

What do you think? Is Google going to disrupt the translation industry or is this new platform going to fall flat?

(Thx Chris for the heads up!)

Update: I just read an insightful article on this Google’s service at GigaOm…

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14 thoughts on “Watch out ProZ, here comes Google Translation Center”

  1. Hi John,

    a freelance based online translation service is already up and running at
    OneHourTranslation provides 24/4 immediate human translations

  2. Proz is just a site where translators gather and are gathered: the good, the bad and the ugly. Mostly the latter. Yes, most translators are on all these sites are clueless amateurs. And the new google center will not affect high-end, high-quality translators. No one seems to understand how the translation market is really segmented. Does graffiti threaten real art?

  3. I agree pretty much with Kakophony, and would only add that this service will be one tool among many to help translators both experienced and newbies to do business. The difference with ProZ is that it will provide the TM tools.
    This is both a strength and a weakness. TM tools aren't put together like instant mashed potatoes. The development process is long and complex, even for Google.
    BTW something similar was tried a few years back in France. It was an ASP web-based application, and in my experience with it, it was slow and not especially user-friendly. My thoughts at the time were that French developers thought that overnight they could somehow replicate the decades of experience of the central Europeans in TM technology. Anyway, this service never caught on.
    I'd expect Google to be able to do somewhat better from the start, but the same risks are there.
    Another risk is security of confidential information, although major firms and translation agencies seem to be oblivious to this issue: they're sending highly confidential documents by email without any form of encryption at all. My point is: will companies want confidential and even restricted information to be accessible by some sort of collocation feature (standard in TM software) in the Google global translation memory.

  4. Up until now, there has been, on one hand the unsatisfactory but free automatic translation programs, and on the other hand the option to pay for a professional translation service either provided by independent translators or by a translation company. It is already possible, for the more inquisitive buyer, to recruit on line their own human translator but generally speaking companies have more of a tendency to confide their projects to a translation agency.

    Translation businesses bring access to professional translators in every language and in several fields of expertise. They analyse and prepare the work prior to translation, control turnaround times, serve as a point of contact both to the clients and the translators, sometimes acting as the voice of the customer to the translator and sometimes that of the translator to the client. They assure correct delivery of the final project to the client and also handle payment issues controlling client creditworthiness and assuring timely payment for themselves as well as the translator. At least this is the way we work at Anyword and how most of our competitors currently operate.

    In this context is Google Translation Centre a threat to translation agencies? It is possible (and even probable) that initially a number of clients seeking to make savings will contact the translators directly. Over time these clients will either settle for the minimal solution and remain loyal to Google Translation Centre or they will wish to benefit from a veritable intermediary service and return to the agencies.
    I do hope so.

    It is however necessary to clarify an important point: the service launched by Google is not a novelty. There are already existing human translation on line recruitment systems which are extensively used the translation companies. What is new is that Google authorise the “volunteers” to register themselves as translators on their service. By “volunteer” one must understand “voluntary” and therefore in most cases “inexperienced”. This means that the customers utilising this service are running an important risk that Google refuse to endorse in their general conditions of use.

    This is what makes me think that businesses, always reluctant to take unnecessary risks, will not adopt Google Translation Centre. This debate is, of course open on the Translators Observers blog run by Anyword.

    Guillaume de Brébisson
    Anyword translation company

    • Guillaume,

      There is indeed a difference between the existing online human translation quote/job portals and what Google is proposing. The principle is the same, however the job request broker is not. The existing portals that do this today usually have a vested interested in translation, with experienced site administrators/moderators who work in the translation field. This is often complemented by a section in those portals that is devoted to rating those who request translations (especially if they do not pay).

      On the other hand, the Google Translation Center is just another derivative service offereed by Google based on years of having created a statistical based Machine Translation system and lots of experience in natural language processing. Yet, I doubt that they have a vested interest in human translation quality concerns, and the customer perspective on this.

      The goal is to create a massive global Translation Memory that can be used to feed into the statistical based MT system. It's for natural language processing reasons.

  5. There may be a point in time where machine translation may be good enough to replace translator, but I don’t think we’re there yet, However, I believe a human proofreader will always be needed.

  6. I couldn’t but laugh when I read “the technologists have taken over…”. There’s no way automated translation can replace human translation. The translation industry is GROWING and is STRONGER than ever. Technology provides tools, and is not a replacement. Oh wait, Google just launched an Automatic Poetry Translation Service! Go blog about it, it’s the end of the world as we know it!

  7. John, your blog made me consider MT matters. It seems that competition in the business is tough. Google are famous and have a free translation service, Facebook are having their site translated into many, many languages and of course there might be some more famous or less famous companies on the market. Up till now Google are the best. Or at least they are considered the best. They are widely known, used and trusted. And they offer free translation.

    Having a competitor like G is not easy especially when you want to make money from machine translation services. Most of us know that machine translation does not give us the expected good result. Of course some services are a bit better than others but are way from perfect.

    The main competition now is between google translate and babelfish. According to me -there is no difference. The choice depends on whether you prefer google or yahoo!.

    Is this why some other companies claim to have a lot more services? This guy whom I mention at the beginning made me make a research about the companies which develop such translation services. I read a lot about Transclick. These have mainly focused on mobile translation but they claim to have services for translation of blogs, webpages, etc. As a matter of fact I didn’t find any of these service except for TransFox. I can’t say if the service is good or bad because the flash demo did not work and the link for download did not work…For this reason I am going to exclude this company from the list of possible competitors in the field of MT. The only thing that kept me wondering is why some people claim they have services which they actually DO NOT have.

    This might not be the only case but it is the only one I have come upon so far.

    Systran? Well, this is something which you have to pay for and as we know, few people want to spend money for something they can get free.

    As I said, competition is tough so the only thing I can do is sit and watch and wait to see who the winner will be.

  8. Proz could do with some further competition to keep them on their toes. I very much doubt that SMEs and MNCs will take the risk of appointing a translator directly. By appointing a translation agency they have a level of assurance and accountability in a legal context, especially if the translation agency is formed as a limited company. Furthermore, they would surely realise that the long-term benefits of forming a relationship with a translation agency are greater than the short-term savings of going direct.

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