Peter Smith, President of Translate.One recently sat down with the Pittsburgh Technology Council. The interview was originally broadcast on March 22nd as part of the One Mike Stand podcast.
An edited version of the discussion follows below.
PTC: On the One Mic Stand, we have Peter Smith who is the new president of Translate One. Really interesting firm here in Pittsburgh, that helps companies across all industries and especially tech companies with all of their translation needs. Translation is so important in this day and age. To have it accurate, to have it concise. It is the difference of having success that is for sure. Peter, welcome to the show.
Peter: Thank you. Nice to be here and thanks for speaking with me. An interesting connection is that I’m from a town called Sheffield, which is the sister city of Pittsburgh. We call it Steel City, same as Pittsburgh. It’s quite similar being downtown. The streets are a bit wider here and there are no double-decker buses, but other than that, I could be home.
PTC: Very cool. Tell us about Translate One. It’s gone through some iterations. Watching you guys grow has been very exciting.
Peter: We are a growing company providing translation, globalization and localization – sort of industry terms. Certainly, it’s what we do for a variety of companies and technology companies, allowing them to communicate and deal around the world.
PTC: When it comes to websites and marketing materials and contracts, you name it, when you’re doing business in another country it all has to be put into their language and to do that is no easy task. I know that there are many technologies out there, like Google, that translate things over roughly. But it’s not always where you need it to be and I always feel like if it’s my business I want experts on this not just a piece of technology that I’m going to run it through.
Peter: Well, that’s true. If you want it to trade around the world, clearly you need to be able to speak to people in their own language. You’re typically competing with organizations from that country. They will definitely be speaking in that language. It’s really important you provide the same level of customer service and support as the local organizations will. Using things like Google Translate will get you a translation of course, but it often misses the context. It will translate the words, but it won’t actually properly relay the message. And that’s where we come in, that we have expert linguists and a range of technologies so that you can be sure whatever message you’re wanting to convey will be in that way, regardless of where in the world.
PTC: Expert linguists with leading-edge technology. You’re using the two in tandem, which is pretty powerful.
Peter: We have to facilitate getting the content to the linguists and getting the content back from the linguist to the originating source, so we use a number of technologies. One of those we’ve been using for some time is called translation memory. It allows us to reuse previous translations, the benefit of that being cost. Customers not paying time and again for the same content to be translated. And it ensures we’re consistent with previous translations. It also speeds up of course, because it enables the translators to be quicker. That’s a primary technology we use.
We do use machine translation sometimes within the process as well. There can be benefits to it, particularly for large very well-structured content. You can leverage machine translation but we would always then present that to a linguist to ensure that it’s got the translations right, it’s got the context right, and the meaning is properly conveyed.
PTC: That’s why it’s really important that you can get some heavy lifting done with machine learning, but you cannot always replace the linguist at the end of the day.
Peter: The original content is often written in a variety of ways that’s not always consistent. It’s not always well written, not everybody who writes the source content has necessarily structured it properly. And so of course, garbage in garbage out applies in that regard. It’s important that we’re working with good quality text for the linguist to ultimately be able to understand what the original message was and ensure that that’s being replicated.
The other thing that’s important is ensuring that they understand the meaning behind the content as well, what the company is looking to do, what message they are wanting to convey. We employ project managers and their role is to ensure that they’re asking the right questions of the customers, that they’re conveying that message adequately and completely to the linguists so that everything is consistent as well. You want a consistent output, all languages to be at the same quality.
Websites for example, a lot of work goes there – the look and feel of it. And we need to make sure that’s replicated in other places. Again, that’s where the linguists come in. They work in country; they work culturally within that environment so you can be sure that whatever you want to convey from the original will be there. Even things like colors. A color can mean a different thing in a different part of the world. That’s one of the values of having linguists in country.
PTC: Translate One is making the world a little smaller, so it’s easier for us to all communicate.
Peter: Exactly. And that’s another benefit where the utilization of technology comes in. It enables companies to be able to communicate around the world quicker. We can get content from its source, back to the linguist, and then back to the place it came from. Whether it’s a database, a website, content management system, whatever it is, and seamlessly without having both efforts internally people having to get that content manually and then ship it out to translators. All that’s automated. It gets to the linguist and then automated back in the process as well. It’s enabling us to work quicker, enabling companies to benefit and to be able to trade globally quicker as well.
PTC: You work with customers of all sizes across all industries. This being a tech show, thinking about tech companies and startups here in Pittsburgh. Are they going to be taken care of like a multinational conglomerate?
Peter: Absolutely it’s exactly the same. And of course, as the startup grows one of the benefits of a company like us is it enables you to trade globally quickly and if they’re wanting to scale then that happens as well.
We can go as far as integrating, if it’s a tech company for example, maybe they use Git to store their strings and they’re wanting a UI translated. We can integrate directly into their Git repository, take the content out, feed it to the linguist and feed it back into the repository. When that gets placed back in the software, we have the facilities to test and ensure that it’s all displaying correctly. So, you can go from one extreme to the other, from a simple process where it’s the smallest document to being quite an integrated solution.
The other benefit if you’re a startup or a smallish company, we have people that can provide advisory services. They can let you know what content is important to translate. Just because you may have videos, a website, and documents – you don’t necessarily need to translate all of it. For different markets, different components are probably key to translate. We can provide advisory services to let you know what extent you need to actually translate.
PTC: Peter, I can’t thank you enough for taking the time to talk. I just love being able to have these conversations. It’s nice to know we have an awesome resource right here in Pittsburgh with tentacles around the world.