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It is no secret that machine translation (MT) technologies are becoming an increasingly widely implemented feature in online messaging used by customer service departments of transnational companies, and in b2b communications.
At their core, live MT systems usually operate based on a trained machine translation memory (MTM) in a way very similar to the use of TMs in CAT tools. Upon translating the customer’s query based on its memory, the machine offers the employee a suitable answer to use in conversation.
While the main purpose of such solutions is clear and their benefits include hugely reduced waiting time for the customer and a significant cost saving opportunity for the company, system’s implementation and maintenance are quite labour-intensive. Instead of hiring a language proficient agent, the company will still have to train an employee to use the software. Also, the MTM will need to be constantly updated and synchronized. It is very important to keep its contents up to date and reliable since the user will more likely be unable to read the machine-translated text.

Taking into account the wide variety of customer queries, specific terminology, slang, abbreviations and other language quirks, the system could easily drive the online conversation off-course and even affect the customer satisfaction (CSAT) level. For example, a Russian word «Хорошо» can be translated as “Well” in English (as in “You’ve done well”), but is often used similar to “OK” in conversational speach. If a Russian customer contacts an English-speaking customer service rep. who asks them to wait for a moment or two to check something, the machine might translate customer’s «Хорошо» as “well” (instead of “Ok”), making the customer look impatient or irritated. This is one of the many actual examples of small miscommunication incidents that might happen while using live MT software. However, if you compare their language barrier breaking capabilities as well as the Service Level Agreement (SLA) benefits for the companies utilizing them, it becomes clear that the overall value of MT engines is enormous.

A range of such solutions are employed by different companies and implemented into various live communication tools (e.g. liveperson , or Geofluent). There are also solutions more oriented on b2b communication, e.g.

On the other hand, we see an increasing demand for online services where live translation is performed by remote human translators rather then MT engines. Platforms such as SpeakUs or Cloud Interpreter focus their effort on facilitating “live interpretation from any location via browser or application” with the help of professional interpreters from all over the world.

In one way or another, technologies helps us all stay connected. And we hope that with the aid of NMT (Neural Machine Translation), live MT systems will only improve CSAT.

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A recent project concluded by Multilingual Manchester ( has identified more than 50 languages on signage throughout the city.  This signage included everything from business signs to posters and leaflets.  The most common languages other than English were Urdu, Chinese, Arabic and Polish.

The diversity of the languages in Manchester is just a sampling of the diversity in the United Kingdom.  Signs in multiple languages popped up not just at retail establishments but public services, and even on public buildings themselves.

This diversity of language in everyday life points to ever-growing diversity in workplaces around the UK.  Organisations are take inclusivity and diversity policies from the basic “sensitivity training” to the next level: integrating it into their organisational culture and practices (

However, this is just one piece of the multilingual workforce puzzle.  This organisational culture must be communicated to employees, and in order to preserve the diversity of today’s workforce, language services must be integrated.  Here’s how:

From the Beginning
The first step is identifying the languages in which you need information translated.  Your organization likely will not need 51 different translations, but it could be close.  If English is the second language of any employee, an organisation should provide translation services of important information for that employee.
One of the benefits of incorporating translation services ( into an organisation is the improved communication.  Nothing gets lost in an employee’s own interpretation.  This is important when drafting policies such as new human resources policies and especially diversity policies.  It also removes the burden of translation from the shoulders of multilingual employees.

To the Roll-Out
Once it’s time to communicate information to employees, there are a variety of ways to do so.  The most common, of course, is the ubiquitous email.  Yet again, without language services in place, this can leave some employees in the dark about what’s being shared.  This lost in translation phenomenon ( is most prevalent in written communications that include sarcasm and colloquialisms.

It is more difficult for organisations to offer translations and interpretations of emails.  That’s more emails than servers can manage, let alone a language services provider.  Instead, communications strategies can be combined with translation strategies to equip employees with the necessary information and tools.
Visual communications are beneficial to any workplace ( because they can be customized for individual audiences.  This allows an organisation to transmit information in multiple languages, tailoring each broadcast for a different language audience.  Targeted communications are going to lead to more engaged employees.

Additionally, investing in language services to foster diversity can make your organisational culture inviting, one of the many things that attracts new talent (  It will also attract new customers and clients and continue to engage the ones you already have.  If you haven’t integrated language services yet, now’s the time.

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Over the past few years translation management systems have evolved into complex tools that strive to maximise process efficiency and optimize bottom-line performance. Their development is a continuous quest for self-improvement, influenced by integration requirements and established business practice of a given market.

While developing our own customised TMS at Literra, we surveyed different types of users across Russia and "neigbouring countries" and  other TMS developers and wanted to share the key points to the ATC conference attendees.

Automation in LSPs 2013-2016

Statistics of the past 4 years tell us about an increased interest in automation. In 2013 only one out of two companies used some sort of TMS. Now we have companies that use up to 2 or even 3 systems simultaneously.

Over 50% of the LSPs surveyed have noted that their customers’ loyalty increased after they started using TMS. Proprietary solutions and enterprise-level commercial TMS have made managerial accounting completely transparent, as well as slowed down the project handling process.

Among TMS apparent advantages are; the users state transparency of business for owners and management, translation quality monitoring, task monitoring, cost control, plan-fact analysis, and these are only some of the many points.

We asked users of commercial and proprietary TMS to evaluate them against a set of criteria, 4 key parameters of which are implementation, result, support and expectations being met.

Survey results

According to delivered data proprietary solutions, 1C-based tools and cheap systems with limited functionality are in the lead. Some of the more popular European TMS are at the end of the spectrum due to high costs, complexity of customisation/adaptation and service level, based on the responses we have received.

Using our automation expertise and the results that we obtained through the survey we have made a list of recommendations for those who have not chosen a TMS yet:
·      Appoint a dedicated implementation manager with director-level authority;
·      Indicate key requirements for the future system;
·      Do not budget to the last penny, there will be unforeseen costs;
·      Make it official in-house;
·      Implement in functional units;
·      Be prepared to alter business processes in the company;
·      Take time to provide necessary support.

About the company

Literra has been on the Russian and international markets since 2006, providing a comprehensive range of translation, localisation, interpreting, SEO and translation training services. In our work we use a TMS based on Russian accounting system 1C which is also integrated with SDL Trados and Memsource.

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It was a pleasure and a privilege to represent careers in Modern Foreign Languages at the recent careers fair at one of our local secondary schools, Ermysted’s Grammar School in Skipton, North Yorkshire. A huge ‘well done’ is due to the organiser, Careers Advisor Yvonne Lang, on such a superbly organised event – I spent a full 2 hours talking solidly to mainly 15 and 16 year old linguists, and most of the other professions represented seemed to be very busy too.

After a few minutes, it became clear that the young people and their parents had just one question in mind initially – what careers can you follow if you study languages at university? I chose to speak from very personal experience, and I was quoting 3 initial thoughts:

-        As recommended by my university careers service after my degree in German Studies, you can be a teacher. I have every admiration for teachers, and they make a real difference to the lives of young people and widen their horizons through languages – but that is a special talent and was not for me.

-        -    You can, as I did, join a company that sells things in the country where your studied language is spoken. On joining a company in the plastics industry, I was sent immediately to Germany to work at trade shows and exhibitions. I then became the export contact for the company, and was sent to France and Holland. After a few years, I became an export manager at other companies and visited many countries on business including South Africa, Korea and Saudi Arabia. A qualification in languages is a passport – and a head start - into the fascinating world of international business and travel. You can be a one man or woman boost to your country’s balance of payments balance!

-        -    You can, as I did after 10 years of the above-mentioned exporting life, enter the thriving translation and interpreting profession. You generally need a post-graduate qualification to open up a number of career possibilities including translation of written documents (Legal? Technical? What could be your specialist subject?) from your studied language, conference interpreting to and from your mother tongue or translation project management. Your role is enabling companies and people to communicate and do business.

But just talking about all this reminded me of others who have used their languages in other careers. I know a chartered accountant who has a degree in Russian and French – and has been sent to audit his firm’s Russian and Bulgarian officers. I know a UK patent attorney who uses his fluent German to act at the European Patent Court in Munich….and I know a Spanish-speaking solicitor who specialises in Spanish property work….

So there are many options. But I tried to explain too that learning languages is great just for itself – for giving you a window into another culture, for helping you to understand what others are thinking and why they behave as they do…

I’d love to hear from other linguists on this topic. What have I missed? What other career ideas are out there? And why are more people in the UK not studying languages?

Mark Robinson, Alexika Ltd


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  • Geoffrey Bowden
    Geoffrey Bowden says #
    The UK government needs to ret...
    Evidence from award-winning organisations such as Business Language Champions ( who have spo

Translation business profitability was, arguably, the most appealing topic of ATC 2016 Language Industry Summit discussions.

From size to essence

Growth for traditional translation services slows down year to year. It’s getting increasingly difficult for LSPs to win new customers and increase revenue, and marketing is getting more competitive. According to the 2016 bench marking survey and accounts for the latest financial year, at least five out of 20 if the UK’s largest translation companies did less business in 2015 than in 2014, or stayed flat. The number one company based in the UK, SDL, stayed on more or less the same level of revenue since 2012. RWS, the second largest LSP, grew 2% organically last year, but added about 25% via an acquisition of another organisation, CTi in the United States.

In a few years organic growth might grind to a halt.

Some managers of mature companies have already switched the focal point of their efforts to cost control and profitability. They are looking for ways to make their businesses more profitable, rather than just bigger.

How translation business owners control and optimise costs

Topics concerning profitability permeated a few key speeches at ATC Summit.

Roberto Ganzerli, the founder of one of the top Italian LSPs, Arancho Doc, presented a set of metrics his company uses to make costs transparent, expose hidden expenses, and track EBITDA. Roberto outlined how planning, metrics and procedures help AD become more efficient.

Ruth Partington of RP Translate spoke about communicating value to customers and maintaining margins. She called business owners to deconstruct their offers and identify individual services involved in making content multilingual, for example document engineering and file preparation. She advocated creating a pyramid-like hierarchy, with the highest-value added services on top, and communicating the value to customers this way, service-by-service, according to the value they represent. This solution approach is more rewarding.

Andrzej Nedoma of XTRF advocated process automation. His presentation suggested that margin erosion is a problem for 80% LSPs. To fight it, he suggested replacing manual project management with automated workflows, which would reduce in-costs and make the business more efficient.