The word on the street is that google is about to launch a new translation service. Called “Google Translation Center”, this service will:
- Connect translators with clients
- Let translators work for free or charge their clients for their work.
- Let translators translate their documents online
- Provide translators with a CAT (computer assisted translation) tool similar to the other tools available on the market
From the article at techcrunch:
If you have a document that needs translating, you can upload it and request a translator to work on it, according to the marketing information on the site. The Translation Center is set up as a marketplace for matching translators with people who need texts translated. It supports both paid translations and volunteer ones.
Also, Google doesn’t want to take part, for now, in the payment process. They state in their terms of service:
Your interaction with any third party participant(s) or user(s) within Google Translation Center, including payment and delivery of goods and services, and any other terms, conditions, warranties or representations associated with such dealings, are solely between you and such third party participant(s) or user(s) and Google is not involved in such dealings.
Translations created in Google Translation Center are purely between the translation requester and the translators.
As a R&D Director for a translation firm in Canada, this news rapidly caught my eye. Here is my breakdown of the impact this new service will have and my humble predictions:
So, what does all of this means for the translation industry
For translator networks:
This will surely steal business from a lot of web sites connecting translators to clients such as elance and craiglist, but not enough to get them out of business since they have more than translation projects in their portfolio.
For professional freelance translators:
For a lot of them, this will probably become their primary portal since Google is very good at indexing other sources of data than just theirs (just check the sources of the videos featured on google video and you will see what I mean). They will probably index every translator gig available in the world and provide translators with a portal to search, maybe bid on them and execute the translation.
For professional translation firms:
For translation firms, this is neither a good or a bad news. They will lose maybe a handful of customers due to the fact that they will get very cheap translations on Google platform. But, this is one industry where the saying “You get what you pay for” is really true. You won’t have any quality assurance when using this kind of service and, for many customers, this matters a lot. The quality of the corporate communications is a mirror of the company’s professionalism. And when you are a major bank, or in the medical industry (where a typo in a prescription can effectively kill someone), you can’t afford low quality translation. And you never will be safe with the quality of the translation provided by Google’s service (or any other online service for that matter) because the reviser might be your old Uncle Joe who runs only Word’s spell-checker on your document.
For translator tools software vendors:
This will probably be the main spot in the industry where the impact if this service will be felt. For these vendors, the whole market of freelancers is at risk since they will have access to a CAT tool and translation memories for free. The only market that will be left for them after the service will be mainstream is the big translation firms, for the reasons stated above.
For the future of Google’s platform:
The big challenge for google with this platform is to keep away the spammers. How easy will it be to log-in as a “fake translator” add advertising into a document. Then, when the client get his translation, he will be directly hit by the ad when reviewing this document. Or worse, the ad won’t be caught (very possible case since you won’t know every language your document/brochure/Web site/etc. has been translated into) and will be published as a part of that document. The worst case scenario for Google is that all the email spammers will use their platform to publish their ads, since the email rarely even get opened by the target of spammers. But inserting spam as part of a translation in a legitimate document will be a lot more effective.
UPDATE: Google removed most of the pages and reference documents (all URLs are now redirected to google’s main page).