Sharing Translation Expertise With Google


Being a native English speaker in a German international company, I have noticed that my colleagues use Google Translate to cope with international business correspondence more and more every day.  Well, and also to cope with working with me, as my Deutsch is schlecht and I therefore only write in English.  As well that means I need to use Google Translate to deal with internal memos and  just about any instance where I am cc’d – when there are 5 people on the email loop and I am the only one who doesn’t read German, the language of the majority typically prevails.

Because we are the only non-American company in the top 5 in our industry, and we make complex electronic medical devices, that also means we have had to build up a substantial language services department with a comprehensive translation database and software, because our industry is so specialized that none else can really do an appropriate translation of our technical manuals other than us.

However, being translators and writers is NOT our core competence and often I shake my head at how much effort we need to put into this area of our work.  It is the combination of these factors that got me to thinking…

Co-sharing is a big topic in Berlin right now – especially in the startup scene, maybe even the world.  The focus is on sharing space, which is creates an environment conducive to so much more, but in any case sharing is sharing and that is the source of my inspiration.  I also recently read a book about Google’s strategy, “What would Google do?” by Jeff Jarvis, and a phrase from the author has really stuck to my mind: do what you do best, and link to the rest.  Open source info, sharing, transparency, collaboration the whole win-win paradigm has exploded in the last couple years, and is on a track to fundamentally change every business, economic, nonprofit – every – model in the world (in my humble opinion).

So, why not apply this to translations?  I searched a bit (on Google) to see if such a specific  ”Translate” project existed, and I came up with zilch.  Well not exactly zilch, as they have something called “Upload your Translation Memory“, but it is sort of cryptic and is definitely not something any company would self-initiate.  Google does have a different approach to creating translations, which in fact would perfectly align with this idea.  Right now they search books, materials from organizations like the UN, and general websites around the world in order for their computer to learn how to get better and better at translating.  They would now just need to find a way to actively target and collect specialized sources of translation know-how.  And they do sell a translation program for companies, but I can guarantee that it is woefully inadequate to cope with the jargon we need to accommodate.

Imagine, if my company agreed to hand over all of our proprietary translation know-how for our industry, and companies in every other industry did the same.  For none of us is this a core competence that provides any real competitive advantage, so what is the sense in keeping it?  Google would then have the collective know-how and resources to really develop its translation capabilities into something awesome – and far more accurate for specialized industries than what is currently offered.

I am having visions of Google eventually being able to create flawless realtime Star Trek Universal Translator technology which they seem to be trying to get to anyway...(no Trekkie jokes please :)).  And all Google has to do to achieve this, is let their co-sharing partners in specialized industries get access to the translation services, current and future, for free in exchange for their expertise.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Categories: Zero About Berlin

Author:Sandy Hathaway

Hi, I'm Sandy. I've been working in marketing, sales and business strategy since 1998. In 2012, I left behind my long corporate career and partnered up with a team of great guys to build our own SaaS startup. It's the hardest thing I've ever done, but luckily the most fun too. This blog is where I keep my notes about specific articles, data sources, and models that I'm currently evaluating and using. Current areas of focus include: recommender systems, predictive dynamic content, open time technology, email marketing, B2B marketing and sales, channel management, go-to-market strategy, mobile marketing, social marketing


Subscribe to our RSS feed and social profiles to receive updates.

12 Comments on “Sharing Translation Expertise With Google”

  1. September 11, 2011 at 8:40 pm #

    Totes agree. Guess you need an app or a plug-in, one that could learn certain medical/technical terms… but agree that Google needs to do more work in this field, or pay someone else too.

    On the Trekkie note, seen this?

  2. September 13, 2011 at 2:00 am #

    hahaha LOL, seriously.

  3. September 13, 2011 at 2:00 am #

    (shhh- glad you liked)

  4. September 14, 2011 at 3:56 pm #

    Translation programs, or CAT, are all fine and good when it comes to storing your TM. As far as translation accuracy is concerned, no program or company (like Google) will ever replace a true human translator. Moreover, there is that (unwritten) rule of course: Never translate into a language that is not your native language. It’s always bound to go wrong in some form or fashion.

    I use CAT to speed up my translations, but always have to correct what Google & Co give me. The Google TM is OK, but definitely needs improvement.


  5. SandyInBerlin
    September 14, 2011 at 8:26 pm #

    Thanks for your comment Regis! I guess I will have to just keep dreaming :D

  6. September 14, 2011 at 8:35 pm #

    Sandy, if I can help you, just give me a shout – pro bono for you personally.

    I’ll be in Berlin from 30 Sep to 3 Oct, on business as well. The Grenander Cafe at the Wittenbergplatz has great coffee. First cup is on me :-)

  7. SandyInBerlin
    September 15, 2011 at 10:17 pm #

    Thanks Regis, not sure I get the pro bono part, but I appreciate the kindness regardless. The weekend you are here I am scuba diving out of town, sorry. Maybe next time!

  8. September 16, 2011 at 7:17 am #

    Sounds exciting! Have fun and yes, perhaps another time :-)


  9. September 27, 2011 at 3:17 pm #

    Great article, Sandy. This would be an amazing next step. I do use Google Translate a lot as well. When inputting an entire document (not just copy/paste a block of text – but open document with GT) , Google does allow/encourage you to “fix” their translation. I figured that it is part of exactly what you are recommending: that we help Google Translate to learn better translation.
    x Luci

  10. SandyInBerlin
    October 2, 2011 at 8:05 pm #

    Thanks Luci, you are right, that is exactly what I mean. Let the machine learn. Or software anyway. Google allows you to fix it, but it is so subjective, and it is a consumer input. Imagine if they absorbed specialized topics? Yeah, very Skynet, I know…but still. Universal Translator potential!

  11. June 7, 2012 at 11:43 am #

    I had to think about DuoLingo right away. Still in Beta, but soon public:

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,127 other followers

%d bloggers like this: