LanguageWire.com: An E-marketplace for Translation Services
LanguageWire.com is a new web-based start-up company founded on 1st August 2000 to launch an e-marketplace linking customers with translation services and provide added value via language technology solutions and promote new ways of sharing knowledge in order to create a transparent and efficient translation market. The market place will be officially launched on 1st February 2001 although a beta version was launched on 1st December. The company currently has 5 employees but is expanding rapidly.
A Fragmented Translation Market
The founders of LanguageWire have all experienced the frustration of trying to get a translation done out of house. Which translators or agencies are available for the job in hand? Can they deliver the right language pairs and subject expertise? How long is the turn-around time? What is a reasonable price for this job? With a highly fragmented translation market consisting of many free-lances and small agencies, each with their own specialisations, it is often impossible for a small or medium sized company to be sure of finding the right translator for a particular translation job.
It is also difficult for free-lance translators and translation agencies to make themselves visible to potential clients and win the jobs which best fit their profiles in terms of languages and subject expertise. Translation suppliers' core competence lies in translation and not in marketing or other business processes.
Another big problem for both translation suppliers and their clients is that of constantly evolving new terminology within rapidly developing technologies and how to find (or invent) the best translations for new terms. The fragmented nature of the translation industry means that work is often duplicated when individual translators must each go and research the best translations for specific terms. This can also result in different "non-standard" translations which confuse the reader of the translated text.
Large international concerns often define the terminology (and even longer stretches of text) which should be used in translating their documentation and make use of various types of translation technology to ensure consistency and quality in their translations. Smaller organisations on the other hand often do not have the infrastructure, expertise or technology base to support this. They are usually more concerned with ensuring that "standard" translations are used which are immediately comprehensible to their own customers, than defining their own terminology.
LanguageWire intends to solve these problems by launching an e-marketplace linking customers with translation services and provide added value by making translation technologies available and promoting best practice in terminology and translation memory management.
Creating an Efficient and Transparent Translation Market
"We aim to be the leading independent e-marketplace for the allocation of translation jobs and services between buyers and suppliers"
The company is not itself a translation agency, but rather will position itself as a meta-level player enabling the creation of a transparent translation market. The website will function both as a kind of broker between clients and translation suppliers to provide the "perfect job match" based on profiles of individual translation suppliers and their current availability and as a forum to promote efficiency and new channels of communication and methods for knowledge sharing in the translation industry.
An interactive network will be built up in order to profile each translator according to their strengths including their track record in previous translation jobs. Thus when a client contacts the market place with a specific translation job, LanguageWire will collect quotes from the potential suppliers and present the clients with the quotes and the suppliers' profiles. In order to increase clients' confidence in the translations, evaluations of sample translations may also be provided.
Using Language Technology to Improve Efficiency in Translation
"Our goal is to make it easier for all parties to use translation technologies"
Small companies in Denmark have not generally invested in language technology solutions, partly because of lack of awareness and partly because of the financial and organisational costs involved. LanguageWire aims to raise awareness of the usefulness of language technology, build up communities of users to share knowledge and re-use translations, and promote best practice in these areas (including the validation of translations and the development of standard terminology for particular industries or subject areas).
The website will provide useful information to translators and clients alike, via expert panels and FAQs and, in the longer term, build up shareable translation resources (such as multilingual termbanks and translation memories). "We envisage groups of small or medium sized companies building up shared databases which can be used by translators carrying out specific translations."
The company is well aware of the challenges involved, not least that of persuading clients of the benefits of sharing their data and resolving legal questions of ownership and access to the data. There are also major organisational challenges in setting up validation processes to ensure that only correct and acceptable translations are stored in databases. In order to achieve this, communities of interest including translators, clients and relevant industry associations need to be involved in producing guidelines for best practice.
Choosing the right technology
LanguageWire is currently researching the different language technology options which are available. Although they have not begun testing different applications yet, they have some clear ideas about what they require. They intend to provide a centralised solution on the web and so are looking for the most scalable product with an ASP solution. It should be possible to download relevant parts of a database for translators to carry out specific translation jobs. Ideally the company would like to develop a close working relationship or even enter a partnership with the technology supplier to ensure continued support and development of the technology.
Benefits for both clients and suppliers
The company foresees benefits for both clients and translation suppliers. Clients will benefit from the increased transparency of the market by getting the best price and delivery times, as well as increased confidence in the quality of the translators they employ. Translation suppliers on the other hand will be able to concentrate on their core activity of translating, whilst LanguageWire will take care of marketing and invoicing.
The creation of communities of interest, the use of translation technologies and knowledge sharing will both ease the work of the translator and ensure high quality and consistent translations within specific industries.
Registration in the market place will be free for both clients and suppliers, with LanguageWire only receiving a fee on the successful completion of a translation job. The extra value-added services (such as translation aids and other resources which will come on-line during 2001) will be paid for via licensing agreements.
One step at a time
LanguageWire's ultimate vision is to "build a full service, global and independent e-marketplace for translation services". With such an ambitious project, they recognise the need to take things one step at a time and gradually build up the functionality of the site. The first step will be to build the e-marketplace and, in the first instance, they will target the market for small and medium-sized translation jobs. Language technology solutions and shared data and resources will be added to the site later on. To be able to service the international market the site will also be progressively expanded to cover the major European languages.
Nancy L. Underwood