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- About Lilt
A couple of weeks ago, Lilt, a new online CAT tool developed by scientists and trying to shake up the world of translations, published the results of its own research about the productivity improvements the platform wants to bring to translators. According to the platform developers, Lilt outperformed Trados with an average productivity increase of However, the fact that the fastest translator achieved an output of 1, words per hour gained much less attention.
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Will Lilt set the new standard? This article is nominated for the ProZ. Read more here and vote here. The platform is entirely cloud-based and combines human translations with machine translations. It has interesting features like auto-suggest based on previously translated segments and an intelligent pre-translation feature with smart tag placement that does not require editing segments anymore.
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Lilt explicitly tries to shake up the translation industry. Machine translation is fast and cheap, but quality ranges from surprisingly good to comically bad. In other words, Lilt wants to provide faster and cheaper human translations by combining human and machine translations in one screen while adding technology to produce better results. Currently, the platform does not support many languages, but it is progressively rolling them out.
To show the implications of this goal in real life Lilt set up a productivity contest against Trados. Five in-house English—French translators from e2f , a French translation agency that I know from experience has high quality standards, worked one hour with Trados and one hour in Lilt, after which the results were analyzed.
The translations were coming from two different genres: UI strings from a software product and a hotel chain loyalty brochure. In the case study PDF that was published on their website Lilt explains the study method in detail. As far as I can judge, it was a sound methodological approach, designed to prevent giving an unfair advantage to either tool while stimulating translators to translate unknown content as quickly and accurately as they could.
For the UI data, translators translated The maximum throughput was The table below, taken from the case study, shows the study results for the two genres after correction. According to Lilt the maximum productivity was 1, raw words before correction per hour — a staggering amount. As the table above shows, an output of With about seven years in the industry I am quite a newbie. However, that experience, combined with my keen interest in translation technology, has enabled me over the years to explore new depths and to start working without any limitations.
I soon learned from companies that a translator should translate about 2, words per day or words an hour.
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I am not sure where this amount stems from but I think it is based on a standard from a couple of decades ago — before CAT tools made their way into our industry.
Seven years ago 2, words per day was a maximum standard and translating more words was not only unthinkable but even undesirable.
Much has changed. Many companies I work for respect translators who are able to translate 3, words per day.
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The companies that try to win new clients by promising a turn-around time that had never been thought possible in the industry or that is simply unreasonable , or who cut rates so far that they increase the throughput exponentially in order to earn a living, wish for or even demand a higher volume per day. Among translators, standards have shifted as well. The translation industry has broken adrift — even while groundbreaking technologies like machine translation are not yet fully employed and sometimes even rejected.
According to a Proz. In , a poll conducted on the same site showed that a majority of the translators A poll in October showed that Several factors make it impossible to conclude that productivity increases, but the discussions for each poll make clear that 2, words a day is still a highly regarded standard. Some translators are able to translate many more words on a day, but in the poll only 2.
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Some translators admit publicly that they can translate more than words a day, but they are only a minority. In the Lilt study one of the translators was able to translate 1, words in one hour — about key strokes per minute.
Because the study only took two hours it is difficult to make conclusions about daily output. Thirteen hundred sixty-seven words is nevertheless a huge amount, more than five times the old average of words per hour. The amount of words is further confirmed by the results of the polls cited above, which were conducted before Lilt was even introduced.
So yes, translating 1, words an hour is possible. Furthermore, I know two translators who are able to translate 1, words per hour — a confirmation from my own practice.
I have been able to translate 1, new words and even more in a few cases per hour as well but that is only possible in certain circumstances: you need to have the right resources, a fast PC and translation memory, segments of the right length segments with only two words seem to consume more time for updating the TM than segments with more words and a good dose of coffee. But afterwards checking and editing will reduce the average amount so that a raw 1, words is different from a net 1, words per hour.
And translating 1, words per hour does not necessarily mean that you will translate 8, words in an eight-hour working day.
I think that most translators are unable to produce 1, words per hour, but those who do, do not speak about it that loudly. I understand. Admitting that you are able to work as a robot almost automatically leads to questions about quality — even when you have always delivered the best possible translations while translators with lower daily volumes can evidence the contrary in some cases.
To be sure, when I read the results of the Lilt study I became afraid. Publicly admitting that translators can produce more than 1, words per hour can quickly result in greater demands from the translation industry and a much higher burden. It also can reduce the quality of newly generated translations, which can influence society as a whole.
If we sometimes are driven crazy with lower workloads, would we go mad from translating 1, words per hour?
These are questions that are still unanswered. However, the future seems dark in some respects.
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On the other hand, it can also be said that there is not much to fear. A new increase with the same amount is far more difficult to reach, but perhaps the industry will enable us to do it without going insane.
At the same time not every field will lend itself to similar work rates: some specializations will always be behind because of quality constraints. And finally, translators decide the productivity of the industry as a whole.
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Those who want to translate 2, words can still do that and be regarded for their quality, while those who translate the same amount in two hours can be regarded for their quality and fast delivery. They can even serve the same clients and work together, ensuring that every need is met. Let translators do what they can and want to and let quality, rates and delivery be the imperatives for the whole industry.
The results are of course still impressive and do support the arguments for using machine translation in one way or the other, but I wonder how these would compare with any modern tool where the translators knew how to make the most of the productivity features in the tools being used Trados, Studio, memoQ, DVX or whatever , and where the project managers prepared files beforehand with similar knowledge of what can be gained.
Translators working in fields they know exceedingly well — most often technical translators — have been producing at 1, words per hour for at least the last 3 decades.
As an experiment, just to see if I could outrun the software, I once dictated from finished English text so, not a translation and was able to vocalize words per minute, with only 3 errors in the final software-produced text.
Again, not a translation, but this software is brutally and elegantly fast. More details here P.
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The translator keeps all cost benefits and leveraging from dictation in his or her own pocket. Now that my volumes are greater than ever, I have earnestly taken to using Dragon to dictate as much as possible.
The biggest obstacle in the begginning is the inaccuracy, but the software learns to recognise my voice over time and I spend less and less time correcting words that the computer misheard.
As I need to review and edit the text anyway, I find that dictation plus a careful proofreading still saves me more time in the final analysis than would typing plus proofreading.
Translating Swedish to English, I can dictate about words per hour raw terms — before editing. Danish and Norwegian take me longer as I am not as fluent, but even then I easily come in at words per minute.
Given that I am at a stage now where I turn away more work than I accept due simply to volume, I see dictation as the only means forward in my business. They were then given to a copy typist who gave me a draft to edit.
I then progressed to dictating tapes, which were transcribed by an audio typist. Our combined effective rate went up to around words per hour, including proofreading and editing. In the conclusions to the experiment nothing in mentioned about individual human factors that would make any projections of the results merely a guess.
The fact that you can translate 1, words in one hour does not mean you can do the same for the next seven hours. Brain fatigue and high stress level will either slow you or your creativity down.
I might do , words in one day, but definitely not the day after. Despite autosuggestion much depends on your ability to type, how you use the keyboard and your type of keabord — unless you use speech recognition software not available in my native language. Or it simply just depends on how your mood is. Also, very few freelance translators not working as in-house translators can dedicate the whole day to translation.
In a hypothetical 8 hours working day freelancers also reply to mails and they can be quite a lot , communicate with clients, make offers, issue invoices etc. Not to mention the source text quality.
Ever tried a 50 pages manual written in bad English by Japanese? I know that the answer is that Lilt — or any other software for that matter — boosts your productivity. To that extent, I agree, and the parameters in itself for this experiment might even be reasonable, but the set up environment is unlikely representative. I agree that it should be up to an individual translator to work at a speed they are comfortable with.
If you want to speed up that much, I recommend Google Translate. Besides this joke, I want to point out that a translator is not just a photocopier between original text and translated text. Every word and every sentence has to go the way up to your brain and back into fingers or voice.
So there is a limit somewhere. And as long as this is necessary, 1. One lesson and so many business simulations as in that once you give company secretaries leeway pinching every penny out of an agreement your company will be doomed like the Japanese company which recently when belly up for having a book MTed without proper post editing.
As it provides them with a lot of ammunition for their pennypinching sprees. Thank you for your feedback.