Across LSP Day: from the Future according to Star Trek Technology to the Benefits of Training and more!

By Arancha Caballero

I had the chance to attend the meeting that CAT (computer aided translation) developer Across held in Cologne, the city with the most impressive cathedral I have ever seen. On the previous day, the meeting was targeted for corporates, end customers using the Across software. Across has a tremendous market share in Germany and Central Europe, particularly within the technical documentation industry. That´s why is a frequent tool for our company, when translating from German into Spanish or Catalan. On the following day, translation companies were invited. As a Language Service Provider (LSP), Nuadda was invited to attend for the third year, ever since we bought our first Across LSP server licences.

For us, it is a good opportunity to network with current and potential customers, partners, colleagues and professionals using this tool. After greeting some of the Across staff—Tanja Wendling and Lena Sarbacher, always as friendly and helpful as the rest of the team is—and other colleagues, Across CEO Gerd Janiszewski made the official opening, talking about some strategic decisions and doing a recap on the previous day. This included the remarks from Localisation Departments of corporates stating that they would like to pay more for their translation requests but are constrained by their Procurement Departments; this accounts for the pressure on prices we observe.

The following hour the sessions became more technical, as CSO Christian Weih and Head of Development Sergey Dubrovskiy made an interesting summary of the main features introduced in version 6.3. At this very same meeting last year, they realised that Across users were asking for a “deeper” development rather than a “wider” one, in other words rather than adding features, what users demand is to improve what has already been developed. In my opinion, this is a very good business lesson—there are times when you should focus on what your clients demand, while others you should be thinking in innovation and creating the need for new features or services. According to this focus, in the last maintenance version, as they called it, some features saw their speed enhanced and some filtering and sorting capabilities were added. These are small details that can simply make your life easier and your work more efficient. They also commented on crossMarket, a platform for connecting companies and translators using Across. And remember—do not look in crossMarket for your own company—it is German software—it does not make sense to search for yourself so the software will not allow it!

In my opinion, this is a very good business lesson—there are times when you should focus on what your clients demand, while others you should be thinking in innovation and creating the need for new features or services.

The following session was a case study from Dominique Puls, from tds Technik Sprachendienst, a long-established German translation company. She guided us throughout their growth as a company, hand in hand with Across. It has been a lifetime journey and a clear example of how you need to be technically solid in our industry. That can make the difference, so make sure to always assign financial resources to your IT budget in order to help your business.

After a delicious meal (yes, the curry was very nice) and some networking, we had a really awesome keynote. I am no sci-fi freak, I do not have interest in this, and I am basically illiterate when it comes to Star Trek or Star Wars, so it might have been a boring hour, but I really enjoyed Dr. Hubert Zitt’s speech on Star Trek and how technical visions have become reality. An expert on this popular series, he was even wearing a proper Starfleet uniform! A professor of Computer Engineering, he walked us on different devices (featured in TV chapters or movies sometimes over 40 years old) before they were actually created in real life. This is part of the success of Star Trek and a lesson for all involved in strategy.

Author Gene Roddenberry talked with different professionals such as doctors, engineers, mathematicians and pilots in order to ask them how they imagined themselves doing their work in the future. Of course, the latest developments on instant translation and interpreting are so similar to the Universal Translator and the Communicator appearing in the series and movies that it feels we are already in the future. It is worth thinking what will the future be for the translation companies and professionals.

Across training expert Lissa Sum did a good job on debunking some myths about working with Across. It always made me smile that any Across staff acknowledges that it is (or was) a very closed system, not that easy to use. For instance, as long as the settings are not blocked, there are actually many things you can do: change preferences, add your own data, export TMs (translation memories), TBs (terminology databases) and bilingual files, archive projects when you are done, automate tasks… but in order to do so, you need to know your tool better. Lissa reminded us about the opportunities for doing so—trainings, manuals, webinars and moreover the LSP certification program.

After another networking opportunity, a panel with industry experts sat in front of the audience to talk about the future of translation quality. It was very interesting to note that although there is some consensus that quality is not a selling point, we do not seem to agree on what quality is and means.

It was very interesting to note that although there is some consensus that quality is not a selling point, we do not seem to agree on what quality is and means.

Some stated that an error-free translation might not be a quality translation. It was suggested that we might need to talk and differentiate between machine-quality and human-quality translations. The Across CEO highlighted that someone had mentioned the previous day that when a translator was confronted with a quality issue, he answered that he had received no specifications. When the client realised they had to write 20 pages to reflect the quality expectations they had, it was clear to them that there was no way to achieve that for the price they were paying.

More issues were covered, more things were learned but to know those, you should attend next year!