Google Translation Hub: game-changer or just another tool in the toolbox?

On Oct. 11, Google announced the launch of a new AI-powered cloud service called Translation Hub. The announcement instantly made waves in the language services industry and beyond, so Nimdzi took a closer look to see what’s really behind the new offering from the tech giant.

What is Google Translation Hub?

In its own words, Google Translation Hub describes itself as “a self-service document translation service for organizations that translate a large volume of documents into many different languages. It is a fully-managed solution and provides easy-to-use user interfaces.”

Now, what does that mean? How it works is that enterprise clients can sign up designated portal users who can then request translations through Translation Hub. The target audience are mostly localization managers or content creators, but also researchers and product and service owners who want to reach a global audience.

Screenshot of Translation Hub setup page (one of several)

Source: Google Translation Hub

What is included in the offering depends on the selected tier, as illustrated in the below pricing overview (screenshot from the website):

Source: Google Translation Hub

On the platform itself, Google Translation Hub makes a direct comparison to traditional Translation Management Systems (TMS) by stating:

Compared to traditional Translation Management Systems, which are process heavy and start with human translators, Translation Hub lets you use AI and then augment results with human translators. You start with machine translations and then, as part of a post-editing step, you can bring in your own human reviewers to review and edit the machine translations. By including both AI and human-editing capabilities, Translation Hub offers timely and cost-effective translations.

Whether the solution can really be compared to a TMS is too early for Nimdzi to judge as it would first require extensive testing. However, from an initial assessment Nimdzi would rather compare the solution to self-service translation platforms backed by machine translation (MT)

How will Google Translation Hub impact the language industry?

While it might sound revolutionary, the concept of self-service translation platforms backed by MT is actually nothing new in the translation industry. In fact, many language service providers (LSPs) offer a similar type of self-service (with some also including packages that provide a project manager (PM) on demand). To illustrate, this year Nimdzi’s Language Technology Atlas featured no less than 31 different “Platform LSPs” that provide a similar offering:

Still, it is Google — one of THE giants in the tech industry and a company who might certainly reach a wider audience than the average provider in the language services space. So it stands to reason that for many in the translation industry the question that came to mind first when reading this announcement was: How will this impact LSPs? Is Google Translation Hub going to be a real competitor or will large enterprises still want to fully outsource translation services?

A nice solution but not a game changer

Our prediction firmly is the latter one. For one main reason: As Nimdzi has been saying for years, LSPs do not sell translations. What they sell is project management. Translation is not the problem for clients, it’s managing the process. What benefit will an internal user — whose job is not translation —  get from being able to see the original and the translation side by side if they are not a professional editor? It’s a nice feature but not necessarily effective. 

Translation Hub will not replace an LSP that works on a project in multiple languages and multiple platforms at the same time. An LSP’s main line of business has always been to manage complexity. In contrast, what Google Translation Hub offers sounds like a simplification or automation of only one part of the localization process.

It’s a nice solution and we look forward to adding it to our Language Technology Atlas next year — but it’s not a game-changer for the industry. 

 

 

Renato Beninatto
Renato Beninatto co-founded Nimdzi to provide insights to investors, analysts, buyers, and suppliers of language services and has written three books on global business.

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