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Takeaways from LocWorldWide

Language Industry News and Events

LocWorldWide, held July 28-30, was the biggest localization event yet to pivot to an online forum. The content was originally scheduled for Berlin in June, and then, of course, the pandemic happened. The virtual event offered an interactive exhibit hall, multiple chat functions, and networking over video. Sessions included a mix of prerecorded and live video streams.

Larry Hochman

Larry Hochman gives his keynote address at LocWorldWide.

The topics selected for the in-person event translated with varying ease to the virtual world. The sessions covered familiar LocWorld ground such as the Process Innovation Challenge, machine translation, quality management, localization engineering, and more. Former European Business Speaker of the Year Larry Hochman gave a keynote exploring the existential takeaways COVID-19 offered — “when trust is gone, it’s over,” he stated, tying together a lesson applicable to government handling of pandemics, romantic partners and business.

Business itself was a popular topic. In one session exploring localization and marketing, Nataly Kelly of HubSpot noted that if you heat-mapped an organization, metaphorically speaking, localization would be a hot spot due to the intersections with every geography and department the company works in. Working in localization is like getting an MBA, she said, so it’s no wonder that some people go on to start their own companies afterwards.

Apart from the content, some attendees expressed bewilderment with the digital tech side of the conference. “I’m trying to distinguish between the limitations of the platform and my own inabilities to use it well,” one participant quipped. The main takeaway from the event, as the first of its kind, is that there are limitations on what works in the digital world, at least with the current platforms for virtual conferences.

What worked well:

  1. Sessions with podcast-style flair.
  2. The ability to surf different concurrent sessions, or watch recorded sessions after the fact.
  3. The camaraderie of “well, this is weird and different” with familiar faces from past conferences.
  4. Virtual networking on the Remo event platform.
  5. Participants expressed happiness that the price tag was a fraction of the cost of paying to fly across the world and attend an in-person event.

What didn’t work well:

  1. the iVent interface, which seemed beset by user experience issues and bandwidth problems — sessions timed out occasionally, there were sound issues at times, and so on. Organizers expressed the same frustrations on the back end, since the platform seemingly did not deliver on everything it had promised.
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Translated to provide EU Parliament with real-time speech translation AI

AI, Business News

Debates will be transcribed and translated by a new state-of-the-art MT system that keeps humans in the loop

blue and white flags on poleTranslated has been selected by the European Parliament to automatically transcribe and translate parliamentary multilingual debates in real-time, covering the 24 official languages used by the institution. The service will be provided by new software available both through fully-localized web and mobile applications, and live streaming APIs for third-party developers. It it purported to be the first human-in-the-loop speech machine translation (MT) system, and should leverage context and user feedback to adapt the output in less than one second.

The product will be developed in collaboration with two companies that have already worked with Translated in building products for professional translators: Fondazione Bruno Kessler (FBK), a world-leading research center in MT and automatic speech recognition (ASR); and PerVoice, an ASR world-leading provider. Within the next 12 months, the consortium will release a prototype to be tested by the European Parliament. This solution will be considered alongside solutions provided by two other groups, following rules put forth in “Live Speech to Text and Machine Translation Tool for 24 Languages.” The best-performing tool will be confirmed as the official one for the following two years.

The new product is not a simple concatenation of ASR and MT, but a new, fully-integrated system in which the MT algorithms are tolerant of ASR errors. This approach will not only help deliver more contextualized translations, but it will also open up the opportunity to improve the quality of the output while the plenary session is happening. This is possible thanks to the human correction feedback that the tool allows by both the end-users and a team of professional translators.

“For this project, we are bringing together ten years of research in machine translation and speech recognition,” says Simone Perone, Translated’s vice president of product management. Some of the new AI models that will be used have already been put to work successfully in products such as ModernMT (an MT that improves from corrections and adapts to the context), Matecat (a computer-assisted translation tool that makes post-editing easy), and Matesub (the first subtitling tool offering suggestions during the transcription, now in beta and due to be released in September 2020).

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Multilingual Communities in AU Need Access to Health Info


Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has come under fire recently for how his administration has handled Australia’s efforts to translate COVID-19 messages and properly notify the country’s multilingual communities.

The criticism follows a new wave of COVID-19 cases that occurred in central Melbourne, where 3,000 residents among nine public housing high rise towers have been placed under a hard quarantine.

Responding to the news of the spike in cases, Australian Parliamentary member Andrew Giles tweeted, “When it comes to public health information, we can’t have a one-size-fits-all approach. In a multicultural society, we have to communicate effectively to the diversity of our communities — and we have to empower CALD communities when it comes to getting the right messages out.”

CALD refers to Australia’s “Culturally and linguistically diverse populations,” which it defines as people “who were born overseas, have a parent who was born overseas or speaks a variety of languages.”

While the Australian Department of Health’s website has dedicated a portion of its website to provide language resources and posted periodical updates since May, it is not clear how accessible the predominantly English website has been to people who speak English as a foreign language. Many issues can arise in the language localization process, including the target reader completely missing out on the information.

Giles, along with other members of parliament, are calling on the prime minister to address the system’s lack of resources for its multilingual communities by funding a $500,000 measure that will go toward resources to translate and distribute “COVID-19 newsletters, publications, signage, websites, advertisements, brochures, video, radio, and public service announcements from existing official information services,” as well as prove $5,000 to eligible community leaders to engage with their communities and spread the latest information.

With a population in Victoria alone of approximately 1.5 million speakers of languages other than English, 17% of whom have a low proficiency in English, the state, its capital of Melbourne, and the larger Australian government have a significant task ahead of them to reach its citizens and quell the recent spread of the virus.

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Appen (ASX:APX) Targeted By Hackers

AI, Business News, Machine Learning

Appen Attacked by Hackers

Investors received multiple alerts about a security breach at Appen.

Appen Limited (ASX:APX), a multilingual AI enablement and machine learning company headquartered in Sydney, issued a report on July 30th (Australian time) that malicious actors had hacked a third-party provider and stolen access to its systems. Appen is listed on the Australian stock market, ASX.

The third-party system was being used on a trial basis and Appen ceased using it immediately. The company believes that the attack was random and not targeted specifically to its repositories, since other companies were also victims of similar incidents. Even though it was determined that the hackers gained access to Appen’s Annotation Platform, which contained customer and crowd names, company names, email addresses, encrypted passwords, IP addresses, and historical login and log off times, and some phone numbers, the IT security team asserts that the incident is limited in nature and not material.

According to the release issued to the Australian Stock Exchange, Appen — which analyzes data for eight of the largest ten technology companies in the world — has not suffered any interruption to its operations and has reported the incident to legal authorities.

The statement affirms that customer AI training data, the core business of the company, is stored separately and there is no evidence that it was stolen. The unauthorized access was detected as soon as it occurred, and Appen took the necessary steps to secure its systems. Relevant clients were contacted and had their passwords and security tokens reset. A cyber forensics firm was hired to assist in the investigation.

According to Dow Jones, Appen shares were up 1.2% at AUD 36.11. After a previous filing announcement before the breach, shares had been up as much as 3%.

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Straker Posts Record Growth Amid COVID-19 Filing Reveals

Business News

Grant & Merryn Straker

Straker Translations co-founders Grant and Merryn Straker

New Zealand’s Straker Translations (ASX:STG) increased revenues by 28% in June 2020 compared to the same month in 2019, according to quarterly filings with the Australian Stock Exchange, where the company is listed. CEO Grant Straker told Multilingual News that “we are happy with the fantastic result by the Straker team delivering for our customers in crazy times. I feel like I could write a book about that quarter!”

Straker’s market capitalization is approximately $41 million. Its stock price went up 7% on this announcement.

Media, mergers and acquisitions

The company’s growth is tied to the media segment and new enterprise opportunities in video conferences and online business, fueled by advances in its AI-driven proprietary technology which includes speech recognition and subtitling features. While revenue from traditional work was affected during the year, it was offset by growth in new market segments until last June, when all workstreams picked up the pace. The revenue run rate would put the company’s annualized revenue at NZD 31.7 million ($21.1 million).

Straker has invested efforts in R&D projects, as the company believes that AI-powered services for the media segment like subtitling and advanced dubbing will bring positive results for the business. Another accelerator for growth will be the restart of M&A activities with a goal to complete at least one deal before the end of Fiscal Year 2021, backed by the strong capital position and stable cash flow of the company.

Grant states that “technology is at the heart of our customer value proposition. We have brought machines and humans together in a way that no other translation company has been able to do, and this has allowed us to continually decrease production time while increasing accuracy.”

New blood

Earlier this month, Straker Translations announced the appointment of David Ingram as its new Chief Financial Officer after the resignation of Haydn Marks in June. Also in July, Amanda Cribb joined the board of Straker as an independent non-executive director.

The full report to the shareholders can be found on the ASX website.

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