Filip Hochel: Human Brain Will Always Win over a Machine in Translation

09/04/2012 16:04

By courtesy of Filip Hochel


Do you know what to do to be hired by one of the biggest translation agencies in Slovakia? Do you think it is “a mission impossible” for you because you have no experience? Do you think that you as a translator have to work with translation software? Do you want to know what the situation on the translation market is like? If so, take a few minutes and read the following interview with the founder and owner of the translation agency Tlmočník Translations and alumnus of our university, Mgr. Filip Hochel.


Perspectives (PP): Why did you decide to open a translation agency?

Filip Hochel (FH): It was a coincidence. It was during my university studies when I started to combine the teaching of English with some short translation assignments. I told myself I should do more translation as it was what I had studied. As things rolled on, I received more and more phone calls from people who asked me to do translations into languages I did not speak. Maybe I am a kind of person who does not want to disappoint anyone and thus I started to pass on the work to people I knew to meet each demand there was. In 2002 there was no other way around it, so I had to take out a trade licence and later set up my own company. We could say it was a natural development.


PP: What do you think about the fact that the profession of translators and/or interpreters is not protected and there is no chamber of translators and interpreters?

FH: I think it's a pity. In my opinion, a professional chamber would be a very useful thing – and beneficial. Translators and interpreters would have their representation vis-à-vis state authorities, important stakeholders, and there would be space for possible lobbying. On the other hand, clients would receive services at a certain quality level under the chamber’s umbrella. I think the existence of such a chamber would make translators and interpreters more disciplined under agreed conditions, and at the same time it could provide them with a wider range of possibilities of professional growth under the protection of generally agreed rules. Such a chamber could also serve as a tool for raising awareness of our profession.


PP: What do you require from your future employees?

FH: Requirements differ depending on the position a person is being hired for. If you mean outsourced translators and interpreters, in the course of time we have developed conditions which must be met by our translators/interpreters when we are buying their services. As we are an agency that works with a vast range of language combinations, it puts great responsibility on our project managers to maintain the required quality. This is often the case with rare language combinations...


PP: Do you also hire graduates without experience?

FH: We are always happy to extend our database with new people. If someone has no experience, s/he has to be prepared for a rather slow start of his/her career. When you are at university and you study a program specialised in translation and interpreting, you should at least try to practice in a real world. Whether you decide to get a temporary job in an international company or a summer job related to languages, it all counts. Just try to imagine your prospective employer or a person you potentially would like to cooperate with reading your CV. You can sell yourself on the job market only if you offer something that catches their interest. We in Tlmočník Translations know that it takes time to grow truly professional, but we keep our door open to people who have a will to work and prove their talents.


PP: Do you also hire people who did not study translation and interpreting?

FH: Yes, this is often the case with languages that are not so frequently required on the local CE market. It would be great to be able to work with qualified translators/interpreters only, but this is just not always possible. Sometimes it is great just to find someone with translation/interpreting skills who is available to do the job. If you look, for example, at how many people have knowledge of Korean or Albanian, you will realize what a struggle it is to find someone to do such work for you.


PP: Do translators in your agency have to use any translation software?

FH: Please do not think of it as if that was a necessity. These tools can be of a great advantage with more extensive texts when you need to harmonise the terminology across the vast number of interlinked meanings or you deal with some technical terms where there is a risk of getting lost. So it's more the question of the text type you are going to translate. CAT tools are not a must but at the same time they bring reduced costs by reducing your effort in the texts I mentioned. I know that some translators/interpreters have never got used to them, but I do not think of them as if they were so-to-say the old school generation. I do not think translation is a kind of activity that one can reduce to pure mechanics. I guess the human brain will always win over a machine in translation.


PP: What price for a standard page is, in your opinion, honest and ethical?

FH: This is a tricky question. The standard page is a measurement of an extent and not of work that must be done to complete a translation. Therefore, you must, first of all, take into consideration what effort you personally have to make to do the job. I am aware of the ongoing discussion about this question, but, in my opinion, one should always consider how much he gives and how much he gets. A good translation is the product of knowledge, experience, skills and understanding.


PP: Did the economic crisis influence the translation sector?

FH: Definitely yes, there is an influence. We do not stand alone in providing our services to our clients who have their clients and all together we are part of our economy. Economy to a large extent shapes the times we live in. It is only natural for companies to reduce costs of all their purchased services, including translation services.


PP: Whats the situation on the market now? Is there enough work for translators? What about competition?

FH: This is closely related to what I have already said. Figures show a decline in almost all sectors of the economy. Many entrepreneurs have closed down their businesses and have been forced to lay off people. Good times are over. If nothing extraordinary happens, we can expect stagnation for several years. On the positive note, the market will be once again cleared and survivors will be winners. So, in this respect, there are enough translators but too little work to do. 


                                                                                  Zuzana Maderová 



Date: 09/04/2012

By: ...

Subject: what price?

A bit of a disappointment there. He could at least have made a statement about things that we already know- translators are overloaded and underpaid. Pity that he avoided the answer.

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