Vietnam Corpus Linguistics (VCL)

Researching and Developing Corpus Linguistics (Vietnam)

Vietnamese translation service market heating up

Posted by corling on November 10, 2011

Photo: ITI - VNU

The phrase “dich may” (translating with machine) cannot be found in the Vietnamese dictionary yet. However, the machine translation market has been heating up in the digital era.

A group of scientists intended to celebrate the 66th Vietnamese National Day September 2, in a special way: debuting the machine translation market. This is the group of computer programmers, born in 1982-1987, who wrote a special software piece – Bocohan. Dr Nguyen Ai Viet, the head of the group, called the software Bocohan to make the day the product was completed – December 30. On the same day in 1408, Vietnam won in the glorious fight against the Ming Dynasty’s army.

Part 1: Demand increasingly high

A student of the Hanoi Medical University said that she has to look for the reliable translators who can help translate medical professional documents from English to Vietnamese. Every member in her class has been assigned to translate a page of a book. And when all of them finish translating, the lecturer will have a book which updates all the latest healthcare achievements of the world.

However, translating healthcare documents proves to be a difficult task for many people, including students. Therefore, the medical students may pay up to 10 dollars per page to translators. However, it is very difficult to find reliable service providers.

In general, it is very costly to translate documents from English for special purposes (ESP). One would have to pay 20-30 dollars per page for translating legal documents. The translation of World Bank’s legal documents can be paid up to 60 dollars per page.

Therefore, though the translation market in Vietnam remains a fledgling, the total turnover from translation service in 2010 was still high at no less than 30-40 million dollars, according to Dr Nguyen Ai Viet, Director of the Information Technology Institute under the Hanoi National University.

Non-machine translators can’t get contracts

A question has been raised regarding who can obtain lucrative translation contracts. Viet said that the biggest piece of the cake, estimated to be worth 40-50 million dollars in 2011, falls into the hand of foreign translation companies. Why?

One may thing that foreign companies are more advantageous than domestic ones because they have more qualified translators. However, experts have affirmed that the biggest advantage that helps foreign companies inferior to domestic ones is the support of translation machines or translation software pieces.

Dr Dao Hong Thu, a well known linguist, said that the pretax profit of the global machine translation market of big translation companies alone was 13 billion dollars in 2010, while the figure is expected to be double this year.

In the digital era, translators not only use their heads in the translation work. Nowadays, most international translation companies only recruit the translators who can use the translation software pieces. Translation machines prove to be the efficient supporters who help translators increase their translation speed by 3-4 times.

“The number of translators who can use translation software account for no less than 83 percent of the total professional translators worldwide,” Dr Viet said.

Meanwhile, the non-machine translation market in Vietnam has been steadily growing with increasingly high turnover. Phuong Nam Company, for example, translates eight books a year and earns the profits of no less than 10 billion dong. However, the turnover from manual translation market proves to be too small if compared with that of the machine translation market.

The Vietnamese translation market is believed to be worth no less than 200-300 million dollars a year. However, foreign translation companies have jumped into the market for the last many years, who have obtained big contracts with big organizations and economic groups such as Samsung, Toyota, Panasonic, WB. Technique or legal documents of the institutions have never been assigned to Vietnamese groups of translators, because the groups cannot meet the requirements in quality and deliveries.

In other countries, the pay is made based on the numbers of words, while in Vietnam, the pay is calculated based on the number of pages. The Ministry of Finance is now paying 45,000 dong per page for the translation from English to Vietnamese, and 50,000 dong per page from Vietnamese to English. For the last many years, a lot of government agencies and institutions cannot find good service providers because of the overly low pay they offer.

Part 2: The machine translation market springs up in Vietnam

A lot of professional translators and interpreters swear not to use translation machines, because they believe that the grey matter in translators’ heads is considered the most important thing in the job. However, they may change their mind in the near future.

The Vietnamese translation market is believed to be worth no less than 200-300 million dollars a year. However, the biggest pieces of the cake, according to analysts, have fallen into the hands of foreign companies.

In principle, domestic companies and freelance translators can expect to find clients from state agencies or organizations. However, it is always difficult for the organizations to find good translators because of the low fees they offer.

After many years of keeping the same translation rates at 45,000-50,000 dong per page, the Ministry of Finance has decided to raise the rates to 70,000 dong and 90,000 dong for English-Vietnamese and Vietnamese-English translation, respectively. Besides, it is also offering different rates which are well higher – 140,000 dong per page for English-Vietnamese, and 150,000 dong for Vietnamese-English.

These rates prove to be closer to the market prices at 7 dollars and 10 dollars per page. Dr Viet said he cannot understand why there exist such different rates.

A lot of professional translators and interpreters swear not to use translation machines, because they believe that the grey matter in translators’ heads is considered the most important thing in the job. Meanwhile, people also do not believe in translation machines.

However, it is now the time for Vietnamese people to get enlightened, as the importance of machine translation has been recognized for the last half a century in the world.

Dr Viet, who heads a big information technology center belonging to one of the biggest universities in Vietnam, has been joining forces with his team to write a translation software piece, hoping to create the most reliable translation machine in Vietnam.

“Our software piece is altogether different from Google in both the procedure and quality,” Viet said confidently.

“No one can understand the Vietnamese language better than Vietnamese people,” Viet said. “Therefore, information technology is just a tool to create the software piece. The quality of machine translation is decided by the quality of the language support software,” he continued.

The National Translation & Interpretation Center under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, has ordered the English-Vietnamese translation machine with the group of scientists headed by Dr Viet. The translation machine has been built up with the total cost of 100,000 dollars.

In fact, the English-Vietnamese translation machine of Google is just priced at less than 10 million dong, but it cannot provide the things Vietnamese people need.

Viet said that with the “effective weapon” – the translation machine – he feels confident in any competition with other rivals. The machine allows translators to increase the translation speed by three times, while ensuring the high quality of services.

Dr Viet has revealed that he has accepted a job of translating for the Ministry of Information and Communication at the very competitive rates of 100,000-150,000 dong per page. It did not take Viet much exertion with the job, because Viet has the excellent translation machine.

The scientist has invested 600,000 dollars to design the two-way (English-Vietnamese and Vietnamese-English) translation support system. The system made debut in 2009 which has been upgraded regularly.

Viet is cherishing a plan to organize a machine translation trade fair to talk about the machine translation market in Vietnam. The special market has been scheduled to open in September, when Vietnam celebrates the 66th anniversary of the National Day.

However, Viet admitted that people still keep indifferent to translation machines. A project on creating a translation machine which can give support in translating six main languages in the world has been put forward, which may cost 1.5 million dollars, has not been welcomed.

Source: Tien phong

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