Posted by: patenttranslator | October 14, 2015

The New Miraculous Way to Translate Anything Into and Out of 70 Languages (Watch How It works: Upload File – Filter Offers – Done!)

During my first job after graduating from university, I was working in 1980 and 1981 as an in-house translator for the Czechoslovak News Agency (ČTK) in Prague. Communication technology back then tended to be big, heavy, noisy and very expensive. Before there was Internet, giant antennas on the roof of the ČTK building on Opletalova Street, near Václavske naměstí, constantly received news feeds by radio from other news agencies, such as UPI (United Press International), Reuters, AFP (Agence France Press), TASS (Telegraph Agency of the Soviet Union), Kyodo Tsushinsha (Kyodo News Agency from Japan) and others.

In the main room of the translation agency, more than a dozen translators (including myself) were laboring in the translators’ pool, sometime referred to as “robotárna” (sweatshop), staring at the latest miraculous technology: computer terminals and perforated sheets of paper with articles from dot matrix printers, while translating news from several languages 24/7 in three shifts (although only one translator was on duty at night from midnight until 8 AM).

Five years later, I was translating during my spare time for a small translation agency in the house where I lived (in addition to my regular job with a small Japanese company as an in-house translator) on a small portable Japanese typewriter placed on a kotatsu, with my feet stuck inside the kotatsu to keep them warm during cold winter months.

The lightweight and super cool typewriter (for its time) had a built-in thermal printer and small one-line display as well as a tiny memory that came in handy for occasional translation projects, mostly from Russian. The small agency was my only client. When I finished the translation, I had to take the bus to the metro station and then the metro to the agency’s office, an hour and a half each way, to deliver a hard copy. There was no Internet yet and most people, including translators, were using “smart typewriters” similar to mine, which were only slowly being replaced by another marvelous invention: dedicated word processing systems built into a device that looked like a bulky typewriter connected to a small green monitor.

Thirty years later, I now work in a spacious translator’s office in my home in Eastern Virginia, equipped with three desktops and two laptops, several printers and a fast Internet connection.

Everything got so much better and easier for translators, thanks to the incredible progress of technology during those three decades, right?

Well, not necessarily. The miraculous progress in communication technology and office automation technology, in conjunction with the ubiquity of high-speed Internet changed our lives profoundly and dramatically. Translators can now check their e-mail on their smart phone and deliver translations from a laptop to anywhere in the world.

But the many ways that translators have been empowered by technology represent only the shiny side of the brightly shining moon of technology that is fully visible everywhere in the modern world. On the dark side of the same moon, out of the view for most people, are the dark truths about how technology can be used to manipulate people.

It all depends on whether we are able to use technology for our own purposes, or whether we allow others to manipulate us by using technology against us and our best interests.

Back in 1985, the translation agency in downtown Tokyo must have seen it as a serendipitous happenstance when, a couple of months after they received my resume while I was still looking for a job in Tokyo, they landed a sizeable Russian to English translation project. I may have been the only person they knew in the entire metropolitan area of Tokyo, where millions of people still commute to work under indescribably horrific conditions every day, who could have done that translation for them because I was physically present not far away from them.

Today, the same translation agency, if it’s still there, will also have many more choices now as it probably has a database of translators, most of whom live in less expensive places and thus can charge less than Tokyoites, even temporary ones. The agency’s client, probably a company also located in Tokyo, will also have many more choices and it would not necessarily need a local agency for the project. It can easily send the translation for example to an individual translator living in a different country.

It’s a different world now, changed by technology, for better in some respects, but not necessarily only for better, because technology is often also used against us. Technology can be used by translators, but it can be also used against translators who may not be paying enough attention to notice how it’s used against them.

Technology can help us to establish and maintain a relationship with a new client, when we’re in control of this technology and when we’re able to use it for our own purposes, for example by having a website that can be found by new clients, or by fine-tuning keywords on a website with a well planned SEO (search engine optimization strategy), or by making sure that the social media platforms available to us for fun and business, such as LinkedIn or Facebook, contain information that may help prospective clients locate our services.

But here is an example (from a junk e-mail that I received several times already this week) of how technology can be used both against translators and people who are looking for a capable translator:

Find translators the smart way! – The search engine where you can easily compare translators’ offers in over 70 languages and sort them by price, quality and delivery time. All calculations are made using our smart-learning algorithm (patent pending) and are based on your specifications.

• Expand your Daily Translation Capacity.
• Expand your Number of Languages & Availability.
• Expand your Translator Database.
• Easy Cost Comparison.
• Save Time & Money. No hidden fees!
How does it work?
1) Upload almost any file.
2) Choose languages and fields of expertise.
3) Compare quotes and choose the offer that fits you best.

Join Smartlation’s Marketplace Today, for FREE!
Never waste time again in the online translation jungle. Simply use for the most cost-effective translation solutions.

If you click on the link, you will be greeted by a stock photo of a cute teenager looking at her smartphone and the words:

Human Translation Marketplace
Find & Compare the best offers for you
Watch How it works

• Upload File
• Filter Offers
• Done!

That’s it, folks! You can see on the website that the pretty girl is ecstatic about what she sees on her smartphone, and you will be too if you entrust your project to this or that site. The job will be done in a jiffy and just right in this or that Human Translation Marketplace because “all calculations are made using our smart-learning algorithm (patent pending) and are based on your specifications” (what specifications? I thought it was just: “Upload File”, Filter Offers, Done?)

When you search for love in all the wrong places, you’re likely to get hurt. And when you search for translators in all the wrong places, namely a sand castle built on “a smart algorithm”, you’re likely to get garbage. The rates that you’ll pay for the translation will probably be reasonable, or even on the low side. But the quality of the same translation when a cheap human is picked by an algorithm on a Human Translation Marketplace (which to me sounds like an antebellum slave market) is going to be atrocious.

There is no smart-learning algorithm (patent pending or not) that will result in a match made in heaven between what a person who is looking for in a good translator and the offerings of yet another Human Translation Marketplace, among dozens of other “platforms” and “marketplaces” in 70 languages. It’s just a lot of marketing baloney. A scheme that may either make somebody a lot of money as intended, or more likely, turn out to be a complete waste of a lot of money.

The algorithm for a match made in heaven would have to make it possible to read your brain, and not even the NSA can do that (yet, although they’re trying very hard to do just that).

Fortunately, there already is a good search engine that lists translators based on their language combinations, expertise and experience – at least those translators who bothered to create a websites and pages that are visible to search engines. Unlike with the Human Translation Marketplace, you do have to use your own brain and do your own thinking when you use that search engine. But it usually works very well.
You know, the search engine that, in spite of the fact that its name was a typo, has been so far beating most other search engines when it comes to finding what it is that you are looking for … the one called Google.



  1. With the yen’s slide against the US dollar over the last year, operating from Japan (in yen) has turned out to be an advantage for J-E work.


  2. Shortly before I moved to Japan in 1985, the yen-to-dollar exchange rate was 1 to more than 300. When I left in 1986, it was 1 to 250. Today it is 1 to 118. Next year, who knows? Exchange rate is a very dangerous thing because it fluctuates so wildly and it is very difficult to create a business that is impervious to these fluctuations when you have customers in different countries.


  3. An excellent edition of your blog Steve! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank you for sharing, Steve. All those platform with stock photos that send gazillions of spam messages both translators and clients – what do they expect? That this will work somehow? That’s just unrealistic. I highly doubt it that anyone would ever use this platform and if they do they only have themselves to blame. I agree that Google + personal website is the best solution for any translator out there.

    Liked by 1 person

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