Inspired by the Boutique Conversation at the TAUS Annual Conference 2017, we share all the ins and outs of the boutique translation. We invite you to think about how translators turn into storytellers in their race against the robots and the possibility of using MT in transcreation.

This article is inspired by the Boutique Conversation held at the TAUS Annual Conference 2017, featuring the panelists Rachel Soulages (Google), Paul Mangell (Alpha), Salvo Giammarresi (PayPal), Christian Arno (Lingo24) and Christopher Dell (Booking.com).

Data and technology are two phenomena that are sweeping across the industry. The abundance of automated, emotionless recreations of texts ultimately drives the demand for stories that trigger the imagination, build customer brands, and engage diversified communities. What is essentially done in an open global economy is to recreate stories in line with specific cultural needs.

The industry is full of automatically-generated content that is often deemed ‘’bad’’, while ‘’good’’, tailored content is scarce and believed to be only achieved through human effort. This is where boutique translation comes in with the help of data that are available throughout the industry. Data allow everyone to gain insights into local markets and specific customer behavior: what they like or don’t like, where they tend to click or not click. This helps taking educated decisions on where to invest when it comes to content creation and transcreation.

Factory or Studio: What is a Boutique Vendor?

When the term ‘boutique’ is mentioned, more often than not people think of a small business environment. What boutique translation can mean in a global online company and how the ‘’boutique’’ dimension can be usefully applied is another question to tackle. 

Is the system of basing translation teams in their native countries a factory due to the massive volumes of content produced daily? Or is it a studio because their content localization process is highly creative and tailored to local in-country needs and expectations. Or can this type of process be classified as a ‘’scaled cottage industry’’? 

Despite all these questions, it’s hard to define what “boutique” really stands for. Another way would be to define boutique vendors as those that are innovative and offer options. Paul Mangell suggested that ‘’any vendor can become a boutique vendor - the concept of “boutique vendor” is not a value judgment.’’

What does a boutique vendor do that an industrial vendor can’t do?

First, the relationship you have with the content itself. Boutique vendors claim to have highly-specialized language knowledge that is very localized. Second, humans can add value to anything they touch. At the same time, boutique vendors now have a huge opportunity following their disruption by recent developments in MT. They can go back and disrupt the marketing side, by offering transcreation as an alternative to MT. Being able to perform a job that is uniquely human - such as creating marketing content or highly localized communications - via translation is a unique opportunity that helps defend boutiques from any attack by MT. 

Boutique vendors can also be defined by what they cannot do. A boutique vendor means you can’t appeal to every industry; you have to carefully choose and examine the fields where you could efficiently transcreate or copy. As being classified as a boutique vendor can also involve a highly creative process, with a more personalized approach and higher quality standards, the fields of expertise need to be very well defined, as in a craft economy. And the extent to which this can be achieved obviously depends on the size of the company. 

The Role of Technology

hands-together.pngTechnology is also vital in synchronizing the whole production process globally. You cannot be everywhere if you have offices globally, so technology comes on stage to keep track of data and the quality of content production to make sure the process works seamlessly. 

Crucially important is that there are people on the different levels of the process - Translators, the localization team, customers, vendors and so on. It’s also important that everybody can go back and see who made a change in the content. Technology, in this sense, plays a major role in transcreation. The panel discussed how Google also focused on this aspect because as a large company they need to keep track of the process while providing creative translations or transcreations of the content. 

A boutique localization vendor needs to understand both their customer’s brand and marketing campaigns. If translators understand that very well, this will inevitably improve quality. Data allow everyone to gain insights into local markets and specific customer behavior: what they like or don’t like, where they tend to click or not click. This helps in taking educated decisions on where to invest when it comes to content creation and transcreation. 

Is MT an Option for Boutique LSPs?

Deciding whether to use MT depends on several things, one of which is the content domain. The Boutique Conversation panel agreed that in the marketing domain, there is not enough volume to require MT. But it is used for email marketing content where generic lines are often repeated. 

MT definitely has its place in a boutique environment. For instance, Booking.com uses MT in narrower domains such as property descriptions where there are many commonalities. However, it is very important to deliver the feeling of human interaction in content produced by MT. This suggests that there may be limited benefits from adapting MT to a boutique environment or in domains that require transcreation.


Would you like more reading material like this?

For detailed analysis of the current and upcoming trends in the translation business, you migh want to download Nunc est Tempus, the most revolutionary TAUS book to date. 

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