Post date: Monday, March 25, 2019 - 14:27

It seems that a new pricing model is being shaped, and it can finally put an end to the longstanding debate on how machine translation post-editing (known as MTPE, but renamed as revision by TAUS lately) can be fairly priced. The problem is not new: ever since machine translation (MT) appeared (and seduced with the reduction of costs on the buyer side), there has been a lively debate going on over how this relatively new service can be appropriately paid for. Both sides have understandable viewpoints: clients would like to spare money on their investment in MT, while translators would like to earn as much as with translation (at least timewise). Let us examine the shortcomings of the previous pricing models and the ways forward.

Forget about word-based and time-based pricing

What worked as a unit of measurement for translation and even for revision, unfortunately does not work for MTPE. The biggest issue with MTPE is that the time spent on a segment can vary greatly depending on the quality of the MT output: reading a badly translated segment plus deleting and retranslating it from scratch obviously takes longer than simply translating it. However, it can easily happen that the quality is perfect, or close to perfect, and the reviewer can quickly move on to the next segment. The situation is further complicated by the fact that with the widespread use of neural machine translation (NMT) the occurrence of grammatically correct but otherwise mistranslated sentences is becoming more frequent. If not thoroughly checked by the reviewer, these segments can be mistakenly skipped in time-sensitive projects. (Other dangers of NMT are detailed in another of our blog articles.)

It is understandable from the above that a price based on the source wordcount is not practical, because it is not representative of the work effort, especially when the text contains both perfect segments and those that need retranslating. An hourly price (based on the reported number of hours spent) is not ideal either, as clients prefer predictable prices, not to mention the fact that started hours often count as full hours at some places, and this rounded-up pricing can significantly increase the costs.

A slightly more sophisticated method, pricing based on the so-called ‘editing distance’, is on the rise. This means that the CAT (computer assisted translation) tool logs how much the final improved version of the segment differs from the original machine translanslation. After that, several pricing categories can be applied that are linked to the percentage of changes: for example, fully retyped sentences are paid at full price, segments modified less than 50% are paid at half price, while unchanged segments are paid at a quarter of the full price or even less.

Minimum charge and maximum charge at the same time?

Pricing based on the editing distance may be the fairest method. However, it needs to be more sophisticated if the ultimate goal is fair payment. Normally, when using CAT software, not only machine translated content is used, but also matches from the translation memory (TM), which are basically approved, reliable translations. Exact and fuzzy matches are translated from the TM, and only the ‘no match’ segments are pre-translated using the MT engine.

Some of the big language service providers have already found the right recipe: they subtract the editing distance (in percent) from 100%, and the segment is paid based on that percentage as if it were a fuzzy match from the TM. That is, if 20% was rewritten, the linguist receives the same amount of money as for an 80% match in the TM.

By ‘maximum charge’ I mean that the client calculates what would be the highest cost of the project if all the MT segments were fully retranslated and paid at full rate. At the end of the process, the amount to be paid is modified based on the real editing effort (and not the time spent). If a minimum charge can be added (which is needed in order to make small jobs worth dealing with), the solution might be perfect for both parties.

Even if the final cost is not predictable, the client is aware of the maximum they could pay, while the translator is aware of the minimum.

Other issues

Of course, there are other questions, for instance: how could we prevent translators from rewriting fully correct sentences? A translator could introduce some edits into appropriate machine translated segments just to attract a higher price category. This cannot be completely avoided; however, if we suppose that everybody likes to finish their tasks in a timely manner, and get to the end of a translation quickly, then unnecessary editing will probably not happen very often.

A somewhat related problem is the fact that the review step cannot be skipped if the client needs a reviewed quality, as post-editors are replacements for the translators rather than the reviewers in the process. In other words, machine translation is there for speeding up the translation step, not for replacing it.

If the buyer side of the language industry eventually recognizes what a responsible and accurate job it is to post-edit machine translation, then a mutually beneficial consensus can be reached around the above-mentioned pricing model.

Post date: Monday, September 10, 2018 - 14:38

As a Hungarian translation company, we often face the wide-spread opinion that Hungarian is one of the most difficult languages of the world. However, it has a lot of simplicity, too, compared to some Western European languages. And, as the humorous linguists often say, any language can be learned in 5 years, as 5-year-old kids speak their mother tongue fluently and correctly in every country of the world. Let us see some of these ‘legendary’ difficulties and also some forgotten easy points! We leave it up to you to decide if you consider these peculiarities worth the ‘most difficult European language’ badge.

Easy points:

First of all, unlike German or French (but similarly to English), Hungarian has no genders for nouns (or adjectives). So when you learn a new noun, you don’t have to learn its gender, too. Moreover, Hungarian is very PC in this respect: we have one personal pronoun (ő) for ‘he’ and ‘she’; instead of brothers and sisters, we prefer to use the word testvér (meaning ‘sibling’) when referring to all of them. Also, profession names apply to both males and females, e.g. rendőr or igazgató (‘police officer’ or ‘director’), even if the suffix -nő (‘woman’) can be added for clarification.

Hungarian has no future tense (and only one past tense for expressing all kinds of past actions and events). For describing actions in the future, we use the present tense and occasionally add the word majd (circa ‘later on’).

No plural is necessary after numbers. Although this may seem strange for some foreign learners of Hungarian, as we DO have plural forms, still, it is easier not to add any suffixes to nouns. ‘One tree’ is egy fa in Hungarian, and ‘two trees’ is simply két fa.

You pronounce everything the way you spell it. Although we have a lot of sounds, including vowels that might be hard to learn, when you see a written word, there is only one way to pronounce it. No guessing, no exceptions.

Finally, there are no dialects which are very different from one another, nor accents. Of course, as in every language, there are minor geographical and sociolinguistic variations, but all speakers of Hungarian understand each other perfectly and easily. So if you learn the language, you hopefully won’t face Hungarians who speak it in an incomprehensible way (except if they are inebriated).


While the pronunciation of written texts is quite straightforward, it is not so easy to guess the right orthography of a given spoken word; especially if it contains the ‘Y’ sound (as in ‘Yankee’), because it can be represented by either the letters ‘j’ or ‘ly’. In this case, learners have to memorise the correct orthography and there are few rules help them – which also have exceptions.

There are two conjugations, the so-called definite and indefinite conjugation (sometimes called objective and subjective conjugation) for every verb. Without going into the juicy details (which are numerous), the definite is used when the object of the action is defined, and the indefinite is used when the action has no definite object or the verb is intransitive. To put it simply, the verb ‘see’ has different forms in Hungarian sentences for ‘I see’ and ‘I see the horse’ (Látok vs. Látom a lovat).

Hungarian is an agglutinative language, which means that it adds suffixes to the words in order to express the case, the number and other meanings; this way, extra-long words are created. Example: letter – levél; exchange letters – levelez; correspondence – levelezés; your correspondence with someone – levelezésetek; in your correspondence with someone – levelezésetekben; in your correspondences – levelezéseitekben, etc.

Vowel harmony is again something which means nothing to English natives or other Western Europeans – although it exists in Turkish and Finnish. There are so-called high (front) and low (back) vowels. The simplified version of the rule is that nouns containing only high vowels get high-vowel suffixes, while nouns containing only low or mixed vowels (although mixed vowels are not typical in original Hungarian words) get low-vowel suffixes. Example: -ban and -ben both express ‘in’. Bár (‘bar’) is low, so ‘in the bar’ becomes bárban, while étterem (‘restaurant’) is high, so ‘in the restaurant’ becomes étteremben. Of course, in reality, the rule is much more complex…

In any case, it is safe to say that like any other language, Hungarian also has some complicated, unusual or illogical traits, but it offers some very easy features in exchange. What do you think based on what you read above or based on your previous experience with the language? We would love to know – leave a comment in our blog or on our LinkedIn or Facebook page.

Post date: Wednesday, July 4, 2018 - 16:31

Let us start this blog post with a linguistic question: is time management really a kind of ‘management’? The term ‘management’ can be paired with almost everything, and everything sounds better with ‘management’ added after it. In fact, it can be regarded as a science, or almost a science; at the very least some people teach it, others write books about it, while still others consider it unlearnable.

There are several time management methods that can be used in the translation world, but all of them should be taken with a grain of salt, seeing as the lives of freelancers, as well as those of translation office employees, differ greatly from that of other professionals. Let us examine a few popular methods!

1) The Pomodoro Technique:

Nowadays, one of the most popular time management techniques is the Pomodoro Technique, which works by dividing working days into half-hour periods, with 25-minute active, intensive work sessions and 5-minute resting periods. This method is mostly suitable for concentration-heavy intellectual work, as after half an hour our capacity for concentration is significantly reduced. During the active phase of a Pomodoro session, it is essential to eliminate all distractions: no emails, no phone calls or Skype chats, nor anything that can distract us from the primary task. Such actions or distractions should be put off until the next 5-minute break or until a longer break, given that after 3-4 Pomodoro periods we need a longer rest. Of course, it is not mandatory to organise our whole day in Pomodoro segments, but it is the best way to quickly progress with tasks which require concentration.

Its advantage for translators: during the 25-minute deep phases we can make good progress and during the 5-minute breaks we can perform administrative tasks or check our emails, etc.

Its disadvantage for translators: what if a translation lasts only 15 minutes or just needs 10 more minutes on top of the 25 to finish? What if we just have to hurry or have to work overnight because of a very tight deadline? In such cases it is advisable to handle our tasks flexibly.

2) The 2-Minute Rule

The 2-minute rule exists in many versions; its original version is basically divided into two parts. First of all, ‘if something can be done in two minutes, don’t put it off – do it now.’ The main philosophy of this rule is that if we continually procrastinate our minor, 2-minute tasks (like addressing an envelope, quickly replying to an email, scanning, etc.) and constantly push them into the background because of more important tasks, they can become an unbearable and unmanageable burden. Also, if a ‘2-minute’ task suddenly interrupts our work, it is not worth postponing it with the excuse that ‘I am in the middle of an important job’; the mere fact that we have taken note of this new 2-minute task has already interrupted that big job. The second part of the rule goes as follows: ‘if you can't find a way to start on a high-volume task or implement a new habit, but you can do the first step in two minutes – do it now.’ The basis of this philosophy is that it easier to continue things that we already started than to start something from scratch. For example, adopting a healthy lifestyle seems like an overwhelming, time and energy-consuming task – but eating an apple or doing ten squats takes only two minutes.

Its advantage for translators: like everybody else, translators also encounter 2-minute tasks quite often. The above method is very good for ‘overcoming’ them quickly.

Its disadvantage for translators: we cannot spend the whole day solving 2-minute tasks. If we have many such things to do, they need to be handled in blocks. Furthermore, as stated earlier, it is true that there are moments (often entire days) in the life of freelancers when there is no time at all for anything but the priority task: the translation project with the earliest deadline.

3) The Eisenhower Method

This method is based on dividing our actions into four categories: 1. Important and urgent (crying kid; broken computer); 2. Important but not urgent (long-term goals and plans, such as growing our company’s client base, self-realisation); 3. Not important but urgent (small tasks that interrupt our main activities, such as signing papers, making coffee, or the mandatory password change on an online interface); 4. Not important and not urgent (time wasters, such as reading our daily horoscope). The principle does not stop at this point: the essence of the method is to try to organise our lives in a way that we spend less time with the 1st, and especially the 3rd quadrant (see the table below), and leave more time for quadrant 2. The reason being too many of us make the mistake of taking away time from the important but not urgent tasks (number 2) in favour of urgent tasks, whether they are important or not. We will never achieve our long-term goals like that.

Its advantage for translators: a translator’s life is full of urgent tasks, most of which are actually important (e.g. deadlines). Translators everywhere know full well how easy it is to fall into the trap of dealing only with urgent but not important tasks in the remaining time. With the right kind of focus, however, it is possible to deal with our long-term, important goals on a regular basis – and even people with the most stressful of jobs need to do this.

Its disadvantage for translators: this might be the most universal method among the three, so its rational application will certainly not be an impediment; nevertheless, it is undeniable that in a freelancer’s life urgent projects often override everything else for days at a time. It is difficult to work on our long-term goals when we do not see the end of our short-term commitments.


At first glance, it may seem that the above methods contradict each other and are mutually exclusive; for example, a 2-minute task which arrives during an active Pomodoro phase forces us to decide on which method to proceed with. However, this contradiction is an illusion: if we use the Pomodoro principle correctly, 2-minute tasks are not meant to occur during active phases too often to begin with; but even if they do, it is not an outrageous decision to complete them as quickly as possible before concentrating on the main task again. But maybe an example will help us understand better how these three popular principles can be harmonised.

Let’s suppose as a freelancer we have a number of tasks to accomplish in the morning: there is a same-day delivery (urgent + important), a next-day delivery (urgent + important) and a lot of administrative tasks (urgent but not important), but we also want to, for example, spend some time learning the new features of a translation software we use in order to become more productive (important but not extra-urgent). In that case, we can organise our day by spending 7-8 Pomodoro sessions in the morning with translation, while during the breaks, which can be stretched out if necessary, we can take care of the administrative tasks. In the afternoon, we continue the projects which require concentration, and if we succeed with the Pomodoro method, meaning we finish our important and urgent tasks faster than usual, there may be some time at the end of the day (1-2 Pomodoro sessions) for our not so urgent, but important tasks: in our example, learning the ropes of that software.

We would like to hear our readers’ opinions and their own time management methods; share them here on our blog or on our LinkedIn page. (A 2-minute task!)

Post date: Wednesday, November 22, 2017 - 10:19

Nowadays, the concept of transcreation is getting more and more widespread, and while translation professionals consider its existence to be a fact, its definition is still a little vague, while outsiders cannot necessarily guess the meaning of this term. This blog post is primarily addressed to them.

Why transcreation?

In the word transcreation, it is easy to recognize the same trans- prefix that is present in “translation”, as well as the word creation. This term was artificially created by our profession in order to differentiate it from “ordinary” translation. The main difference between them is that transcreation is not only translation; it is a real creation process in the target language, which results in a different, or perhaps disparate target text (we do not call it translated text on purpose). The aim of transcreation is to have a text that sounds, in every aspect – linguistically, culturally, etc. – as if it was written originally in the target language. One might argue that really good “normal” translations are also like that – but lately, especially with the spread of computer-assisted translation (CAT) tools, translating sentence-by-sentence has become a common and accepted method. It might sound common place that “we must translate ideas and not words”, but in some subjects, where routine-based but extremely precise translation is needed (e.g. for medical reports), word-by-word translation is often used, and has a well-founded right to exist. Transcreation always aims at capturing the idea, the message behind the text. That is why a given sentence does not always match the sentence in the target text; moreover, it is possible that some sentences are omitted or added on purpose. In extreme cases, the target text can even say something completely different than the source. This cannot happen in “ordinary” translation.

When is transcreation needed?

Transcreation is primarily used to replace the precise translation of marketing texts and other creative, culturally embedded text types, as the main objective of marketing is to help sales, and selling must be backed by natural-sounding texts with high readability. They also need to bring the same emotional effect to the reader as the original text did to its native readers. However, some languages are more concise than others, or accentuate other aspects of the same message. Moreover, in the case of printed or high-visibility online material one must pay attention to the space required, the formatting and the layout. The choice of fonts, of words, or the complexity and style of the sentences can all be of importance to the reader. These linguistic and cultural subtleties are only known and properly used by native speakers of the target language, so one of the principles of transcreation is that it should only be done by natives, without exception. (This rule is theoretically true of translation as well, but in the case of some narrow or very special subjects or rare language combinations, the industry is forced to make exceptions).

How much does transcreation cost?

The question “what is the price of the translation” is quite frequent (and sometimes overemphasized) in our industry. While translation prices are usually defined based on the word count (or in some rare cases, on the character count) by most language service providers, transcreation cannot be simply reduced to the volume of the text. The reason is, as mentioned earlier, the possibility of complete sentences being omitted or added, depending on the cultural necessities of the target country. Thus, transcreation is typically priced at an hourly rate, based on the actual hours spent by the translator (transcreator). Of course, the prices vary highly depending on the language combination, just as for normal translation.

Machine translation, human translation and transcreation

As a final note, it is worth mentioning that neural machine translation, as we wrote in one of our earlier blog posts, is producing better and better (easily post-editable) results in many language pairs and fields of expertise. Maybe this is one of the reasons behind the adoption of the concept of transcreation: a job type that emphasizes the human factor in translation. There is no better way to avoid misunderstandings than by introducing a new term: while machine translation and human translation are both called translation, there is no such thing as “machine transcreation”.

Post date: Thursday, June 29, 2017 - 10:36

Neural Machine Translation (NMT) has by now become without a doubt the trendiest term among the different players in the translation industry – freelancers, language service providers, translation buyers – and, above all, computational linguists. This blog post would like to give a quick overview of NMT’s current status to those who are just beginning to familiarize themselves with the subject and wish to understand the importance of this new technology. We will also briefly discuss whether translators should be afraid of machine translation replacing human translation, and if yes, how and when it might happen? But before coming to this recurring question in the philosophy of language, let us take a historical overview and assess the actual landscape.

How did machine translation work previously?

Even before NMT, there were several models for machine translation, like the rule-based model, which tries to reproduce the source text in the target language with the help of a set of grammar rules and a dictionary. Similarly to this model, the example-based machine translation used previous translations to create logical deductions and assumptions on the correct translation of words and expressions in the source text. For example, if the Hungarian “Iszom” is “I drink” in English and “Nem iszom” is “I don’t drink”, then the translation of “nem” must be “don’t”. Both models had their advantages – and of course, their limits. In the 2000’s, they were replaced by Statistical Machine Translation (SMT), which uses huge corpora (bilingual and monolingual text) and occurrence statistics to deduce the appropriate translation of terms and phrases. Until the beginning of 2017, Google Translate used SMT in all language pairs (however, due to the lack of bilingual corpora in some rare language pairs, an extra step into English was inserted in the process).

All the three models described above, like their hybrids, have many flaws. Apart from the often grammatically incorrect output sentences, they tend to fail in “getting” and reproducing the meaning when it is more sophisticated or associative, as they usually prefer the most popular and basic equivalent of a given term. Second – and this is an even bigger obstacle to their perfection – they ignore context and the subject area. While the engine can be “trained”, specialized in a subject field and calibrated, it still translates segments (sentences) without taking into consideration the preceding or following sentences, which thus have no effect on the translation. What’s more, sentences are too divided into sub-segments (put more simply: the engine looks for the longest available matching part that is already in the corpus), and the translations of these phrases don’t affect each other. Even outsiders can understand what a huge disadvantage this is during the translation of a flowing, coherent text. According to many, SMT has reached the limits of its capacity, and without further adjustment (which means a considerable investment of time and money) it will not show any significant progress.

How does neural machine translation work, and why is it so popular?

                One of the big announcements made by Google last year was that, according to their tests, in some environments, some language pairs and some text types, NMT produces a quality almost as good as human translators. Numerically expressed, it claimed that in certain isolated cases NMT made 60% fewer errors than earlier, phrase-based models. Even if the statement was cautiously phrased, the whole world took notice, and even the media outside of the translation industry (The Economist, for example) and other tech giants (like Facebook) have started dealing with the subject. Moreover, big companies involved in machine translation started issuing statements almost every week about transitioning to the neural model (the most recent news came from Amazon). The reason for this enthusiasm, apart from Google’s announcement, can be that NMT is a really novel, ground-breaking technology which, although it still has a long way to go, is already producing quality that is identical to or better than that of the earlier models (depending on the type of text).

                NMT, which goes hand in hand with artificial intelligence research, is the first model that tries to imitate human thinking at the level that detaches itself from the word order and structural ties of the source text while also considering the context. Without getting deep into the details of computational linguistics, probably the best way to explain the process is the following: the machine tries to grab and synthetize the meaning of the source text at a level which is almost independent of the language and then to recreate this level of meaning in the target language. As it is lexically and structurally much less dependent on the source text, it makes many fewer conjugation and agreement mistakes than statistical machine translation.

Familiar and new challenges

                No matter how popular, even hyped NMT became, it is important to remember that, to use the words of MT expert John Tinsley at the SlatorCon conference in London, “it is ultimately just another type of MT”. It would be a mistake to think that it will eliminate all the shortcomings of the previous models and will produce perfect translations in every sense. Although its development is still in an early phase, we can already see that it fails to cope with longer sentences and is much more reliable with shorter segments. This trait, by the way, is equally true of previous MT solutions, especially in languages such as Hungarian. What’s more, no matter how flowing and naturally sounding neural model translations are, NMT sometimes omits words, expressions or even phrases – and this was not typical of the previous models.

According to our current knowledge, agglutinative languages are still quite hard to process for NMT engines, at least compared to Romance and Germanic languages. Also, fixing errors is slow because deep understanding of the program is needed to determine the cause of a translation error and it is not even sure that it is worth the effort.

Finally, the problem of hardware demand must be mentioned. Currently only the biggest tech giants or organizations with a separate NMT budget can afford the hardware pool and neural networks needed for operating this technology.

What to expect in years to come?

                In the near future, it is expected that NMT research and development will show a lot of progress, but translation companies will, as usual, probably be more cautious with their reactions. They will closely monitor the results and review their options, but it is not likely that they will quickly shift to an NMT + human post-editing process except in certain narrow areas of application and certain outstanding language pairs. So far, some East Asian languages (like Chinese and Japanese) seem to show the most progress in MT quality. Hungarian – we can safely say “as usual” – seems to be less adequate for reaching human quality even with NMT, both into English and vice versa. The greatest improvement can be expected in uniform and repetitive technical documents pertaining to a given narrow field.

So when will NMT replace human translation? Most experts say that for some subjects, some text types and some language pairs it is possible that NMT will prevail in a decade or two, but creative human translation will always be needed. NMT’s importance lies rather in the fact that, when integrated into a CAT tool, it helps translators work more quickly and gives them more time to concentrate on translating segments that demand more creativity and abstraction. We should also remember that NMT greatly helps nonprofessional translators. Even today, most of the people who use Google Translate and other free MT solutions are amateurs trying to understand a foreign text and not professional translators. The era of machine translation not requiring human checking or post-editing is still not on the horizon.

Post date: Friday, April 21, 2017 - 15:30

In this blog post, we will deal with a problem being faced by a great many translation companies that has a simple but little-known solution. What’s more, it might also be useful in other industries where freelancers are connected to their end clients through intermediary agencies and they need to sign in by providing an email address.

Numerous online (browser-based) CAT tools or TMS environments (Smartling, for example) require translators to sign in by providing an email address and a password. This is not a problem unless the TMS or CAT tool is owned by the language service provider (LSP) or a client in direct contact with its freelancers. But what happens in the quite frequent case when the end client is the host of the environment and the intermediary LSP does not want to disclose its freelancers’ email addresses? The translation company can have data protection and non-disclosure agreements signed, or it can wrestle with confidentiality concerns about its freelancers’ valuable personal data.

Let’s take an example. A project involves three translators and a proofreader simultaneously, and each of them needs a separate email address in order to sign in to the CAT tool. If the LSP does not wish to disclose their addresses to the client, they might think it necessary to create for each participant a “dummy” email address not used for any other purpose; for example:,,,

In the case of a multilingual project, the number of account registrations have to be multiplied by the number of target languages. This would of course mean a lot of time and administration even if a lot of providers have a quite easy email registration process.

Gmail, however, has a small and mostly unknown (but very useful) feature that helps to avoid the inconvenience and time-consuming necessity of registering dummy addresses.* The idea is to complete the part of the email address preceding the @ sign with a string, starting with a + sign. Any emails sent to these address variations will be received by the original email address. In our example, if the LSP has only one Gmail address, e.g., all emails sent to the below addresses would be received by this same account:,,,

Smartling, however, and other online environments detect these variations as separate email addresses, so they can be used to sign in different people. Thus, on one hand, you can economise on the registration time, while, on the other, you save time by not having to redirect the dummy emails to your company account. (In the first example, the LSP would have to redirect each email account to a company email address if they don’t want to check the inboxes regularly.) The third big advantage of this method, apart from automatic redirection and saving time, is that everything is seen in one account. Translators will not need to access the account since they only need the address for sign-in purposes.

With the above method, you can protect your data, save time and have fewer administration tasks involving your translators. A big thank you goes out to our Senior Project Manager, Tamás Sisák, and we wish all our colleagues good luck in using this small trick.

*According to our information, other email providers do not offer this feature, but it is advised to check if they have a similar solution.

Post date: Tuesday, September 20, 2016 - 10:17

An article in Hungarian business magazine HVG (substantiated by a government decree published in the Official Gazette of Hungary) reports that the Hungarian government would like to have the European Medicines Agency (EMA) relocated to Budapest after Brexit. In this post we will refrain from indulging in speculation. On the one hand, several ‘big fish’ – Italy, Sweden and Germany, for example – have already announced similar ambitions, and, on the other hand, many experts are still not certain Brexit will actually happen. This article will examine the prerequisites and potential consequences of the relocation, and the last part will deal with the impact on the local and international translation industries.

Canary Wharf, London - current headquarters of the EMA


It is evident that the EMA is an important organization, even if its size cannot be compared to that of the European Parliament or the European Court of Justice. The EMA hosts seven committees, all of which have delegates (one member and an alternate) from each of the 28 EU member states as well as Iceland and Norway; in addition, up to five additional invited members can take part in the committee meetings as experts. And these numbers only pertain to the committees; the total staff number is around 850, of which (surprisingly) only 7% are British citizens.

In order to host an organization of such size in Budapest, a number of conditions will have to be met:

  • political will: in order to succeed, the Hungarian government and State will have to give their full and unwavering support to this rather complex and costly initiative;
  • successful lobbying: as other EU member states are also seeking to take advantage of this opportunity, the Hungarian representatives will need to do everything they can to ensure the success of the Hungarian proposal;
  • logistics criteria: the building, its accessibility and even international transport potential (the proximity of the airport, direct flights to all EU member states, etc.) all need to be suitable and appropriate for hosting the EMA;
  • human resources: if the organization moves to Hungary, local staff will have to be provided for many positions not filled by EU appointees; local employees will have to be skilled, multilingual employees with expertise in EMA-related issues who can replace the workforce currently provided by the UK. This could mean hundreds of jobs, and, given the current workforce shortage in Hungary, it is important to see in advance how and where the necessary human resources can be found or trained;
  • linguistic needs: this relates to the above problem, but not only to the staff. It is important to know that the EMA, like any EU agency, produces a great quantity of documents that needs translation into the many EU languages. These documents include medicine authorization procedures, decrees, regulations and publications. It is also worth pondering whether the material currently being written in English will be produced in Hungarian, and, if so, who will translate it into Latvian, Lithuanian, Portuguese, etc. Or should English stay the main working language of the EMA (even though English will only be an official language of the EU because of the membership of Malta and Ireland)? And in the absence of British staff, what will be the native language of the people creating these documents? This latter problem, by the way, will affect all EU organizations.

Positive consequences

It is plain to see that moving an important EU agency to Budapest is not only a matter of formal or political prestige; it would (could) also bring considerable economic benefits. Think only of the functional costs (day-to-day operations, staff necessities, procurement), organizational costs (conference tourism, employee travel and accommodation) and administrative costs (fulfilling the above-mentioned translation and interpreting tasks) and their financing by the EU. The proximity of the EMA would most probably be beneficial for the local pharmaceutical industry as well. Some obvious advantages include faster and easier communication between the EMA and the representatives of the pharmaceutical industry as well as the greater number of professional events and conferences. In the long term, it is worth mentioning the stronger role played by Hungary (and Eastern Europe) within the EU, which would not only help silence Eurosceptics, it would represent a move towards a truly decentralized and not so Western-centric European Union. 

But, as our blog is mainly dedicated to translation-related topics, it is time to see the possible implications for our industry.

Translation industry consequences

Whether English remains the main working language and the main language of publication within the EMA or is replaced by Hungarian (or another, ‘bigger’ official EU language), the volume of translation work transferred to Hungary will rise significantly. As the EMA (and the Translation Centre of the Bodies of the European Union) will probably not be able to cope with all these linguistic needs in-house, it is safe to say that, one way or the other, there will be more work for Hungarian translators in this area of expertise. If the EMA is to create documents in Hungarian first (which we consider a less probable scenario), the question arises as to whether it is possible to translate these directly into all EU languages? It will not be easy to find translators to translate pharmaceutical regulatory documents from Hungarian into the smaller target languages (Danish, Estonian, Swedish, etc.).

Obviously, the quantity of outsourced material will shift too. Even if English remains the main language of publications and documents, it is probable that the EMA would direct more of its outsourced translation needs towards Hungarian translation partners simply because of their proximity and the ease of communication. One thing, though, is certain: change. The only question that remains is when the decision on the new EMA headquarters will be made. Two years can be a short time, so if and when the UK does invoke Article 50, quick action will need to be taken to make the necessary arrangements no matter which country wins the race.


Post date: Monday, May 9, 2016 - 11:46

Let’s be honest. People do not like client satisfaction surveys because, no matter how short the survey is, they feel like the seller is wasting their time with a past transaction concerning a product or service they have already purchased. And so those who are conducting the survey are trying to “bribe” the time-conscious client with gifts and giveaways in order to get their precious reply. But why do service providers consider these surveys so important? The answer is easy. Imagine that every single buyer of a given coffee machine fills in a survey about the model they purchased, and each of them says it would be convenient if the machine could make iced coffee. Would there be an iced coffee button on the next model? It is very likely the producer would focus on this and not on speeding up the coffee-making time. In the long run, such surveys are beneficial for the client because the manufacturer or service provider can serve them better if their preferences and needs are known precisely. On the other hand, knowing our strengths better is a crucial objective since they are the cornerstone of further development in our very competitive market.

We put together our (4-minute) 2016 survey in a way that reveals what each client considers our key strengths as well as the areas in which we can improve or optimize our services. Our team was very happy to see the overwhelmingly positive feedback, especially because the answers were anonymous and therefore not sycophantic. Many of our clients praised the helpfulness of our employees, but they also mentioned such small things as the easy-to-remember email address. But let’s see some statistics from the dropdown answers:

According to 89% of our clients, the category “Timeliness of delivery” deserves an excellent (very good) rating, and the remaining 11% rated it good. No one chose average, below average, or poor. Similarly, the “Responsiveness of the team” was rated very highly (very good: 81%, good: 19%). The “Quality” rating is also something we can be very proud of. The proportion of very good ratings is 70%, good is at 26%, and average got 4%. No one gave a lower rating.

Let’s talk about areas for improvement or expansion. We were surprised to see that 46% of our clients have not yet heard of the creation of our Life Sciences Department in 2015. This was definitely an eye-opener, and we now know we need to use more channels and better communication to get our company news to the clients. There was also a question about the services our clients would like to see. Surprisingly, some of them lamented the absence of DTP even though we offer it. Other clients urged us to move beyond East European languages and strengthen our capacity in the major European target languages. The latter feedback will definitely be taken into account so that we can provide a complete language package to all of our clients and cut the time and management costs of multilingual projects divided between too many vendors.

                And, finally, let’s get to the general moral of the story. It is clear to us that the main strength of our company continues to be the responsive, helpful, and quick team that produces timely and precise deliveries. As for our communication, we will strive to do an even better job to expand our capacity and inform our clients about the entire range of Hunnect’s products and services. In other words, we will be putting an iced coffee button on the coffee machine and making it ever so conspicuous.

Post date: Thursday, April 14, 2016 - 09:54

At the end of February 2016 some of our colleagues at Hunnect participated in a customized training called “Communication in the pharmaceutical industry”. The presenter and trainer was Dr György Markovich, who has more than 40 years of experience in the pharma industry, as well as several decades of experience in company management and communication.

Many might ask why there is a need for specialized translators in the pharmaceutical industry and what types of texts these language service providers and freelancers have to translate. It would be logical to suppose that the biggest part of these translation projects is related to the documentation that goes with medication being launched on a given market, e.g., product information leaflets and similar documents, which usually do not require much translator creativity or capacity, as they are highly repetitive. But this is not exactly true. Medications that are still undergoing testing (study medications) are subject to very strict and complicated multi-stage studies (officially called “clinical trials”) before they get approved. In the phases that involve testing on human subjects (in order to determine the ideal dosage, the positive effects and side effects of the drug) it is highly important that all of the participants are fully aware of the terms, conditions, risks and possibilities related to the study. In consequence, all studies that are conducted in several countries should be translated into the mother tongue of each and every participant or candidate.

In addition to the so-called patient-facing materials, a great many texts are being written for doctors (so-called “physician-facing” documentation), and, of course, every doctor who is involved in conducting the study should read these in their mother tongue. No matter how well they speak or understand English (or the original language of the study protocol), even the smallest details can be of enormous importance. Consequently, a lot of these pharmaceutical translations are produced every year, even if they are read by just a few people – sometimes by only a single doctor or patient.

The other question laymen often ask is who translates this type of text. As we wrote in an earlier blog post (on our Hungarian blog), the emigration of doctors from Eastern Europe and notably from Hungary makes it hard to find full-time medical translators. The same goes for pharmaceutical translators. Still, Hunnect devotes particular attention to the selection of translators when it comes to this special type of material. As translators need to be aware not only of the special terminology but also of the official templates and legal regulations related to the pharma industry, only experienced translators with university qualifications and specialization in this field are assigned to these projects. Of course, as in every area of translation, we can find passionate, dedicated and enthusiastic translators here too, people for whom translating is as much a joy as it is a challenge. In addition, our Life Sciences Department makes sure that we have in-house specialists who are well acquainted with this subject field. 

If you have any questions concerning pharmaceutical translations, please contact us in any of the ways listed here. We are always happy to help.

Post date: Thursday, December 3, 2015 - 15:41

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