Naysayers have warned about the possibility of technology taking over and eliminating all sorts of jobs, including translators. While it would be easy to jump on the bandwagon and agree with them to some degree, it's important to remember that there is no substitute for the human brain. While technology can be made to work faster than us, it doesn't have the ability to think and process information like a human might. It can be programmed to translate documents, remember frequently used translations and optimize data management, but it's unlikely to be 100% accurate all of the time. 


That said, we do need to harness the power of technology since time and budgets are often limited. Getting started using language technology can be costly, therefore it's full potential isn't being realized and, as a consequence, projects are drawn out and costs rise. One solution, to enable more work hours to be freed up for projects that only humans can do, is to move from a purely manual translation process to semi-automation via the following four types of technology. 

Legal translation is arguably the most complicated and most important of all types of translation. Mistranslation of a single word or sentence always imposes material impact on court judgement. In Hong Kong, it used to be the non-Chinese who served as judges back in the 20th century. As non-Chinese speakers, they had to rely on translated versions for perusal of documentary evidence. Therefore, translation was always the critical factor which affected court judgement. A case is provided below as an example:

Fu Chuen Sang and another v. Cheung Ching Tak and Others (1961)


This is a case about dispute over an estate between the deceased’s wife and son. The late husband had made a will during his living days intending to allocate (撥交) his estate to his wife after his death. His son, however, considered that the term ‘allocate’ which his father used should only be interpreted as putting the estate under his mother’s ‘custody’ on his behalf without the meaning of ‘giving’ the estate to his mother. Therefore, the English translation of the Chinese term ‘撥交’ was the critical factor which affected court judgement.

Being conversationally fluent in two languages is a great thing when you want to chat with your new neighbor whose first language is your second language, but it doesn't mean that you can take on legal translation work when the need arises. Both books and movies have told the stories of real and fictitious scenarios made worse due to a linguistic oversight. Millions of dollars have been won in malpractice lawsuits due to improper translation of a patients ailments and companies have had rebrand themselves in foreign markets due to a poor translation that was off-putting to locals in their new market. 

Legal cases are usually high-stakes and you only want the best when it comes to services associated with obtaining a favorable outcome in the case. Don't let your case be hurt with poor-quality or rushed translations; follow these  best practices for having legal translation done in Hong Kong. 

A recent FT post found that 1/4 of UK companies operating internationally or those planning to do so have lost business. Why? Because employees do not have sufficient foreign language skills. (related post: Tongue-tied UK businesses find foreign trade lost in translation, Sep 23rd 2015)

While most countries are inevitably undergoing international integration in the globalization process, one has to recognize the role that cultural/linguistic differences plays and will continue to play in the foreseeable future.

Tuesday, 14 July 2015 18:39

Advanced Localization Vendor Management

From the 1980s when the localization industry was still in its infancy, till now at a time of perfect competition, localization vendor management (VM) has been evolving. As more companies focus on their core competencies and outsource their localization activities, localization vendor management has become more important than ever.

A typical mistake non-Chinese natives make is mixing Chinese locales and take a one-fit-all approach when it comes to linguist selection.

Another typical mistake is taking for granted that simplified Chinese can be converted into traditional Chinese and vice versa easily in machine translation or word processing software.

Due to years of isolation, the Chinese user group has been divided into several subgroups. While most users can read Chinese, be it simplified or traditional, each subgroup advocates for their uniqueness, making it difficult to neglect the differences of the locales.

Hong Kong

Unit 04, 7/F, Bright Way Tower, No. 33 Mong Kok Road
Tel: +852 5382 6110


10 Fumin Road, Futian District, Shenzhen, Guangdong
Tel: +86 155 4684 6110


294 Ienoshimo Hattozawa  Towada-city Aomori-ken Japan 034-0105