International Translation Day: Three questions on translation for our Tunisian polyglot consultant Donia Metoui

Like every industry, the translation industry is transforming, influenced by rising globalisation and technological developments, among other factors. As we are an agency without geographical barriers, our team is made up of consultants who share English as the agency-wide language, but we also have speakers of German, Spanish, French, Arabic, Bulgarian, Italian, Korean… to name a few. For International Translation Day, we asked our colleague Donia Metoui, media relations consultant at Tyto, who is also a Translation graduate and skilled linguist – able to speak French, English, Italian and Arabic – three questions about some of the shifts the sector is witnessing.

1. Would you say that translation is an essential skill in all careers today?

With globalisation, many companies in different sectors require more and more advanced levels of English from their employees. In fact, today, employees from different departments of a company anywhere in the world exchange emails in English and deal with English documents all the time. They often find themselves translating in one way or another texts, documents, PowerPoint presentations or messages.

I wouldn’t say that all employees need to have advanced translation skills as translation remains an expertise, which is why translators and translation companies exist. However, some companies – like PR agencies for example – need their employees to have very good translation skills to be able to localise or proofread clients’ documents that are meant to be shared with journalists. On the other hand, when the texts are too technical and involve specific jargon, it is essential to turn to specialised translators.

2. What is the difference between translation and localisation?

Even though they may seem similar, translation and localisation are two different disciplines. While translation is the literal “transposition” of a text from one language to another, localisation goes further as it involves other dimensions like the cultural one.

Rather than a simple translation, companies that do business in different countries around the globe need to adapt and incorporate the culture aspect for each market they address. Therefore, the process of localisation implies a deep understanding and knowledge of the target cultures: their idioms, the latest news in their market, etc.

In short, we could say that the localisation of a text is a more complete version than the translation, because it is more comprehensive and relevant to the target market and so is more likely to be locally accepted. In case you want to know more, a few months ago, my colleague Silke Rossmann wrote this great article explaining more deeply the difference between these two terms and brilliantly summarised the three key things it takes to localise content effectively.

3. What can you tell us about the increasing impact of technology in translation?

Many say that technology, especially artificial intelligence, will put translators out of work. I don’t think that AI will replace human translators, but I do think that it will positively change their work.

In fact, a high-quality translation and a localisation can only be provided by a human translator today. In addition to undertones, emotions, and cultural perceptions, languages are continually evolving with new words, slang, continuous changes of meaning, etc., which makes humans irreplaceable.

Localisations also take into account very subtle nuances and the economic or political aspects specific to each country. Such knowledge, as well as the changing dynamics of the language, can only be captured by human translators. Technological tools will need to be continuously updated and reprogrammed to be able to get as close as possible to accurately translate these.

On the other hand, AI and automated translation can help translators improve their efficiency by taking care of the repetitive and simple texts, freeing them to focus on the most important and complex parts. Today, translators take much less time to deliver the translation of long technical engineering or legal texts for example, and that’s a real benefit. I think technology helps translators, but I don’t foresee it replacing them. You still need that human touch to get the content translated 100% correctly. Even more so when it comes to localisation.

Image ©Joshua Hoehne,