Interview with Iñaki Hernández-Lasa
Today we honor another star member of the Sajan team through an exclusive interview. A solutions architect in the professional services group, Iñaki Hernández-Lasa performs localization assessments; comes up with tailored localization solutions; and works with terminology management, machine translation and other technologies.
He also has a talent for producing award-winning architectural photography. Read on to learn more about our Spanish-born, Ireland-transplanted friend and colleague.
Where are you from, and where have you lived? Where is home today?
I was born and raised in Bilbao, Northern Spain. I left Spain at 24 and have been living in Ireland permanently for the last 25 years. At this stage I’m probably more Irish than the Irish themselves, but of course Spain will always be home.
Could you please tell us about your professional background, and how it led to a career in localization?
Sure. I graduated in 1990 from the University of Deusto in Bilbao with a five-year degree in English philology: linguistics, syntax, terminology and similar subjects. Later that year I moved to Ireland where I completed a research Master of Arts in applied languages in the area of translation studies. During that time I lectured too in university on translation and Spanish while I also worked as a translator and interpreter in the evenings.
At the time I undertook some important assignments such as translating into Spanish official speeches for the then-President of Ireland, Mary Robinson, who was the first female President of Ireland and who later became the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.
However, translation memory technology was starting to grow more and more in the early 1990s, and I was interested in getting to know and understand how these technologies worked. And I’m still here!
What do you enjoy about your position? Where do the feelings of satisfaction and bright moments of the day come from?
I work as solutions architect in the professional services team, and I thoroughly enjoy working with a group of very talented localization professionals. We usually get absorbed in projects and working against deadlines, but when you actually stop and see the expertise and knowledge that we have in Sajan it boggles the mind, really.
The great moments come from helping gaining new business, obviously. But sometimes the special moments come from small things, such as when you get a nice complimentary mail from a client letting you know that the process that you implemented or the training that you gave them made a significant impact in what they do and how they will do it from now on.
Can you share with us a story or two about working with a client that really sticks in your memory?
I could tell you many stories that happened during the last 20 years, but maybe they are not suitable for publication!
The industry is still relatively small when compared to other industries, and it is remarkable to see how current colleagues of mine at Sajan were in fact clients of mine in the past and vice versa: many ex-colleagues moved to the other side and became clients.
It’s a small world after all!
Do you see machine translation becoming much more sophisticated than it already is? How will this affect the localization industry?
Machine translation is playing a very significant role for certain verticals, and it’s bound to get more robust and intelligent with more predictable and higher-quality outputs. For many large corporations it is becoming physically impossible to translate all necessary content by the traditional translate-edit-proof workflows, and this leads corporations to rely on the utilization of multiple language service providers with all the issues that this generates.
I believe that machine translation will certainly play a much larger role in the future, not only in its most current form of machine translation plus post-editing, but also interplaying with voice recognition and other technologies. It is happening already.
What do you think more companies would benefit from knowing first before they begin machine translation?
Good-quality output from machine translation does not happen by magically clicking a button. It is a continued effort of creating and developing an engine with high-quality existing lexical assets. When talking to customers in this specific area we always recommend a number of pillars to start developing a proper quality engine: high-quality, approved translation memories, terminology databases and monolingual content. And then, of course, incremental training of the engines as time goes by and further post-edited content is available.
In your opinion, what do global companies seem to struggle most with when it comes to adapting their content for different markets?
Cultural sensitivities are not always properly thought through by content creators. We have all seen and heard of horror stories of products flopping in target markets for a number of reasons. I place a huge importance in the quality of the source content, not only from the language consistency and correctness point of view in authoring, but also from the semiotic approach.
What may seem like a neutral infographic with great colors and a very specific tagline may not be adequate in other cultures. Simple, neutral, concise and consistent messaging is for sure a good starting point when it comes to launching into different markets, which will in turn maximize translation memory leveraging.
How can machine translation solutions help take a company and its translation program to the next level?
Machine translation plus post-editing can certainly help by producing much higher volumes, at a much faster turnaround time and at a much more economical price. Having said that, this requires a planned and well-thought process that involves the proper collection of high-quality assets, technology implementations and trained personnel, as I mentioned before. There is no magical wand, I’m afraid. And, of course, certain verticals where the information can be highly critical may not be entirely suited for this methodology.
What three tips would you give to a company that is struggling to get a handle on its global content strategy and localization initiatives?
First of all, make sure you control quality at source. Over the years we have seen many cases where poor, inconsistent source content led to numerous problems when it came to the localization stage. Not only language-wise, but also in the lack of normalization by producing multiple file formats without defined standards.
Secondly, spend some valuable time harvesting, consolidating, categorizing, translating and approving core terminology. You would be surprised to see how a small investment upfront will save you from longer validation cycles and query management, not to mention inconsistent, costly translations.
Thirdly, make sure that you use a language service provider that has technology integrations and workflow optimization as a core competency. Translation management systems are a given nowadays, and the strength of a language service provider is now proven by the technologies they possess and their ability to connect programmatically with different content management systems, machine translation workflows, terminology databases and verification tool sets.
Your skills as a photographer are well known across Sajan. Can you tell us what you do as part of this hobby? What do you love about it?
Architectural photography has been a part of my life since I was a teenager. Over the last few years it has become a much more serious advanced hobby, though.
I like the challenge of creating something different and giving my interpretation of a building by showing elements and the interplay between light and materials that may usually go unnoticed.
I have been very fortunate to be awarded many distinctions in photography as well as getting many international awards in competitions, giving lectures, and acting as a national and international judge. I have also run workshops in architectural photography in Spain, which is home at the end of the day. If you like photography, you can find me at www.ihlphotography.com.
Would you like more information about localization solutions?
For more guidance on machine translation, assessments or any other localization initiative you’re contemplating, simply drop us a line. You can also check out the related content at the end of this page.