Hi! We are Jurek and Andrzej, father and son…. And we’re both passionate about languages and active players in the Translation and Localisation industry.
Jurek established his translation business in 1991 and called it LIDO-LANG Technical translations. It grew to become one of the most important translation companies in Central Europe before it was sold to SeproGroup, from Spain.
Andrzej built XTRF, today one of the leading suppliers of translation management systems for translation businesses worldwide.
Over the past 20 years, we have worked together in different roles and settings, actively helping each other to grow our businesses while at the same time witnessing the evolution of the translation industry. Let us share our experience with you.
Jurek Nedoma: The fifteenth anniversary of the first vision of XTRF is coming soon.
Andrzej Nedoma: Indeed. We started our first discussions on computer assistance in translation process management in late 2003, along with growing the output of our translation agency.
JN: I remember that IT development of XTRF started in late 2004 and the first beta version of the Translation Management System was implemented in 2005.
AN: Yes. And we presented our system for the first time to the audience at the Translating and Computer conference held in London under the name of TROFFI.
JN: This abbreviation was based on the initials of two words TRanslation + OFFIce. The name XTRF was invented a bit later.
AN: It is a good moment to look behind and see the progress of the Translation Management System.
JN: I just realized that it is also the 50th anniversary of my first translation performed as a freelancer when I started my university education. I feel like a dinosaur in the translation business.
AN: Yes. Fifty years ago – for me, it sounds like pre-history. Let’s try to make a comparison! What has changed? Can we remember the milestones of evolution in translation activity?
JN: I remember my first attempts in details. It was my idée fixe to become a translator of technical and/or specialized texts in the future.
AN: Can you describe your workshop, your set of equipment necessary to start translations?
JN: Of course. First of all – no computers, no software, no communicators, and only the ubiquitous atmosphere of isolation from Western Europe. The Berlin Wall had been erected only a few years previously – in 1961.
AN: The texts were typed using a mechanical typewriter?
JN: Yes and no. In fact, the first commercial typewriters were introduced in the XIX century. However, private owners of typewriters were treated by the authorities in Poland as suspects …
JN: Because they could print illegal leaflets against the political system.
AN: Was it allowed to own a typewriter?
JN: Yes, on one condition. Samples of printouts from all (!) typewriters were kept at the Militia (former Police) command. In order to make a possible identification if an illegal leaflet was found.
AN: Crazy … sounds unbelievable.
JN: Furthermore the typewriters were relatively expensive. Therefore many translators wrote their translations by hand. And even those using typewriters – as a rule, treated their printouts as drafts.
AN: What about corrections, changes, etc.? … It is impossible to type a translated text without a single spelling mistake. And also a translator always tends to polish the sentences, to improve the style, to use synonymous expressions, etc.
JN: Of course. The translated draft was corrected, revised, edited – like today. The problem was, that you were not able to copy and paste necessary expressions, to add words inside a sentence. Corrections were introduced manually in the draft by the translator (or the proofreader, if any) and the text had to be typed again.
AN: Did the translator type the entire text twice? First as a draft, and later again, in order to introduce all the proofreader’s corrections and amendments?
JN: As a rule, the translators were working in pairs with qualified typists. Such tandems were very popular.
AN: And what about spelling errors?
JN: It was even a valid guideline for typists with clear definition that up to 3 spelling mistakes per page were allowed. In the case of bad luck – when a fourth mistake arrived in the bottom row – the entire page had to be retyped again!
AN: What about the speed of typists. How many pages did they type per hour?
JN: In Poland, it was formally defined. The typists passed official exams. Results of the exam were positive if 180 characters (including spaces) were typed every minute.
AN: Exactly 3 characters per second! Not bad …
JN: This threshold was defined in order to reach a speed of 1800 characters per 10 minutes because 1800 characters were the equivalent of a standard page – 30 rows by 60 characters per row.
AN: I remember that translators used “standard page” as a basic unit of volume.
JN: Yes. As a rule, a standard page equal to 1800 characters (including spaces) was a standard unit in our branch until Jochen Hummel invented and popularised TRADOS – the first CAT tool ever. This was the beginning of a new era in the translation business. The rates started to be expressed “per source word” – not “per page” anymore.
AN: Did you start as a translator or a typist?
JN: I had the chance to start as a typist very early. As a teenager. My father and your grandfather – professor Józef Nedoma was a well-known polyglot. For many years he worked as a freelancer translating from about 10 foreign languages into 4 languages. Therefore he owned two typewriters – a Rheinmetall (bought in Berlin in 1960) with Latin characters with Polish special characters added, as well as an Inter-Continental (very old) converted into a Cyrillic keyboard. And my first attempts were related to typing in Russian.
AN: Was there any demand for typing in Russian in Kraków?
JN: Yes. Translations into Russian were very important because of the political situation. Therefore I typed a lot in Russian, also for economic reasons – the standard rate was 3 Polish Zloty per page in Polish, but 5 Polish Zloty per page in Russian. Just imagine – 70 Zloty was the standard price of 1 kg of butter.
AN: And what about your speed in typing?
JN: During the exam, I reached 283 characters per minute in Polish using a mechanical typewriter.
AN: Typing is now an extinct profession. Each translator types his/her translations alone, using a computer.
JN: Yes – but high-speed typing is still very useful. The translator who types faster can translate more volume.
AN: In the near future, translators will probably use computers able to write text in the target language automatically, using speech recognition.
JN: Or the translator will be the next extinct profession if machine translation wins the competition against human translation …
AN: This is true. Evolution of the translation field is clearly visible …
JN: And the pace is picking up. The change from tandems (translators plus typists) to translators using typewriters took a long time.
AN: Replacement of typewriters with first Personal Computers gave the translators chance to spare time by using copy and paste option and possibility to insert words into the sentence already typed.
JN: And in few years big and expensive Personal Computers have been replaced by smart laptops.
AN: The new era in translation started when CAT tools (Trados and many other software products) gained popularity among translation agencies.
JN: Computerisation entered also in the administrative part of translation business. Translation agencies needed computer-assisted management.
AN: Yes. About 15 years ago several TMS (Translation Management System) software products have been developed. We are proud that our XTRF is one of the key players worldwide.
JN: Creation of XTRF at the beginning of the 21st century was an answer to the quick evolution of the translation market.
AN: Instead of big volumes (long texts) translated during several weeks (or longer), the projects are now much shorter.
JN: That is why streamlining project management and integration of the Translation Management System (XTRF) with CAT tools is extremely important. Modern Project Manager should cooperate with many service providers entrusting them short texts, according to customer needs. In such cases, time is extremely important. The entire process including translation and proofreading should be closed in a very short time.
AN: Yes. The customers dictate deadlines expressed in hours – not in days. The only chance to meet customer requirements is an automatization of subcontracting. XTRF can offer the projects to several providers (from a list predefined by the Project Manager) in order to speed up the process.
JN: And if such invitations to cooperation are generated automatically – XTRF saves the time of the Project Manager. The first provider gets the project and the others get a message that the matter is already settled.
AN: And because the invitations are sent in a cascade – in the predefined interval, the providers are not discouraged to cooperate because the messages “already settled” are eliminated.
JN: In general the actions undertaken by Project Managers are often repeated many times. This is very time consuming and boring …
AN: And this is why XTRF offers automatization of all repeated actions. We estimate that XTRF can save on average up to 60% of the Project Manager’s time.
JN: Another challenge is constantly growing interested in machine translation engines and post-editing.
AN: From the point of view of agency administration – this is not a big difference. XTRF can easily accept such a change in standard workflow. A human translation stage can be immediately replaced by using an MT engine; translators and proofreaders will in change be important to perform proper post-editing and ensure high quality.
JN: I am sure that XTRF is a good product adjusted to the present and future changes of the localization industry.
AN: And I feel enormous satisfaction that three generations in my family were able to adjust to the evolving translation industry – my grandfather was a freelancer, my father established a translation company, which I joined and together we developed it.
JN: And acting together we established a modern technology company – XTRF Management Systems, and I could see my son grow this business in his role of CEO and President of Managing Board.
He has been building his translation industry expertise since 1996 as a business development manager and as a Managing Director for a leading Central European translation company LIDO-LANG Technical Translations which was eventually sold to Sepro Group from Spain.
Jurek Nedoma is also co-founder of the professional TMS software development firm XTRF Management System.