High-tech Interpreters – Jonathan Rechtman, Cadence Translate – Voice Tech Podcast ep.039

Jonathan Rechtman Cadence Translate

Episode description

Jonathan Rechtman is the co-founder of Cadence Translate, a language services company that help corporations and financial firms conduct business and investment research across the language barrier. Jonathan is a true expert in the field, having worked for the UN, celebrities and businesspeople alike. He explains the state of translation and interpretation today, how the process works, the skills and technology interpreters use, and how the profession is being impacted by the latest developments in technology.

We discuss the do’s and don’t when hiring interpreters, how you can get the most value from your translated audio, some skills that interpreters have that you can use in your daily life, automatic interpretation devices, unified communications as a service (UCAAS), and much more.

One of the most interesting discoveries to come out of our discussion is the similarity between the mental processes of a human interpreter and the state of the art natural language processing stack that smart speakers use, a connection that can inform our approach to designing voice interfaces.

Highlights from the show

What is simultaneous interpreting?

  • Real-time translation of a live conversation between people speaking different languages. It’s often used by companies to bridge cultures, and by nations during diplomacy. The technique was debuted at the Nuremburg trials some 70 years ago.
  • It involves a miraculous process from concept to expression to interpretation to transmission to comprehension

What are some use cases of interpreting services?

  • There’s a huge material advantage for financial companies to take into account public material information that lies on the other side of the language barrier.
  • An example is ‘expert network calls’, research interviews between subject matter experts and investors

The technical setup used by professional interpreters

  • Pretty basic today – microphones, transceivers, pen and paper.

What’s the role of technology in interpreting these days?

  • Interpreting & translation is a largely human-centric process.
  • Transcription can involve a first-pass by machine, with human post-editing, but often humans-only is more efficient
  • Cadence’s smart recommendation engine helps account managers to select talent for the job, but clients demand human-managed white-glove service. Marketplaces commoditise a service, which isn’t appreciated by linguists
What’s the future of tech in interpretation?
  • Interpreters will use tools to increase the quality and reduce the cost of their work. Dashboards will soon hit the market that assist in capturing information e.g. numbers etc
Do automatic interpretation products such as Waverly Ambassador or Google Translate pose a threat to the profession?
  • Not in the short term, as they use generalised translation models, are context unaware, and unable to handle disruptions and discontinuities.
  • While syntax quality has improved, cultural references, sarcasm and humour are still out of the reach of ML models.
  • Word error rate does not represent the fidelity of message translation – one wrong word in a sentence can change its entire meaning.
What is Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS)?
  • It’s hosting communications on the cloud, such as video and voice conferencing e.g. Backend end services like Twilio, and front-end services like Zoom
What’s the growth story of Cadence Translate, and what services do they offer?
  • They are no longer China centric, and now support 20 languages, across 400 language pairs
  • They serve clients globally, and now focus on finance operations.
  • They offer interpretation services for voice calls, live on-site interpretation, transcription of audio, and translation of written documents.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of doing business in China?
  • Access to some of the best talent in the world is a huge plus.
  • Internet access, language and culture barriers, and pollution can be challenging.
What are the big do’s and don’ts of hiring interpreters?
  • Do hire trained professionals i.e. don’t expect bilingual staff or translators to be able to interpret effectively.
What are some skills interpreters have that we can all use?
  • Structural listening is reformulating the series of ideas that arrive, fitting these into a mental map, add the concrete details/examples to highlight the points.
  • Shorthand notetaking skills allow you to quickly note down common topics using  personalised codes.
 How can customers leverage the bilingual audio data generated from their interpreted sessions?
  • They can purchase transcriptions of the audio, and store this in searchable knowledge bases for future use, and even licence it to third parties.
What are the skills required to be an interpreter, and how can you acquire them?
  • You need language skills, plus the context of human experience, and some domain expertise
  • You can learn the core skills at interpreting school, but your specialisation is often dictated by the market. The hot trend today is finance and tech / AI
How can you develop your domain knowledge?
  • Read the paper everyday, and speak to experts regularly. If you maintain a neutral stance on issues, people will open up to you.
What character traits do successful interpreters share?
  • Curiosity, open mindedness, and high empathy. Also humility, by not inserting your own opinions into the interpreted message.

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