Language Industry Quotes of the Year 2016

Throughout the year Slator has been speaking to language industry decision makers about markets, deals, technology, and more. We interviewed CEOs of large language service providers, young and aspiring academics conducting research at the forefront of machine translation, buyers sharing their thoughts on how best to collaborate with vendors, and many more.

Read on to find out who thinks venture capitalists hate translation, who speculates about a deflation in the price per word, or which CEO does not see machines replacing human interpreters anytime soon.



December 16, 2016: LIOX No More: Rory Cowan on Taking Lionbridge Private

The U.S. markets really do not appreciate the translation industry” — Rory Cowan, CEO, Lionbridge

November 28, 2016: Canada’s Language Industry Steps Up Government Lobbying Effort

“Decisions are now left up to professional buyers, who set stringent requirements, but expect lower and lower prices” — Kim Pines, Treasurer, AILIA

November 22, 2016: The Transformation of SDL

“There may be a deflation in the per-word price” — Adolfo Hernandez, CEO, SDL

November 4, 2016: Unbabel Raises USD 5m in Series A Round

“If you take away pure machine translation services from the likes of Google, all you’re left with is an incredibly long tail of high-cost, low-tech, and massively inefficient solutions where the business model is basically ‘throw more humans at it” — Vasco Pedro, CEO, Unbabel

July 5, 2016: Technicis Acquires Switzerland’s Probst Translation

Language services is still something of a cottage industry and not very concentrated” — Laurent Sallé, Investment Manager, Naxicap Partners

October 27, 2016: Lilt Raises USD 2.35m, Hires SDL Veteran

Manual translation is too expensive and raw machine translation quality is unreliable” — Ash Fontana, Managing Partner, Zetta Venture Partners

July 8, 2016: Translation Platform Runs Out of Cash, Closes Down

“VCs hate this sector”—Karin Nielsen, Founder,

May 11, 2016: Why Translating Chinese User Reviews May Disappoint Danish Tourists

Users may derive some utility from the star ratings of reviews in languages they do not read, possibly more from rough machine translations of the review text” — Scott Hale, Data Scientist, Oxford Internet Institute


December 21, 2016: Website Localizer Raises USD 3m, Teams Up With Printing Giant

We intend to continue focusing on Japan for now, but we also have plans to make a big push abroad in the future” — Jeff Sandford, co-Founder,

December 16, 2016: LIOX No More: Rory Cowan on Taking Lionbridge Private

Look at Merrill with Brink, for example. They brought it in, couldn’t make it work, spat it out. Look at Donnelley with its language business they brought it in, Donnelley is broken into three, and now it’s a question of whether or not it’s going to be successful inside one of those three companies” — Rory Cowan, CEO, Lionbridge

December 13, 2016: Xplanation Acquires Germany’s Matrix Communications

“We quickly saw that scale on the German market would make a significant difference to Xplanation. That’s how we came across Matrix” — Steven Van Lint, CEO, Xplanation

August 25, 2016: LanguageLine’s New Owner Says Tech Will Not Replace Interpreters

How Teleperformance handles the integration of LanguageLine into their operations will be watched very closely by other providers” — Barry Slaughter Olsen, co-President, InterpretAmerica

May 19, 2016: VerbalizeIt Pivots Into Smartling’s Arms

Capabilities around subtitling, video and audio transcription and translation were things we never got to at Smartling” — Jack Welde, CEO, Smartling


November 18, 2016: Neural Conquers Patent Translation in Major WIPO Roll-out

The tool does not know how to translate “I am”” — Bruno Pouliquen, Senior Engineer, WIPO

November 14, 2016: How BLEU Measures Translation and Why It Matters

BLEU may only give a small penalty for a change that is superficially small, but completely changes the meaning of a translation” — Rico Sennrich, post-doctoral researcher, University of Edinburgh

October 27, 2016: Lilt Raises USD 2.35m, Hires SDL Veteran

Neural machine translation will have a major positive impact on quality” — Spence Green, CEO, Lilt

October 25, 2016: New Generation of Data Scientists Tackles Translation

We don’t give the model any linguistic knowledge at all” — Jason Lee, PhD candidate, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology

September 30, 2016: Hyperbolic? Experts Weigh In on Google Neural Translate

The potential of NMT surpassing the translation quality of PBMT is very real” — Tony O’Dowd, CEO, KantanMT

Our paper describes the new Google Neural Machine Translation system and obviously builds on many years, even decades of research by other groups” — Mike Schuster, Senior Staff Research Scientist, Google

We need to be careful to avoid hyperbole!” — John Tinsley, CEO, Iconic Machine Translation

September 27, 2016: Google Claim Translate Breakthrough

The quality of the resulting translation system gets closer to that of average human translators” — Google Translate Group

August 25, 2016: LanguageLine’s New Owner Discusses Acquisition

A translation engine cannot do the job of an interpreter” — Daniel Julien, Executive Chairman, Teleperformance

June 6, 2016: Facebook Says Statistical Machine Translation Has Reached End of Life

“The current approach of statistical, phrase-based MT has kind of reached the end of its natural life” — Alan Packer, Head of Language Technology, Facebook

May 3, 2016: US Trademark Appeal Board Rules on Spanish Translation: “Stop, you’re both right”

“Online or automatic translations that are generated by software may merely combine the translations of individual words” — US Trademark Appeal Board

March 24, 2016: Baidu Translate: The Inside Story

“In the next five years, (…) machine translators will be able to understand texts or human speech demands more accurately and achieve breakthrough translation results” — Baidu Translate Team


November 29, 2016: A Fight About Money, Not Spite, Says TransPerfect’s Phil Shawe

“I get multiple calls a day [from potential investors]. I don’t think coming up with the money is going to be a problem” — Phil Shawe, CEO, TransPerfect

“This is not about spite. This is a fight about money” — Phil Shawe, CEO, TransPerfect

“If my house is in front of an airport and the court [could] force me to sell my property…can a court force me to sell my property so that it creates an exit strategy for (co-CEO) Liz Elting?” — Phil Shawe, CEO, TransPerfect

November 22, 2016: The Transformation of SDL

“What I am not going to do is to just botch execution and then try to cover it with M&A” — Adolfo Hernandez, CEO, SDL

“There is no time now for big portfolios” — Adolfo Hernandez, CEO, SDL

November 11, 2016: TransPerfect Would Grow Even Without Co-Founders, Says Elting

“If it so happens that neither of its founders will be involved in the company’s future, I still believe that TransPerfect will continue to grow and succeed” — Liz Elting, co-CEO, TransPerfect

October 20, 2016: How Appen Struck Gold in Language Services

“If someone came to us with a very large volume website, software localization or document translation project, other companies would probably be better equipped to do that than us” — Mark Brayan, CEO, Appen

July 14, 2016: Korea’s Internet Giant Naver Admits Translation Tech Rip-off

“The service Naver has launched had nearly identical UI flow and function of the Flitto app” — Simon Lee, CEO, Flitto

June 15, 2016: Rolling It Up: Jeff Brink on Creating United Language Group

“Sometimes it is easier to appreciate something when you step back from it for a while,” on why he decided to rejoin the industry — Jeff Brink, former CEO, ULG

April 15, 2016: M&A Wave Reaches Platforms as Buys TM-Town

“The criticism about the UI being outdated is valid. We do intend to update certain aspects of the interface” — Henry Dotterer, President,

The Buy-Side

November 15, 2016: How PayPal Speaks to Global Customers

“All our customer-facing content is translated and reviewed by humans” — Salvo Giammarresi, Head of Content and Globalization, PayPal

November 1, 2016: Inside eBay’s Translation Machine

“We estimate it would take 1,000 translators 5 years to translate only the 60 million listings eligible for Russia” — Juan Rowda, Staff MT Language Specialist, eBay

“Queries are really hard to translate because, among other things, there is no context” — Juan Rowda, Staff MT Language Specialist, eBay

“Try finding a significant amount of bilingual texts about baseball gear, or action figures. Not that easy” — Juan Rowda, Staff MT Language Specialist, eBay

September 19, 2016: Words Are Our Peaceful Weapons, Says Amnesty’s Head of Translation

“Translators, therefore, have one of the most essential roles in this entire organization” — Lucio Bagnulo, Head of Translation, Amnesty International.

September 13, 2016: We Work With an Army of Translators, Says GameHouse Translation Manager

“One of the biggest challenges between the production and localization teams is to understand the mutual terms of quality and schedule” — Tommy Nordkvist, Translation Manager, GameHouse

September 7, 2016: In Legal Translation, Errors Can Change a Life

“We learned from experience that translation costs can rocket up to several thousand euros per case” — Victoria Froltsova, Head of Translation, Lansky, Ganzger + partner Rechtsanwälte GmbH

June 21, 2016: Eric Liu on the Launch of Alibaba Language Services

“It will be a marketplace where the services of LSPs and the needs of buyers can meet” — Eric Liu, General Manager, Alibaba Language Services

June 8, 2016: Language Is a Lawyer’s Main Tool: Inside Finnish Law Firm Castrén & Snellman

“Sometimes an individual freelancer is the best option, sometimes a large translation agency” — Marjukka Lehtinen, Translation Service Manager, Castrén & Snellman

May 27, 2016: 15,000 Pages: How Russian Law Firm Pepeliaev Group Runs Translations

“I think the development of CAT technologies will continue to be the most important driver of the translation industry’s future development” — Julia Lipina, Head of Translation Department, Pepeliaev

May 5, 2016: Take Me Out and Lift Me Up: A Client’s Take

“It implies understanding the actual business of clients and not only the industry or vertical they are in” — Bruno Herrmann, Director of Globalization, The Nielsen Company

March 4, 2016: The Buy-Side: Inside Swiss Post’s Language Service Unit

“I estimate it to be around 14–18 million words per year” — Martina Bellodi, Head of Language Services, Swiss Post

“We buy most of the translations from our external partners and focus internal resources on quality assurance” — Martina Bellodi, Head of Language Services, Swiss Post

Final Nuggets

November 28, 2016: Canada’s Language Industry Steps Up Government Lobbying Effort

“There is no government accreditation of freelance translators and there has not been since 1995” — Nicole Gagnon, Canadian Chapter spokesperson, AIIC

July 9, 2016: Translation Platform Runs Out of Cash, Closes Down

“There was a lot of rejection when a customer picked a translator, but the translator did not take the work. Fulfilment became difficult” — Karin Nielsen, Founder,

July 7, 2016: Brexit: British Language Service Providers React

“The referendum campaigning has left some feeling unwelcome. They deserved better. As a Brit who has lived and worked in Europe previously, it’s different to be somewhere by right than on a visa” — Rupert Evans, Managing Director, TranslateMedia

July 7, 2016: Brexit: British Language Service Providers React

“There might not be adequate translator training left in this country for the few British people who still want to study the profession” — Anu Carnegie-Brown, Managing Director, Sandberg Translation Partners

May 31, 2016: China’s “The Interpreter” Breaks 100 Million Viewer Mark in One Week

“My dream was to be a primary school English teacher. Now, my dream is to become a translator”— Anonymous Weibo user