What We Learned at ELIA Together 2024

Rocio at Elia 2024

The European Language Industry Association (ELIA) hosted the eighth edition of its Together conference on February 21-23, 2024. The event, which was held this time in Riga, Latvia, was well-attended, attracting delegates from language service providers (LSPs), buyers, exhibitors, and many linguists.

Organized under the theme “Perfect Harmony,” ELIA’s Carlos la Orden Tovar and Margarida Fernandes moderated speaker and panel presentations on two separate tracks highlighting collaboration, technology, and market demand, titled “We’re on the Same Side” and “Let’s Meet in the Middle.”

During the pre-conference day, speakers met with the organizers at a welcome reception, and conference attendees had the choice to attend a workshop offered by BureauWorks, titled “How to Efficiently Post-Edit with BWX Generative AI-Translation Technology.” Also available was a job fair that included representatives from Acolad, Casa de Traduceri, Homeland Language Services, JLV Traductions, Language Inspired, Linearis, Lingua e Mundi, and Task Force.

Opening two days packed with presentations was the keynote address delivered by Danilo Monaco, currently a Business Coach with Growing Brain and Head of Sales at Yellow Hub.

Monaco, whose career in the language services industry includes experience as a linguist, vendor manager, sales rep, and manager in several companies, introduced his presentation, titled “Linguists, Project Managers and Vendor Managers – 10 Tips to Always Find a (Middle) Way,” by disclosing that it would strongly relate to his personal experience.

Best May Not Be Enough

Setting a friendly and jovial tone for the day ahead, Monaco emphasized the need to find common ground by applying empathy, flexibility, and a commitment to collaborative success. He quoted Robert Fulghum’s book “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten” and walked attendees through a correlation of simple principles with the language industry.

“It is not enough to do your best; you must know what to do, and then do your best. Learn the theory, try it out, fail and let others fail … we are all made of little pieces that we pick along the way,” said Monaco in closing.

Seven of the presentations addressed both LSPs and freelancers. For example, Rayna Damyanova, Global Head of Language Talent at Language Inspired, spoke about the need for freelancers and LSPs to have regular check-ins, participate in a proactive feedback loop, exercise transparent communication, and have shared goals and objectives. 

The rest of the presentations targeted either freelancers or LSPs, including topics such as marketing and branding, and optimizing the relationship between LSPs and freelancers.

The theme of open, transparent, and more proactive communication was present also in the rest of the presentations aimed at both linguists and LSPs. Two of the sessions where this was emphasized were “Synergizing Success: Nurturing Collaborative Bonds Between Project Managers and Freelance Language Experts” by Jakov Miličević, CEO and Team Leader at Verbosari, and “Utopia vs. Reality: A Win-Win Approach to Vendor Management,” by freelance translator Filipe Alverca.

Hide the Flaws

Rares Vasilescu, Vice President of Product Development at RWS, started the sessions on February 22nd with a presentation titled “AI and Machine Learning: Where Are We Now and What Does the Future Hold?” 

Vasilescu explained the progression of language technology in the past two decades to today’s large language models (LLMs), which as he put it “can now do perfectly natural language generation, which tends to hide the flaws.”

Generative AI is now a part of multiple processes, including content creation, preparation, content quality, translation, and quality control, explained Vasilescu. He took attendees through the many ways in which LLMs can assist with linguistic functions and closed with the thought that we are at the beginning of what could be thousands of ideas and business applications using generative AI.

Slator presented a perspective on the current status of AI in the language industry, aimed at both freelancers and LSPs. The presentation, titled “L10N as Evolutionary Practice: Actively Shaping What’s Next,” was set on the premise that, when it comes to AI, the industry’s evolution is past the adaptation and hybridization stages. LSPs and freelancers, particularly, are in need of a real transformation to meet the challenges brought about by rapid changes in language technology.

The data provided by Slator supports the idea that automation has increased in all translation and localization processes. There are also some significant innovations, including voice cloning via speech-to-speech translation (S2T) with small audio samples and advanced workflow orchestration, to name just a couple.