Change in direction spells disaster for translation software vendor

In the news yesterday, Israeli translation software developer Babylon stock (BBLY.TA) lost about 65% of its value in a single day. In little over a week, the stock lost 75% of its value. The reason? Google and Yahoo, two of Babylon’s largest customers which account for 90% of its revenues, announced that they were terminating/downgrading previous business agreements. As the bottom fell out of Babylon’s revenue generators, investors were running for cover. (Read more here).

Babylon started out in the 1990′s as a developer of translation dictionary software. This was before the days of Google Translate and other online dictionaries. Babylon had a good product and made their money from selling licenses. In 2007, the company was taken over by Noam Lanir, an Israeli entrepreneur who made a fortune in the online gaming industry. Lanir’s company, Empire Online, specialized in driving Internet traffic to online gambling websites. Lanir took Babylon into a new direction and instead of just selling translation software licenses, Babylon started to provide free online translation services and browser toolbars that drove traffic to the major search engines. Babylon started making a lot of money from online advertising and from payouts by the search engines for the online traffic referrals.

Babylon ran into two major problems:

  1. Babylon’s translation software became an inferior product. Online translation tools by Google and Microsoft are better than Babylon and are totally free. And free online dictionaries like Linguee and are now offering better solutions than Babylon for translation professionals and lay users alike.
  2. Babylon’s free toolbars did not offer a good user experience and customers started to complain. Babylon toolbars were very aggressive and took over the client browsers. Babylon was  in violation with the terms of service of Yahoo and Google, who terminated their agreements with Babylon as a result.

The following quote from PC Magazine last May says it all:

Babylon Search. If you’re reading this, chances are you’ve got this widely-hated software on your system, and you want it gone. Perhaps you’ve tried uninstalling Babylon already, but it keeps popping up. It’s software that just won’t die.

Is this the end for Babylon? My guess is YES, Babylon is finished. They wasted too much time in digging for gold on the Internet, rather than focus on their bread-and-butter which was translation software. Both Babylon and its investors did not realize that the gold mining rights are owned by Google. And that Google decided to revoke those rights from Babylon.

Bilingual Alignment made easy

ABBYY Aligner

If you are a translator or a project manager, you know the scenario: the translation memory (TM) is lost or is otherwise unavailable. You need to update a set of documents and if there was a TM you could save a lot of money. But if you have copies of the previous file versions in both the source and target languages, then you can create a TM by aligning the two files. Aligning a bilingual corpus is also an essential step in training machine translation engines.

Until now we were using SDL Winalign. The reason we were using it is because it came free with SDL Trados. However, Winalign is very old product which has not been updated in many years. It is also a very buggy product with an extremely hard-to-use user interface. Not to mention that many times files refuse to load into Winalign.

Seeking an alternate solution, we found an excellent product by ABBYY called Aligner. We have been using another ABBYY product called PDF Transformer for quite a few years. ABBYY is a very solid software company that specializes in language software products.

ABBYY Aligner is a fantastic product. Files load into it in seconds and there is no need to enter a whole bunch of settings like in Winalign. The user interface is simple to use and there is no learning curve whatsoever. The alignment process is very fast and the segments are usually aligned perfectly. Editing either the source or target language is simple, just like using a word processor. Exporting to TMX is one mouse click away. Using ABBYY Aligner, you can align hundreds of pages within a very short amount of time.

At a price of 100 Euro, this product is a good buy. And speaking of goodbyes-bye bye SDL Winalign. I’ll don’t think we’ll be seeing you again.

6 tips on how to apply for freelance translator jobs online

Finding new sources of work and income is essential to a freelance translator. I tend to find that the very good translators are always busy. They work for a select group of clients who send them constant work. Such translators do not need to look for work-the work finds them. But even an excellent translator will hit a dry spell at some point and will start to look for new clients.

One of the best ways to find work is to send emails to translation agencies. Advertising costs a lot of money. Having your own website helps, but maintaining and promoting your website costs money too. Sending direct emails is cost effective and very targeted. True that spamming is considered to be an illegal activity, but for most translators it is a matter of survival. Another problem is that in recent years, fake translators are sending emails and trying to defraud online buyers. I wrote a post about this a few weeks ago, click here to read it. This makes the task of email promotion even more onerous. How is your prospective employer to know if you are real or not?

Here are some tips for an effective direct email campaign. Since we receive dozens of such applications each week, I can tell you what we like to see in an email application.

State your language pair in the Subject line: you would be amazed at how many translators send emails asking for work, while omitting the most basic detail: the language pairs you work in. This should be featured prominently in the Subject line as well as in the email body text.

State your credentials in the email: if you are certified by any accredited body, or even if you belong to a professional translation association like Proz or GoTranslators, specify it clearly and provide links to the relevant website pages. This lends credence to your application and buyers can check it out online. Include Twitter and LinkedIn profiles as well.

Provide phone numbers and Skype details. Buyers may want to talk to you on the phone before ordering.

Send one email and end it! This is an important point. Sending 5 or 10 emails will not enhance your chances. The opposite is true. Just send one email and assume that you will be contacted if they need you. Do not send reminders! Remember, email marketing is a numbers game and you are lucky if 3% of your applications are effective.

Attach a short, highly focused CV. A one page PDF file is fine. State your highlights and avoid too much information. Remember, you are not applying for a full-time position. Avoid irrelevant information like hobbies: so you like windsurfing? How does that make you a better translator? Avoid past positions unless they are relevant. Did you work as a video store clerk earlier on in your career? Skip it, as it does nothing to make the buyer more confident in your skills as a translator.

Target your emails and make them personal. Try and find the most suitable email address for your application. Many companies have a jobs@ email address, so send it there if available. Some companies have online registration portals. Use LinkedIn and other social media to find out who are the procurement people at the company you want to reach. Write a personal email to the person you are addressing. Avoid a ‘form’ letter, as this will look like junk mail and has a high probability of getting trashed. Think about the needs of the person you are writing to and how you can fulfill those needs.


Beware of Fake Translators. Email Scammers Pervade Translation Industry.

At GTS we receive dozens of email applications from freelance translators. Until recently, I thought  that all of these were from genuine professional translators. Unfortunately, it is now apparent that many of these applications are from scam artists who are falsifying and forging CVs.

I would like to direct your attention to an excellent resource I found on the website of João Roque Dias, a Portuguese translator. Dias’ website lists several hundred scammers.  I checked many of our email applicants against this list and many of them were listed on Mr. Dias’ list. It is a shame that these people are operating in our industry, spinning dishonesty and ruining things for professional translators who want to make an honest living.

Here are some tips to spot a fake translator:

  1. Read Mr. Dias list and check for the name.
  2. No phone number on the CV. Any time you get a CV with no phone number, it should arouse your suspicion. And even if there is a phone number, I recommend that you dial it and ask for the person who sent you the email just to be sure that it is legitimate.
  3. No listing in any professional directory. Do a Google search using quotation marks (“translation_name”) and see if the person appears on Proz, GoTranslators, etc. If they do not then chances are it is a scam.
  4. Beware of too many qualifications. A Physics degree from the Sorbonne? Medical school graduate from Harvard? A PhD from Stanford? Expertise in medical AND technical AND financial  . . . I know that translators are a talented and educated lot but some of the phony CVs we receive are too good to be true. And they are not true, as a quick check reveals them to be fake.
To sum this up, translation agencies  and online  buyers need to be careful when they buy online. The key word is vigilance.


Protect your WordPress website from hackers with Wordfence


WordPress is a great open-source CMS. That’s why over 70 Million websites are powered by WordPress. With its thousands of free plugins and themes, WordPress makes it easy to create an effective and great looking website quickly.

But as I recently found out, an open-source CMS like WordPress provides hackers with a great deal of options to prey on your website. The other day we received the following email from Google:

We recently discovered that some of your pages can cause users to be infected with malicious software. We have begun showing a warning page to users who visit these pages by clicking a search result on

As you might imagine, this email was very bad news for us at GTS Translation. Most of our advertising and marketing is done through our website. The website is our main source for new clients.

The first thing we did was check Google Webmaster Tools for more details on the source of the malware. We found out pretty soon that all of the malicious code was being generated by a file named ‘wp-count.php.’ This is a backdoor file which hackers place on a website and then use it to spread malicious code to other sites. It is a clever ploy since the file, upon first glance, appears to be a legitimate WordPress file. We quickly deleted this file from our server. But within minutes it reappeared. We then found another seemingly innocent file named ‘wp-apps.php.’ This file is even more cleverly disguised than wp-count.php, since there is a legitimate WordPress file named ‘ wp-app.php.’ We also deleted that file.

But by then we were not yet confident enough to tell Google that our site is clean. We downloaded the free Wordfence plugin and used it to scan our WordPress website. The scan revealed two other malicious files: ‘cnn.php’ and ‘rconfig.php.’ Wordfence deleted those files as well. At that point we asked Google to review our website and within 5 hours we were back on Google with no trace of the earlier troubles.

I want to thank the people at Wordfence for helping us resolve our problem quickly. This free plugin not only scans your website, it actively protects your WordPress website against hackers. We purchased a premium license ($19.99) which performs scheduled security scans of your website. I recommend this plugin highly.

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