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Jaap van der Meer

Jaap van der Meer

Jaap van der Meer founded TAUS in 2004. He is a language industry pioneer and visionary, who started his first translation company, INK, in The Netherlands in 1980.  Jaap is a regular speaker at conferences and author of many articles about technologies, translation and globalization trends.

On March 22-24 (2017), fifty people came together in a former clandestine church in Amsterdam to break their heads on the question how the translation industry will have changed in 2022. The story that came out can be read as an ordinary battle between man and machine, with a victory for the latter. But at a deeper layer, there is a fascinating intrigue with many threads about game-changing technologies and trends and an outcome that is perplexing even for all of us who think that they are behind the wheel today. Be careful what you wish for. The translation companies of...
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Jean Gachot, the major business developer in the career of Systran, has died. Jean Gachot, who acquired Systran and widely developed their machine translation system, passed away on February 17 at the age of 96, missing the company’s 50th anniversary by just one year. The remarkable history of Systran can be attributed to a large extent to Mr. Gachot, who developed a passion for machine translation in the 80s of the last century. At this time he met Peter Toma, the legendary inventor of one of the first tested and demonstrated commercial MT engines, and, in 1985, struck a deal that...
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On 11 November, Daimler hosted an Automotive Translation Roundtable organized by TAUS and berns language consulting. Translation managers from eight large automotive and three large IT companies participated in the one day meeting. Goals for the day were to get the pulse of the translation sector and learn from each other. What do we have in common? Where do we differ? It comes down to this: we are not so different. And what’s more: we must work together across the translation sector to create a common ecosystem.    We Are All In This Together The main takeaway of the Automotive Roundtable...
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What makes a good conference? If you ask me, the answer is: purpose, people and program. As simple as that. Let’s start with ‘purpose’: you have to have a good reason to make people travel from all over the world to a single location and have them spend a few days of their precious time together. As Eric Liu, General Manager of Alibaba Language Services, said in his keynote at the TAUS Annual Conference in Portland last week: it all starts with a mission - “Preparing for a future that is without language barriers”. The same goes for TAUS and the...
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Data entered the field of machine translation in the late eighties and early nineties when researchers at IBM’s Thomas J. Watson Research Center reported successes with their statistical approach to machine translation. Until that time machine translation worked more or less the same way as human translators with grammars, dictionaries and transfer rules as the main tools. The syntactic and rule-based Machine Translation (MT) engines appealed much more to the imagination of linguistically trained translators, while the new pure data-driven MT engines with probabilistic models turned translation technology more into an alien threat for many translators. Not only because the quality...
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It was Renato (Beninatto) who reminded me, in the ‘Future’ panel discussion in Dublin, that only eleven years ago (when the TAUS think tank was founded) nobody - in his right mind - would think about using machine translation (MT) technology on any job anywhere. And now? Now MT is everywhere. Insiders say that everyday computers translate 200 Billion words. That is 100 times more than the output of all human translators together. MT is everywhere and always there, except … well, except the professionals seem to have their doubts. That makes me think that the state of the industry could...
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The question is: are we all on the same evolutionary path? Or do some of us take different turns, make shortcuts and even arrive in different places? The TAUS Executive Forum on April 25 and 26 in Beijing opened new perspectives on translation in China that many of us had perhaps not expected. China typically copies what others have already built and done before them. Fast trains are modeled to the TGV in France, electric cars are inspired by Tesla, and fashion in China follows the trends around the world closely. So when Eric Liu of LocaTran Translations at the TAUS...
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* The title is borrowed from an article written by Bill Joy (then Chief Scientist at Sun Microsystems) and published in Wired Magazine in April 2000. (Why the future does not need us). This article was somewhat gloomy, giving us a warning about a future in which machines essentially dominate us, humans. “We must do more thinking up front if we are not to be (…) surprised and shocked by the consequences of our inventions.” Projecting this fundamental and existential problem on our own sector, the field of translation, could easily lead to depressing and devastating visions of the translation industry...
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The world can be overwhelming, so it’s tempting to try to make it smaller, more controllable. It’s the same with the world of localization. It’s overwhelming, so much content, so many languages. You would like to make it smaller, more manageable. I don’t want to make this a political debate, but I think we, localization professionals, know best that we cannot establish borders and keep them closed. The world is one. And in fact, if you think about it: our work is all about helping the world (and our customers) communicate better. Isn’t it great to work in a profession with...
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Jaap van der Meer meets Women In Localization at the Holiday Inn Camden Hotel in London on November 26th, 2015 The world can be overwhelming, so it’s tempting to try to make it smaller, more controllable. It’s the same with the world of localization. It’s overwhelming, so much content, so many languages. You would like to make it smaller, more manageable. I don’t want to make this a political debate, but I think we, localization professionals, know best that we cannot establish borders and keep them closed. The world is one. And in fact, if you think about it: our work...
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The translation industry is quickly becoming a high-tech industry. So we say…  But fear not. Translators' jobs are not going away. Although Google Translate may be considered a big innovation, the company keeps hunting for more and better human translators who can produce the most readable and best localizations of its products. “With all respect to the companies innovating in language today”, says Lane Greene in his column in the latest issue of TAUS Review, “no-one has achieved anything like that roll-up…” He refers to Uber and “Uberization”, a neologism that  has become synonym for disruption of traditional and fragmented industries....
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The Five-Year Race to Tokyo 2020 Started at the TAUS Executive Forum. The goal: Beat Google. We have heard this story many times over the past sixty years: in five years from now, the computer will produce fully automatic high-quality translations. The story goes back to January 1954 when enthusiastic researchers in IBM’s headquarters in New York told the press about the first experiment with MT that they just concluded in cooperation with scientists of Georgetown University. If all goes well, the electronic brain will be ready in five years to translate all of the Soviet Union’s documents into the Queen’s...
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Was Robin Thicke simply inspired by Marvin Gaye or did he commit a crime by copying his famous tune from the single “Got to Give it up” from 1977? The jury’s verdict on March 10 was: “Guilty!” This was a clear example of infringement on copyright law. Robin Thicke and his composer have to pay the Gaye family $7.4 million in recuperative damages. This unprecedented court case made a lot of professionals working in the music industry and other creative sectors worried and uncertain. What is original, what isn’t? Can I trust my inspiration, or am I – perhaps unconsciously –...
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After decades of funding of European research in language and translation technology, the new European Commission wants to turn off the money tap. European researchers are staggering and they wonder why. One theory is that the politicians feel it is money wasted. Despite a diligent European investment program in machine translation, US corporations seem to have won that battle. Let Google and Microsoft run with it, you hear Andrus Ansip thinking. Ansip is Vice President of the European Commission responsible for the Digital Single Market. He’s got a lot more on his plate. He will be held accountable for a rapid...
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You could just stay where you are and live from what you have. Not bother anyone, and hope that nobody bothers you. Try it... You starve or get killed. Of all the species living on our planet Earth we – humans – are the most adventurous. We travel, trade and communicate. And that’s how we evolve and prosper, or not… We can only imagine how Columbus started his communication with the Native Americans in 1492. Gesturing, pointing at objects and helplessly speaking his own words. Or the Dutch seafarers that went ashore at Hirado and started trading with the Japanese in...
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Today, October 1 2014, we launch a new magazine: TAUS Review of language business & technology. The language and translation industry is a growing sector, but it is not getting a lot of recognition for its crucial role in global business and governance. We start this magazine for four reasons: 1. Raise awareness Most of the time we all take language for granted. Everyone speaks one, or sometimes two or even more. But really, it is complicated, cumbersome and curious how words connect with meanings and how these meanings cross borders and keep changing. It takes skills to craft the right...
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Or Time is on our Side Sometimes it is very rewarding to think in terms of decades, centuries and millennia. Not in a fatalistic way, like ‘in the long run we are all dead’. But in a positive way, thinking that there is direction and meaning in what we do. Psychologists say that our brains are mostly occupied by sex, what we eat, what we wear and now… what we share, on Facebook, all on the same day. You can’t erase the evolution from our body and our brains. In the beginning we were hunters. At work we have become farmers,...
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  Tars drives the streets of Moscow in his Hyundai taxi twelve to sixteen hours a day, if he can. “Moscow is all work”, he says in broken English. Tars is from Fedorovka in Bashkortostan, some 1,400 kilometers away from Moscow. Back home he speaks Bashkir with his two brothers and his mother. He hopes to go and see them in June. It will be more than a day travel by train. In Moscow he speaks Russian. He also knows a bit of Mari and Tartar, two other languages that are spoken in his native country. Tars thinks we are from...
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It takes just a day of wandering in Tokyo as a non-Japanese speaker to understand why translation innovation starts in Japan, and much less so in other places of the world. Both visitor and host are totally helpless and hopeless when trying to talk to each other. That is much less the case in Europe and North America where English often becomes the ‘langue véhicule’ for tourists and business men. That’s also what Naoki Yamada, founder of anydooR realized when he returned to Tokyo from his studies in Los Angeles. Colleagues and friends kept asking him to translate something, a sentence,...
Tagged in: Community Japanese
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The announcement in December of the sale of Systran – the grandmother of all MT – to CSLI Co. Ltd. in Korea sent a small shock wave through the translation technology sector. Is Systran giving up after some forty years of chasing the holy grail of fully automatic high quality translation? Or is this the best deal that one could expect? The question also creeps up: is there a market for MT, really? On the one hand we see MT everywhere, mostly as a free service or utility on web sites and in apps, soon also in the Google Glass and...
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