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Summer Placement Diaries

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Marine's Summer Placemet with Unbabel

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On September 1st, when the beauty of knowledge is celebrated in many countries, I initiated an enriching journey at Unbabel. The placement was constrained to a one-month period, which equals to a longer span in terms of the knowledge and experience gained.   

As the name of the company implies, it endeavours to “unbabel” the walls of misunderstanding the intricacies of languages can entail. Since 2013, it has successfully been combining the speed and scale of machine translation with the authenticity possessed by a native speaker to provide translation of customer service communications for such companies as easyJet, Booking.com, Facebook, Pinterest, etc.

The onboarding was facilitated and supervised by Marina Sánchez Torrón, a senior natural language analyst, whose support and guidance were invaluable. Prior to the commencement of the placement, people partner representative Teresa Silva organized a virtual trip in Unbabel’s premises specifying the type and scope of services provided. David Barbosa from IT support team subsequently made sure all the necessary tools had been downloaded and were functioning to their purpose. Marina Sánchez then took over and step by step uncovered the layers of machine-powered translation.

My responsibilities at the company enabled me to touch the surface of languages with the fingertips (a pure happiness for a linguist!). This joy involved but was not limited to providing linguistic quality service, i. e. annotating English-to-Russian and Russian-to-English machine-translated texts, outlining the most recurrent errors, and creating gold standard for them. All these steps were conductive to producing a concise report on the suitability of the error typology to the language pair under evaluation.

The one-month internship was proportionately divided into four weeks of thoroughly outlined activities. The first week was dedicated to getting familiarised with the tools I was supposed to be working with. Marina Sánchez compiled a list of research papers on translation quality assessment and assurance, quality in crowdsourcing, interannotation agreement, and Multidimensional Quality Metric typology to be read throughout the placement. All the suggested papers perfectly align with the topic of my dissertation.

Starting from the second week, I had daily one-hour Zoom meetings with Marina where I shared my insights into certain issues, and Marina kindly and patiently walked me through the realm of quality assurance of AI-powered translation. The third week was a melting pot of ideas, opinions and suggestions that sowed the seeds of the planned report. During the fourth week, the acquired knowledge was consolidated as a result of continuous discussions and the report took its final shape. I resumed the placement with a virtual presentation reporting my findings to linguistic services and IT staff. 

I am elated to have worked with the Unbabel family, forever grateful for the cooperative work (and precious friendship) with my supervisor and hopeful that my drop of contribution makes the ocean bigger.

In these challenging times for my country, this virtual placement was a ray of light in my life.

Post Written By Marine Ovesyan