• vi-VNen-GB
Vietnamese translation service market heating up

The phrase “dich may” (translating with machine) cannot be found in the Vietnamese dictionary yet. However, the machine translation market has been heating up in the digital era.

Nhóm lập trình viên 9X tham gia viết phần mềm Bocohan

The group of computer programmers – the authors of the Bocohan software

A group of scientists intended to celebrate the 66th Vietnamese National Day September 2, in a special way: debuting the machine translation market. This is the group of computer programmers, born in 1982-1987, who wrote a special software piece – Bocohan. Dr Nguyen Ai Viet, the head of the group, called the software Bocohan to make the day the product was completed – December 30. On the same day in 1408, Vietnam won in the glorious fight against the Ming Dynasty’s army.


Demand increasingly high

A student of the Hanoi Medical University said that she has to look for the reliable translators who can help translate medical professional documents from English to Vietnamese. Every member in her class has been assigned to translate a page of a book. And when all of them finish translating, the lecturer will have a book which updates all the latest healthcare achievements of the world.

However, translating healthcare documents proves to be a difficult task for many people, including students. Therefore, the medical students may pay up to 10 dollars per page to translators. However, it is very difficult to find reliable service providers.

In general, it is very costly to translate documents from English for special purposes (ESP). One would have to pay 20-30 dollars per page for translating legal documents. The translation of World Bank’s legal documents can be paid up to 60 dollars per page.

Therefore, though the translation market in Vietnam remains a fledgling, the total turnover from translation service in 2010 was still high at no less than 30-40 million dollars, according to Dr Nguyen Ai Viet, Director of the Information Technology Institute under the Hanoi National University.

Non-machine translators can’t get contracts

A question has been raised regarding who can obtain lucrative translation contracts. Viet said that the biggest piece of the cake, estimated to be worth 40-50 million dollars in 2011, falls into the hand of foreign translation companies. Why?

One may thing that foreign companies are more advantageous than domestic ones because they have more qualified translators. However, experts have affirmed that the biggest advantage that helps foreign companies inferior to domestic ones is the support of translation machines or translation software pieces.

Dr Dao Hong Thu, a well known linguist, said that the pretax profit of the global machine translation market of big translation companies alone was 13 billion dollars in 2010, while the figure is expected to be double this year.

In the digital era, translators not only use their heads in the translation work. Nowadays, most international translation companies only recruit the translators who can use the translation software pieces. Translation machines prove to be the efficient supporters who help translators increase their translation speed by 3-4 times.

“The number of translators who can use translation software account for no less than 83 percent of the total professional translators worldwide,” Dr Viet said.

Meanwhile, the non-machine translation market in Vietnam has been steadily growing with increasingly high turnover. Phuong Nam Company, for example, translates eight books a year and earns the profits of no less than 10 billion dong. However, the turnover from manual translation market proves to be too small if compared with that of the machine translation market.


The Vietnamese translation market is believed to be worth no less than 200-300 million dollars a year. However, foreign translation companies have jumped into the market for the last many years, who have obtained big contracts with big organizations and economic groups such as Samsung, Toyota, Panasonic, WB. Technique or legal documents of the institutions have never been assigned to Vietnamese groups of translators, because the groups cannot meet the requirements in quality and deliveries.

In other countries, the pay is made based on the numbers of words, while in Vietnam, the pay is calculated based on the number of pages. The Ministry of Finance is now paying 45,000 dong per page for the translation from English to Vietnamese, and 50,000 dong per page from Vietnamese to English. For the last many years, a lot of government agencies and institutions cannot find good service providers because of the overly low pay they offer.

When cannot find a good translation provider, the last way is to ask a non-professional one. Dr. Dao Hong Thu, a former lecturer in Faculty of Foreign Languages, University of Science and Technology, tells a story happened more than a dozen years ago. A military school hired an officer of University of Science & Technology to translate at the state price. Basing on the translation result, trainees of that military school were instructed to install military equipments. The result was that the installation was failed and that military school had to pay money to redo the translation.

This year, the Ministry of Finance adjusts 70, 000 dong per page for the translation from English to Vietnamese, and 90, 000 dong per page from Vietnamese to English. Besides, there is a higher translation price, 140, 000 dong per page for translation from English to Vietnamese and 150, 000 dong per page for Vietnamese to English. This price is approximately to the market price, 7 USD per page for translation from English to Vietnamese and 10 USD per page from Vietnamese to English. This price is "The primary price to welcome customers". "I cannot understand what type of translation service," said Dr. Viet.

Initiation of a machine translation market in Vietnam

It's time to wake up when the world began to aware about it half-century ago. Head of a IT research institute of one of primary training university of the nation, Dr. Viet together with his colleagues have worked four years to develop translation softwares for the creation of one of the most reliable translation machine in Vietnam in current. "Our translation software is different from Google in terms of process and quality," Dr. Viet said confidently. "No one can understand Vietnamese clearly as Vietnamese. Information technology is only a tool. The quality of the translation machine is determined by the quality of the language supporting software ".

That the reason why the Centre for Translation & Interpretation of Ministry of Foreign Affairs has ordered an English-Vietnamese translation machine which is developed by group of scientists led by Dr. Viet. That translation machine was built at a total cost of 100, 000 USD. Meanwhile, The English-Vietnamese translation machine of Google is not less than 10 million USD but it lacks the process of refining the final product as that of the translation machine of the Vietnamese scientist group.

With this translation machine translation in hand, Dr. Viet can compete with any manual translator. His translation speed is three times faster, ensuring the accuracy, especially with official document, scientific and economic materials. Dr. Viet revealed that he translate for the Ministry of Communications and Information at a competitive prices, from 100, 000 to 150, 000 dong per page. With the translation machine, he can deal with very difficult document without taking too much effort.


He himself invested 600, 000 USD to design an infrastructure system which supports two-way translation Vietnamese-English - Vietnamese in order to serve the community. The system was launched in 2009 and being innovated to keep with and to surpass Google.. Not stopping, he intends to open the first machine translation market to aware people of a potential market. That translation market is planned to launch in Sep, 2011 when the country commemorates 66 years of Vietnam's National Day.

"Many professional translators vows not to use the translation machine because of worrying about the lose of identity. The ignorance to translation machine also appears at management levels as the project of building a translation machine for six major languages in the world at the Hanoi National University which costs 1, 5 million USD was rejected. According to this project, the government spend only 1/5 of the total expense, or 300, 000 USD, equivalent to six billion VND. The rest will be paid by the research group. However, the proposal is still considered too big, not enough money. It is expected that a more modest proposal of building a translation machine for only the translation from China to Vietnam and vice versa, with the cost of three billion dong will be accepted "said Dr. Nguyen Ai Viet (Photo), a pioneer in machine translation in Vietnam

Quoc Dung

Tien Phong Newspaper