Staff Interview

April 2011

Staff Interview: Hiroaki Baba

Hiroaki Baba, the Translation Team's Production Manager, is someone who is also present in recent large-scale translation projects. He leverages his extensive knowledge of software and delicate attention-giving in the recruitment of staff members, the education of new personnel and the management of his department with its many unique members. Let's find out more about Hiroaki, who leads his team.

Awakens to the Importance of Translation in the Localization Industry on the Eve of the Proliferation of Personal Computers

− I think of you as someone who is well versed in the software industry; if you have an IT-related question, Hiroaki Baba is the person to go to. Were you formerly an engineer?

Yes, I was. I worked at a company that dealt with both software and hardware, and I was in charge of Japanese localization, marketing and providing user support for software developed overseas.
This was still in the MS-DOS days, and the quality of IT-related translations and localizations was still not very high. Now that I think of it, this might have been the reason why I developed an interest in translation and localization. I sometimes did my own translation when I read something and thought, "I have no idea what this is supposed to be saying!"

− Can you be a bit more specific about the low-quality translation of those days?

They were translations that did not take the background of the text being translated into account at all. It is true that this was before personal computers became a household item, but it was obvious that the person doing the translation had never used whatever software it was about. At times, I wondered if someone who did not even know how to use a computer was doing the translation simply for the reason that they had experience doing other kinds of translations.
They were literal translations in which every single (grammatical) object was translated, and so they were filled with words like "this" and "that". At times you had no idea what it was really supposed to be saying (laughs). Now that I think of it, those were pretty tough times (laughs again)!

− So, your first contact with translation was that you ended up having to do the translation yourself?

Yes. At the time, we did not go through a translation agency. Instead, we asked freelance individuals to do the translations. I would actually use the software and redo or revise the translations. It was more like creating a new Japanese-version of a user manual rather than simple translation.
In terms of my work, I was in charge of catalogue and ad production as well as user support provision in addition to the translation and localization. Therefore, I did things like redo portions that got many queries from users; made them easier to understand. That's why I have the views that I hold now regarding translations done from the client's perspective (laughs).

Arc Communications' Project Managers (PMs) Can Work Independently

− So it was the interesting elements and the difficulty of localization that you felt at that time that led to your being a translation project manager (PM). You are now the Production Manager, and act to organize everyone. What are Arc Communications' PMs like?

They are all highly competent. They have excellent PC skills, are independent and very good at project management. Calls from clients with translation orders go directly to the translation PM, so the projects begin moving immediately. Sometimes, they have already been delivered by the time it comes around to me for my confirmation. Everyone does a great job on their own responsibility. I think we have a very reliable team.

The Biggest Advantage Arc Communications Offers in Website Translation Is the Provision of One-stop Services

− What kind of requests are you seeing frequently these days in terms of customer needs?

We handle many different kinds of translations, from the very formal to the casual, such as IT-related user manuals, documents related to laws and regulations, human resource-related training materials, press releases and PR/marketing materials, business publications and manga comics.
Recently, there has been an increase in the translation of websites into English and Chinese. We work together with and lend a hand to the Arc Communications Web Team. I get the impression that there is a growing number of companies that are creating or revising their foreign-language websites.

− What are the needs of customers that are revising their existing websites?

We often get requests to translate Japanese websites into English or turn them into multilingual websites. However, there are many different pitfalls that must be avoided when translating a Japanese website into other languages. You can't translate the content as is.

Websites contain important items for translations in areas that are not visible to the user. They include "title" tags and META tags such as "keyword" and "description". If these are not translated, you will have Japanese remaining on the English website. Furthermore, its rating may be lowered on search engines or search results may not come out the way you want them to.
Translation agencies that give an estimate for fewer numbers of characters to be translated tend to give estimates for only those areas that are "visible" on the website. They in turn only translate those elements. Because Arc Communications offers web production services in addition to translation, we of course have such knowledge regarding websites.

The examples I just gave are in relation to areas that need to be translated but tend to be missed. But the reverse also happens. That is, the translation of portions that don't need to be translated. Specifically speaking, they include things like webpages related to promotional campaigns--items that are only relevant in Japan or are time-limited.
In terms of the multilingualization of corporate websites, there are often cases in which the content of the services offered by a company differ according to the region, such as between Japan, North America and Asia. Furthermore, the name recognition of companies and services can differ depending on the location in the world. This means that there are many cases in which simply translating a Japanese expression into another language isn't effective.

In our website translation, we consider who the target is--who the users are, what part of the world they live in and what they are like. Thanks to this, we get comments from our customers that their websites have gotten better than before through our involvement.
We want to keep on making the most of our know-how in both our web and translation businesses and leverage our strengths as a company that can provide one-stop services to its customers. I want to make sure our customers know this about us.

Postscript from the Interviewer

Hiroaki Baba is always calm and gentle under any circumstance. He never gets angry, and yet, he never gives up. I wondered where this composure and patient persistence were nurtured, until I heard that he likes cameras, computers and machinery overall--a hardcore sciences major type, and I fully understood. His capability of calmly solving difficult problems can be nothing other than the traits of a sciences major type of person!? It made me want to discuss the sciences with him more in the future!


Hiroaki Baba
Joined Arc Communications in 2005 after working at a software development company. Was in charge of translation project management until 2010, when he became the manager in charge of production. Is also responsible for the recruitment and development of new translation project managers. His hobby is photography. The father of one child.

My favorite movie

Apollo 13 (1995, USA), directed by Ron Howard
I, of course, like airplanes and spaceships, the kind of things engineers seem to like. I also like human drama films, but I need a bit more than that. I also like The Right Stuff and Top Gun, but I chose this movie because of the large scale at which mechanical items are involved with humans and also because of the depth of the drama. I don't tend to seek movies that penetrate the inner heart, but I think Apollo 13 was a true masterpiece.