Blog/Event Highlights

Multilingual Machine Voice with a Human Touch

Marta García

Partner Marketing Manager

At the GlobalSaké Q3 virtual event, ‘Technology’, key members of the localization industry came together to explore new-tech innovations applied to multilingual/multi-geo solutions in AI NMT (neural machine translation), NLP (natural language processing), STT (speech to text), TTS (text to speech), and voice synthesis in voice localization.

Among these thought leaders were Konstantin Savenkov (Co-founder and CEO, Intento) and Carrie Fischer (Manager of Globalization Services, Subway). The pair came together to present a case study on how MT and speech technologies are already delivering very real results in scaling multilingual content creation in global launch cycles.

The talk touched on one aspect of the work that Intento does with Subway to boost their ROI — translating training videos. Here, we’ll focus more on how exactly this solution helps Subway’s ROI rather than the nitty-gritty of how it works. We’ll go back to the basics and investigate the returns that Subway saw during this process.

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Learning to work with MT

For years, Subway had been hesitant to begin experimenting with Machine Translation. This is often the case for companies that simply haven’t been exposed to the benefits of working with MT. Without real-life experience, it’s easy to look at the MT landscape and feel overwhelmed with the array of options and skeptical of the results. You sit there and think, ‘it’s too weird, too creative; it’s not for me’.

As with many localization managers, Carrie reached a point where she felt swamped with the amount of content she needed to be translated and the limitations of their established system. They decided that even though they didn’t have much MT experience, it was time to listen to the experts who have insights on the entire MT landscape and the tools to create and translate content 4x faster with 97% user satisfaction.

Intento began by focusing on MT for Subway — everything from knowledge-based articles to the franchisee website. However, what surprised them the most were the impressive results working with voice synthesis and e-learning content.

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What Subway’s e-learning content process looked like

During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Subway had to close all of its global learning centers. This is where franchisees would go for two weeks to learn how to open and run their restaurants. Closing all of the live courses meant mass digitization of content to e-learning modules, with 8 distinct characters interacting through speech bubbles and text on screen. They needed 8 distinct voices to go along with each character as well. That all boiled down to 2.1 million words in 10 target languages with voice-over — ASAP.

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Savings: translation and voice-over

Just looking at the 4 big volume languages (French, German, Japanese, and Spanish), the total word count was ~1.5M.

Focusing on the percentages for the translation alone — Subway was able to save 46%. These savings come with at least 2 months that would have been spent on human labor coming up with translations of this accuracy. For the voice-over, Subway was able to save 41% and about 1 month of human labor.

The ROI takes into account all of the three key initiatives that Subway used MT and voice synthesis for — doing this, they saw in 1 year a 1,000% return on their investment. This doesn’t even factor in the unrealized ROI for less quantitative statistics. For example, Subway was able to open more new restaurants than they typically do once they efficiently brought the training to a virtual platform.

Disclaimer: These are not real numbers but near figures to reflect the level of savings. All percentages are correct.

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The main factors increasing ROI

The dramatic increase in ROI comes about through a few channels.

  • Intento is automating what is already there (existing workflows, software, and LSP vendors).
  • We have very low upfront costs (in the thousands) and a fast time-to-market turnaround (weeks).
  • Output quality (same as you’re used to getting with human labor)
  • Quick feedback in terms of realizing ROI statistics (weeks)

Especially looking at this last point, a sturdy ROI framework helps build the connection between localization initiatives and executive directors. It’s a simple way to prove to your company what MT is capable of without waiting years to show off your innovative approach.

For localization, your ROI can be simplified in the following way, as it was in the case of Subway:

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Now that you know the potential for realizing greater ROI, it might be time to ask the question — ‘what can MT do for you and your business?’. Even if it seems overwhelming, sometimes all you need is a quick walkthrough with those who know the MT landscape best. For a breakdown of the current ‘state of MT,’ you can download the 2022 Intento’s annual report.

As always, our experts are here to help. Click here for a free consultation and demo — and happy translating!

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