How to review a translation

As translators, the first draft of our translation is only a starting point. We need to verify the quality of our work before we send it off for publication. The following list is not comprehensive, but it will help us find most of the problems we have to solve.

Check for completeness

Go through every unit of meaning and make sure it was translated. We translate meaning, not words—and skipping easy words like “no” completely changes the meaning!

Check for accuracy

Check the nuance of the source. Words are usually carefully chosen to give the reader a specific impression. We see this often in articles with political content. Person First language, as illustrated below, is expected more and more often.

Person-First Term Outdated Term
Person with diabetes Diabetic
Neurodiverse person Autistic person
Adults in custody Incarcerated people
They He/she
Undocumented immigrant Illegal alien
Foreigner Alien

Tips to ward off potential problems with completeness and accuracy checks

It is easy to lose our place. To solve that, we can use several approaches.

  • When you first start a review, change the font and the font size for the whole translated text. Change the font back to the desired font as you go. This does two things: It helps you keep your place, and it helps you find strange paragraph breaks that will cause problems later in the publication process. Another option is to highlight the whole document and unhighlight it as you review.
  • Use the Read Aloud feature in Word. Have Word read one document while you check the other one. This is my favorite way to find wrong numbers in official documents and unnatural constructions!
  • Computer Assisted Translation (CAT) tools help us keep our place, but we also need to check the document in its target format before releasing it. Things that we did not notice in the earlier processes might show up here.

Check for readability

Read the text as an editor. Anything that makes you stumble should go. Every time you make a change, check the source to verify that the previous checks (accuracy, nuance, precision) are still good.

Problem with this check

Of course you will think it is readable—after all, you wrote it! To overcome this, imagine a reader and put yourself in their place. Since they do not have context, will this be clear to them? Can they understand it after a cursory reading?

Don’t be tempted to repeat grammatical or spelling mistakes from the source text

Replicating mistakes makes your translation a parody, and we are not there to mimic the text. We also run the risk of introduce new mistakes. We are there to translate the message, not the words. For example, an interpreter is not expected to cry when the speaker cries! That is mimicking and goes too far.

Watch for these common mistakes

Excessive use of the word “that.”

Punctuation. Each language has its own punctuation conventions and they should be used accordingly.

English Spanish
“That house is nice,” he said. “Esa casa es linda”, dijo.
Please call my supervisor ─ Peter Brown ─ on Tuesday. Por favor llame a mi supervisor, Peter Brown, el martes.
“What did you tell me, Peter?”

“That it is late, Maria.”

─José, ¿qué me dijiste?

─Que es tarde, María.

Capitalization. Make sure caps are used per target language conventions. One of the most common translation errors is to use capitalization to match the source text.

Consistency in terminology. In some languages, the use of synonyms is preferred to avoid boredom. However, technical terms and key terms should be translated with consistency.

Spelling. Never send something off without running a final spell check! However, the spell check won’t catch everything.

Ask yourself these questions:

Did you find the best way to say something at the very end of the document? Find where else you should modify the same thing to match. This is common.

Did you translate a term with one meaning, but later in the document you see that it is used in a different way? Go back and fix it all the way through the document.

Check for consistency

There are tools to check consistency, which help a lot with spellings of brands, etc.

Perfect It does this very well, and for this particular use, you can use it in any language.

Word Rake will flag phrases that are extra wordy and suggest replacements.

Warning: These tools are not created for us to accept every change they suggest! They are just consistency checkers, and we need to accept or reject each change on its own merits.

One trick for name consistency is to type a short abbreviation or acronym and the use Find and Replace at the end. For example, for Albuterol you could type BNA and then replace all BNA to Albuterol at the end. For names that are tricky to spell, use unique initials to avoid misspelling.

When you do this, make a table in a separate document so you can do the find and replace at the end. This style guide table could also be at the very start of the translated document, and you delete each thing as you check it.

Make sure you follow the brief!

  • If you were told the final translation should be no more than 5500 words, and you are at 7000, find ways to reduce wordiness and take the time to express things more concisely.
  • If it is a PPT file, make sure you are able to fit the text in the slide with a readable font!

Take extra care with slides and spreadsheets

Excel and PPT have challenges because they are not designed for editing. CAT tools handle these files well, but you may still need to make adjustments in the final file. If so, agree ahead of time on charging for that bit of desktop publishing.

PPT: Take the presentation, view it in outline mode, and copy the whole outline into a Word document. That allows you to translate from there, then dump it back in. Of course, you can let them adjust the presentation, or charge for the extra desktop publishing time. Agree on who does what before you start!

Excel: Copy the doc into a Word table, translate it, and send it back to Excel. If you are adjusting for space, make sure you add that to your fee.

Watch out for hidden text

Graphics can sometimes cover your text. Pick up the graphic, move it to the side, and edit. You are still responsible for the text that is hidden under the graphic!

There can also be text hidden in tables or text boxes. Always check the final version of the translation to make sure you translated everything!

Ask what to do with text in images. Often, this is the text we miss. I often create a table with the source-target text and ask the requester to make the changes to the graphic. I typically place it right next to the graphic and put a comment in the text. The comment could say: “Check this graphic. It has English text. See translation of text below.”

You can also do a graphic overlay of the text over the image…

Where it says… The translation is…
Acceptable box Caja aceptable
Etc.

Never forget the why

A quality translation reduces liability risk for the client, helps them communicate clearly and shows respect to the target audience. The details listed in this document help us consistently meet the goal of our clients, as they reach out to communities that speak a different language. This applies to all texts. I often translate forms, press releases, healthcare instructions, evidence for court, and training manuals, and these principles apply to all the translations we produce. For best practices, I always work with a reviewer and together we go through our work looking for these issues. This is one of the key reasons to work with an equally qualified colleague as an editor.

Recommended resources:
Lunsford, Andrea A. The Everyday Writer. Boston: Macmillan Learning, 2020
Eby, Helen. Principios de redacción. Self-published, available for free download from Spanish Editors Association. 2020
Gaucha Translations work order: This document has a good list of issues we must consider in translation, and it is a way to bring all of them to the table with the client before we start.

Strategies for translation providers in an uncertain world… a survival guide.

This post originally appeared on the blog The translation business and it is republished with permission.

Sometimes, how we translators run our professional lives and operate our businesses seem to be under threat.

Human translators, although usually skeptical, cannot avoid observing the growing influence of machine translation and perhaps wondering how long will it be before a piece of software will put them out of work.

Then there is the emerging spectre of crowd-sourced translation, a phenomenon which is most certainly not going to go away [1].

And what about the sneaking suspicion that perhaps English will ultimately end up as a global lingua franca (at least in commerce and science) making most of the translation work we translators currently do entirely redundant? Certainly many have predicted the ultimate triumph of a single universal world language – from Stalin in the 1950’s [2] to evolutionary biologists today [3].

That change is coming to our profession, I have to say, is not really news to me. In my professional life I’ve seen the profession emerge from a local cottage industry and became a global business. In the space of a few decades translators abandoned their manual typewriters and got plugged into highly connected networks of global proportions. We can be sure that this pace of change is not going to slow down anytime soon.

One of the most insightful commentators on the evolving role of technology in the translation industry, Kirti Vashee, states it point-blank: “It is likely that the professional translation world is going to see significant disruption in the coming years…” [1]

On the upside, however, there has never been a time history when the demand for translation was as great as it is now – and the most informed opinion suggests that demand is going to continue spiralling upwards. CSA puts it this way:

“… the amount of content grows faster than anyone can translate it […] Many organizations throw up their hands in despair, realizing that they don’t have the resources or money to deal with this explosion of content.” [4]

There are simply not enough human translators and clearly machine translation and crowd sourcing are going to play significant roles in an expanding market. But there is also a strong argument that human linguists will play an increasingly important role in the emerging, but differently shaped translation world.

Small to mid-sized translation companies and independent translators are the backbone of the industry – but they are fragmented and are vulnerable to the developing changes. Paying attention to “business survival skills” in a rapidly changing market will be a priority for many.

Chief amongst these skills is maintaining (or increasing) business profitability – whatever happens. There are a number of obvious strategies: adapting to the changes is one and optimising the return from existing resources is another. In this post, I look at one approach to the latter – making better use of the skills and resources translation providers already have.

Making your existing resources more profitable.

Let’s look at how a small, imaginary language service provider, XYZ Translate Ltd, could leverage off its existing resources and become more profitable.

Like most small businesses, XYZ Translate Ltd is subject to the Pareto principle – 80% of its meagre profits come from just 20% of the work it undertakes. That means 80% of the work is often done at a loss or at very low margin. The company is not short of work, but it is frequently so bogged down with work which returns little profit, that they often miss out on better paying work because they can’t deliver to the customer’s time frames.

One trick for XYZ Translate Ltd is to break out of this low-margin trap: this means reducing the volume of low-margin work in order to free up resources for more jobs which return a higher margin.

Easier said than done? And a bit scary?

So let’s imagine that this is what our imaginary LSP did:

Firstly they looked at the margin they made on all the jobs they handled over the past year. Let’s imagine that they discovered that the most profitable work came from a just a couple of clients in a particular sector – let’s say from the waste management industry.

Why was this work so profitable? They got the first job quite by chance, but they realised they really weren’t set up for the task. Knowing that they would have to make a really big effort, they quoted high – and were fortunate to get the job.

But to keep the customer coming

  • They needed to invest a lot of energy into developing the right sort of resources and finding a reliable pool of translators who were (or who would become) experts in the field;
  • They paid the translators well for the work – and in return these specialised translators became very loyal and made themselves (almost) always available for work. This means they could always deliver on time;
  • Because the translators became so familiar with the terminology and were always kept up-to-date with the issues in the waste management industry, the amount of time-consuming research required for each new job was relatively small, and they were able to turn the work around quickly;
  • The project managers knew exactly which translators and revisers were appropriate for these sorts of jobs; glossaries, terminology databases and translation memories were all up-to-date and the translators got to know the style guides backwards.

So the clients in this sector were happy and continued to pay well because there were few issues with the translations and the work is always delivered within deadline.

But while the production processes were highly efficient and the margin on each job was fantastic, the number of jobs they got per month in this sector was tiny!

Just imagine how XYZ Translate’s bottom line would look if they even got one more client in this sector? Or two, three or four?

Pretty much by chance or good fortune, XYZ Translate Ltd had developed a highly efficient process in a very narrow field. The company most certainly didn’t set out to be experts in waste management. They developed a great area of expertise, but they just didn’t have enough customers in the industry sector to make it really pay.

How could XYZ Translate leverage off this expertise?

We might think about XYZ Translate Ltd’s small number of very profitable customers in the waste management sector as reflecting the density of such customers in the area of their marketing reach. (Not all firms in the sector would be willing to pay the sort of premium that XYZ Translate charges for the work.) To find more customers who want just the sort of service that XYZ Translate Ltd can deliver, they need to expand the reach of their marketing…

… they just need a bigger market!

The laws of probability are such that there are most certainly more customers “out there somewhere” who will be willing to pay a premium for just the sort of excellent service XYZ Translate Ltd has to offer. But expanding the size of the catchment area to find those elusive “ideal customers” is a serious marketing problem – and that costs. Tracking them down and making the sale can be an expensive exercise – especially if those new potential customers are “somewhere out there” in a different city or a different country, or in a different time zone…

LSPs like XYZ Translate Ltd usually don’t have the financial or marketing resources to assess a global market in order to target a relatively small set of more profitable customers. Every LSP and freelancer has some unique strength, skill set or a combination of different factors that will attract customers who are looking precisely for what they have to offer – if the market is big enough. As localisation sales and marketing veteran, Jessica Rathke puts it:

“Each company has its own unique aspects, be it a vertical specialization such as life sciences or legal translation.  Each company has its own history (or not), unique set of employees and unique client base.  The uniqueness in any of these areas can be exploited and communicated that will give the target audience a feel for your organization, company ethos or methodology that distinguishes your company from another.” [5]

A clear and obvious survival strategy for translation providers like XYZ Translate is to differentiate from their competitors by leveraging off what they can already do well and most profitably.

Notes:

[1] Kirti Vashee (2011), Translation Crowdsourcing,  http://kv-emptypages.blogspot.com/2011/08/translation-crowdsourcing.html

[2]  Stalin “foresaw the merger of zonal languages, into a ‘common international language which naturally will not be either German or Russian or English, but a new language embodying in itself the best elements of national and zonal languages’”, http://www.guardian.co.uk/theguardian/2011/aug/02/archive-stalin-and-soviet-state

[3]  The Guardian: Biologist Mark Pagel argues that humanity’s destiny is to become one world with one language. http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/punctuated-equilibrium/2011/aug/04/1

[4] Donald A. DePalma and Nataly Kelly (2009), The Business Case for Machine Translation, Common Sense Advisory, Inc., Lowell, Massachusetts, USA.

[5] Jessica Rathke, (2011), Is Differentiation in the Localization Industry Possible?http://l10nsalesandmarketing.blogspot.com/2011/02/is-differentiation-in-localization.html

A language access timeline for interpreting on the West Coast

 

This post originally appeared on Gaucha Translations and it is republished with permission.

Interpreting is a professional field. What was once done by whoever was bilingual now has an established certification process. There are less and less reasons to work with unvetted providers. This timeline tells the story on the West Coast, where I live. I am from Oregon, where I am certified as a healthcare interpreter and a court interpreter. The story is told from an Oregon perspective. However, nothing happens in isolation. Oregon often works in partnership with the other West Coast states, or observes their work closely. What happens in the court interpreting field affects the work in the healthcare interpreting field. The story would not be complete without the federal context. Therefore, there are elements from all West Coast states and the history of court and healthcare certification is intermingled.

1964: Passage of the Civil Rights Act. Title VI prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, or national origin in any program or activity that receives Federal funds or other Federal financial assistance.

1974: Lau v Nichols, a case brought in California that was decided in the Supreme Court: This court case establishes that national origin includes language. When children arrive in school with little or no English-speaking ability, “sink or swim” instruction is a violation of their civil rights, according to the U.S. Supreme Court in this 1974 decision. Lau remains the major precedent regarding the educational rights of language minorities, although it is grounded in statute (Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964), rather than in the U.S. Constitution. At issue was whether school administrators may meet their obligation to provide equal educational opportunities merely by treating all students the same, or whether they must offer special help for students unable to understand English. Lower federal courts had absolved the San Francisco school district of any responsibility for minority children’s “language deficiency.” But a unanimous Supreme Court disagreed. Its ruling opened a new era in federal civil rights enforcement under the so-called “Lau Remedies.” The decision was delivered by Justice William O. Douglas on January 21, 1974. (quoted from Lau v. Nichols excerpts at Languagepolicy.net)

1978: Federal Court Interpreter Act: determined that The Director of the Administrative Office of the United States Courts shall establish a program to facilitate the use of certified and otherwise qualified interpreters in judicial proceedings instituted by the United States. NAJIT provides a listing of currently certified Federal court interpreters. Currently, this certification program is limited to Spanish.

1981: Complaints are filed with the OCR, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, on behalf of clients at three different hospitals in Washington State, under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1965. The complaints allege that, by not providing service in a language their patients can understand, the hospitals are discriminating against patients on the basis of national origin. OCR and the hospitals sign voluntary agreements.

1982: MAA’s (Medical Assistance Administration of DSHS) reimbursement program decreases the hospitals’ share of financial reimbursement for those patients on Medicaid.

1989: Region X OCR issues a brief guidance on the need to provide qualified interpreter assistance if receiving federal funds. DSHS sends a reminder letter to Medicaid contracted providers that they must provide language access services to their clients

1989: WA State Court Interpreter Act creates court interpreter certification program under AOC and interpreter commission.

1991: WA State agrees to pay for interpreting services for Medicaid patients.

1991: Negotiations for consent decrees are the result of Evergreen Legal Service’s continuing complaints (and court dealings) that Washington State’s Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) was not living up to its earlier agreed upon measures to provide translation/interpretation service. Reyes Consent Decree settles class action Title VI lawsuit and creates the DSHS interpreter certification exam.

1993: First certified WA DSHS Social Services exams.

1995: First certified WA DSHS Medical exam as part of the certification program for medical and social service interpreters.

1993: The Oregon court interpreter certification program was instituted by statute, and is now administered by the Oregon Court Language Access Services. An interpreter may be certified in Oregon by the State Court Administrator upon satisfactory proof that the interpreter is certified in good standing by the federal courts or by a state having a certification program that is equivalent to the program established under this section.

1995: Oregon and Washington, with New Jersey and Minnesota, founded the Consortium for State Court Certification. This came about as a consequence of findings and professional relationships established during research conducted by the National Center for State Courts between 1992 and 1995. (NCSC FAQs)

1996: California passed the California language assistance law and began administering its medical certification exam and its court administrative hearings exam

In the opening paragraph,  the California language assistance law says: As used in this article, “language assistance” means oral interpretation or written translation into English of a language other than English or of English into another language for a party or witness who cannot speak or understand English or who can do so only with difficulty. […] The cost of providing an interpreter under this article shall be paid by the agency having jurisdiction over the matter if the presiding officer so directs, otherwise by the party at whose request the interpreter is provided.

1996: The Federal Government passed the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), which defines confidentiality. Contract health care interpreters are considered business associates and are required to comply with this law.

2001: The federal executive order 13166 was signed. EO 13166 requires Federal agencies to provide meaningful access to services to people with limited English proficiency, and to ensure that beneficiaries of Federal financial assistance also comply with this requirement. This is to ensure that their programs and activities normally provided in English are accessible to LEP persons and thus do not discriminate on the basis of national origin in violation of Title VI’s prohibition against national origin discrimination. The Department of Justice provides detailed information on this topic, as well as resources to fulfill this guidance, at lep.gov.

Court interpreters are now required to show proof of continuing education every two years in order to maintain their credential.

2001: The Oregon Health Care Interpreter law was passed. This law defines qualifications for health care interpreters in Oregon, creates a registry for certified and qualified interpreters, and encourages the use of certified health care interpreters or qualified health care interpreters whenever possible to ensure the accurate and adequate provision of health care to persons with limited English proficiency and to persons who communicate in sign language.

2010: Bill granting unionization rights to interpreters rendering services to WA DSHS and their Medicaid clients, directly or indirectly passes. WFSE wins PERC election. Interpreters elect their first bargaining team.

2012: National medical interpreting certification programs NBCMI and CCHI were accredited by NCCA. See this comparison chart of interpreting certification programs in the Northwest.

2012: The US Department of Justice updates its Language Access Plan, clarifying the definition of vital documents and qualifications of interpreters and translators. There is more information on www.lep.gov.

2014: Oregon health care interpreters gave public testimony on HB 2419, a bill related to their profession, for the first time.

2016: Interpreter services provided by a health care interpreter certified by the Oregon Health Authority were specifically included in the Oregon Worker Compensation rules based on testimony submitted by Helen Eby, OSTI President at the time, in November 2015.

2018: Language defining the qualifications of interpreters and translators was included in the regulations for the Affordable Care Act.

2018: Bill grants unionization rights to interpreters working WA L&I and DES appointments. It also requires centralized online scheduling system for all executive branch state agencies.

2019: Bill granting Oregon healthcare interpreters the right to unionize, making the State of Oregon the public employer of record of health care interpreters, passes.

We have come a long way!

The field of language access has grown in professionalism, based on laws and court proceedings. We could not have done this without the support of those who came before us. Now we have to continue to grow in applying professional standards, so interpreters are united in their application and those who work with us know what to expect from a professional in our field.

2020: Approximately 700 certified and qualified interpreters on the OHA registry and approximately 150 certified and registered interpreters on the Oregon Court Language Access Services registry.  A search of RID members in Oregon yields 212 results when selecting all available certifications. There are approximately 1000 professional interpreters in Oregon, assuming no overlap. As a point of comparison, in 2013 the Oregon Health Authority listed 41 certified and qualified health care interpreters on its registry, compared to 700 today.

Related articles: The National Health Law Program published a Summary of state law requirements addressing language needs in healthcare on April 29, 2019.

Resources I consider very useful:

1994: The Interpreters Rx, by Holly Mikkelson, was published. This was written to support interpreters who prepared for the medical-legal exam, which is all that existed in California at the time. It was really testing for medical-legal evaluations.

2007: Eta Trabing published the Manual for Interpreters in School Settings. This is one of the earliest resources for school interpreting available.

Summary post: The thorny problem of translation and interpreting quality

As professional translators and interpreters, we are always striving to provide high-quality services to our clients, be that translation, interpretation, revision work, etc. Yet what does high-quality work look like as a language professional? How can it be measured and how do we know if we are providing quality work? Drs. Geoffrey Koby and Isabel Lacruz tackled this massive subject in their academic introduction to a volume of Linguistica Antverpiensia, New Series: Themes in Translation Studies that focuses on the issue of translation quality.

Their introductory article, The thorny problem of translation and interpreting quality, talks about how translation and interpretation quality is measured around the world with a handful of examples and explains why it is so hard for many professionals to agree on what translation quality really is.

The main problem with discussing translation quality is that there is no set definition nor a widely accepted tool for measuring it. The authors discussed the possibility of two largely acknowledged definitions put forward in an article for Revista Tradumàtica: tecnologies de la traducció:

Narrow definition: “A high-quality translation is one in which the message embodied in the source text is transferred completely into the target text, including denotation, connotation, nuance, and style, and the target text is written in the target language using correct grammar and word order, to produce a culturally appropriate text that, in most cases, reads as if originally written by a native speaker of the target language for readers in the target culture.”

Broad definition: “A quality translation demonstrates accuracy and fluency required for the audience and purpose and complies with all other specifications negotiated between the requester and provider, taking into account end-user needs.”

These two differing ideas bring up the question of whether high-quality translation and interpreting is indeed necessary for all projects. Machine translation (MT) and post-editing have made this question even more relevant nowadays. Is it not better to have a translation produced by MT that does not use well-formed language or sound native, but gets the idea across for instances where the text would not have been translated at all? Perhaps, but would that text still be considered quality work? That is where many views differ.

So, despite a lack of a universal basic definition for translation quality, how can one’s translation quality be measured? Different associations and government organizations around the world certify and test translators and interpreters to ensure that they are competent language mediators. However, assessing language professionals varies greatly in form, content, approach, length, etc. for each exam.

Many translation exams are based on either a holistic assessment or a points-off system. The ATA certification exam uses the points-off system where errors of various severity levels have different point values and will be deducted from an overall score. However, Koby and Lacruz state that this system fundamentally emphasizes failure and not what the individual did right. The correct is assumed; the incorrect is pointed out. Yet if full accuracy means zero (or nearly zero) errors, then an argument can be made for preferring error-based assessment over holistic assessment.

In regards to editing and proofreading practices in translation, revisers will often make unnecessary corrections to a translation. This inhibits the accuracy and the quality of the text and also wastes time and money for the client. The authors point out the need for more research in this area that would incorporate explanations from revisers as to why they made changes in order to classify them as “necessary” or “unnecessary” and keep a holistic view of the translations to see how they affect translation quality.

The second half of the introductory article discusses the different articles in the volume, which present ways that translation, revision, MT and post-editing, interlingual live subtitling, and interpreting quality are assessed. For brevity purposes, here are some of the ways that researchers differed in opinion in regards to assessing translation quality alone.

Research from the FBI concludes that there is a third aspect of assessing translation in addition to source language comprehension and target language writing skills. Translators that produce quality work also possess translation proficiency, a separate ability to translate well, which must also be assessed.

Another set of researchers believe that translation quality can be determined by looking primarily at the target text, as opposed to measuring the adequacy of the transfer between languages. They assessed this through the use of corpora and extracted several features to be analyzed. The researchers concluded that this method, in addition to constructive feedback, would be a better approach to assessing quality in translation.

Yet two other researchers disagree with both of these theories and suggest that a Calibration of Dichotomous Items (CDI) method is more appropriate for assessing translations. This method takes translations of the same material from a large group of translators and identifies the segments where there was a large difference in translation quality. Then, they decide which translations are acceptable and which are not, but they do not attempt to rate the quality of the translations in a more refined way.

A final set of researchers analyzed the different testing approaches for translators in Finland against the testing systems in Sweden, Norway, and the German state of Bavaria. After assessing the different approaches to testing in these other countries, some of which use error analysis method and others a criterion-based method, the authors decided to improve the Finnish examinations further by proposing a simplified scoring chart.

Though it is unclear which methods of assessment are the most accurate, this introductory article and the other articles in the volume were meant to shed light on some of the various ways that translation quality can be tested and the reason why it is so hard to define quality in language translation. Human language and mediation are complex, therefore quality assessment for translation, interpreting, and related activities remains a thorny problem.

About the author

Olivia Albrecht is a French and Spanish to English translator and copywriter specialized in marketing and tourism. She has a B.S. from Kent State University in translation studies and is currently pursuing a master’s degree in digital marketing. She splits her time between living in Canton, Ohio, US and Cali, Colombia. You can find out more about Olivia on her website at www.oneglobetranslation.com or on Twitter at @OneGlobeTR

The usefulness of CAT tools

This post originally appeared on Translating is an Art blog and it is republished with permission.

I find that a lot of people only use CAT tools for repetitive texts. And that is of course what they were originally developed for. Modern CAT tools, however, have so many other useful features that it’s worth considering using them for non-repetitive texts as well.

Here are some of the reasons why I use my CAT tool for most of my texts, even creative texts:

Terminology
It’s great when a client provides you with a terminology list, but I personally hate having to go back and forth between my translation and a terminology list, especially when you end up with more than one list (not unusual, in my experience). If you import your terminology list(s) in your CAT tool, you will automatically be notified if a term is available in the list and you can easily insert it in your translation. You can also easily edit your terminology list or add new terms to the list.

Consistency
Even if texts are not repetitive, consistency is still important. The concordance feature in your CAT tool allows you to search for words or phrases so you can check how they were translated before. This is also very useful in case you haven’t got a terminology list (yet).

Quality control
These days, CAT tools offer more and more quality control options. You can have your translation checked for, among other things, correct punctuation, conversion of numbers, tags and consistent terminology. If, like me, you tend to mix up numbers (typing 1956 instead of 1965 for example), it’s good to know you no longer have to worry about this, because your CAT tool will warn you when you’ve made a mistake.

Reference material
Ever received a 200-word translation job which came with about ten different bilingual and monolingual reference files and going through all those reference files took almost as long as actually translating the text? I have… CAT tools offer alignment options and ways to import reference files which help you efficiently find the information you need in those reference files while you’re translating.

Formatting
Clients love it when you are able to deliver their prettily formatted Word document or PowerPoint presentation in exactly the same format. When using a CAT tool, you don’t have to bother with the formatting: you can focus on the text while working in the CAT tool and when you are finished you can export your translation in exactly the same format. I’ve found this is especially useful for PowerPoint presentations containing lots of diagrams with text boxes: instead of having to edit every single text box separately to enter your translation, all you need to do after you have exported your translation is go through the slides to check whether the text fits in the boxes and adjust their size if needed.

Backup
You always have a backup of your translations and because each segment is saved after you have translated it, you will never lose more than one sentence of your work if your computer crashes. I discovered the advantage of this very soon after I started working with a CAT tool years ago: just when I was about to save my 1.5-page translation to send it to the client, Word crashed and my Word file was corrupted. If I hadn’t used my CAT tool, I would have had to do the translation all over again, but now I was able to take the original source file and have it pre-translated using my TM.

Planning
My CAT tool always knows exactly how much progress I’ve made: it indicates the percentage of translation/proofreading I’ve completed and for exact figures I can run an analysis at any time. I find this particularly useful for larger projects.

Updates
Here’s one I forgot when I initially wrote this post: How many times do your clients send you an updated version of the source text, preferably when you’ve just finished translating the original version and without using Track Changes? No problem if you’ve translated the text in a CAT tool: you simply re-import the text, pre-translate everything that is the same and you will only have to go through the sentences/segments that were changed (and your CAT tool even marks the differences between the original and the updated text). If necessary, you can also have your CAT tool track all the changes.

These are the reasons I use my CAT tool for pretty much every translation I do. One downside, especially for more creative texts, is that, by default, a CAT tool splits up your text in segments based on sentences. Most CAT tools, however, allow you to define different ways of segmentation and I have found that paragraph segmentation, rather than sentence segmentation, works better for creative texts. Paragraph segmentation will lead to fewer match results, so it is not recommended for repetitive texts, but since creative texts are typically less repetitious anyway, matches aren’t really an issue.

Author bio

Percy Balemans graduated from the School of Translation and Interpreting in Maastricht, the Netherlands, in 1989. After working with a translation agency as an in-house translator for a few years, she served as a technical writer and copywriter, information designer, web editor, and trainer for an information technology business.

In 2007 she set up her own business as a full-time freelance translator, translating from English and German into Dutch, specializing in advertising (transcreation), fashion and beauty, art, and travel and tourism. She is a Chartered Linguist and Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Linguists (CIOL), and a member of the American Translators Association (ATA).
Visit her website for more information: www.pb-translations.com.