So You Want to be a Freelance Translator (or Interpreter): Tech and Tools

This post is the fifth and final (first post, second post, third post, and fourth post) in a series of posts written in response to questions we at The Savvy Newcomer have received. Sometimes these questions have come from people within the translation world, but also from bilingual friends and family who are interested in translation and interpreting (T&I). Our hope is that this series will serve as a guide for people who are considering a career in T&I and want to know where to start.

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So You Want to be a Freelance Translator (or Interpreter): Tech and Tools

When an artist sits down to begin a new project, he collects his paints and paintbrushes, selects the right canvas, sets up an easel, and sits down at a chair that’s just the right height. He also chooses the right setting to work in. What about translators and interpreters? What tools do we need to be prepared for the task at hand?

Technology

If you’ve started researching technology for translators, you might think that the only software a language professional uses is a CAT, or “computer-assisted translation,” tool. This couldn’t be farther from the truth! While a CAT tool is an advisable purchase and a time-saver in the long run, a number of other software tools exist that can be useful and beneficial to translators and interpreters. However, we’ll start with translation-specific software and work our way to other types of software you may not think to consider when equipping yourself as a translator or interpreter. The links included for each category are a non-exhaustive list—I’ve selected a few ideas to suggest based on what I have used myself and options that my colleagues and other Savvy team members have used.

Hardware: First things first! You need a device or devices you can trust. I personally prefer my ultrabook laptop over a desktop computer for quick, quality performance and mobility—be sure to select a machine with a strong processor and plenty of ram to handle many applications at a time and still operate quickly (8 or 16 GB is ideal). Other translators may use desktops and store their files securely in cloud-based storage so they can access them anywhere (say, from a tablet while on the road). Multiple monitors are also a good idea for translators, since much of our work involves comparing two documents (the source and target) or doing research in a web browser while working in a CAT tool. Having additional monitors helps reduce eye strain and the time it takes to open and close documents repeatedly, among a host of other benefits.

CAT Tools: A variety of vendors sell CAT tools from open-source to thousand-dollar project management versions, but the three I see most often are SDL Trados, MemoQ, and Wordfast. It’s important for beginner translators to be aware that a CAT tool is different from machine translation—CAT software helps you translate more efficiently and consistently by offering suggestions based on previously translated text from a “translation memory”. It can also aid your work by breaking down large chunks of text into more manageable pieces or sentences called “segments”. The makers of the various CAT tools available on the market will also offer terminology and localization tools, either paired with their main products or at an additional price.

Editing or QA Software: Editing software isn’t only for copyeditors and reviewers—it’s great for helping to check your own translation work as well. PerfectIt and Xbench are two favorites for proofreading and QA.

Invoicing: Some translators use a basic Excel spreadsheet to track projects and invoices, but you can also consider paying for an invoicing tool like QuickBooks, Translation Office 3000, or Xero to record your financial information, send invoices, and run reports.

Speech-to-text: Translators often find it useful to use speech-to-text or text-to-speech in order to dictate translations or proofread their own writing. Free versions of text-to-speech tools exist on most word processors, and Dragon Naturally Speaking is a popular speech recognition software that can help save time during translation.

OCR Software/PDF Editor: Clients will sometimes provide files in flat PDF format, which can make it challenging to estimate a word count or use the source file in a CAT tool. Software tools like Adobe Acrobat and ABBYY FineReader can help translators edit PDFs or run optical character recognition (OCR) in the course of their work.

Security: In order to comply with independent contractor agreements and government regulations, translators and editors should secure their files against viruses, hackers, and hardware problems. See this post on antivirus software for some helpful ideas. As for a backup solution to restore your data in the event of loss, options include cloud storage services, cloud backup software, and network attached storage (NAS) systems. Last but not least, don’t forget about encryption software.

Other Tools

Office supplies: Don’t worry about going to Staples and buying the latest standing desk right away, but make sure that you are comfortable in your office environment. You may not be concerned about health problems now, but if you plan to make a full-time job of freelance translation, you’ll want to invest in equipment that’s good for your health at some point! An ergonomic computer mouse and keyboard is a great addition to your office repertoire, and even if you aren’t ready to purchase an adjustable desk or exercise ball chair, you should be sure to elevate your computer screen(s) so that you won’t have to crane your neck to view it. Some companies, like Contour Design, for instance, will even offer a free trial so you can see if their products are right for you.

Then there is the matter of desk organization preferences. If your desk is too cluttered, invest in a file organizer. If you edit best by reading printed materials, buy a printer and some paper so you can make hard copies when reviewing documents. If you expect to be translating a lot of official documents that need to be notarized and mailed to clients, get yourself some stamps and envelopes. The bottom line is to purchase what you think you’ll need. Many office expenses are tax-deductible, so don’t stress over buying these small-ticket items for your office that make your work life easier or more efficient.

Print resources: Dictionaries may seem a thing of the past to anyone outside our industry, but they can be of great value for specialized translators in certain language pairs. You don’t need to have a library-sized collection when you’re just getting started, but keep an eye out for online sales or conference bookshops that offer the types of print resources you may want to reference depending on your specialty area and language.

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So you want to be a translator or interpreter…what do you think? Are you ready to take the plunge? We hope this blog series has helped to answer some of your questions about getting started and put you on the path to a successful career in translation and interpreting. Here are a few more ideas of steps to take as you get started:

  • Join ATA and get involved by attending the annual conference, joining divisions, etc.
  • Join your local professional association and attend their events
  • Take a course or courses (see GALA’s Education and Training Directory, one of the courses offered in the ATA Member-to-Member Program list, etc.)
  • Read blogs or books by translators and interpreters (The Savvy Newcomer is a great start!)

As you take your first steps into translation and interpreting, keep in touch with us at The Savvy Newcomer. We would love to hear your advice for newbies to this profession.

Image source: Pixabay

Tablets for Interpreters: The Device You Didn’t Know You Wanted

Reblogged from The ATA Chronicle with permission by the authors (incl. the images)

Just as increases in laptop storage and processing capacity led to the replacement of desktop computers, advances in tablet technology make it possible for users to streamline even more.

The latest tablets offer a host of streamlined tools for interpreters, even in high-stakes settings like court and conference interpreting. How can interpreters take advantage of these tools for business tasks, assignment preparation, and consecutive and simultaneous settings?

Come along with us for a tour of some of the tools we recommend. After reading this you’ll have a better idea how to incorporate tablet technology into your workflow.

Glossary Management

A glossary is an important part of any interpreter’s toolbox. Building a list of useful and important terms during the preparation phase can really help you get up to speed on the topic at hand. And once you have a glossary for that topic or, say, a specific conference or client, it’s much easier to build it up over time. Obviously, electronic glossaries are much easier to maintain and expand than paper ones. However, this doesn’t preclude you from printing your electronic glossary for an assignment, if you so wish. (But you might as well just use your tablet.)

While we won’t go into the details of what you should put in a glossary, we can show the different approaches that exist in terms of glossary management software. The most basic approach would be creating a table within a Word document, but we don’t recommend this as it’s simply too rigid to work with over time. Similar criticism applies to spreadsheets (i.e., Excel files), which seem popular among interpreters. However, they are not very flexible, and there is the potential risk of getting your terms mixed up when something goes wrong during sorting. If you still prefer spreadsheets, some mobile apps1 you can use include Microsoft Excel (available on iOS and Android, free for basic use), Google Sheets (free on both platforms), or Apple Pages (iOS only, free with your device).

Alexander prefers dedicated apps that work more like databases than spreadsheets. They tend to be more robust and provide more options for working with data. One example is Interplex, which has a long tradition on Windows computers and is co-developed by Peter Sand, an interpreter and member of the International Association of Conference Interpreters (AIIC). Interplex is also available on mobile devices (iPhone, iPad) and lets you synchronize data through Dropbox.

If you’re looking for a web-based solution, make sure to try Interpreters’ Help. In addition to robust glossary management features, such as reverting back to older versions when something goes wrong, this app is also quite social-savvy when it comes to collaborating with other users and sharing your work on the “Glossary Farm.” Interpreters’ Help has a companion app for iPad, called “Boothmate.” Android users should check out Memento Database, a very user-friendly way to manage not only glossary data, but also all kinds of other information (like client contact information or a to-do list).

On top of standard spreadsheet features like filtering, sorting, or rearranging terms, database-driven apps allow for faster searches and give you more control over importing existing glossaries and exporting your data—not to mention the additional possibilities to go beyond just words by adding images, video, or audio. It may sound strange at first, but think about it: for highly technical topics like medicine or engineering, visualizing terms can make a lot of sense. As does recording the pronunciation of a difficult term in a short audio clip, or making a video glossary for sign language. There are a lot of potential uses. If you want to give it a go, I recommend using an easy-to-use app called Airtable. It brands itself as a mix of a spreadsheet and a database, is available on the web and mobile devices, and 
can be used collaboratively. (See 
Figure 1.)

Figure 1: A screenshot of an Airtable glossary entry with an attached image

Figure 1: A screenshot of an Airtable glossary entry with an attached image

There is one more aspect where electronic beats paper hands-down. You may have already worked on a shared Google Doc with somebody else online, but did you know that Google also has an online spreadsheet tool (aptly named Sheets) that you can use to collaborate on glossaries with remote colleagues? (Leonie Wagener, a Germany-based conference interpreter, has published a tutorial on AIIC’s website about this.2) The benefits of this approach are obvious. You can split up the workload of bigger conferences (e.g., by speaker or by language), you get valuable input from others, and there’s a built-in chat to discuss issues with the team. Everybody contributes, and everybody ends up with a solid glossary.

Even if you work on your glossary solo, it’s a good idea to add terms during the assignment. After all, we often get the best terms from the people for whom we work, and we know the terms are relevant. This also means less work when you get back to the office, as there’s simply no need to go through all the scraps of paper with scribbles on them that you usually bring home.

Freelance Business Tasks

For freelancers, tablets also offer a modern way to take care of administrative functions, even while you are on the move. Prepare estimates, invoice jobs, do bookkeeping, and keep up on marketing tasks—non-billable work that traditionally had to wait until you got back to the office—are now easily taken care of during long lunches or on the ride home.

For example, interpreters can use their mobile phone or tablet to send job invoices before they leave the building while the job details are fresh in the mind of both the freelancer and the client. This encourages prompt payment and cuts down on email exchanges to correct or explain invoices. Applications such as Quickbooks and Expensify allow you to snap a photo of an expense receipt for automatic filing and categorization, thus avoiding lost receipts and menacing piles of receipts awaiting entry.

For your social media marketing, try using Feedly and Alltop to track new content on your favorite websites and blogs, and Buffer to quickly schedule social media posts that share your favorite articles or promote your own content. (See Figure 2.) Mailchimp, a service for email distribution lists, allows you to view and send your email campaigns and monitor their delivery statistics almost in real time.

Figure 2: Buffer offers social media scheduling across multiple platforms in just a few clicks.

Figure 2: Buffer offers social media scheduling across multiple platforms in just a few clicks.

And speaking of email, it can be overwhelming at times, so why not try a few email apps for tablets that bring new ideas to the game, such as snoozing incoming email, read receipts, or sending messages later. If you’re intrigued, take a look at Newton (Android, iOS) or Spark (iOS).

Digital Note-Taking

Alexander: In some ways, using a tablet and stylus (a digital pen that mobile devices recognize on their touchscreens) to take consecutive notes digitally instead of on paper is the holy grail of “tablet interpreting,” although it may not immediately seem superior to the old way of doing things. I think it’s simply a lot of fun to try out!

The perfect hardware combination for this, in my opinion, is an iPad Pro with an Apple Pencil. But unless you already own those two, don’t go out and buy them just to see if digital note-taking is for you. Instead, work with the tablet you already have. If you don’t own a stylus yet, borrow one or buy an inexpensive option. For example, Wacom’s Bamboo styluses are very affordable and widely available.

Incidentally, Wacom also provides a free note-taking app: Bamboo Paper. As almost all note-taking applications, it works with the familiar notion of notebooks organized on a shelf or in a library. When you open up Bamboo Paper, you’ll see one or more blue notebooks that you can rename to your liking. Tap on a notebook to open it. At the top of the screen, choose your favorite writing utensil (e.g., ball pen or felt pen), stroke width, and writing color. An eraser is also available. Now you’re good to go! I don’t recommend taking interpreting notes straight away. Instead, you might want to start slowly by doodling to get a feel for how the app works. Move on to jotting down a shopping list or short text, and when you feel more comfortable, try taking notes for a short test-style speech from Speechpool or the European Union Speech Repository. If you get hooked, then digital note-taking is probably for you. Great note-taking apps for iPad are Notability and Noteshelf. (See Figure 3.) They both integrate with lots of styluses, including the Apple Pencil, and they support cool stuff like audio recording.

Figure 3: A screenshot of handwritten notes in the Notability app

Figure 3: A screenshot of handwritten notes in the Notability app

Holly: I haven’t tested digital note-taking on recent Apple products, but I’ve had great results on Android tablets and my current sweetheart, the Microsoft Surface Pro 4 (laptop/tablet hybrid).

Samsung tablets use the Android mobile operating system and come with a free app called S-Note that meets all my note-taking needs. For example, it offers continuous page scrolling (no searching for a button to go to the next page) and automatic deactivation of hand recognition (ensuring your palm doesn’t mark or move the digital paper, allowing for a natural hand position for writing). Samsung discontinued the Note line of tablets that featured a pen-size stylus that nested neatly into the body of the device, but there are many compatible stylus options to suit any preference. Just look for the one that feels natural for you and play with the settings in your note-taking app to get the type of stroke you like.

Another option, if you want to do all your computing and note-taking on one lightweight device, is the Microsoft Surface Pro 4 or a similar laptop/tablet hybrid—many manufacturers are following Microsoft’s lead in this space now. (See Figure 4.) For notes, DrawBoard PDF, intended for viewing and annotating PDFs, has proven to be perfect for consecutive notes, which don’t need to be organized or stored later. Just create a new document (selecting your preferred “paper” color and texture) and start taking notes. When clients require destruction of notes, it’s as simple as deleting the file.

Figure 4: Consecutive notes on the Surface Pro 4 with the Surface Pen, compared to a steno pad and analog pen.

Figure 4: Consecutive notes on the Surface Pro 4 with the Surface Pen, compared to a steno pad and analog pen.

Much More than for Entertainment

Just as increases in laptop storage and processing capacity led to the replacement of desktop computers, advances in tablet technology make it possible for users to streamline even more, replacing their laptops with feather-light tablets. Professional devices are much more than an overpriced entertainment device. For example, Alexander uses his iPad Pro as his main computer for almost everything, from referencing documents in the interpreting booth, taking notes on consecutive assignments, and writing blog posts and editing podcasts. Holly brings her Surface Pro 4 to assignments as a tablet and mobile workstation—even running two full translation programs—and connects it to a dual-screen desk setup when at the office. Prices for basic devices start at just a few hundred dollars, so it’s a great time to try out tablet interpreting.

App Roundup

Compatibility:
Apple iOS      Android OS      Windows
* Access using mobile browser

Glossary Management
Interplex: www.fourwillows.com/interplex.html ••
Interpreters’ Help*/Boothmate: https://interpretershelp.com 
Airtable*: https://airtable.com ••
Memento Database: mementodatabase.com 
Microsoft Excel*: https://products.office.com/en-us/excel •••
Google Sheets*: www.google.com/sheets/about •••

Business Tasks
Quickbooks Online: https://quickbooks.intuit.com/online •••
Expensify: www.expensify.com •••
Feedly*: https://feedly.com •••
Alltop*: http://alltop.com •••
Buffer*: https://buffer.com •••
Mailchimp*: https://mailchimp.com •••

Note-Taking
Bamboo Paper: http://bit.ly/Bamboo-Paper •••
Notability: http://bit.ly/Notability-GingerLabs 
Noteshelf: www.noteshelf.net 
Drawboard PDF: www.drawboard.com 
S-Note (Samsung only): www.snotes.com 

Notes
  1. Apps: Ubiquitous shortened form of applications, mobile device programs.
  2. Here’s the link to Leonie Wagener’s article: http://bit.ly/conference-preparation.

Holly Behl is an ATA-certified Spanish>English translator and a Texas Master Licensed Court Interpreter. She has been experimenting with interpreting applications for tablet technology since 2013, with reports available on her blog, The Paperless Interpreter (www.paperlessinterpreter.com). Contact: holly@precisolanguage.com.

Alexander Drechsel is a staff interpreter at the European Commission’s Interpreting Service. His working languages are German (A), English (B), French, and Romanian (C). He is also a bit of a “tablet geek,” and and regularly shares his passion and knowledge with fellow interpreters during training sessions and online at 
www.adrechsel.de. Contact: alex@adrechsel.de.

Translator competence

Reblogged from Carol’s Adventures in Translation blog with permission from the author (incl. the image)

Translators and the need for speed

I’m very excited to be writing a guest blog post for Caroline, who I met at the XXXIV Semana do Tradutor in Brazil in September. Caroline indicated that I was free to choose any topic relevant to translators or translation, as long as it had not already been covered in a previous post. Therefore, like a good translator and researcher, I first diligently read the previous posts (I even attempted the ones in Portuguese!). And I’m really glad that I did. For one thing, I feel like I know Caroline a little better. I found out that she likes Alice in Wonderland, which means that she has something in common with Warren Weaver, who is one of my personal heroes in the field of translation. That’s Weaver as in “Weaver’s Memorandum”, the document that launched serious investigation into Machine Translation. Regardless of whether or not you are a fan of machine translation, Dr. Weaver was an impressive person in a number of respects.

In reading the previous posts, I observed some recurring themes, such as “translator education”, “knowledge vs skills” and “productivity”. I’ve decided to try to extend the discussion of some of these ideas by framing them in the context of my own experience as a professor of translation at the University of Ottawa in Canada.

The question of whether a translator education program should focus on knowledge (which leans towards theory or what Don Kiraly (2000) refers to as “translation competence”) or skills (which lean more towards the non-linguistic activities that support translation, or what Kiraly groups under the category of “translator competence”). Conventionally, universities have come down on the side of knowledge, contending that skills are too short-lived. For example, a university professor might argue that with regard to computer-aided translation, the important things to learn in class are the underlying concepts, and not the “how to” steps of using a specific piece of software, which may be outdated or out of fashion by the time the student graduates. Instead, the focus of a university education is on developing critical analysis, on honing evaluation, and on refining judgement. I think that few people would argue against this focus. Translation is a challenging task, and doing it well requires serious reflection. Learning to do it well, even more so!

Nevertheless, universities cannot ignore the fact that, after students graduate, they need to function in a professional work setting. One area where new graduates sometimes struggle is in meeting the tight deadlines which are a reality in the translation profession.

In many translator education courses, the focus is placed firmly on encouraging students to reflect fully, to analyze deeply, and to weigh options carefully before committing to a translation strategy, a terminological choice or a turn or phrase. There is no doubt that students must cultivate these deliberate analytical skills, and they must be given the time to develop them. However, in the professional world, there may be less time for careful deliberation. Instead, the translation must come quickly, if not automatically. Therefore, the addition of authentic and situated learning that tests and improves students’ translation skills under time pressure makes sense. It is an additional way to prepare students for the working world and to let them experience translation in a different form and under different circumstances.

Therefore, I have made a conscious decision to try to introduce some “speed training” into the courses that I teach. For the first time this year, in a 3rd-year course on professional writing, I have the students begin each class by preparing a précis or summary of a longer text. The texts in question are popularized texts on topics of general interest to students in Canada (e.g. the International Space Station, the World Series baseball championships, the discovery of a 19th-century shipwreck in the Arctic). Each text is approximately 600 words in length, and students are given 15-20 minutes to summarize the contents in about 200 words. The students receive feedback each week, although the exercises are not always graded. This takes the pressure off and allows the students to develop these skills in a low-risk environment.

The overall idea behind this “speed writing” summarization exercise is that it can allow the students to sharpen a number of skills and reflexes that are also useful for translation: the ability to analyze and grasp meaning quickly, the ability to extract key ideas and structure from a text, the ability to organize ideas, and the ability to convey ideas accurately and to recognize and avoid distortion in information transfer. By introducing speed training in a writing context, I hope that students will be better able to hone their capacity for making decisions quickly, and they can then extend this to a bilingual context at a subsequent stage of their training.

Students were surveyed at the mid-point in the semester to determine whether or not they found the exercise to be valuable. On the whole, their comments were positive and they indicated that they saw a genuine value in learning to work more quickly, and that they did feel that they were improving these skills as a result of practicing speed writing on a regular basis. There will be another survey at the end of the semester, and it will be interesting to see how their thoughts have evolved.

Meanwhile, from an instructor’s perspective, I have also noted improvements. Firstly, at the beginning of the semester, a number of students were unable to complete the exercise fully; however, now that we are nearing the end of the semester, students are able to finish within the time allotted. They are getting faster! With regard to quality, the information flow has improved significantly – the recent summaries read like actual texts, rather than like collections of independent sentences. The students are also doing a better job of differentiating between the key ideas and the more peripheral content.

So my questions to you, readers, are as follows: Did you ever do any formal “speed training” as part of your education? If not, do you think that it would have been helpful? Do you have suggestions for other ways in which “speed training” could be incorporated into a translator education program? Do you have suggestions for other types of professional “translator competence” type skills that could usefully be incorporated into a translator education program?

Some translation professors are genuinely interested in helping students to bridge theory and practice, but to do this successfully, we need input from practicing professionals! I look forward to hearing your thoughts! And thanks again to Caroline for the opportunity to write this guest post.

The complete article on this subject was published in the December 2016 issue of Meta, and it won an award.
Bowker, Lynne. 2016. “The need for Speed! Exploring ‘Speed Training’ in the Scientific/Technical Translation Classroom,” Meta 61(4): 22-36. Winner of the Vinay & Darbelnet Prize awarded by the Canadian Association for Translation Studies.
Back issues of Meta can be found at: https://meta.erudit.org/?lang=en

About the author

Lynne Bowker is a certified translator (French-English) with the Association of Translators and Interpreters of Ontario (ATIO). She earned a BA and MA in Translation from the University of Ottawa, an MSc in Computer Applications for Education from Dublin City University, and a PhD in Language Engineering from the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology (UMIST). She has been teaching translation, terminology, translation technologies and information studies at the University of Ottawa since 2000. In spring 2014, she was an invited professor at the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven in Belgium. To find out more about her teaching activities, and particularly her thoughts on teaching translation technologies, check out this summary in Research Media.

Computer-Assisted Translation Tools: A Digest

I recently asked the community of translators on ATA’s Business Practices listserv to weigh in on the pros and cons of the Computer-Assisted Translation (CAT) tools they use. The question sparked a well-attended discussion, and brought helpful insight on using CAT tools in translation. I have compiled the conversation’s highlights here for the benefit of all.

Functions

Translators first adopted CAT tools—previously known as Translation Memory tools—as a way to efficiently catalog and retrieve their translations of technical words and phrases. These tools helped maintain consistency within a single document or across documents on a specific subject matter. They also saved the translator time by storing translations and supplying them on demand.

Today, CAT tools retain this fundamental memory function, and can further boost translator productivity and quality with the following features:

  • Autosuggest supplies recurring words and phrases and obviates typing them out each time they appear. One translator commented that, in some cases, she translates faster with autosuggest-assisted typing than by dictation using Dragon® software.
  • Quality assurance functions check the translation for omissions and numeral inconsistencies, and proof it using target language standards.
  • Side-by-side alignment of segments from the source and target texts helps maintain workflow by keeping the translator from getting lost while working between two documents.

Use with Caution

Several listserv members warned against allowing the tool to manipulate the translation through imperfect matches and suggestions. CAT tools are not translators, but tools that assist translation. The user should therefore always control the tool, and is responsible for reviewing the tool’s output with an expert’s eye. Furthermore, a tool’s original settings may not be the best; the user must be familiar with the software and be able to manipulate it to benefit his or her unique projects.

Suitability

Most commentators agreed that CAT tools are most useful across technical documents in which subject-matter-specific terms must be consistent, and within documents with frequent repetitions. Creative works such as books or marketing copy benefit less from the tools’ memory function, since artistic expression is less repetitive and restricted than technical language. Nevertheless, a translator may leverage other functions, such as quality assurance checks and assisted typing, to efficiently process artistic translations. Again, the translator is ultimately responsible for the finished product. The skilled use of a CAT tool can help to create a better translation in a shorter amount of time, whereas an inept CAT tool user will waste time and produce substandard work.

Tool Choices

A few key considerations influence CAT tool choice. Several translators who responded to my question pointed out that, while direct clients may not care which CAT tool you use—and may not even be aware that you use a tool—translation agency clients often have tool preferences, and these preferences should guide your choice. You will attract more agency clients by having and being able to use a mainstream CAT tool, and can therefore reap dividends on the money and time you invest in buying and learning to use one. To a point, having and expertly using multiple tools will bring even more work, because you can target a wider segment of the agency market.

Cost may also influence your choice. Prices range from free to over $800; however, group buy discounts on ProZ.com can save you hundreds of dollars. You should also take advantage of free demo versions when they are available. Furthermore, keep in mind the frequency and price of updates and upgrades, which vary widely across tools.

Listserv respondents generally agreed that SDL Trados Studio is the CAT tool with the largest market share, followed closely by memoQ. Other tools that were mentioned (in no particular order) include Wordfast, Déjà Vu, OmegaT, and Across. Respondents recommended using the latest versions. Comments, some subjective, are given on each tool below.

  • SDL Trados Studio, widely used and demanded by many clients, is a feature-rich and powerful tool; nonetheless, it can be challenging to learn, has a congested interface, and is comparatively expensive, at $825 for the 2017 version. (The price, however, dropped to $575 on a recent ProZ.com group buy.)
  • memoQ, like Trados, is powerful and widely used and accepted, but it is nearly $200 cheaper. Some agencies lend a memoQ license, making purchase unnecessary in such cases. One user commented that the browser (online) version is not very useful.
  • Wordfast was described as not having as many features and options as Trados or memoQ, but, as a result, it is easier to master and still widely used. Like memoQ, Wordfast is cheaper than Trados, and was heavily discounted in a recent ProZ.com group buy.
  • Déjà Vu has strong segment assembly powers and is relatively inexpensive (listed at $450, and offered at 30% off on ProZ.com), but has weaker quality assurance features.
  • OmegaT is free and simple, and boasts a helpful support group online. One user complained that OmegaT does not segment Japanese very well.
  • Across: One respondent strongly discouraged using Across, as it apparently does not do much to assist translation. Corroborating this commentary, it has a rating of only two out of five stars on ProZ.com.

As these tools have progressed, so has compatibility among them. A translator may be able to open in his or her favorite tool a translation memory file made with a different tool; or, an agency’s project manager may be able to open a translation in Trados that was completed in memoQ. Some respondents, however, still reported problems with compatibility, even among the mainstream tools. The shrewd translator who is aware of this pitfall will use caution when working across multiple tools. Nevertheless, once one has learned to skillfully use one CAT tool, the next should be much easier to master.

As the listserv discussion died down, I downloaded and began to use OmegaT (it’s free, after all). I had missed the first SDL Trados Studio 2017 group buy of the year in January, so I got the free and fully functional 30-day trial instead. When Trados was offered on discount again in February, I made sure to sign up, and have since purchased a full user license. Now the real work begins!

Header image credit: StockSnap

Author bio

Paul Froese is a freelance Spanish to English translator specializing in scientific translation. A native of Walla Walla, Washington, he holds an undergraduate degree in plant science and biotechnology, and a graduate degree in crop science focused on plant breeding and genetics, both from Washington State University. Though a linguist since his late teens, he only began his translation career in 2016, and sees himself very much as a newcomer to the profession.

Visit Paul’s website at www.lotamtranslations.com and his blog about trends in Latin American agriculture at www.latinagtrends.com. E-mail him with ideas or suggestions at paul@lotamtranslations.com.

Tech Talk: Software and Tools for Translators

Tech Talk: Software and Tools for TranslatorsIn 2014, I made two life-changing decisions: I committed to working as a freelance translator, and I purchased a PC after years of Apple use. I bought a cheap Lenovo, and told myself that, if I wanted to make money (which I wasn’t, then), I needed to spend it. Simple enough.

Then I tried opening a Microsoft Word file, only to learn that MS Office shipped separately from the computer itself. It might as well have come without a screen. What good was a laptop if I couldn’t even write something on it? On top of which, I’d have to pay a subscription for the privilege of downloading MS Office?

You cannot be a good, efficient, professional translator without the right technology, but professional-level software can be expensive, presenting a challenge for some first-time translators.

If you are looking to cut costs in at least one area, take heart: the web is full of free and open-source software that translators can use. Here are five programs I’ve found invaluable, not only because they literally have no price tag.

OmegaT

OmegaT is a free, open-source computer-assisted translation (CAT) tool in the same model as such proprietary CAT tools as memoQ or Trados. It takes up comparatively little space on your hard drive and is easy to learn to use: it comes with a preinstalled guide for getting started, making it ideal for new translators. OmegaT lets you create, manage, and import translation memories and glossaries, breaks text into easily translatable segments, and allows for easy insertion of previously translated terms, which will reduce your translation time enormously. A perk of its being open-source is that independent developers have written scripts and plug-ins, making it more customizable than other tools on the market. Speaking of which, you may wonder why, if there’s a free, customizable CAT tool available, a market for paid ones exists at all. First, OmegaT is not the industry standard. Most translation companies and freelancers use a proprietary CAT tool. For compatibility reasons, especially if you access the company’s TMs through the cloud, you may have to use the company’s CAT tool.  Second, open-source software is not known for its polish. OmegaT’s interface looks like it was designed by someone with Windows 95 nostalgia; personally, I’ve found its layout confusing, especially when looking for other segments. Nevertheless, it’s the quickest, cheapest way to introduce yourself to an essential translation tool.

Google Drive and Google Docs

You generate a lot of files when you translate, and they take up space. They’re also troublesome to search through. Enter Google Drive, a cloud-based (read: not on your computer) storage system for nearly anything with a file extension. Google Drive lets you create as many folders as you need to organize your materials and gives you 15 GB of storage for free. For $1.99 a month, you can increase that to 100 GB. You can use Drive to create any kind of document or file you might create using Microsoft Office with the benefit of instant saving and the ability to revert to previous versions very easily. It’s also portable: files can be converted to Drive format easily, meaning you can take an MS Word file and edit it from anywhere with an Internet connection. Searching for files on drive is also easier than on your computer, for the simple fact that you’re using Google’s search function, and not Microsoft Explorer’s. When was the last time you Binged something?

Drive isn’t the only cloud-based storage system: Dropbox is also free, and you can use Apple’s iCloud or Microsoft’s OneDrive. Still, Google Drive integrates directly with other Google software, notably Gmail. You can add Drive to your desktop as well, making it easyto transfer materials from your computer to the web. As more and more companies move toward cloud-based storage systems, using and understanding Drive will make it easier to collaborate with potential employers.

However, it’s important to realize that the cloud is not completely secure, and someclient contracts stipulate that translators not store any files associated with the translation on cloud-based servers. Nevertheless,many translators still use Google Drive or one of its competitors for collaboration with other freelancers or to have personal documents within easy access, and not all clients are as sensitive to the cloud

OpenOffice

For all its convenience, Google Drive is useless without an Internet connection. OpenOffice, a free version of word processing tools similar to the Microsoft Office suite, works offline like any regular piece of software, and isn’t subject to the connectivity hiccups that can slow down Google Drive. LibreOffice is another free word processing alternative to Microsoft Office many people use. For my purposes, the best thing about OpenOffice is that it’s intuitive: if you can use Microsoft Word, you can use OpenOffice Writer.

OpenOffice’s great shortcoming, which it shares with Google Docs, is that it doesn’t create the same type of files as Microsoft Word. This can lead to compatibility issues and inconsistent formatting. A Word document won’t necessarily retain all its features when you open it in OpenOffice, and vice-versa, meaning you must be ruthless in checking that you send a properly formatted document to clients. The consequence is that many translators do purchase Microsoft Office by the time they work with paying clients.

Evernote

Evernote is a sort of notepad that syncs across devices. It allows you to create checklists, take notes, and collaborate with other users. You can also use it to bundle notes together, making it a great tool for tracking clients and keeping client-specific information within easy reach. Instead of, say, keeping one spreadsheet for client contacts and a separate text file for notes taken at conferences, you can create and link two notebooks in Evernote, making useful information much more easily obtainable. And unlike Drive, it runs without an Internet connection.

ReNamer

I’d had no idea I might need to use a file-renaming device until Jost Zetzsche’s most recent Translator’s Tool Box came out and featured ReNamer at the top. (Are subscribed to the Tool Box? It’s a stream of tech information specifically for translators from one of the most successful translators in the industry, and there’s a free version.) It only takes a few email exchanges with a client to learn just how quickly different versions of documents can accumulate, all of them with the inevitable _proofread_edited_re-edited attached to the end. Say you have a naming system for your files that your client is disregarding, and you want to keep your records consistent: ReNamer allows you to rename files without opening them or using any of the clunky techniques you’d have to use in Windows Explorer, and it can do it in bulk. Ten different files that you’ve translated and want to label as such? ReNamerinserts_translated to all of them with one click of a button.

A good rule for anything software-related is that if a proprietary version of something exists, a free version does too. It takes very little searching and tenacity to derive as much utility from free software as from paid, which can make a big difference if you’re a first-time freelancer looking to move up from living on cheese sandwiches. And these are only five examples; what do you get for free that the rest of us pay for?

Header image credit: Picjumbo
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Author bio

Dan McCartney

Dan McCartney is a freelance French and Spanish to English translator based in Chicago. Before translating, he worked as a consultant, instructor, and freelance math problem writer.