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Does my business need a CAT tool?
Thread poster: Paul Skidmore

Paul Skidmore  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 00:31
German to English
Jan 22, 2009

I have been working several years as a full-time translator (German - English only) and deal mainly with direct clients who supply me with Word documents or scanned (PDF) documents which I then convert into Word using ABBYY Transformer. Typically, I translate court documents and legal opinions, correspondence and some contractual material. My clients are happy receiving translations as Word documents.

I have had a look on this site for information on CAT tools, but most of the discussions seem to be comparing software X with Y and use a lot of jargon such as "tags" which means nothing to me.

My question is more basic: (answers as geekless as possible, please) what are the advantages (given the nature of my business) of acquiring a CAT tool?

I am not seeking to branch out into the translation of websites or technical documentation. Simply I wonder if I could be more effective in doing what I already do (to my clients' satisfaction) harnessing a CAT tool?

Thanks for your assistance.


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Anita Cassidy  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Member (2005)
English to German
consistency, mainly Jan 22, 2009

I nearly always use CAT tools, SDLX being my favourite. Although I also use Trados (but only upon specific request).

I do this mainly for consistency reasons - very helpful for documents that contain sections you've translated before (or that have since been slightly amended). I'm also often asked to translate several documents relating to the same transaction (such as various contracts with similar contents). In those cases, CAT tools can save quite a lot of work.

I guess it really depends on the type of work you do. If most of your projects are one-offs, the investment may not be worth it for you.


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xxxwonita
China
Local time: 19:31
It is worthwhile for contracts Jan 22, 2009

It depends on if there are many repetitions in your text. According to my knowledge, all contracts are written according to a certain pattern with many repetitions. Please see the following sentences:

REVERSE FACTORING AGREEMENT
No.:
between
1.
– hereinafter called „xxx“ –
2.
– hereinafter called „xxx“ –

All the sentences you have translated above will be saved in your TM(translation memory), so that when you encounter them next time, which are in all contracts, the translation tool will provide you with the translations you have already done. It saves your time for typing, and keep your translation consistent. Through adjusting the threshold, you can decide whether only to have TM work at 100% matches, or it should show your translation already at 50% matches. That said, even "xxx" are different, you still have much of the translation correct, and only have to make the rest.

See below:
the execution of this REVERSE FACTORING AGREEMENT shall be governed by xxx law.

Looks familiar, because you've done this hundreds of times?

Then it is worth the money!



[Edited at 2009-01-22 20:09 GMT]


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xxxEric Hahn  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 00:31
French to German
+ ...
Maybe Jan 22, 2009

But why don't you just check it out by yourself ?

The demo version of Wordfast works for up to 500 translation units or sentences.

For short documents like this, you don't even have to buy it.

[Edited at 2009-01-22 19:27 GMT]


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Claire Cox
United Kingdom
Local time: 23:31
French to English
+ ...
Glossaries Jan 22, 2009

One of the biggest benefits in my view is the glossary function. I use Wordfast which offers the possibility to link three glossaries to a given document as you work, so that any terms in your glossaries will be highlighted in the text as you work - saves hours of thinking "Now I know I've had that before - but where is it?" You can add terms to your glossaries as you work with just a few key strokes, thus keeping your glossaries up-to-date with minimal effort.

Context search is another useful feature - this enables you to highlight a word or phrase and then search in your current memory (or all your memories if you have a Big Translation Memory set up too) to see how you've translated this before, even if the whole sentence hasn't already been translated.

Finally, as a number of people have commented in the current quick poll, there's the invaluable knowledge that your work is being saved to the memory as you type and will still be there if you have a power cut or you accidentally lose the document - it's saved my bacon a few times!

As Eric says, why not give one of the trial versions a go and see what you think before you commit yourself? Wordfast has a good internet support group and people will be happy to answer your questions either there or in the ProZ forums if you get stuck. Then, if you think you will find it useful, I'd definitely recommend going on a course to firm up what you've learned. I actually attend one of the introductory ITI courses up in Leeds which looked at Trados, Déja Vu and Wordfast and found it really useful. I had tried Wordfast before then but it helped make up my mind that it was the tool for me. Déja Vu was good, but so much more expensive that I didn't think it worth my while.

Good luck!


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Taija Hyvönen
Finland
Local time: 01:31
Member (2008)
English to Finnish
+ ...
A good place to start Jan 22, 2009

If you are interested in CAT tools, I suggest you start with OmegaT. Why? It is open source and you can get it for free, it is really easy to use, even for someone as useless with computers as I am, and the developers have made a tutorial for dumm-- I mean beginners which gives you step-by-step instructions and assumes that you know nothing about CAT tools. In addition they have a group for users where you can ask for help. I think this is ideal for a beginner. Then when you have tried it, you'll see whether you'll have use for it or not. Then you can stick with OmegaT or move on to commercial products, which cost you a lot of money and I assume are more complicated to use, but will give you access to clients who want you to use them. If you have no such clients, it's matter of taste really.

Why do I use a CAT tool, which is not a requirement from a client? It just gives a good impression I think, after all they are so widely used, and OmegaT is free and easy to use.


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Nicole Schnell  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 15:31
English to German
+ ...
Not really. Jan 22, 2009

Words that are used over and over are suggested by Word and even OpenOffice anyway.

My light versions of CAT-tools come in handy when I translate repetitive websites or other ongoing long term projects ("How on earth did I translate this term months ago?" "How the heck did I translate this headline again?", without having to comb through a gazillion of files with bizarre file names created by IT people from planet XÖ^K2), but that's it. I work with light versions of Workbench and SDLX on request of one client each (and nobody else). Both clients invested a lot of time in training me and they are always responsive whenever I have a technical question.

This makes 2 clients out of more than 30.

Other than that I own an abundance of highly expensive software such as QuarkXPress, Indesign, Photoshop and what not. Also XML Editor and other localizer software that allow me to have total control over what I am doing.

I don't like writing around tags (don't you know how to make text bold or something yourself?), and in my field of work (lots of print stuff and nice layouts) I need to maintain a keen eye on text length. I need to see it as a whole, not chopped up into segments. Then I would screw up.

I also noticed that my brain is getting lazy after working with those tools for a while.

This is a very, very personal opinion.


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 00:31
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
Some answers Jan 22, 2009

Paul Skidmore wrote:
My question is more basic: (answers as geekless as possible, please) what are the advantages (given the nature of my business) of acquiring a CAT tool?


1. If you work on a long document, and you wonder how you've translated a certain word, you can do a "Find" on the source text and see how you translated it.

2. If you have done translations before, you can do the same with those documents -- you can check how you've translated a word previously.

3. If your tool has a glossary feature, you can improve consistency, because the glossary tool automatically detects words in the text that are also in the glossary, and displays the translations for you.

They above is true of OmegaT.

Given your field (legal stuff), I would suggest that you save your source text as plain text (i.e. Notepad files) and then translate it using OmegaT (it is the simplest), and once you're done, resave as MS Word and do the necessary formatting.

Remember that OmegaT can't do MS Word, so you'll need OpenOffice.org if you want to translate formatted files.

At first it will seem very cumbersome to create projects etc (and to learn to use the program) but it pays off in a short time. OmegaT can also do fuzzy matching, but I would suggest minimising the Fuzzy Match pane in OmegaT because you probably won't use it.

[Edited at 2009-01-22 21:19 GMT]


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tinageta  Identity Verified
Local time: 00:31
English to Latvian
+ ...
Yes Jan 22, 2009

I read in your profile that you "regularly translate a variety of court documents for the Court of Justice of the European Communities."

If that is so, yes, a CAT tool could be useful. These documents are often based on other documents, rulings, decisions, legal acts etc. that are already translated. If you feed this information into your TM, it would be useful - you would be able to see the terms used in the particular context, and it could save you time when quotes from previous documents come up.


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xxxLia Fail  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 00:31
Spanish to English
+ ...
maybe a corpus approach is a good start? Jan 23, 2009

tinageta wrote:

I read in your profile that you "regularly translate a variety of court documents for the Court of Justice of the European Communities."

If that is so, yes, a CAT tool could be useful. These documents are often based on other documents, rulings, decisions, legal acts etc. that are already translated. If you feed this information into your TM, it would be useful - you would be able to see the terms used in the particular context, and it could save you time when quotes from previous documents come up.





I had the same thoughts but there are two issues with any tool for recycling previous translations/other people's translations:

1. do my texts contains substantial numbers of full sentences or parts of sentences that could be recycled from a translation memory?

2. do my texts contain particular terms that have standard translations or that I have translated before, maybe many times?

I rarely benefit from 1) becuase there's simply very little repetition in my work. I DO benefit from 2) becuase I end up being consistent with previous choices/don't have to rethink the same terminology through more than once.

If Paul thinks 2) is more his situation, there are alternative solutions like Archivarius (text indexer) or AntConc (concordancer) that would do the job just as well as an expensive CAT tool. The former is inexpensive, the latter is freeware. With both you collect texts (your own or other's) and save them as a database (or corpus). The major difference is that Archivarius is capable of searching PDFs, Word etc, whereas AntConc can only search TXT files - but has more sophisticated search options.

http://www.likasoft.com/document-search/
http://www.antlab.sci.waseda.ac.jp/

For a description of this "corpus approach" see our article http://www.jostrans.org/issue10/art_maher.php, and a review by Kevin Lossner - a regular forum user - at http://simmer-lossner.blogspot.com/2008/11/practical-use-of-corpora-in-acquiring.html

By the way, I should mention that one of the major pluses of a CAT is how I can see source and target text in the same text when I'm revising. OK, it chops a job up into sentences, but I can also choose to switch on/off that option and see how coherent paragraphs are.


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Rod Walters  Identity Verified
Japan
Local time: 07:31
Japanese to English
Structure Jan 23, 2009

I've just completed a legal opinion about a medical patent, and Trados was enormously useful.

The text (a Word file) was highly structured with many similar paragraphs with slight variations. The vocabulary included standard terms, and non-standard terms and quotes from patents which were provided. The former were already in the Trados glossary tool and I also saved the latter in the tool.

Having Trados meant that I didn't have to retype each similar paragraph - it just appeared automatically with all the slight changes highlighted. This saved time typing, and made it less likely that I would fail to spot a change. Also with one mouse click, I could insert the standard and non-standard vocabulary and quotes without having to search through a separate glossary.

You can perhaps imagine my joy when Trados indicated that several very long and complex paragraphs required no changes whatsoever, saving me the time and the huge mental effort of reading and recognizing them again.

This job took me 2.5 days and I'm very confident that the finished work is highly consistent with the original. Without Trados, it would have taken a full week, and the results would not be guaranteed* in the same way. From this example, you can easily judge the economic merit of a tool that costs a smallish fraction of one month's earnings.

* Of course using Trados is not an absolute guarantee, but it eliminates human error by a sufficiently large margin to make the expression meaningful.

If you only use Word, you will hardly be bothered by a tag if you buy Trados. If I were buying again, I'd also look very hard at Deja Vu as a possible alternative, but I believe that you will encounter tags with that CAT.

The other benefits mentioned such as automatic backup and databasing, synergy between projects, marketing advantage and so on are not at all to be sniffed at. Can you afford to be without CAT?*

* I wish I got paid for saying this...


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Caroline Lakey  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 00:31
French to English
Does a CAT tool stop a beginner improving? Jan 23, 2009

Firstly, thanks for asking the question as to whether you should invest in a CAT tool, because I've been wondering exactly the same thing.

I'm teetering on the brink at the moment, and there's one point that concerns me - perhaps someone more experienced can help?

I'm a bit concerned that if I had a CAT tool which automatically gave me my preivous translation for a certain phrase it would be more difficult for me to improve my translations. Obviously, in an ideal world I should find the optimum phrase first time round, but do you ever look at a translation that a tool suggests based on your previous work and think, hmm, I don't really like that any more? I appreciate that if it's for the same end client you have to keep the same translation to guarantee consistency, but for another client you might use a different version. What happens then the next time the tool comes across the phrase?

Forgive me if I'm miles wide of the mark, because I'm just starting to look into this and I don't know much about how CAT tools work!

PS What's a tag?


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xxxMarc P  Identity Verified
Local time: 00:31
German to English
+ ...
Does my business need a CAT tool? Jan 23, 2009

Caroline Lakey wrote:

Firstly, thanks for asking the question as to whether you should invest in a CAT tool, because I've been wondering exactly the same thing.


It needn't be a major investment. There are several tools to choose from in the range from €0 to €300, which to be honest is trivial compared to the potential benefits or to other investments such as dictionaries. You can also start with one of the free products such as Metatexis Lite or OmegaT to get an idea with no financial commitment whatsoever.

Obviously, in an ideal world I should find the optimum phrase first time round, but do you ever look at a translation that a tool suggests based on your previous work and think, hmm, I don't really like that any more?


A CAT tool is like a dictionary: it provides you with information. How you act upon that information is up to you. If your translation is the worse for your having used a CAT tool, you are using the tool incorrectly, just as you are using a dictionary incorrectly if you blindly accept the first term given. It can only ever be advantageous to see how you translated a word or phrase three hours, weeks or years ago, regardless of whether or not you opt for the same solution again. What value is there in ignorance?

Like all tools, CAT tools must be used properly. It is possible, for instance, to become too focused on each individual segment/sentence and to lose sight of the whole picture, i.e. the message. The important thing is to think of a CAT tool as just that – a tool, and not to lose sight of what you are actually trying to accomplish.

Marc


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KSL Berlin  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 23:31
Member (2003)
German to English
+ ...
Quite the contrary... Jan 23, 2009

Caroline Lakey wrote:
I'm a bit concerned that if I had a CAT tool which automatically gave me my preivous translation for a certain phrase it would be more difficult for me to improve my translations.


I have been using CAT tools almost since I started translating any significant volume professionally. My database gives me instant access to nine years worth of work, indexed by client and subject area. (I use Déjà Vu, which has a sophisticated scheme for keeping various classes of content sorted out.)

I often see an old (or not-so-old) entry in my TM that I would do differently, though sometimes when I look in the old project to check, I find that in context the entry is quite correct after all. Context is important for usage, and a TM gives you access to a wealth of context through its concordance function. If you notice serious errors in old work, you can always correct the TM, usually without interrupting your workflow much (this is, in fact, quite easy to do in Trados and DV, probably in other environments as well).

Most translators look at old work for reference, even in the typewriter and hardcopy days. A CAT tool just makes this process faster, easier and more comprehensive. For me at least, CAT tools contributed to the process of learning and improvement.


Obviously, in an ideal world I should find the optimum phrase first time round, but do you ever look at a translation that a tool suggests based on your previous work and think, hmm, I don't really like that any more? I appreciate that if it's for the same end client you have to keep the same translation to guarantee consistency, but for another client you might use a different version. What happens then the next time the tool comes across the phrase?


There is no law or principle which binds you to legacy phrasing. Context is king, and even where the context is the same, in many fields, terminology evolves. The content of TM is merely suggestions for usage. As a professional, you decide what is appropriate in each individual case.


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Rod Walters  Identity Verified
Japan
Local time: 07:31
Japanese to English
Au contraire Jan 23, 2009

Caroline Lakey wrote:
I'm a bit concerned that if I had a CAT tool which automatically gave me my preivous translation for a certain phrase it would be more difficult for me to improve my translations. Obviously, in an ideal world I should find the optimum phrase first time round, but do you ever look at a translation that a tool suggests based on your previous work and think, hmm, I don't really like that any more?

PS What's a tag?


Well that's a question of personal discipline.

Personally I always check each matching segment anyway, both within and between jobs. I'm often surprised by the felicity of my own phrasing in the past and have to rub my eyes and ask, "Did I really translate this?". However, there are times when you might want to change it but without the CAT tool, you wouldn't have the same opportunities for review and revision. (You can save multiple versions of the same sentence by the way if you need more options.) The CAT tool can take a lot of the strain off your brain allowing you to focus more creatively on language.

Tags are the hideable document markup that allows the source and target segments to be saved in one document, and that show formatting much like HTML tags.


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