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Positive and Negative Effects of CAT Tools on Translation Business
Thread poster: Hipyan Nopri

Hipyan Nopri  Identity Verified
Indonesia
Local time: 00:22
English to Indonesian
+ ...
Jan 31, 2007

Dear Fellow Translators,

So far, I am not so familiar with any CAT tools. Therefore, I am very happy if you do not mind sharing your factual experience with CAT tools.

What are the possible positive and negative effects of CAT tools on translation business?

Thank you very much for your responses.

Best Regards

Hipyan Nopri


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ViktoriaG  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 12:22
English to French
+ ...
The good, the bad and the ugly Jan 31, 2007

CAT tools are a great way to save a lot of time if you learn to use them properly. What I personally like about them the most is the fact that once you have terms in your translation memory, you don't need to jot anything down anymore or search in dictionaries - you have an established terminology in the TM and you can look it up through concordance search. So, the biggest advantage for me is terminology consistency. There are other, more subtle advantages as well. For example, you can translate websites without any knowledge of HTML - you can also translate a myriad of other file formats, some of which are next to impossible to handle without CAT tools. Then, there is also the fact that, if you are specialized in any subject matter, you can reuse existing TMs on new projects, which also saves a lot of time. In short, the more you use it, the more your existing terminology is fine-tuned and it really makes you more efficient. The two clear advantages are saving time and consistency.

However, sometimes these advantages are very hard to appreciate - in some cases, they are outweighed - because clients, especially agencies, want to get their share of your profits. Since you can get the same amount of work done in considerably less time, many clients ask that you charge less for segments that match, 100% or less, the segments in your memory. So, while at first sight, it seems that a CAT tool will help you to make more money in less time, most of the time, that surplus of money is eaten away at by the client through rebates they force translators to give them. In the end, you end up working twice as fast - for twice less money. As rednecks would say - same difference!

All I can say is don't give in to the temptation to offer rebates. Always calculate the time it will take you to do the job and how much money you want to be paid per hour. Establish CAT tool rates accordingly. I only give rebates on 100% matches, and then only to well-established clients who pay good rates. I never give rebates on fuzzy matches. And I do have tons of work still, and I am still earning the same hourly fee, even if I charge by the word. So, it is feasible to not let clients reap the benefits of your investment in CAT tools. After all, you get those tools for you, so you can do a better job. For me, it's a question of getting more work done in less time, which leaves me more time to care for the people around me. And that isn't a luxury!

Do look up the subject of CAT schemes on this site, it's well worht it. And if you have the money to invest into CAT tools, by all means, try it, you will not regret it. Now, as for the choice of CAT tools - that is a whole different story...

All the best!

[Edited at 2007-01-31 10:40]


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Hipyan Nopri  Identity Verified
Indonesia
Local time: 00:22
English to Indonesian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Really Comprehensive Information Jan 31, 2007

Hello Viktoria,

Thank you very much for such comprehensive information that includes real advantages, potential disadvantages, and the smart trick. It is greatly enlightening and invaluable.

Further responses from other freelancers would be highly appreciated.


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Marie-Hélène Hayles  Identity Verified
Local time: 18:22
Italian to English
+ ...
Agree with Viktoria... Jan 31, 2007

Another advantage is if you do a lot of repetitive work - I'm currently translating sets of very long, highly repetitive procedures and CATs are worth their weight in gold here. I'm actually translating one of these right now, as I'm posting on here! Just click on "translate until next fuzzy" and away you go...

But even if you don't do repetitive work, CATs are still useful to help you keep track of your place in the document. It's easy to lose track of where you've got to and skip a sentence or even a paragraph - I know I used to do it on occasion. With the way a CAT works, this is essentially impossible (although it's still possible to miss a word). For me, this alone makes it worthwhile using a CAT.


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Mario Cerutti  Identity Verified
Japan
Local time: 02:22
Italian to Japanese
+ ...
Positive vs negative Jan 31, 2007

I think the most valuable function of a CAT program is terminology management, not only for single words but even expressions and pretty long sentences that you will always want to translate in the same way. Non all programs allow you to do this easily and efficiently (I am using DVX, which is proverbially good at this). This is the only function, in my view, that allows you to considerably reduce your translating time while delivering a more consistent work

As far as sentences in the translation memories are concerned, when it's me to decide to use a CAT program I usually don't care much about how I have translated a particular sentence ten years ago, for after ten years I am likely to translate it better. I rather prefer to translate anew. Or, I use the TM function on a job basis only, then I usually delete it after a while just to allow for subsequent additions. If it's the customer to ask me to use the program this freedom is no longer possible and trade offs must be considered.

In my opinion, the real negative point about using CAT programs is - in general - the fact that you tend to lose your concentration on the very translation job, as you end up being trapped, and sometimes waste hours and hours of your precious time, by the technical problems that often arise with the simple use of the programs (different formats to handle, formatting issues, crashes and the like). I have the impression that rather than translators we have become translation engineers (50% translation and 50% computer engineers). All in all, in my opinion CAT programs per se are detrimental to translation quality if they are used like the typical translation agency would request (using old and messy TMs, not allowing you to even slightly modify 100% matches, paying by fuzzy, etc.)

Kind regards

Mario Cerutti
http://www.aliseo-translation.com/


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Williamson  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 17:22
Flemish to English
+ ...
My2 cents Jan 31, 2007

Advantage : Consistence and translation of html-files (although I really should get through that course by tomorrow evening).
Disadvantage: "Your best rates". But it is up to you to give them. It's because translators consider it "professional" to give rebates for fuzzies, repetitions,... and even use that as a marketing tool, that you actually invest in a tools to earn the same or less. (Thank you Trados marketinggurus for your help). Sometimes, I get offers with X% matches and X% fuzzies accompanied by a request for "your best rates". I always calculate the full price per word and send that as best rate. Usually these requests only come from agencies. These agencies charge their full rate -repetitions or not-to their customers.


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Henrik Pipoyan  Identity Verified
Local time: 21:22
Member (2004)
English to Armenian
Hi Hipyan Jan 31, 2007

The positive effect is that they make translation easier and faster. The negative effect is that they make translation easier and faster.

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Hipyan Nopri  Identity Verified
Indonesia
Local time: 00:22
English to Indonesian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thank You Very Much Jan 31, 2007

Marie-Helene, Mario, Williamson, and Henrik. You all have really widened my insight into the relationship between using CAT tools and translation business.

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ViktoriaG  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 12:22
English to French
+ ...
Just a comment to add to Mario's post Feb 2, 2007

Mario, you raise an interesting point when you mention wasting time on technical aspects of CAT tools instead of concentrating on the work at hand. The problem you mention sounds familiar. I've had to battle all my CAT tools before I was able to tame them

This raises an issue: when buying CAT tools, please don't use them on real contracts right away. Take the time to learn to use them. CAT tools are no easy programs to use. I wouldn't say they arre the hardest programs to learn to use, but they definitely require practice. For one, there is the idea of translation units, segmentation and translation memory - these are all notions you'll have to understand clearly. Then there are tags, which occur once again in all CAT tools. That's a whole set of competences that takes getting used to. You have to grasp how all these different elements function together. Once you get there, you finally also have to learn to intuitively reach for the right key/button/function as if it was second nature.

The PDF manuals that accompany SDL Trados are quite heavy. However, you should still take the time to read them, preferably not when you have a deadline approaching. Do some dummy translations. Try everything you can on Word documents, Excel documents, HTML and other formats to make sure you spend some time on each aspect of working with a CAT tool. If you are good at learning, it should only take you a few weeks of part-time self-straining before being able to unleash the power of your CAT tool.

The shortcut to this is the occasional training offered by some CAT tool manufacturers/engineers, who sometimes take their course to larger cities in different countries. The bad thing about this is that it costs, in some cases, almost as much as the software itself (I would never pay that much for a few days of software training).

So, CAT tools can help a lot, but only if you take the time to learn to use them.


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Mario Cerutti  Identity Verified
Japan
Local time: 02:22
Italian to Japanese
+ ...
Reply to Vicoris' post Feb 2, 2007

Hi Victoria,

I should have gone deeper into my explanation why I think that often CAT programs take your attention away from your real translation work.

I used Trados in the past when it was version 5, and then switched to Dejavu without going back to Trados or switching to others. I cannot say to be an expert, but I think I know Dejavu pretty well now after some six years of continuous usage.

What I wanted to refer in my previous post is that there are currently so many file formats on the market now that your CAT software has to handle, and that agencies/clients tend to give you more and more translation jobs in those very format to releave their own work, and last but not least they even require that you check/fix the resulting layout directly on the translated DTP text, i.e. directly in InDesign, FrameMaker, Quark and the like. This means that you also have to learn these programs, although only in part.

When it is a simple Word file to translate, then usually there are no problems (except for formatting problems). But in many other cases you have to spend a lot of time preparing the source file and then fixing afterwards (I guess you have already experienced a customer asking you not to translate sentences or portion of sentences in a certain color, only check sentences or portion of sentences in another color, and so forth. Without mentioning unexpected problems that suddendly arise when using CAT tools. The fact that Proz.com forum is literally full of postings related to problems/questions on Trados and SDLX is not the most evident sign of this unneccessary complexity? How much time are translators wasting with these things, then subtracting time to their real work?

In conclusion, it seems to me that translators are being requested more and more to do extra work that has nothing to do with translating itself. To some this might be a source of pleasure, especially to the more technically oriented people that have no problems spending 15 hours a day in front of a computer screen, but to others this is only a distraction to what they like to do most: translating.

I wonder if this will not generally lead in future to beautifully DTPed texts that on the other hand are just weaker and weaker from the linguistic point of view.

Kind regards

Mario Cerutti
http://www.aliseo-translation.com/

[Edited at 2007-02-02 00:57]

[Edited at 2007-02-02 01:00]

[Edited at 2007-02-02 04:48]


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ViktoriaG  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 12:22
English to French
+ ...
I agree - we are increasingly being asked to do more than our share Feb 2, 2007

I don't think the fact that clients expect us to do work that's outside the scope of translation is due to the fact that we use CAT tools, although I agree I often feel 'skinned' by certain clients.

It is important for each of us to remember not to start doing other people's work free of charge. Also, DTP is not part of translation and I think it is only fair that we don't accept jobs that involve DTP, unless that is paid for separately.

The other thing is also that many people buy CAT tools, thinking it will do their job in their stead. Then, when they finally have the CAT tool and realize they were wrong, they either think it's too complicated to learn and never end up using it, or they keep believing that somehow, it's the answer to all their problems and use them on contracts, then 2 days before the deadline start panicking because there is something they didn't learn about the CAT tool that prevents them from wrapping up their translation, and post desperate messages in search of help.

CAT tools are not for everybody and care should be taken to learn to use them before applying them to real work. I believe that if one practices enough on their CAT tool before actually using it, and provided we don't accept to do the graphic artist's job, a CAT tool is more useful than anything else.

[Edited at 2007-02-02 09:54]


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