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CAT Tools - Some are truly helpful, but many are a waste of time
Thread poster: Francesco Barbuto

Francesco Barbuto  Identity Verified
Local time: 01:50
English to Italian
+ ...
Nov 25, 2001

Valued fellow translators,



I have been in the translation business for about ten years and have seen a number of CAT tools cropping out of nowhere. Some of those tools are truly helpful, at least to some degree, but many are really a waste of money and efforts. I think the best way to manage consistency and avoid redundancy is to better use one\'s own memory and some plain sheets of paper. You may disagree, but I am trying to make the point that we can live easier lifes without CAT tools at all; just notice how many, different, DTP softwares there are around: this is only a commercial ploy and we are angaged, against our will, in a commercial tug-of-war to the latest version of any piece of software that only claims to be the cutting-edge of technology. I ask you, wouldn\'t life be easier if there only were less machinery around and we could the devote and committ ourself to the sole art of plain translating?

Without having to tinker with an awful number of file formats and the like?



Regards,

fbarbuto



_________________



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Werner George Patels, M.A., C.Tran.(ATIO)
Local time: 19:50
German to English
+ ...
Amen to that! Nov 25, 2001

I could not agree with you more: my \"human translation memory\" still beats the hell out of Trados and the likes of it.

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SWEDISH-TRANSLATION.com - your Swedish translation partner
Local time: 01:50
Swedish to English
+ ...
Bullseye! Nov 25, 2001

Man! What a good point! That\'s been my point for quite some time. Let\'s do like Sven Peterson trust our geriatric brains a little bit more!



But why not drive matters to an extreme and also throw our computers away and trust our geriatric pens and papers? Huh?








[addsig]


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Natasha Stoyanova  Identity Verified
Local time: 02:50
Member (2002)
English to Bulgarian
+ ...
Absolutely disagree Nov 25, 2001

OK, your opinon is what you said.

What you will do without any PC and related links?

And how you\'ll expect to get jobs, or answers for some \"not your\" terms?

I don\'t want to overstate the importance of all this computerized world, but... that\'s the present.


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Hans-Henning Judek  Identity Verified
Local time: 08:50
German to English
+ ...
CATs are beneficial only for agencies, not translators... Nov 25, 2001

Using computers for about 20 years (started with CP/M, when even DOS was not around yet, me and my colleague were always on the forefront with computer-supported translations. We developed our own DOS-based CAT, which we still use for certain stuff, because it is lightning fast, but does not work with any desktop publishing formats.



We even considered marketing it, but we recognized at a very early stage that this tool, which was very helpful for us, was also a \"can of worms\" for the translators. So we kept it under wraps as long as possible, but others had - of course - the same idea, and Trados and all the others popped up. They opened the \"can of worms\", we kept the lid on, and we all know the results.



CATs are NOT beneficial for translators.



First, they interrupt the workflow. Getting your usual order sheet with \"3231 - 100%~90% matches, 4421 - 70%~89% matches and 543 less than 70% matches\", while working, you have to constantly update the TM to \"catch\" all the matches. If you don\'t, you do translations for 66% or less of the translation price. Updating means waiting until the computer has done its job - I always have a time loss wit TMs.



CATs put additional burdens on the translators\' shoulders:



* We have now to unify the terminology, because despite using TMs, there are frequently older versions mixed with newer and if the TM is not well maintained, WE have to fix it.

* Another task is that we basically have to take care of the correct layout. In my SDLX no export is possible until I have \"format painted\" all items correctly. Nice for the agency, but for me an additional step, for which I am not paid for.

* The \"66% fee for 70% to 90%\" matches or whatever formula, is unfair to the translator, because the logic behind it is not right. I refer to the question, Werner has asked in a different thread here \"should proofreading and rewriting (editing) be better paid than translation?\". I can answer that for the 70%ers with a very clear YES. finding out, where the match is and correct/edit it costs me twice as much time than translating it.



So very clearly, with the present way of thinking and price structure, the beneficiaries of CATs are only, I repeat ONLY the agencies, not us. We have to churn out hundreds of dollars to keep/get the jobs, but get less pay for more work.





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Werner George Patels, M.A., C.Tran.(ATIO)
Local time: 19:50
German to English
+ ...
Good point, Hans Nov 25, 2001

Well put.



I agree: it is only the agencies that benefit from CAT, and that\'s why it\'ll be a cold day in hell before I agree to give discounts for fuzzy matches or even repetitions.



Any agency that even so much as asks for that is, in my book, not trustworthy.


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Hans-Henning Judek  Identity Verified
Local time: 08:50
German to English
+ ...
Would be nice, Werner Nov 25, 2001

I somehow envy you, Werner, because you can allow yourself the luxury not to follow the obvious market trend. I unfortunately have to do something here for myself and accept conditions that I would not have even thought about a couple of years ago.



Fact of the matter is that most large and lucrative jobs went to Europe and are done by translators using TMs at a fraction of the local translation prices.



Under the present circumstances with the economy more then 10 years in the doldrums here in Japan, the trend is even more accelerating. I lost two major agencies this year, who opened their offices in London and use TMs for a price, no agency here in Japan can compete with.



But I also know that this has not been their own choice, because they have to work on much slimmer profit margins. Big clients just request that. I know of one printing company that had to open an office in London on request of their client, a car company. The person in charge here in Japan apologized to me, but they had no choice - the client just told them \"you offer that price or you loose the job\". So they translate in Europe with CAT at rock-bottom prices and print in Korea.



Result is a surplus of really qualified translators and less and less work. We do only the rush jobs (\"3 lines until 3:00 p.m.\"), jobs that cannot be done with TMs (New Product Features), and very specialized work, which is by volume not enough to support an organization as I run it.



Relocating to Europe would be one solution, but then I have to give up my other businesses, which I am not (yet) ready to.



Anyway, we have to face that CATs are there and they heat up the competition among translators and agencies - if we like it or not. So I do use CATs and give discounts for matches, but franklz, I don|t like it at all.


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Werner George Patels, M.A., C.Tran.(ATIO)
Local time: 19:50
German to English
+ ...
I see your point, Hans, but... Nov 26, 2001

... that is all the more reason for all of us to unite and (re-)educate clients.



I am not even talking about existing clients, but future potential clients. We have to spread the word now so that anyone who may need a translation in the future knows what they are up against.



I admit that CAT software can help raise productivity to some limited extent, but overall you do waste a lot of time.



I know some agencies that require us (their subcontractors) to use CAT, but they would never even dream of asking us to discount our rates because of fuzzies and repetitions - these are the reliable and professional agencies.



The TCR list recently had a long discussion on this topic, and a large number of contributors agreed that we should raise our base rates from the get-go in order to maintain the current rates even after discounts. I don\'t have to tell you that this is not an option.



The way I see it, it is perfectly alright for agencies to use CAT as a selling point: streamline terminology throughout large projects that are split among 10 translators, etc. This is what I call the \"quality aspect\" of CAT, and agencies should, by all means, sell that concept to their clients. But when they start flogging the \"quantity aspect\", ie, fuzzies and repetitions, they are shooting themselves (and all of us) in the foot: the quantity aspect of CAT leads clients to assume, wrongly, that CAT is some kind of machine translation, and down the road, they will increasingly come to equate MT with CAT. Further down the road, these clients may think that they can do without a human translator!



Under the quantity aspect, human translators are, more and more, being considered a \"necessary evil\", an \"input tool\", as it were, and this is where the real problem starts.



The other problem I see here is agencies with large inventories of translation memory, \"nicked\" from their subcontractors, who may, if that inventory is big enough, try to \"pretranslate\" a new document that comes in and then give the \"pretranslation\" to a proofreader for 1 or 2 cents a word, thus bypassing professional translators completely.



So, here is my proposal: if an agency asks you to reduce your rates on account of fuzzies and repetitions, send them the following statement:



I will be happy to grant you a disount of ... for fuzzy matches and of ... for repetitions. However, since the translation memory contained in my Trados/Déjà Vu/SDLX/Transit.. files constitutes my workproduct and remains my property, which you may use on future projects of yours, I will have to charge you a licence fee of .... for such translation memory.



The fact that many translators have started trading or selling their translation memories proves that TM has become a marketable commodity. So, any client who wishes to take advantage of that commodity will have to pay for it!

[ This Message was edited by: on 2001-11-26 10:01 ]


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xxxgaracs1
Local time: 01:50
Spanish to English
+ ...
And what about the cost of these CAT tools? Nov 26, 2001

Sorry if I intervene on a matter so well discussed by professional translators with decades of experience, I would like to point out another point of view: the one of a beginning free lance translator / interpreter, who\'s doing all the work with almost no professional CAT, since the cost of it is just not affordable for a rookie.

I\'ve been translating since 1994 in 4 languages for several non-agency clients, and sincerely I\'ve always done my work only with a computer and my personal knowledge.

I\'m not the best translator on the field, I know that, but of one thing I\'m certain: my clients keep coming back to me after brief parenthesis with CAT tool-based translation agencies/translators. I\'ve stopped asking why they come back to me, they just say I cost much less than the others (my prices are on the line with everybody elses, though).

What I say is that a CAT is useful, but not compulsory: your knowledge and experience are.

I say lets work all together to do a good job, using the tool you prefer, but being careful not to translate \"clean the mouse ball with a soft damp cloth\" with \"pulire la palla del topo con un vestito pulito bagnato\", if you get what I mean...

Here for replies from you out ther.

George Clarkson



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Ralf Lemster  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 01:50
English to German
+ ...
Something missing in your equation... Nov 26, 2001

Guys,

I think that you\'re missing out one vital ingredient in your assumption. \"It\" is called the client - the root cause of all competition. True, a really qualified translator will still deliver a better job than someone with less expertise who uses CAT tools.

But watch out for the combination of translation expertise and CAT, used in a global network of translators... Remember: if you refuse to cannibalise your own business, someone else is eventually going to do it for you...


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Werner George Patels, M.A., C.Tran.(ATIO)
Local time: 19:50
German to English
+ ...
True, Ralf,... Nov 26, 2001

... but any self-respecting translator will never \"cannibalize\" his/her own business and existence.



But anyone is free to do whatever they want, and that includes \"cannibalization\". Be my guest.



Other than that, I must strongly disagree with your statement: basically, you are saying that it is better to commit suicide before somebody else does it for you. How much more \"defeatist\" can you get???? Or are you a licensed reseller for CAT companies? (Thou protesteth too much)

[ This Message was edited by: on 2001-11-26 11:25 ]


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Ralf Lemster  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 01:50
English to German
+ ...
Far from it... Nov 26, 2001

Werner,

I\'m far from committing suicide, nor would I want to sound defeatist.

Fact is: if you just go on about your business, someone will eventually come up with a way to do it better - particularly in this day and age. That in itself is not a problem (albeit a reality), unless you fail to anticipate it.

My strategy is to turn \"self-cannibalisation\" on its head, and call it \"re-inventing my business\". So far, I can\'t complain - and apparently, neither can the freelancers working with me...


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Werner George Patels, M.A., C.Tran.(ATIO)
Local time: 19:50
German to English
+ ...
But CAT is not the answer... Nov 26, 2001

... to providing better service, that\'s the problem.



The best productivity tools are experience, specialized training in translation and other disciplines and again experience.



CAT is only one of many ways to take advantage of translators and their efforts. It does not make for better service at all, and it most certainly does not improve quality.



If one uses CAT and produces top quality, their translation would have been top quality even without CAT. But if one\'s work is of low quality, then don\'t expect any miracles from CAT. And my point is that top-quality people don\'t need CAT to \"compete\".



Competition, as I see it, is always between and among members of the same segment: top-quality translators compete with other top translators. And the numbers show that only a negligible number of top translators use CAT in the way suggested by you, Ralf.

[ This Message was edited by: on 2001-11-26 14:03 ]


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Uwe Schwenk
Local time: 18:50
English to German
CAT is a big part of the answer Nov 27, 2001

Werner,



you make some good points, but I politely disagree with the statement below.

Quote:


And my point is that top-quality people don\'t need CAT to \"compete\".





Here is my take on this.

When you have a number of highly competent professionals competing in the same field, you will need something to differentiate yourself in order to get the job and/or retain an existing client. In that case CAT is most definitely the answer, because if I look at it from a clients point of view and I have a choice between two equally qualified translators (one with CAT tool and the other one without) who would I choose? I would choose the translator with the CAT tool, because he/she can provide me the quality and at the same time a higher volume and/or a reduced turnaround, which in turn enables me as the client to compete more efficiently in my field, doing better business and may even require further translation. I (the client) would go then to the same translator because he/she provided a the quality together with the volume and/or the reduced turnaround which made my success possible.



Kind regards!



Uwe



PS: We are getting some good discussions going here. Let\'s keep this up.

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Werner George Patels, M.A., C.Tran.(ATIO)
Local time: 19:50
German to English
+ ...
Reply to Uwe Nov 27, 2001

Uwe,



You are right: we need to distinguish ourselves from the next guy, but, as I said, CAT is not the answer. The real answer is to get more and more experience under your belt, the proper credentials, etc.



CAT cannot make you a better translator, but experience and (life-long) learning will.



CAT actually slows me down - as I said elsewhere, by the time you have finished your Trados setup, I\'ll have completed 500-700 words.

[ This Message was edited by: on 2001-11-27 10:16 ]


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