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Thoughts about online CAT tools
Thread poster: Yiftah Hellerman-Carmel

Yiftah Hellerman-Carmel  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 23:34
Member (2005)
German to Hebrew
+ ...
Aug 3, 2011

In the Last few months I've been asked by agencies to perform translations with this or that online CAT tool. I have tried at least 3 or 4, and all of them, even those made by market leaders of CAT software, were ten times worse than the every CAT software I ever used, in many ways. I am not a programmer, and I have no idea if it is more difficult to make a good online CAT tool, but I found it strange that such renown companies will release such horrible tools.
But then it occurred to me, and forgive me if this sounds like some conspiracy theory: most of these tools are not advertised among the translators themselves - and for a good reason, they offer nothing to the translators but slowing down their work and annoying them - but vendors/end clients use them because they offer them certain advantages, like a central TM, maybe a good workflow control, etc. So it seems that these tools are made with the vendor/client in mind, ignoring the basics of a good CAT tool. Now, the agencies/clients don't mind if the tool is slowing down the translator, since they don't pay a hourly rate, and the software companies sell these tools not to the translators, so they also don't bother investing resources in improving functionality for the translator.

These are my thoughts about this matter, I would love to hear yours.


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Tangopeter

Local time: 23:34
English to Dutch
+ ...
Welcome in the real world !-) Aug 3, 2011

I do not mean to be rude, but that has always been the main purpose of CAT tools, however disguised by fallacies like terminology consistency, efficiency, et cetera et cetera. Dog eat dog, and translators live at the end of the food chain. Those are the ways of the world, I am afraid.

Be a hero and try to make a living as a freelance translator without CAT tools, online or offline. Or start a translation agency !-)

Yiftah wrote:

In the Last few months I've been asked by agencies to perform translations with this or that online CAT tool. I have tried at least 3 or 4, and all of them, even those made by market leaders of CAT software, were ten times worse than the every CAT software I ever used, in many ways. I am not a programmer, and I have no idea if it is more difficult to make a good online CAT tool, but I found it strange that such renown companies will release such horrible tools.
But then it occurred to me, and forgive me if this sounds like some conspiracy theory: most of these tools are not advertised among the translators themselves - and for a good reason, they offer nothing to the translators but slowing down their work and annoying them - but vendors/end clients use them because they offer them certain advantages, like a central TM, maybe a good workflow control, etc. So it seems that these tools are made with the vendor/client in mind, ignoring the basics of a good CAT tool. Now, the agencies/clients don't mind if the tool is slowing down the translator, since they don't pay a hourly rate, and the software companies sell these tools not to the translators, so they also don't bother investing resources in improving functionality for the translator.

These are my thoughts about this matter, I would love to hear yours.



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Yiftah Hellerman-Carmel  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 23:34
Member (2005)
German to Hebrew
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
I tend to disagree Tangopeter Aug 3, 2011

I find CAT tools useful. They help me work faster and get consistent results and "et cetera et cetera". The CAT tools I bought proved to be worth their cost and much more.
But the online tools (the ones I tried) are a totally different story...


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Tangopeter

Local time: 23:34
English to Dutch
+ ...
That is not what I said... Aug 3, 2011

Of course CAT tools can be useful for translators; nobody is denying that.

The point is that most commercial ones are designed for the benefit of the translation agencies and their clients, not for translators. The main purpose, as I see it, is not to get better quality translations, but to get translations for less money, under the pretence of efficiency and quality improvement. Or do you think the continuously more refined and sophisticated fuzzy grids were designed to improve quality and/or efficiency?

And that is why online CAT tools like Translation Workspace came to existence, where translators have to pay to even start translating, and apparently no-one on the designer side is very much interested in getting the tool faster or more efficient for the translator. As long as the inevitable 'leverage' is optimal (meaning to get the best value for money at the cost of the translator) the tool is okay.

Maximum ROI is the main goal, nothing else.


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Heinrich Pesch  Identity Verified
Finland
Local time: 00:34
Member (2003)
Finnish to German
+ ...
Charge more for on-line Aug 3, 2011

We should be consistent ourselves and take into account the slower speed. Otherwise we lose out.
I constantly deny working online.


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Laura Bissio CT  Identity Verified
Uruguay
Local time: 18:34
Member (2008)
English to Spanish
+ ...
same here Aug 3, 2011

Hi! I have tried two online tools, one is awful, the other one is not that bad, but any desktop CAT tool I have used is better.
They slow you down, it's a fact!

Heinrich is right: We should charge by the hour or raise our rate per word when we are forced (because it's not our decision) to use online tools.


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sentrodil
Turkey
Local time: 00:34
fuzzy matches are also horrible Aug 11, 2011

and another fact: matches are also not as good as offline CAT tools.
this holds true even for the "offline workbenches" of those online tools - the same sentence (with maybe 1 word change) would NOT show up as fuzzy match, not even as a "low" fuzzy match of 75%!
I tried the same 2 sentences in my offline tool, and it was 98% match, with the "same" conditions.

in short: the online tools not only slow us down, but also the fuzzy matches in the analysis the tools give do not show during translation.

I think, either rejecting translation with online tools altogether or a higher rate would be best


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Yiftah Hellerman-Carmel  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 23:34
Member (2005)
German to Hebrew
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
I also think about stopping to work with online tools Aug 11, 2011

It is simply not worth it.

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Oliver Walter  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 22:34
Member (2005)
German to English
+ ...
1. Similar thoughts, 2. Purpose of CATs Aug 11, 2011

Thoughts like those expressed here, and the fact that online CAT tools (or even those that are installed on your computer) developed by translation companies are probably
  1. all different and
  2. in each case only usable for work from that company
are why I am hostile to the idea of these specialist tools and I have said this to a translation company that has offered me such a tool and training, and therefore effectively refused to do such work for them.

On the question of what is the purpose of the tools, I believe the purpose of Wordfast is to help you with your translation work! It was started by Yves Champollion when he was a translator (I'm not sure whether he has time to be a translator now). Judging from comments I have seen and heard about DejaVu and MemoQ, that is probably true for them also.

Oliver


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sentrodil
Turkey
Local time: 00:34
yves a translator Aug 12, 2011

I agree - Yves was a translator, as he proved by a remark about some experiences only a "true translator" can now:
he mentioned in a post that he had bound a shortcut to save the document when the space bar is hit 3 times so his document would be saved when he fell asleep during "translating on autopilot at 3 a.m."

I think, you have to "have translated on autopilot at 3 a.m." to appreciate what he meant


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online tools disadvantages Aug 13, 2011

Yiftah wrote:

In the Last few months I've been asked by agencies to perform translations with this or that online CAT tool. I have tried at least 3 or 4, and all of them, even those made by market leaders of CAT software, were ten times worse than the every CAT software I ever used, in many ways. I am not a programmer, and I have no idea if it is more difficult to make a good online CAT tool, but I found it strange that such renown companies will release such horrible tools.
But then it occurred to me, and forgive me if this sounds like some conspiracy theory: most of these tools are not advertised among the translators themselves - and for a good reason, they offer nothing to the translators but slowing down their work and annoying them - but vendors/end clients use them because they offer them certain advantages, like a central TM, maybe a good workflow control, etc. So it seems that these tools are made with the vendor/client in mind, ignoring the basics of a good CAT tool. Now, the agencies/clients don't mind if the tool is slowing down the translator, since they don't pay a hourly rate, and the software companies sell these tools not to the translators, so they also don't bother investing resources in improving functionality for the translator.

These are my thoughts about this matter, I would love to hear yours.




As someone in the process of building an online translator-centric tool, I'm deeply interested in this subject. Other than slowness, could you list the main disadvantages you've encountered while using those online tools, if compared to an established 'offline' software such as Trados or DejaVu?
Obviously, the question is open to anybody who had some sort of experience with existing online CAT tools.

[Edited at 2011-08-13 13:39 GMT]


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Yiftah Hellerman-Carmel  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 23:34
Member (2005)
German to Hebrew
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Every online tool has its own disatvantages Aug 13, 2011

Some tools are better and some are worse, but the main problems that I can think of now, and that are common to most on-line tools, are:

1) Very limited functionality. In the on-line tools, the number do functions that help the translator to translate faster and better are significantly lower than those in off-line tools. For example, a basic function in every CAT tool is the option to copy the source segment to that target segment using just one click (or a keyboard shortcut), in the last tool I worked on this function did not exist, and I had to highlight the source segment, copy it and then paste it in the target - how time consuming this is!!!
2) Keyboard shortcuts - they are essential, and every person working with them will increase his output significantly, but some of the on-line tools don't have them at all, some have only a few, and in some they don't work properly.
3) Work-flow: in most on-line tools every user has a strictly defined set of permissions to do certain things only. This can lead to situations in which the translator will not be able to correct his/her work, because he accidentally submitted it 5 seconds ago. The translator then the has to wait for the PM or system manager or whom ever to assign the task to him again, and this is all so cumbersome.

These are the main things I can think of now.


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Thanks! Aug 16, 2011

Thanks a lot Yiftah for your feedback. I see your points. Keyboard shortcuts are definitely important to speed up the translation process, but I also believe that functionalities and therefore keyboard shortcuts should be limited to a reasonable subset and grouped where possible. Trados have something like 70 different keyboard shortcuts, it would take ages for anybody to learn how to use all of them effectively.

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eirinn  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 23:34
English to French
+ ...
I have stopped working with them Aug 16, 2011

I have been asked by several agencies to work with one of them (I only know one of those online CAT tools and one was enough!). When I finaly discovered how horrible this tool is (lack of useful features, terrible waste of time, totally unstable etc.) I decided I had to do something. First I told one of the agencies I work for that I would charge more for working with it (so she stopped giving me work with that tool, which was a relief), and recently, I refused a job that had to be done with the same tool, for another agency, and said I would not work that tool anymore. The Project Manager understood it very well and said that he himself has trouble working with it.

I totally agree that those tools, like the new Trados, were obviously primarily developped for agencies, and they want to make us believe that we, at the end of the chain as someone said, would not have the choice to work with the tool we want. Well, we always have a choice. And I'm like most of you, freelance, ie paid according to the work I do. But I decided for quality work.

If you can't say no to these jobs, I would definitely ask for more money by putting foward that these tools don't allow quality work, so require more time, time you should be paid for.

I took the step of saying no, and it didn't hurt as badly as I thought it would.


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 23:34
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
My gripe with online tools Aug 16, 2011

Yiftah wrote:
In the Last few months I've been asked by agencies to perform translations with this or that online CAT tool. I have tried at least 3 or 4, and all of them, even those made by market leaders of CAT software, were ten times worse than the every CAT software I ever used, in many ways.


Online CAT tools aren't necessarily bad, but they are different from the ones we already use, and that means that we miss certain features more easily even though the online tool may (objectively) be quite good for anyone who haven't used CAT before. When people complain about online tools, therefore, ask them what their current tool is.

My current tool is WFC, and what I like about it (even when I translate plain text) is the fact that I can easily change font size and font face to suit a particular need, whereas a browser typically has very few options in that regard (or changing the options is a cumbersome process).

I miss being able to use my own glossaries and the autocompletion features that are available in my own CAT tool. In my CAT tool, glossary matches are highlighted in the source segment itself and not in a separate little floating window, so that is also something that I miss in online tools.

I don't charge more for using an online tool -- I simply refuse, unless I have found a way to extract the text to MS Word and easily re-insert it into the online tool again. Raising one's rate does not compensate for the loss of speed and increased concentration required by the online tool... unless you are confident that your client will accept a tenfold rate increase.

Online CAT tools should be able to export text and import it again, and if there are glossaries or TMs, the online tools should be able to export those as well. Obviously one can't export an entire TM -- only the segments that have high fuzzy matches for your source text would have to be exported. And for reference searches or concordance searches with the client's larger TM, the online CAT tools should have an easy search feature that a user can easily automate.


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