Translator's Software Toolkit
Thread poster: Pavel Grebenkov

Pavel Grebenkov
Canada
Local time: 14:38
English to Russian
+ ...
Feb 10, 2016

Hello everyone!

I'm a complete newbie in the business of freelance translation. It seems that one can't even dream of making a living as a freelancer without having some expertise in CAT and other software tools that may come in handy. I'd like to ask then, what would a beginner, such as myself, need to get started in this business. I don't mean to ask for lists of specific software companies, as I'm sure different people will have their favourites. I would like to know at a more general level, I guess, what set of software tools (e.g. machine translation, terminology....formatting....etc) I would need in order to be able to work as a freelance translator? But, if you'd also like to mention some good examples of specific software companies that offer some of these tools, please feel free to do so, by all means. Thanks very much!!


 

Heinrich Pesch  Identity Verified
Finland
Local time: 21:38
Member (2003)
Finnish to German
+ ...
MS Word, MS Excel Feb 11, 2016

You should have a decent computer, large screen, printer and an ergonomic working environment. High-speed internet. Microsoft Office or at least Word and Excel. Reliable email-service.
Secondly I would suggest getting Abbyy Finereader. One of the bigger CAT-applications like SDL Trados, MemoQ, Wordfast etc. will get you more customers. Membership in Proz.com is very useful.
Learn to set your prices.


 

Maxi Schwarz
Local time: 13:38
German to English
+ ...
answering one statement Feb 11, 2016

It seems that one can't even dream of making a living as a freelancer without having some expertise in CAT and other software tools that may come in handy.

I've been making a living as a freelance translator for several decades. I have no expertise in CAT tools, but I do have expertise in translation. There are quite a few full time translators who have never used these tools.


 

Laura Kingdon  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 14:38
Member (2015)
French to English
+ ...
A CAT tool isn't really required... Feb 12, 2016

I translated without a CAT tool for my first year, and it was fine. I didn't want to spend hundreds of dollars on a program until I was pretty sure I was going to be following this career path for a while, and plus, I didn't really have hundreds of dollars lying around to spend. Eventually I got Trados Studio and it's more than paid for itself in terms of increased productivity and the ability to work with agencies that prefer to work with CAT files. However, I wouldn't say it's essential for a beginner. I think Heinrich's software suggestions pretty much cover everything you need. The ability to edit/convert .pdf files is particularly helpful. I haven't used Abbyy enough to comment on it specifically, but I can certainly say that something along those lines will save you a lot of time.

I would also add that I was a ProZ member for a while and it got me absolutely nowhere, but your mileage may, of course, vary.


 

Mirko Mainardi  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 20:38
Member
English to Italian
MemoQ Feb 12, 2016

Heinrich Pesch wrote:

One of the bigger CAT-applications like SDL Trados, MemoQ, Wordfast etc. will get you more customers.


Just wanted to add that MemoQ also has a "free" (i.e. unlicensed) version you can use for small local projects (with some restrictions compared to the licensed version), and that several agencies using MemoQ are often able to allocate temporary licenses to translators who don't have a MemoQ license, so learning to use it might not be a waste of time in any case.
I think I read somewhere that Across works on a somewhat similar basis, but I never used it myself.

To the OP: you didn't mention what fields you are interested in. Literary, Marketing, Software localization, IT, Medical, or... ? I believe the usefulness of a CAT tool also depends on that. E.g. "Useless" for literary translation (except for terms consistency, maybe), but useful for software localization, IT, and, more in general, for repetitive texts and texts containing a lot of specific terminology.


 

Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 19:38
Member (2008)
Italian to English
Excellent comment Feb 12, 2016

Maxi Schwarz wrote:

It seems that one can't even dream of making a living as a freelancer without having some expertise in CAT and other software tools that may come in handy.

I've been making a living as a freelance translator for several decades. I have no expertise in CAT tools, but I do have expertise in translation. There are quite a few full time translators who have never used these tools.


Excellent comment. More and more in these forums, no matter what the topic or the problem, the standard answer always seems to be "get a CAT tool".

Paradoxically, in the list of topics, problems with CAT tools seem to predominate. Some of them seem extremely serious, such as losing an entire translation, the computer crashing, etc.

Returning to the main question: there is no electronic tool you need in addition to the standard MSWord package. Everything else depends on your skill, literacy, professionalism and ability to translate. There are no tools that will do this for you.

[Edited at 2016-02-12 14:51 GMT]


 

DorothyX (X)
France
Local time: 20:38
Always the same answer Feb 13, 2016

Tom in London wrote:

Excellent comment. More and more in these forums, no matter what the topic or the problem, the standard answer always seems to be "get a CAT tool".



Not everybody is a skilled catless translator with decades of experience and working on an IBM Selectricicon_wink.gif.

Newcomers in this industry simply cannot afford the luxury of not having or not being initiated to at least one standard package, be it Wordfast Classic, Studio or MemoQ.

Paradoxically, in the list of topics, problems with CAT tools seem to predominate. Some of them seem extremely serious, such as losing an entire translation, the computer crashing, etc.


That's how rumors are initiated. Even beginners don't have these problems if they are concentrating, following basic instructions and working seriously (saving files regularly, etc.). Some precautions are required: do not start the translation of a 100 pages manual before having some experience on 1 or 2 pages translations and sending back TMs. I didn't know anything about CATs but tried WF and sent my first translation and TM back in a couple of hours.

Returning to the main question: there is no electronic tool you need in addition to the standard MSWord package. Everything else depends on your skill, literacy, professionalism and ability to translate. There are no tools that will do this for you.


Agree. The result will be little or no work, because litterature, marketing, newsletters, creative and original texts are all sent to translators like Tom. And there many fishermen fishing in this small pond.

Besides the whole MS Office package (Word + Excel + Powerpoint) also add Copernic (the free version), Adobe Reader, a paid antivirus solution + firewall, and an external hard disk in order to save your stuff. To be stored in another place, not in the same bag which can be stolen (it looks stupid, but I know at least two persons who had this problem with sensitive personal data files).


 

Christina Baier  Identity Verified
Sweden
Local time: 20:38
Member (2014)
French to German
+ ...
No need to buy a CAT-Tool now Feb 13, 2016

If a CAT-tool is useful depends on many factors:

Your special fields, the type of documents you get, if you are working for direct customers or agencies, you languages…

An example: I translate from French to German and from Swedish to German. I live in Sweden.

In the French-German pair, I translate mostly for agencies, the documents are often PowerPoints, big Word documents or HTML (website content, apps…). In this language pair there is a high demand but also many translators, knowing to use a CAT-tool can give you an advantage over those who don’t use them. I find my CAT-tool useful for the kind of documents I get and most of the big agency clients are using them.
-> CAT is quite useful

In the Swedish-German pair, I translate very often for direct clients, they don’t care if I use a CAT or not. The texts are often in the tourism/culture/history/journalism field, not many repetitions, there is no very high demand, but not so many translators either.
-> No need for CAT

Do not buy a CAT-tool when you are just starting out. Try some CAT-tools (most of them have free test versions)when you have been working a while, but do not just “have a look” at them, try them with small, real projects. A CAT-tool will only save you time if you are good at using it (know all the short cuts…) If you only use it every now and then, you will spend more time searching/ remembering the technical part of the CAT…

Good luck!


 

Maxi Schwarz
Local time: 13:38
German to English
+ ...
answering Feb 14, 2016

DorothyX wrote:
Not everybody is a skilled catless translator with decades of experience and working on an IBM Selectricicon_wink.gif.

Each one of us started as a newcomer, and there should be a certain amount of skill before starting in any profession. I'm not sure what an "IBM Selectric" is. I have a rather ordinary and not be best computer.
Newcomers in this industry simply cannot afford the luxury of not having or not being initiated to at least one standard package, be it Wordfast Classic, Studio or MemoQ.

If you are planning to do very large projects that are technical, with repeat terminology that must always be rendered the same way, that is what CAT tools were designed for. But if you translate birth certificates, driver's licenses, personal letters, letters or recommendations -- all of which are well in the reach of beginners -- then these tools add nothing to the process. In fact, they can slow it down. And since large electronic text seems to be popular, you may actually have a niche if you accept small files and can give them professional quality attention.

The bottom line is that it depends on what you are translating. And if going into the CAT world, be sure not to get exploited by companies that "explain" how you will be working for low fees, with even lower fees for "matches" etc., facilitated by such tools (not what they were designed for).


 


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