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Poll: Is it fair for agencies to request freelance translators have specific CAT tools?
Thread poster: Staff Staff
Local time: 16:27
Jan 15, 2010

This forum topic is for the discussion of the poll question "Is it fair for agencies to request freelance translators have specific CAT tools?".

This poll was originally submitted by Gwen Jones. View the poll results »


Krzysztof Kajetanowicz (X)  Identity Verified
Local time: 01:27
English to Polish
+ ...
wow Jan 15, 2010


P.S. I've been told that in the worldwide ranking of pointless questions half of the top hundred contain "is it fair for ... to ...".


Gwenydd Jones  Identity Verified
Local time: 01:27
Member (2009)
Spanish to English
My thinking behind the question Jan 15, 2010

There are two reasons for asking this question:

1. Some CAT tools are able to produce file types that are compatible with other CAT tools. The first issue of fairness therefore relates to agencies requiring tools that translators do not have, even though they can offer a compatible one.

2. Some CAT tools require a fairly high financial investment to start out. Therefore, the second issue of fairness relates to the initial investment for a new translator compared to what they can legitimately expect to earn.


Interlangue (X)
Local time: 01:27
English to French
+ ...
NO Jan 15, 2010

I do not think it is fair for anyone to require a translator to have a CAT tool at all, let alone a specific CAT tool. (Seems like quite a few are shareholders.)
Anyone (agency or client) may GIVE or lend a CAT tool and require the translator to learn how to use it and do so.
In this whole CAT tool debate, translators seem to have to spend the money in order to have the right to be paid less!

[Modifié le 2010-01-15 08:44 GMT]

[Modifié le 2010-01-15 08:45 GMT]


keelin feeney  Identity Verified
Local time: 00:27
Member (2007)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Yes, then it's our choice, or theirs... Jan 15, 2010

The agencies have the right to request that freelance translators have specific CAT tools just the way we have the right to request they send us the job in Word, they pay us so much per word, they give us a better deadline...

then in the end, the choice is ours, or theirs. We can accept or reject.

CAT tools are undoubtedly an advantage for large projects with several translators and agencies are within their right to request CAT tools for these projects. When it comes to small projects or once-off projects, we can choose to take them or leave them if they request CAT tools, and unfortunately vice-versa.


Gianluca Marras  Identity Verified
Local time: 01:27
Member (2008)
English to Italian
other Jan 15, 2010

it is ok for large projects involving different translators, otherwise it is pointless


Jocelyne S  Identity Verified
Local time: 01:27
French to English
+ ...
Yes Jan 15, 2010

I see your point, Gwen, and understand the potential frustration, but I don't really see it as a question of fairness.

When agencies outsource, it is entirely their right to set out certain conditions - just as it is our right to set out our conditions as well.

I think that CAT tool requirements likely come down to facilitating project management: imagine trying to manage a project and terminology with XXX translators. Two (or more) file formats, even if compatible, will likely make for much more work for the PM than a single format.

For smaller projects (handled by a single translator), many agencies accept Wordfast or Trados, for example, which are compatible and can be easily converted. Often, if you explain to a client requesting CAT tool A that you use CAT tool B, which is 100% compatible, they won't have a problem. If they do have a problem, it is likely for a specific reason.

As to making costly investments, there are a few options. Some CAT tools can be installed and tested with very good free trial versions that can be used until you're ready to invest. But if you find that you're losing too many potential clients because they're all requesting a specific CAT tool, you might just have to bite the bullet and invest - the investment will likely pay itself off quickly, in that case.

Good luck,

[Edited at 2010-01-15 09:06 GMT]


Krzysztof Kajetanowicz (X)  Identity Verified
Local time: 01:27
English to Polish
+ ...
well Jan 15, 2010

I don't dispute the fact that a CAT tool may cost a lot and/or not be essential for translator-agency communication.

However, not being a native speaker of English I checked what 'fair' means and you probably mean something of this list:

6 a : marked by impartiality and honesty : free from self-interest, prejudice, or favoritism (a very fair person to do business with)
b (1) : conforming with the established rules : allowed (2) : consonant with merit or importance : due (a fair share) c : open to legitimate pursuit, attack, or ridicule (fair game)

It's just that in a business relationship an agency may request anything. They may ask me to wear a pink dress and sing Shakira while I translate. They might require whatever stupid thing it is that they require but it's a take it or leave it thing; I don't have to work with them. If they want a limited translator base to work with and higher prices / lower quality as a result, fine. There is a distinction between breaking a set of rules or treating people unequally and demanding something that they may or may not need for business.

And they're also not asking for the translation to be done by a middle-aged white Protestant male, are they.

[Edited at 2010-01-15 09:03 GMT]


Frances Leggett  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 00:27
Italian to English
+ ...
It depends... Jan 15, 2010

Sometimes agencies need you to work on a project that already has a glossary or a TM which needs to be used to complete the translation and ensure consistency with previously translated documents or approved terminology, so in this case, as long as they use a format which can be used in a variety of CAT tools, it is fair for them to require that the translator have a CAT tool.

On the other hand, there are ways that the translation agency itself can run the document through the CAT tool before sending the translator the document, where 100% match and other matches can already be highlighted in the file (red and green text in Trados). The translator can just fill in their translations based on the segments in the document (usually in bi-column format). Glossaries can also be exported into Word in a bi-column format and sent to the translator where they can perform a simple "find" to look up specific approved terminology. So in this case, the translator really doesn't need the CAT tool at all, unless they prefer to work with one for translations which don't require it as such.


Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Local time: 01:27
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
It is inevitable Jan 15, 2010

Agencies have their workflows, and use CAT tools to coordinate their multi-language projects, manage terminology and so on.

It is their responsibility, and in fact very much in their interest, to use mainstream CATs or types that are compatible with others.

It is up to translators to decide what CATs they will use, and what features they need. CAT stands for Computer AIDED Translation, and if it is not helpful to the translator, then it is not fulfilling its purpose.

However, translators and jobs vary, so the tools will inevitably vary too. Agencies must respect this, and must not make unreasonable demands on how translators work. If a CAT makes adequate proofreading difficult, for instance, then either the agencies should pay for the extra time it takes, or they should find a workaround.

CATs should not be an excuse for loading extra work onto translators without paying for it!

The alternative is to find direct clients who do not require the use of CATS, or who follow the translator´s wishes on how and when to use them.



Local time: 01:27
English to Swedish
What does "fair" have to do with it? Jan 15, 2010

It's their business, their choice. Sure, I can get frustrated if agencies insist on a certain tool when they don't actually use any of the tool-specific features, but that is annoying, hardly "unfair".

The agencies are conducting business. Someone has estimated that CAT tool X is the most cost and time efficient, most likely to increase revenue,etc. If they only want to work with freelancers who have said CAT tool that's their right. Sure you may feel they are "losing out" by not being able to hire you, but there's still nothing unfair about it (sorry). There's no point in feeling "unfairly treated" because you don't want to buy a certain piece of software, you're wasting your energy. This isn't middle school, we're business people.

You need to ask yourself: Am I making as much money as I want to? Am I getting the type of jobs I want? - if not, then maybe the truth is you need to invest in CAT tool X, to increase your competitiveness?


Michael Harris  Identity Verified
Local time: 01:27
Member (2006)
German to English
Yes Jan 15, 2010

I was told that I should think about investing in a CAT tool in 1996 and it paid off within 1 month. Before that, I really kicked myself for not having it.


PRAKAASH  Identity Verified
Local time: 05:57
Member (2007)
English to Hindi
+ ...
In, my opinion, an absolute 'no' in case of Hindi and Nepali language translators. Jan 15, 2010

Hi to all friends,

CAT tools are something, about which not too many translators are aware of, in case of Hindi and Nepali translations.
There are many 'Hindi' translators in the country, who yet translate in hand-written form. They have to get the matter typed in Hindi and supply to the outsourcer. They have no hint of sort of translation sites and the international market available online.
Also, it requires days of training and hands-on experience to get enough exposure for doing jobs properly on such tools. and a translator has to spend some hundreds of dollars to purchase it, then the companies and agencies say about .... percentage of the total amount to be paid. In such a case, the effort, time and money involved in purchase of CAT tool is a waste, which you are purchasing for the deduction of your own amount in jobs.
Regarding translation memories, many a times, translation memories can't help in Hindi and Nepali languages too much, as sentence structure of English and these two languages is completely different. If spelling is wrongly mentioned in TM, he has to correct it and then he has to move text here and there to bring smoothness or good readabilty in the translated text. For translators like me, it's faster and convenient to translate the sentences directly. instead of fighting with all odds involved. So, may be for a big project, and number of translators involvement, CAT tools is necessary for agencies, but as a Hindi/Nepali translator, I feel it as an inevitable burden persuaded by a specific agency and nothing else. It increases my work hours and decreases my total payment. So, I oppose it always.

Of course, It's my personal opinion!icon_smile.gif


[Edited at 2010-01-15 10:25 GMT]


José Gralike  Identity Verified
Local time: 01:27
Member (2006)
German to Dutch
+ ...
It depends Jan 15, 2010

One of my clients uses Transit, and I am using a free version of that, Satellite, to do their translations. Works very well for both of us. But those who expect me to buy Trados (edit: or any other CAT tool) and then give them a discount are very welcome to find someone else to do the job.

This does not mean I do not use any CAT; I am a very happy MetaTexis usericon_smile.gif

[Edited at 2010-01-15 11:12 GMT]


neilmac  Identity Verified
Local time: 01:27
Spanish to English
+ ...
I answered "It depends" Jan 15, 2010

but I suppose the answer should have been YES, because, let's face it, they can "request" all the tools they like until the the cows come home, but we are under no obligation to comply.
Just yesterday I had to tell a company (who had approached me either through proz or some other site) that I do NOT use Trados: Their reply was: "Unfortunately, we are obliged to seek a translator who uses Trados..." and as far as I'm concerned it's their loss, not mine. My reasons for not using Trados are mainly that it is too expensive, too complicated, apparently buggy and, perhaps most of all, their overbearing "we are the best in the market" company attitude. The agency can also build up a glossary or TM with your work and then let you go when your brain has been sucked dry like an old lemon.
I also stopped doing "sample translations" for potential client agencies after being stung TWICE that way last year.
Caveat Emptor!

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