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Technical segregation
Thread poster: Hacene

Hacene  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 14:18
English to French
+ ...
Mar 19, 2009

Hi everybody,

I would like to know if many of you have the same feeling about market dominating CAT tools (which are not forcefully the best) and which make us lose potential contracts because Agencies cannot be bothered or do not have the knowledge required about CAT tools (salespersons vs linguists).

Of course, the CAT tool concerned is Trados.

Personally I use a much more efficient CAT tool, but many job postings require "Trados". The agencies do not care if we can provide them with TMs in TMX format and most do not even reply when you ask them to "prep" their files slightly differently to be able to use your own tool.

I believe this is pure and simple "technological segregation". I strongly object to being subjected to the whims of agencies on the basis of the CAT tools we are (or not) using.

As a freelance, I should have the freedom to conduct the translation process of the mission entrusted to me as I so please!

I am perfectly aware that agencies use CAT tools to cut costs, but if that is so, why do they go for Trados? Why are they not using tools which have free editor versions for the translators such as Deja Vu or Transit? Is it because they have invested interests in that specific CAT tool?

Furthermore, in doing this "technological segregation", the agencies do not recruit the best translator for the job, but the most servile translators, the one would pay their yearly fees whereas for some CAT tools, all updates are free.

Let me know if I am the only one to feel that way.

Kind regards,



Daina Jauntirans  Identity Verified
Local time: 08:18
German to English
+ ...
They are also free to conduct their business the way they see fit Mar 19, 2009

Just as you are free to conduct your business as you please, so are the translation agencies. By the way, I use Wordfast and not Trados. If I truly notice that not having Trados is seriously cutting into my business, I will get Trados and learn how to use it. I think it is up to us to adapt to attract business.


Leonardo La Malfa  Identity Verified
Local time: 15:18
English to Italian
+ ...
Wrong! Mar 19, 2009

Hi Hacene,

I entirely agree with you. You might want to read the following exchange:

"Wrong wrong wrong", indeed!


Angela Dickson  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 14:18
French to English
+ ...
extra work Mar 19, 2009

Hacene wrote:

The agencies do not care if we can provide them with TMs in TMX format and most do not even reply when you ask them to "prep" their files slightly differently to be able to use your own tool.

This is the key point. You are asking them to do extra work so that you can use your tool. If you could find a way to make it just as easy for them to work with you as it is for them to work with their current translators, then you might stand a better chance.

I updated my copy of Trados yesterday (and posted a thread about it) and if you met me you would know that I am most definitely not servile.

I work for one agency which asks me to use a different tool (not Trados) and sometimes I do use their requested tool - on occasion, though, I prefer to use my own tool, and I can deliver in a format that is easy for them to integrate into their own workflow, so they don't mind.


Marc P (X)  Identity Verified
Local time: 15:18
German to English
+ ...
Complex situation Mar 19, 2009


You certainly have a good point, but the situation is quite complex.

There are several reasons why a customer/agency might prefer or even require the use of a certain CAT tool. For example, some tools - and Trados is one of the better ones in this respect - have filters for a wider range of source text files (such as DTP files), and it may simply not be possible to handle these source text files in most other CAT tools.

Another reason is that the customer/agency not only uses a certain tool itself, but also has a specific workflow. For example, if the customer wishes to edit the text received from the translator, but maintains their own translation memory and wishes the final version of the text to be reflected in this TM (not an unreasonable wish), a TMX file from the translator may often not be sufficient. For this reason, many customers prefer to receive some form of bilingual file format (Trados "uncleaned" RTF, Trados TTX, Wordfast TXML, XLIFF, etc.) instead of the translated file and a TMX file, or in addition to it.

This does not necessarily mean that two different CAT tools cannot be used within the same workflow. However, it is often difficult to find information on how to do this, and the problem is compounded by the sheer number of different scenarios.

The situation is not helped, either, by the fact that many people today (and this is true of both translators and customers) have very poor IT skills. One reason I have heard given more than once by customers who use Trados is that at least they can tell their suppliers exactly what to do (for example in order to obtain data in a certain form/format), which in some cases may even mean telling them exactly what keys to press. Conversely, many customers may not know how to use their own CAT tool outside the confines of their own workflow (and why should they - they are, after all, the customer). The situation is therefore reversed: if a translator wishes to use a different tool, they must not only know what to do at their end to ensure that their tool (Déjà Vu, Wordfast, OmegaT, etc.) is compatible with the customer's workflow, but also be able to give the customer exact instructions where needed (for example on how to produce a particular form of TTX file in Trados, or even how to produce a TMX file - something a surprising number of people seem unable to do).

My impression is that whilst many translators would like greater freedom to choose their own tools, many baulk at the effort involved. For instance, last month I produced a utility that enables Trados TTX files to be translated in OmegaT. A number of colleagues provided me with TTX files for testing (which was successful), but so far I have not had any reports from anyone actually using it, and of course until I receive a good number of reports, it is difficult for me to say how well it works. This despite the fact that I am often asked "is OmegaT compatible with Trados?". The answer is "it depends", but I think most people would rather not read about the differences between uncleaned RTF and TTX, between TMX Level 1 and Level 2, or between UTF-8 and UTF-16, or act as guinea-pigs for my "Toxic" (Trados-OmegaT-eXchange) utility. They take the path of least resistance, apparent or real, and buy Trados.



José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Local time: 12:18
English to Portuguese
+ ...
The client rules! Mar 19, 2009

Please have a look at:

The agency may choose any requirement they want. If they want only translators who drive a Buick, smoke Marlboros, drink Dr. Pepper, it's their game! They are not expected to justify their choices unless they can't get adequate results.

You may walk into a store and go straight to that good-looking, cheerful salesperson who is having his/her first day on the job, instead of being served by the experienced, though somewhat grouchy, owner who might be available too.

As I said there, it's the "perché mi piace" thing.


Sushan Harshe
Local time: 19:48
English to Hindi
+ ...
We cannot push them, just because we cannot fulfill requirements. Mar 19, 2009

Hi José
तू सी ग्रेट हो जी!
You r great! I like your comments.
Old Rum in new bottle; but still with fresh ingredients!
Hi Marc,
You explained this very nicely.
I sent you some ttx files for testing, in that period.
Though I use Trados still I look at OmegaT as a future tool, as it is going closer to perfection (no matter, latter it will walk IME way, but then someone will be there walking on OmegaT path). I have few queries, I shall be thankful if I could write to your personal mail.
Hi Hacene,
This is business world; we cannot push the potential client, in there basic choice, conditions, just because we can not fulfill them.


Maxim Manzhosin  Identity Verified
Russian Federation
Local time: 17:18
Member (2008)
English to Russian
Other tools are Trados-compatible, but not vice versa Mar 19, 2009

I know of some people using Wordfast on a daily basis, get the 'Trados-only' jobs — and the client never knows that Trados hasn't been used because the formats are 100% compatible.

On the other hand, I as a Trados user wouldn't bid on a project that requires AnyMem or another not so popular tool.


Daina Jauntirans  Identity Verified
Local time: 08:18
German to English
+ ...
Maxim's right Mar 19, 2009

You're right, Maxim. I use Wordfast for a couple of Trados clients with no problems.


Claudia Alvis  Identity Verified
Local time: 09:18
+ ...
Don't assume anything and always be honest Mar 20, 2009

I see why some translators can be fed up with the massive requests for Trados, specially when 'Trados' is used as a synonym for 'CAT tool'. However, as others have pointed out, sometimes the use of one particular CAT tool, be it Trados or any other, is necessary.

I'll give you an example of something that happened to me a few weeks ago because the translators assumed too much and weren't honest. I was given a large on-going project that I had to share with several translators. Because of that, I had to be sure all the documents had a consistent terminology. I decided to use Trados and Multiterm and I told the people involved that both tools were absolutely necessary--for whatever reason (I didn't ask) the client had also specifically requested Trados.

So I carefully planned a work-flow that involved the use of a TM and a glossary. The reason I requested Trados/Multiterm was because of the glossary and the Trados TM. After receiving the translated, edited AND proofread files, I was updating both the TM and glossary almost everyday. Since the project was so large, and I couldn't risk going through a compatibility problem, I was giving both the translators and the editors a new TM per file and a new updated Termbase almost everyday, sometimes more than once a day. SDL has a QA feature that allows you to check a bilingual file against a Multiterm Termbase in order to spot missing or misused terms in the translations. Additionally, I was adding new terms to the Multiterm termbase but also definitions for the gazillion acronyms on the documents, general notes about the use of certain terms, links, specific notes for the translators AND for the editors, etc.

I'm not gonna get into details, but some of the translators/proofreaders assumed that my request for Trados/Multiterm was irrelevant. One translator didn't use Trados at all, which means she didn't use the concordance tool nor the Termbase, and she didn't produce the bilingual file (which the editor/proofreader had to use in order to spot missing terms, etc). The person that was supposed to proofread that job had to re-translate entire segments which ended up costing me a lot of money because he was paid by the hour.

Another proofreader, who was supposed to use Multiterm, had the nerve to complain about all the extra work he had to go through in order to convert my glossary into his CAT tool format, and in the meantime, removing entire fields with notes and links which had taken me hours to compile and were important. After trying to explain to him (and failing because he kept yelling about my request of Multiterm) why I was using Multiterm, he called me "capricious" and it turned out that he was planning to proofread a copy of 10,000 words in one day-- ignoring the glossary that was probably possible. That cost me another delay.

Both people had assumed that my request for Trados/Multiterm was unfounded, when in fact it was not. I was very clear about the use of BOTH tools because 1) it was a request from the end client, 2) I was indeed using both tools to the max, 3) I couldn't risk compatibility problems, and 4) it saved me time.

The thing is that you should never assume anything and always be honest because there might be a reason why a client is asking for a particular tool. In case of doubt, always ask.

[Edited at 2009-03-20 18:32 GMT]


Local time: 08:18
English to Spanish
It´s all about adaptation. Mar 20, 2009

I agree with you. Maybe the most important thing is to perform a good translation, but the client is the one who pays so you have to work according to their needs. However, I do think that some projects should not ask for trados. But the truth is that they can ask for whatever they want, and the translator has to adapt.


Hacene  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 14:18
English to French
+ ...
A lot to say, and some very good points Mar 20, 2009

First of all, thank you for the people who shared their ideas and feelings on this situation.

A great thank you to Leonardo and Jose for these very interesting forum links.

A lot has been said and some excellent points were put forward yet, I need to answer some.

To Daina,
- Yes, companies are free to run their business the way they want
Yet this does not mean that they must impose more than they really have to on the people who are really doing the job

To Angela,
- Yes, it might mean some extra work,
but is ticking an additional option a real issue here?

To Marc,
- Yes, indeed, this is a complex situation and the shortage of IT skills might means that companies are using people at a lower cost but with a far lower level of competences. Yet should this be forced upon us?

To Maxim,
- Yes, the vice-versa is an issue, or is it?

To Claudia,
- I understand your point of view, but you experienced the problems it generated.

I worked in the industry, and I came to choose the CAT tool which offered me the most practical approach: able to deal with the largest number of various format, able to deal with multiple files at once, able to use multiple translation memories and terminology database, able to offer various output formats. But that is my choice. Someone else would have chosen another CAT tools for the same reasons.

I often work on large projects involving several translators. I also use TMs and TDBs, but contrary to most agencies, I always make sure of ONE key point: always provide the files for translation and the reference files in a neutral format so that people can work the way they feel the most comfortable with.

I use a CAT tool. All my clients know it, and so do all the people I work with. Yet, all receive the work under an RTF format (basic table with ID column for reimport in my CAT tool, source column, target column and a column for comments) and all the relevant reference file under an Excel format (or TMX if they prefer).
In term of workflow, there is no disruption or additional work. All the translators have to do is fill in the target cells, and for the proofreaders to check the target column without using track changes. It is simple, it is clear and there is no technological discrimination or segregation. I am only interested in the quality of the final product.

All the people collaborating with me are only required to do what they do best: their job (translation, proofreading, etc.). Mine is to do mine without imposing on others the way I work.

If we were in terms of politics, this would be a true democracy, and the current "technical segregation" would be an attempt at dictatorship.

What I do not understand is that we do not accept this in terms of politics, but we do in terms of business. How strange!!

This is for this reason I used the word "servile" in the original posting and I do apologise if some people took it the wrong way.

Who amongst us have not received a project composed of several files, and who amongst the Trados users did not wish they could handle these files together at once? Let's hope that the 2009 version will sort this problems!

I agree, the client is the one paying, but does that mean that we should all start working in the same way, with the same tools? Why not then asking us to wear the same clothes, work with the same computer model and use the same sentence structures.
I also agree that the client has needs, and if they are based on improving and ensuring the quality of the work, such as a preferred terminology, I am 100% ready to respect these needs. However when these needs are mostly without grounds, I can only object.

[Edited at 2009-03-20 19:25 GMT]

[Edited at 2009-03-20 22:47 GMT]


Daniel García
English to Spanish
+ ...
Careful, check the facts! Mar 20, 2009

Hacene wrote:
Considering 20% of the CAT tool at the heart of this debate is owned by MS, it is definitively an attempt at hegemony.

I don't know if you realise, but this statement is just not true. Microsoft does not own 20% of SDL.

It used to own a part of Trados but they sold their participation years before SDL bought Trados.

Using these arguments makes the whole discussion futile...icon_frown.gif



Hacene  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 14:18
English to French
+ ...
Oops Mar 20, 2009

Hi Daniel,

I deleted this erroneous argument.

Nonetheless, imposing the way of working works when you are a full-time employee in a corporate world, but freelancers should not be discriminated against because of their way of working or their tools. If that is the case, we are not freelancers, simply staff put on a payroll when the need arises.


Daniel García
English to Spanish
+ ...
It's a problem of deliverables Mar 21, 2009

Hacene wrote:
Nonetheless, imposing the way of working works when you are a full-time employee in a corporate world, but freelancers should not be discriminated against because of their way of working or their tools. If that is the case, we are not freelancers, simply staff put on a payroll when the need arises.

To me, it's not a problem of segregation, it's a problem of having a customer-orientated attitude.

If I was that situation, I would try to make the customers aware that forcing me to use Trados is going to cost them money.

I would still buy Trados and then tell the customers: "I will do it with Trados but my Trados rates are 10% higher than my rates when I use my usual CAT tool."

They might then realise that, for some projects, Trados is not really a must.

I would also try to position myself in the market so that my customers needed me, no matter what tool you use.

It's not impossible, I once met a translator who had a base rate for non-proprietary formats (RTF, TXT, HTML, XML, etc.) and then charged extra if the customer used propietary file formats which required the purchase of a special application (MS Word, Excel, InDesign, etc.)


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