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Practical non-existence of CAT tools in (academic) translator training?
Thread poster: KKastenhuber

KKastenhuber  Identity Verified
Austria
Local time: 15:20
Russian to German
+ ...
May 19, 2012

Hello everybody,

I've been increasingly frustrated lately with something that I consider a huge shortcoming of my personal academic translator education (and possibly academic translator education in general): the complete lack of CAT tool training.

To put my point into the right perspective, let me first present the results of related ProZ.com quick polls, i.e. opinions and experience of professional translators regarding the importance of CAT tools in translation business:

Do you think CAT tool knowledge is essential for translators? 53,4% say YES.
Do you use a CAT tool? 77,2% say YES.
Do you use CAT tools on a regular basis? 66,2% say YES.
What percentage of your clients require the use of CAT tools? 36,5% of voters say MORE THAN HALF.

Considering these poll results coming from mostly professional translators, I can't help but think that the use of CAT tools should be part of modern day translator training, and an important one at that. Yet, during my own (recent) 5 year academic translator education I have never translated a single sentence using a CAT tool, and from what I've heard so far, excluding this aspect of professional translation practice from training is not uncommon for other universities as well.

How is this possible? Why are CAT tools not a part of translator training (or are they elsewhere)? Why are translation students required to philosophize about topics like the invisibility of the translator for years on end but are not taught to use what should be their everyday working tools? Shouldn't that actually be one of the main goals of translator training? Why is this problem not addressed in literature on translation didactics?

Excuse my frustrated ranting, but I'm just really fed up with this right now (and even more so with the fact that every attempt of bringing it up in an academic setting seems to be shot down immediately). What are your opinions on this topic?


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Jose Herrera  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 09:20
Spanish to English
+ ...
I know what you are talking about May 19, 2012

You can be surprise of all the things you will find in the actual practice of both, Translation and Interpretation.

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DZiW
Ukraine
English to Russian
+ ...
bolts & nuts May 19, 2012

For what it's worth, I don't see a big problem here.

Some believe that-
1) there are too many CAT's (and theirs is surely the best ever);
2) there are not many fields where CAT's can be used;
3) just two-three hours is enough to master almost any CAT;
4) using computer-aided software often comes at the expense of one's mental and thinking abilities;
5) any 'aiding' is but a disservice for it's rather useless and even harmful--especially for interpreters (quite true!);
And so on, etc, etc...

On the other hand, it might rise even more questions than it answers:
1) why exactly this very CAT? (welcome to the anti-monopoly committee)
2) how long and how much to charge for such courses? (it took me a sandwich and about 30 min to grasp the idea and start working with WF, but it's easy to stretch it out--for ever--$200+/h)
3) who will teach who? And so on. After all, why prepare business rivals?!

Anyway, I can't help laughing when I see another more-than-twenty-hours fancy course for this or that CAT 'just for $xxx'. IMO a clever person may need to skim thru the manual, watch a free video or two, and just run the software playing with it a little.

Therefore, what so especial is there in CAT's that would require some 200hrs lecturing and 60hrs for labworks, I wonder? Because if one really understands the operating principle behind CAT than it's just a matter of an hour or two..
But let naive, riches and generous ones pay for it!


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Texte Style
Local time: 15:20
French to English
I agree! May 19, 2012

I am in the process of completing a masters and even though I have a dispensation for the vast majority of courses on the strength of my past experience, what I have seen is that students rarely get the opportunity to practise using CAT tools.

With one teacher we have done a whole series of translations on a particular technical subject and built up a considerable glossary's worth of terminology, yet every translation we have done has been distributed on paper in class, we don't even get an electronic file, so anyone who wanted to use a CAT tool would first have to scan/OCR it or type it up.

I did a course on translation theory where we had to determine who the translator was translating for, in which cases we would translate a text warts and all and which ones we would airbrush the warts out of, although of course it was all couched in much more pompous (no whoops sorry I mean intellectual!) language to make it seem more complicated. I learned absolutely nothing, it was all stuff that I had already thought through trying to provide my clients what they needed rather than what they thought they wanted. Of course not all "translators" put as much thought into their work, as I have gathered from reading rants here, and judging from the "dumb" questions that other inexperienced students were asking, I suppose it may have benefitted them, however I'm sure they could have worked it out for themselves too if they were intelligent.

I was dispensed from the CAT tool classes but I have gathered that the students don't really get much out of them: they have an antiquated version of the market leader's product for starters. I know that they have been equipped for free with competitor software but nobody was using that software, I don't know why.

In the course of my career I have had to use three different tools and have had minimum training for each, hardly ever at the right time (for one, I only got training after fumbling for months, for another, I was trained several months before I actually got any files to translate, by which time I had lost my notes and forgotten practically everything... OK I will admit to a certain amount of unwillingness to learn on my part too )
however I must say I find that the learning curve is far too steep each time. I know some geek translators who take to it quickly, however I don't think they are in the majority among translators.


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Wolfgang Vogt  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 15:20
English to German
+ ...
same here May 19, 2012

Hi,

The same thing used to happen here in Argentina (La Plata to be precise). Until recently there was no CAT training offered at all. Two or three years ago they started offering an optional introductory course for Trados.
I must say, however, that I never had trouble learning how to use new programs and the same thing applies to CAT tools. For me they're just another program I use. And as useful as such training may be, I don't think it's something you can't pick up somewhere else. So don't worry, this won't be much of an obstacle


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Yigit Ati  Identity Verified
Turkey
Local time: 16:20
English to Turkish
+ ...
Cat Tools are not a big deal May 19, 2012

Hi,

I see what you mean but there is no reason to worry about.

All cat tool trainings out there are organized because of commercial interests of Translators' web sites and Cat developers. However, in reality learning how to use a cat tool at a reasonable level, which is enough for a translator, takes maximum 3-5 days.

Seeing so many questions about Cat Tools asked by translators here and trainings given by specialists may mislead you and you may get the feeling that you need a professional trainer to master a Cat Tool.

A translation student should focus on improving essential translation skills instead of wasting time to learn a Cat Tool.


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Russell Jones  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 14:20
Italian to English
Awareness at least May 19, 2012

I didn't take a translation degree - just translation modules in my language degree, plus one on Computer skills for linguists, but none of these even mentioned CAT. Admittedly this was 10 to 14 years ago.

I recently took my ex-head of department to a ProZ.com Powwow, where much of the discussion was about CAT and other software. He was dumbfounded!

I can agree that the limited contact time currently available in University courses shouldn't be wasted on detailed CAT training, but surely a translation degree should give students some awareness of real life working practices and, in particular, their commercial implications.

[Edited at 2012-05-19 13:46 GMT]


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Neil Coffey  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 14:20
French to English
+ ...
I wonder if... May 19, 2012

KKastenhuber wrote:
I've been increasingly frustrated lately with something that I consider a huge shortcoming of my personal academic translator education (and possibly academic translator education in general): the complete lack of CAT tool training.


I wonder if translation course tutors-- and the translation industry-- actually think that the raison d'être of the course is to "train" you in a vocational sense.


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KKastenhuber  Identity Verified
Austria
Local time: 15:20
Russian to German
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
"you can learn it on the job" is not an excuse for excluding it from education May 19, 2012

DZiW wrote:
For what it's worth, I don't see a big problem here.
...
On the other hand, it might rise even more questions than it answers:
1) why exactly this very CAT? (welcome to the anti-monopoly committee)
2) how long and how much to charge for such courses? (it took me a sandwich and about 30 min to grasp the idea and start working with WF, but it's easy to stretch it out--for ever--$200+/h)
3) who will teach who? And so on. After all, why prepare business rivals?!


I don't really see how this is related to what I said. My point is that I think CAT tools should be included in academic translator training, not that people should be forced to take extra classes and pay huge amounts of money for them. I'm also not saying that the kind of training I have in mind should be limited to a single CAT tool.



Wolfgang Vogt wrote:
I must say, however, that I never had trouble learning how to use new programs and the same thing applies to CAT tools. For me they're just another program I use. And as useful as such training may be, I don't think it's something you can't pick up somewhere else. So don't worry, this won't be much of an obstacle



To be completely honest, I did get a short introduction to TRADOS within my university training and even have some kind of basic SDL certificate, but when it comes down to actually USING a CAT tool, I am still as clueless as ever, because well, I've never been given the possibility to try. Being the curious person that I am, I did try to teach myself an open source CAT tool later on, but I never managed to wrap my head around that either, so I eventually just gave up on CAT altogether. Anyway, congratulations to you for being such a quick learner.

I guess what I want to say is not that I'm worried about not being able to use a CAT tool. But as CAT tools are used by many translators, I think they should be a part of a translator's education. I mean, nobody in their right mind would question the necessity of providing future hairdressers with the skills to use scissors, future surgeons with the skills to use a scalpel, etc. So why is it so "controversial" to provide aspiring translators with the skills to use CAT tools? Especially if learning to use a CAT tool actually only requires a few hours or days, as some of you said? And why don't we just "learn how to translate using a CAT tool" instead of "learning how to translate" and then "learning how to use a CAT tool"?



Neil Coffey wrote:
I wonder if translation course tutors-- and the translation industry-- actually think that the raison d'être of the course is to "train" you in a vocational sense.


No, it certainly isn't, at least not exclusively. As far as I've experienced it, the claim such courses raise is that they provide their students with both theoretical background knowledge AND practical skill. But as long as CAT tools (and commercial implications of the translation business, as somebody else mentioned) are widely excluded from training, I don't see them living up to the second part of that claim.

[Edited at 2012-05-19 15:05 GMT]

[Edited at 2012-05-19 15:05 GMT]

[Edited at 2012-05-19 15:07 GMT]


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Texte Style
Local time: 15:20
French to English
worrying about CAT tools... May 19, 2012

Yiğit Ati wrote:

Hi,

I see what you mean but there is no reason to worry about.

All cat tool trainings out there are organized because of commercial interests of Translators' web sites and Cat developers. However, in reality learning how to use a cat tool at a reasonable level, which is enough for a translator, takes maximum 3-5 days.

Seeing so many questions about Cat Tools asked by translators here and trainings given by specialists may mislead you and you may get the feeling that you need a professional trainer to master a Cat Tool.

A translation student should focus on improving essential translation skills instead of wasting time to learn a Cat Tool.





I must say I was quite relieved to see how many questions are asked in these fora about CAT tools. I'm not the only one to have weird problems.

But having mastered a couple of these tools, I feel that it would be necessary to teach students not only how to translate (which is already the case) and how to use a CAT tool (not enough the case as stated above) but also, how to integrate a CAT tool into the translation process.

Too many translators now seem to think they just need to translate each segment and send the project off. Whereas truly professional translators will do as much as possible in the CAT tool, clean the file and then... KEEP WORKING.

The last phase includes fiddling about with minor presentation problems that you wouldn't have had if you'd just done the translation in Word, but also putting the spell check through (none of the CAT tools I have used have as good a spell check as Word) and also going the extra mile beyond segmentation: possibly reworking a muddled paragraph into a smart, legible list, or chopping an unwieldy, laborious sentence into several short, snappy ones, and generally smoothing out anything that might hit you in the face once it's presented as the end viewer will see it instead of as a mess in the CAT tool interface.

The translators who did that were the ones who got first refusal on all interesting and well-paid projects from me when I was a project manager. Whenever possible, I would offer them more than their standard rate ("you know you can bill an emergency rate for this, Ben/Jolie").

And those who didn't, well they would be offered the left-overs. And I wouldn't make any efforts to offer a higher rate than usual and I would lop a day off the deadline for them because I knew that proofreading or revising or reviewing or whatever you want to call it would take me that much longer.


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Rafael Mondini Bueno  Identity Verified
Local time: 11:20
English to Portuguese
Maybe that's about to change May 19, 2012

Kkastenhuber, I don't think the academic programmes are bound to ignore the importance of teaching the basics of CAT forever. I don't know how things are going over there in the Old Continent, but here in Brazil I know of at least one example in a public university translation graduate programme which has a course on computer assisted translation (Federal University of Santa Catarina, a.k.a. UFSC). The focus of PGET (Pós-Graduação em Estudos da Tradução) is literary translation, but their students can use CATs very well, even though it's seldom used for this specific line of work. I know this because I am taking an undergraduate degree in this Uni and many translation students take courses in my area (social sciences).

I do not have an in depth knowledge of the other translation graduate programmes in Brazil, but I suspect that they are to follow the trend set by UFSC, which has a strong influence on other universities because its translation graduate programme was the first of its kind in Latin America.


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Ksenia Akulova  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 07:20
Member (2009)
English to Russian
+ ...
I completely agree with KKastenhuber May 19, 2012

Learning how to use at least one CAT-tool during my study at the university in Russia would have spared me lots of sleepless nights, a few lost projects and missed opportunities, and a great deal of nerve cells that, as I've heard, do not regenerate

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Rafael Mondini Bueno  Identity Verified
Local time: 11:20
English to Portuguese
Couldn't agree more May 19, 2012

I don't really see how this is related to what I said. My point is that I think CAT tools should be included in academic translator training, not that people should be forced to take extra classes and pay huge amounts of money for them. I'm also not saying that the kind of training I have in mind should be limited to a single CAT tool.


Think of what is taught at a statistics course: you learn the maths (oh, the maths), the concepts and, bearing these in mind, the professor introduces several different softwares (SPSS, STATA, R, etc), not because you absolutely have to use the most popular suite, but because you will notice the patterns the GUIs follow, thus making it possible for you to find the stuff you need in basically any programme.

[Edited at 2012-05-19 16:55 GMT]


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KKastenhuber  Identity Verified
Austria
Local time: 15:20
Russian to German
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
THIS! May 19, 2012

I must say it's nice to see that some of you do feel the same way I do about this. Also, thanks to Rafael for pointing out the example of UFSC. Maybe the current situation is indeed just the result of delayed curriculum design and we might see improvement soon.

Texte Style wrote:
having mastered a couple of these tools, I feel that it would be necessary to teach students not only how to translate (which is already the case) and how to use a CAT tool (not enough the case as stated above) but also, how to integrate a CAT tool into the translation process.


100% agreed.


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DZiW
Ukraine
English to Russian
+ ...
@KKastenhuber May 20, 2012

I don't really see how this is related to what I said.
I'm not sure about all uni's in other countries, but some five years ago when I asked a dean the same question and they agreed to watch a WordFast presentation; the very first question for me and other translators (who were just demonstrators, not instructors planned for real 'courses'): why exactly this tool? do you get any royalties from vendors? are you a private biz? can we see your tax return? are you certified? how can you proof that you don't get a dime from them? why so expensive? . . . and so on.

The last question which called it a day was: what is the *profit* for the academic staff? In the long run it is money that matters, because they neither had an instructor, nor wanted to pay (read 'lose') any.

As you can see, they asked mostly about the commercial side of the suggestion regarding the possible establishment of such courses––not even a proposal!. Frankly speaking, I didn't think it was such a big issue, but when we named different popular CAT's ('rivals'), the would-be-course for $100/5-10 hrs for at least 15 students would increase almost tenfold and the final price also had to include at least six different highly-qualified and certified instructors––just keep counting. In the end, the lowest projected price and the span of time were so exaggerated that almost no student could afford it.

Perhaps, in you country it goes in a more civilized way, but get ready to explain quite similar questions--especially regarding the brands, duration and price.
As one lecturer sensibly remarked at such price students could buy the software and read the manual... Indeed, we know its worth.

Anyway, good luck.
Cheers.

___
P.S. Yep, the same scenario took place with a few more uni’s and almost a year I had to answer to my local tax inspector that I had nothing to do with 'the courses' because I only had suggested creating such, not implementing it...


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