Colour blind and translation
Thread poster: alex26

Apr 18, 2016

First of all, I'm spanish, so apologies if my english isn't very good
I'm a colour blind girl and I'm considering studying translation. However, I wanted to make sure that being colour-blind wasn't a problem in this job. Reading this blog, I've discovered that translators use a software or something called trados (among others) and that these tools function with several colours. The thing is that generally I can distinguish colours but on some occasions I can't ( I can't distinguish red from black many times, or green when it appears next to gray, or purple with blue). I just wanted to know if it is possible to change the colours in these programs and if there are others areas in translation in which colours are important. Also, I wanted to know how much of trouble do you think this problem entails in translation, if it would mean a great difficulty. This is a sensitive topic for me, as I finished a degree in biochemistry and didn't realise that I had problems with colours, only to discover one year later that I was colour-blind after getting a job. I had so many problems in this job ( because it required seeing colours very well) that I quit the job, even though it was very hard to get. Now I want to study translation because in my heart I've always wanted to do it, but I need to know if I will have no problems because of being colour blind, as I can't waist more time or money.
Sorry for rambling so much! I would really appreciate all of your opinions
Thank you very much


Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 23:49
Member (2008)
Italian to English
Colour Apr 19, 2016

You don't have to use Trados. I don't, and I would consider myself a successful translator.


Robert Rietvelt  Identity Verified
Local time: 00:49
Member (2006)
Spanish to Dutch
+ ...
Don't worry Apr 19, 2016

Trados isn't that colourfull, so don't worry about it. The system works mostly with icons and text (most CAT's do).

[Edited at 2016-04-19 13:18 GMT]


Steven Segaert
Local time: 01:49
Member (2012)
English to Dutch
+ ...
Customisable interface Apr 19, 2016

Not sure about Trados, but another of those "CAT tools", MemoQ, let's you change all relevant colours to your own liking.

As Tom indicates, using a CAT tool is not strictly necessary, but that is a different discussion. Just know that Trados is not the only tool, and that many tools (possibly also Trados - I don't know) allow you to customise these things.

Most tools also offer a trial version, so you can test this before you actually buy anything.

You may encounter clients who want you to "translate all the text in blue" for example, but a little communication should solve such issues easily.


B D Finch  Identity Verified
Local time: 00:49
Member (2006)
French to English
+ ...
Shouldn't be a problem Apr 19, 2016

I think that you will find that CAT tools are particularly helpful to you, if you do pursue a career in translation. For instance, you will not need to worry about reproducing the colours used for text or as the background in text boxes - the CAT tool will do that for you, so long as you correctly place the tags that mark changes of style. I use Wordfast Pro and you can select what colours are used. It is important for you to tell clients that you have problems distinguishing colours, just in case there is anything in a text or a graphic that you might miss because of that.

Your degree in biochemistry would give you a real advantage in specialist science translation. So many translators have had to learn about their specialist area simply through translation and (if they are sufficiently conscientious), background reading. Good luck.

If you were already an adult before you discovered you were colour-blind, then you are probably quite mildly colour-blind. My father was totally red-green colour-blind and he would have discovered that in early childhood because of the mistakes he made, e.g. with board games that used colours.


Janet Ross Snyder  Identity Verified
Local time: 19:49
Member (2006)
French to English
+ ...
Not all translation uses CAT tools Apr 19, 2016

I've been a successful full-time translator for 10 years, and I have never used a CAT tool. I translate 750,000 words a year without using CAT tools. As long as you can detect that tracked changes in a Word document are a different color than the original text, you have all the color acuity that you need.


Stuart Hoskins
Local time: 00:49
Czech to English
+ ...
ProZ site: yellow and…? Apr 19, 2016

Let’s start here: would you say the ProZ website has two or three predominant colours? I always thought it was just yellow and brown (at least that’s brown to me…), but then I worked out that it uses (I think) green in some places (though to me it looks like a very subtly different shade of the other brown).

If you have the same problem, you’ll still be all right with Trados.

What I have had difficulty with, though is, “track changes” in Word. I just can’t make out the colours sometimes, so determining what has been changed is a challenge.


Lori Cirefice  Identity Verified
Local time: 00:49
French to English
WF Classic Apr 19, 2016

I think it should be fine to use the basic features of WF Classic - color should not be an issue for most things you might need to do.

For example, when you have a 100% match WFC shows it in green color (or yellow for fuzzy match) but match % is also displayed as a number, so you don't NEED to see the colors.

In most places in WFC where color is used, the colors can be personalized. You could change the green/yellow to whatever colors work best for you.

Another thing in WF that uses colors is the glossary feature - words that are in a glossary are highlighted and you can select the highlight color. You can use 3 different glossaries, each with its own color, but this is of course not an essential feature.

You should get a trial version of one of the major CAT tools and see how you do, if you run into any problems.


Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Local time: 00:49
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
The CAT tool won't be a problem Apr 19, 2016

-- Trados, now Trados Studio, is customisable, and will indeed do some of the work for you, or take care of coloured text if necessary. I am sure you can select colour schemes so that you can see the contrasts.

As long as you are aware of the problem, you can almost certainly find ways of getting round it. I have several relatives who are colour blind - in varying degrees.

Try Trados, MemoQ and Wordfast - and my advice would be to find a CAT you are happy with, then stick to it. If you are thinking about the 'mechanics' of the CAT all the time, it is a pain, but if you use it automatically, as you type, there are lots of useful features, depending on how you work.
CATs are all largely compatible, so once you have found the settings that work for you, stay with them.

Most of the time in translation you are working with plain text, so colours are not critical anyway. And yes, the biochemistry degree will be an advantage...

Go for it and good luck!


Neil Coffey  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 23:49
French to English
+ ...
Not a showstopper Apr 19, 2016

alex26 wrote:
appears next to gray, or purple with blue). I just wanted to know if it is possible to change the colours in these programs and if there are others areas in translation in which colours are important.

In terms of software, look at it like this:

- a significant percentage of the population have some degree of deficiency or other when it comes to colour discrimination
- software vendors want to sell as many copies of their software as possible
- therefore, it would be a superlatively cretinous design decision to deliberately make software whose usage relied heavily on acute colour discrimination when the actual purpose of the software has nothing whatsoever to do with colour discrimination.

So if in practice, you find that your colour blindness is hampering your ability to use translation software, offer some consultancy work to the developers. It will genuinely be an oversight that they want to remedy.

Now, besides that, an issue you will genuinely have to take on board is that many clients expect that the "translation" process will automatically preserve the format of the original document, including colours. But I'm sure that's something you can work around one way or another, be it the lo-tech method of having a colleague double check it, or a higher tech method (e.g. software to check the actual RGB values of colours set in the final document).


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