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Becoming a translator without any tools/software?
Thread poster: Alberto Avena

Alberto Avena  Identity Verified
Japan
Local time: 21:15
English to Spanish
+ ...
Jan 5

Long time member, first time poster here.

A little about me.
I'm been an amateur/freelancer translator for quite some time now and I really want to get my foot in the door and start getting a good client base using not only Proz but other resources as well.

The problem is though that I've never really used or owned any tools/software and looking through the ads here, most require some knowledge or experience with them. Until now, I've only been handed a word/excel/PPT file and have been asked to just translate like that. That or interpretation.

I'm serious about translation and want to make it a full time job down the line but, how would I start looking into getting any tools? Is it even possible to become successful without them?

Any input on this subject would be great as I really want to get in this field the right way and start becoming successful.


 

Natalie  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 14:15
Member (2002)
English to Russian
+ ...

MODERATOR
Discussed previously Jan 6

Hi Alberto,

This has been discussed previously - please take a look at https://www.proz.com/topic/294700 (there were also other similar topics, you may want to search the forums).

Natalia


 

Alberto Avena  Identity Verified
Japan
Local time: 21:15
English to Spanish
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you Jan 6

Hi Natalie,

Ah great, thank you very much! I apologize for making a whole thread about this. I'm a little new to the forums so I wasn't sure what has been discussed or now.

Thank you again. I will surely use the search function next time.


 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 13:15
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Briefly Jan 6

I don't want to duplicate that other post but, briefly, you can get free trials of many of the CAT tools and there are all sorts of tutorials online.

Some established translators don't use CAT tools, but I wouldn't recommend anyone to go that way if they aren't really in a position to be choosy. I don't personally need a CAT tool myself, because I've never delivered a TM (although I've received a few) or an unclean file. But I still use one for almost every job as it's a useful tool for me, never mind the client.


 

Daniel Frisano
Switzerland
Local time: 14:15
Member (2008)
English to Italian
+ ...
Yes Jan 6

Yes, it is possible to become successful without any kind of CAT tools.

After almost 20 years I still translate some of my projects with no CAT tools at all. Even when I use them, sometimes it is just because of the convenience of having the source text separated into fragments and working with source and target side-by-side - it doesn't really add anything substantial to the translation process itself.

In a few selected cases I even take care of the translation phase without a computer at all - pencil and paper, that is. Then of course I transfer it to file during the review/proofreading phase.

Working without CAT tools helps keeping your memory active and focussing on the essential (conceptual) aspects of translation.


Beth Jones
 

Marcella Marino  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 14:15
Member (2016)
English to Italian
+ ...
Investment Jan 6

Hi Alberto,

when I started working as a freelance translator, I had and used no CAT Tool and that was OK. But then I also saw that several agencies required a CAT Tool, therefore I decided to make an investment in two of them in order to better implement and widen my activity. I have to admit that as soon as I advertised that I had a couple of CAT Tools I could work with, my job requests have increased. Agencies mainly require CAT Tools, direct clients often don't and for them I continue translating without CAT Tools.
In the end of the day, I think that you could try to start without any CAT Tool, collect some experience and, above all, some money and then maybe make an investment in one of them. Any activity requires investments to grow.

Proz.com also offers TGBs, so you can get a CAT Tool with a good discount.

This is my experience, I hope it is helpful.


 

Nikki Scott-Despaigne  Identity Verified
Local time: 14:15
French to English
To tool or not to tool Jan 6

Some agencies will simply not consider registering you for work if you do not use a CAT tool. Not all agencies insist. It is the way to go though. However, do be of agencies who insist on your using a particular tool. The right tool for you is the one you feel happy with. Yes, it makes managing things easier for an agent and for certain direct clients who use them too. The first person a CAT tool should assist is the person using it, that's you. So yes, try a few out, see which you feel happy with and then consider what version is appropriate. Take time to chose the right one as it does represent a certain investment. If you work with direct clients, you do not need to use a CAT tool, although depending on the type of work you do, it may be helpful anyway.

 

Mario Chavez (X)  Identity Verified
Local time: 08:15
English to Spanish
+ ...
Quill and vellum Jan 6

Daniel Frisano wrote:

Yes, it is possible to become successful without any kind of CAT tools.

After almost 20 years I still translate some of my projects with no CAT tools at all. Even when I use them, sometimes it is just because of the convenience of having the source text separated into fragments and working with source and target side-by-side - it doesn't really add anything substantial to the translation process itself.

In a few selected cases I even take care of the translation phase without a computer at all - pencil and paper, that is. Then of course I transfer it to file during the review/proofreading phase.

Working without CAT tools helps keeping your memory active and focusing on the essential (conceptual) aspects of translation.


I agree, and history agrees with you, Daniel. There were times when exercising one's active memory by handwriting or typing words and phrases. I bet translators in the past paid more attention to their writing and saw texts to translate not as a series of segments but as pages and paragraphs.


Beth Jones
 

Kevin Fulton  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 08:15
German to English
The technology is available – use it Jan 7

I should state that I'm at the stage of my career where I'm rarely asked to translate non-editable documents (faxes, scanned PDF files, etc.). I charge a discouraging extra fee to perform OCR or graphic editing, so virtually everything I translate is via a CAT tool.

Although I'm not prepared to argue that the use of CAT tools over the past 20 years has made me a better translator – if that has happened at all, it is due to experience and learning from my mistakes. But I firmly believe that CAT tools have made me a more efficient translator.

It is very convenient to be able to access previously-searched terminology without having to switch to a separate database, and most CAT tools allow you to add to terminology databases on the fly, that is, within the tool itself.

Likewise, translation memories allow you to store and access standardized boilerplate text segments (legal, disclaimers, etc.) that are virtually identical regardless of the end client, with few major changes required.

If you have repeat clients, you may discover that they have specific terminology or phrasing requirements that can likewise be easily accessed once you have successfully completed work for them. This is, of course, in addition to recurring product descriptions in documents from such customers.

In addition, revisions of previously-translated documents can be accomplished with tremendous savings of time and effort, which at your discretion can be passed along to the customer. For years I had a customer who provided quarterly changes to an extensive manual I had translated previously. It was easy to spot the revisions as well as substantial new text. The client was happy not to have to pay and wait for an entirely new translation every time the manual was revised. By charging full price for both the new/revised text as well as for the time to find the related sections of the document (minimal effort due to the CAT tool, but chargeable at a healthy rate nonetheless), I was happy with the income, and the client was pleased with the quick turnaround.

Without going into the reduced effort regarding reproducing formatting, the time savings alone tips the balance in favor of the benefit when weighing cost versus benefit.


 

Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 14:15
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
Same here Jan 8

Kevin Fulton wrote:
...

Although I'm not prepared to argue that the use of CAT tools over the past 20 years has made me a better translator – if that has happened at all, it is due to experience and learning from my mistakes. But I firmly believe that CAT tools have made me a more efficient translator.
...

Without going into the reduced effort regarding reproducing formatting, the time savings alone tips the balance in favor of the benefit when weighing cost versus benefit.


I worked in-house with an agency when I started translating, and learned to keep notes, make terminology lists and compile glossaries to keep track of what I learned along the way, so that I could use it again later. Then my employer insisted that I should learn to use the current version of Déja Vu and later Trados. The firm finally settled on Trados, and I hated it at first, but came to terms with it, and have since reached the point where I always use it if I possibly can.

All the terminology is available at the touch of a few keys, and sometimes appears all by itself at the top of the screen.

I still proofread and edit my work the old-fashioned way - without the CAT - if I have time, but a CAT tool is simply an efficient, accessible way to keep track of terminology, client preferences, standard threads such as the names of Acts of Law, safety sentences... and all those other things we used to make notes about.

I decide on the translations, not the CAT. I do not use machine translation from the Cloud - although some people find it useful.

You will still find translators who only use word-processing software -- but even then, they use computers instead of typewriters and fountain pens... And everyone sends documents by e-mail instead of snail mail these days, unless they really seriously need an original with a physical signature and seal on it.

I think there will be fewer and fewer who do not use CATs and software like that, and it will be increasingly difficult to manage without them.

My advice would be to choose a CAT tool, master it, and make it work for you.
Do not attempt to use more than one or two - it takes time to become really familiar and comfortable with them, and it IS maddening and frustrating when the shortcuts you use subconsciously do not work as expected, or a function you depend on simply does not work.

You need to get past the stage where you have to think about the mechanics of the tool, and simply move from segment to segment, or use the features, as naturally as you strike the shift key for capitals when you type.
Then, when you are comfortable with it, stay with it, unless you are really convinced you have found something better.

Some clients have their own online CAT tools, which cannot be tailored to the way individual translators work, and often lack the glossaries etc. that you have carefully built up over the years. These throw proficient CAT users and experienced translators back to the level of beginners, and that is why some people hate CAT tools. It feels like trying to drive a car when you can't reach the pedals and the windscreen wipers don't work.

I paid for training and workshops with my CAT when I went freelance, but there are now excellent webinars available. A CAT is not intuitive from day one, but IMHO it will be well worth the time and effort you spend learning to use it properly.


 

Merab Dekano  Identity Verified
Spain
Member (2014)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Tools Jan 8

You can, of course, translate without any tool (pen and paper). I see no reason in avoiding tools that work for you, though.

For example, a CAT tool isn’t only going to help you with repetitions from a TM but it will also help you keep your files organised (source segment next or beneath the corresponding target segment, progress rate, word count, etc.). Now seriously, would you drop text processors, such as Word, and only use pen and paper? I presume you wouldn’t. Why would you? Try to see a CAT tool as a kind of Word or Excel. It will do much more for you, though (but it will not translate for you; you need to do the work).

Investment: there are bunch of free CAT tools. I would recommend buying a “mainstream” one, though. You don’t necessarily need to have a service agreement with them, so it’s juts the cost of a licence, which you will be able to amortise in less than one month, if you have a “normal” flow of projects/client base.

Again, I wouldn’t try to dry myself after a warm shower without any towel. I could (for example, I could jump around and sway my hands around frenetically until I’m completely dry), but I certainly wouldn’t do that. I’m sure neither would you.

Ah, don’t be afraid. It’s very straightforward to learn how to use those tools, if you are an average computer user.

Good luck!
MD


 

Romina Eva Pérez Escorihuela
Argentina
Local time: 09:15
Member (2010)
English to Spanish
+ ...
I gave up CAT Tools almost 2 years ago... Jan 8

Daniel Frisano wrote:

Working without CAT tools helps keeping your memory active and focussing on the essential (conceptual) aspects of translation.



I couldn't agree more on this! I bought a Macbook Pro in March, 2016, and decided to focus more on interpreting and less on translating, and never installed Parallels Desktop nor any software that allowed me to run Windows and Trados in my Mac... of course, I kept my old PC with Trados 2007 because, some time or other, I have to translate html files and Tag Editor is my savior, but... I realized how I improved my memory and my self-awareness of the translation process just by working the "old-fashioned way"!

However, I need to confess I started to lose some clients (translation agencies) who work exclusively with translators using CAT Tools. Of course, most of my income comes from interpreting assignments and translation for my direct clients, so this loss did not represent a significant part of my budged, but lately I've been thinking about the possibility of working with Wordfast Anywhere or any other web-based CAT Tool compatible with Macintosh because I am interested in translating more, since I'm expecting a baby and I won't be able to interpret until he/she is 6 months old (as per my colleagues' advice and experience). So, after giving birth in June and as long as I can rest, I will need to start to work in translation again without being that choosy...


Beth Jones
 

Daniel Frisano
Switzerland
Local time: 14:15
Member (2008)
English to Italian
+ ...
Uncritical thinking + error propagation Jan 8

Two more dangerous habits you are exposed to when working heavily or exclusively with CAT tools:

1. You tend to assume that just because something is in some translation memory, it must be absolutely correct.

2. Error propagation (partly related to no. 1).

I won't deny that using CAT tools is convenient and time-saving. However, convenience and time have nothing to do with quality.

Like any other kind of tool, CAT tools are useful if applied judiciously. And like any other kind of tool, you should be careful not to become too dependent on them. You don't want to become one of those helpless drivers who can't even find their way home without GPS guidance.


Beth Jones
 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 13:15
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Sloppy workers and CAT tools Jan 8

Daniel Frisano wrote:
Two more dangerous habits you are exposed to when working heavily or exclusively with CAT tools:

1. You tend to assume that just because something is in some translation memory, it must be absolutely correct.

2. Error propagation (partly related to no. 1).

Sloppy workers will find any opportunity to expend less effort, very often at the sake of quality. I can't personally imagine a scenario when I'd ever accept a segment simply because my CAT tool presented it to me. And I only ever use my own TMs, which I imagine are far better than the average agency-provided ones.

I won't deny that using CAT tools is convenient and time-saving. However, convenience and time have nothing to do with quality.

Like any other kind of tool, CAT tools are useful if applied judiciously. And like any other kind of tool, you should be careful not to become too dependent on them. You don't want to become one of those helpless drivers who can't even find their way home without GPS guidance.

Exactly. A tool is just a tool, not a replacement for a brain.


Beth Jones
 

Chris S  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Swedish to English
+ ...
+1 for CAT tools being for *our* benefit and convenience Jan 8

None of my customers requires me to use a CAT tool.

But I generally do.

So I'm about to earn £1000 for doing absolutely nothing.

Result.


 
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