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Is Translation Memory Losing You Money?
Thread poster: Richard Hill

Richard Hill  Identity Verified
Mexico
Local time: 16:07
Member (2011)
Spanish to English
Jul 8, 2011

Hi fellow translators,
I thought I’d post this link to an article I came across as it interested me given my skepticism regarding the use of CAT tools. http://www.translatortips.net/tranfreearchive/tf29-translation-memory.html
I am new to CAT tools and I really can’t get my head around using them. I’ve had a look at Wordfast, Trados and Translation Workspace and will be looking into MetaTexis as it’s apparently good for working in the Microsoft Word environment. I really can’t see how using CAT tools saves time and increases productivity, hence the topic “Is Translation Memory Losing You Money?”. I realize that the fact I don’t see the benefits must come from my inexperience with CAT tools, and like any program, there’s a learning curve before I can make efficient use of the software. But, in my ignorance, I still feel that its akin to believing that It’s quicker to edit a machine translation than to start from scratch, which, of course, it’s not. Is it not quicker to look up terms one isn’t sure about, then use find and replace rather than working on each segment and copying tags etc? Is it not true that the main reason translators are spending so much time and money on CAT tool usage is because of pressure from clients, and that the pressure from clients stems from the fact they they are the ones who benefit, not the translator? Anyway, like I say, I’m new to CAT tools, but I've watched all sorts of instructional videos and webinars, and they all just frustrate the hell out of me, as I just don’t get it. So I’d really appreciate any feedback to convince me (or not) that they are worthwhile. One other question, is which CAT tool is best for working within the Microsoft Word environment? All comments and advise are much appreciated.
Rich


[Edited at 2011-07-08 18:44 GMT]


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Nesrin  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 22:07
English to Arabic
+ ...
It might... Jul 8, 2011

I worked with Trados for two years (till I gave up freelancing) during which, to be honest, I felt a lot of frustration. I'll never tell for sure if I got my money's worth..
In my experience TM only starts increasing your productivity when:
1) you have a large stock of translation memory and a big term database, and
2) you get a lot of work from the same field (preferably technical, scientific etc.)

I found it quite useful when I had to translate a series of technical manuals which used the same formulaic sentences and terms from similar fields. However I often asked myself if it was worth the "investment", time spent trying to figure it out, time spent dealing with problems etc. It didn't help that I had a lot of technical errors, and that I never had proper training, so I may have been missing some essential functions I had no idea about.
I'll leave it to more experienced colleagues to tell you all about their great experiences and the magical benefits of TM.

[Edited at 2011-07-08 19:05 GMT]


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José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 18:07
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Your mileage may vary Jul 8, 2011

I see fellow translators who have taken up CAT tools as some kind of religion. I've seen some overly vehement self-appointed Trados spokespeople who are fortunately thousands of miles away, otherwise they wouldn't hesitate before shooting me after my heretic statement that I've never seen Trados in my life, yet I know for sure it sucks!

I've heard from translators who take pride in their so many gazillion words master TM, carefully polished every Friday, and backed up on three separate external hard drives, one of them stored in the safe deposit box at a local bank, another one in their sister's home, out of town.

I consider myself a light user of WordFast. Considering what I paid, it was well worth it:
  • It keeps me organized, no chance to skip a phrase or a paragraph.
  • It spares my neck: I have source text and translation, one on top of (or beside - in the Pro version) the other on the same screen; no need to turn my head back and forth beteen paper and screen.
  • It gives me immediate access to how I translated some tricky word on that job (or for that client).
  • It preserves Word text formatting to some extent. As a PageMaker user, text formatting in Word is one of the clumsiest contrivances my computer has ever witnessed.
  • It reuses any verbatim repetitions it finds, so I give them for free on jobs involving over 5,000 words.

And this is all I get from it. I usually discard the TM after a job is finished. Actually, I proofread and review after cleanup.

Once I got a message form SDL inviting me to take a quiz, my answers leading to how long it would take - considering specifically my type of work - for Trados to pay for itself. The result was impressive: 13 years! ... yet disregarding the fact that an expensive update is required every year.

However some people say that Trados paid for itself in only a few weeks. Not impossible! My very first laser printer, in the late 1980s cost me USD 7K (smuggled into Brazil when it was forbidden here) and paid for itself in three months!

However I stay away from greedy translation outsourcers who demand heavy discounts on fuzzy matches, which I'm sure they don't and won't transfer to the end-clients. My guess is that they'll be quibbling forever about those 9 segments that fell into a different match range, in order to stall for time before payment is made. Crooks will be crooks.

I tend to equate CAT tools to automatic transmission and/or power steering in a car: it's the operator's problem. I won't demand a discount from a cab driver because he invested more of his money to have things easier on him. Likewise, all my good clients simply don't care if I use any CAT tools, as long as I leave no trace of their use in my deliverables. Those agencies that won't give the time of the day to a translator who hasn't got the latest version of Trados won't talk to me, even if they need a script-less video translated for dubbing. My pleasure...


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Anton Konashenok  Identity Verified
Czech Republic
Local time: 23:07
Russian to English
+ ...
In my case, definitely not Jul 8, 2011

My CAT tool of choice is Trados (Translator's workbench, to be exact), and it makes my work in Word a lot faster even when I don't have a TM on the given topic - just its segmentation feature alone saves about 15% of my working time. This is, however, mostly due to the excellent ergonomics of its user interface - other CAT tools (in my case, SDLX and Wordfast Pro) help much less, if any. In fact, my main gripe with Wordfast Pro is its extremely buggy (or call it counterintuitive) user interface (as opposed to Wordfast Classic, which imitates Trados).
Unfortunately, after the acquisition of Trados by SDL the Trados part of their integrated package has been getting progressively worse. Having tried both Trados 2009 and 2007, I happily reverted to version 7.1 (simultaneously with reverting from Office 2010 to Office 2003).

[Edited at 2011-07-08 20:52 GMT]


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Christel Zipfel  Identity Verified
Member (2004)
Italian to German
+ ...
I wouldn't say TMs are losing you money Jul 8, 2011

It all depends on how you are using them.

I was as sceptical as you when I started, many years ago, with Wordfast. I just wanted to understand what other translators were talking about. I wondered: translation memory, fuzzy matches, what the hell is this?

Strange enough: it was not difficult at all to learn to work with Wf, I liked the programme and still am using it for every translation I do, if ever possible.

But I have never fallen into the trap of the so called Trados discounts. I charge full for my translations, beside larger pieces of repetitions (at my own discretion, for which I give a discount, just like I did before), maybe my speed has increased, over all (sometimes less, sometimes more), but not overwhelmingly: I have to take care of my TMs which are mine, somtimes there are problems like with every software... Anyway, I have paid my licence out of my pocket, so I don't owe anything to anybody.

I think that a CAT tool, if used appropriately (and I mean here: used for your own purpose), may be well worth its money. You don't need to have Trados, there are also free programmes, or you can downloiad a trial version, just to see what it looks like.

Beyond that, I agree 150% with the post of José Henrique.


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jyuan_us  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 17:07
Member (2005)
English to Chinese
+ ...
Your writings are always fun to read Jul 9, 2011

José Henrique Lamensdorf wrote:

I see fellow translators who have taken up CAT tools as some kind of religion. I've seen some overly vehement self-appointed Trados spokespeople who are fortunately thousands of miles away, otherwise they wouldn't hesitate before shooting me after my heretic statement that I've never seen Trados in my life, yet I know for sure it sucks!

I've heard from translators who take pride in their so many gazillion words master TM, carefully polished every Friday, and backed up on three separate external hard drives, one of them stored in the safe deposit box at a local bank, another one in their sister's home, out of town.

I consider myself a light user of WordFast. Considering what I paid, it was well worth it:
  • It keeps me organized, no chance to skip a phrase or a paragraph.
  • It spares my neck: I have source text and translation, one on top of (or beside - in the Pro version) the other on the same screen; no need to turn my head back and forth beteen paper and screen.
  • It gives me immediate access to how I translated some tricky word on that job (or for that client).
  • It preserves Word text formatting to some extent. As a PageMaker user, text formatting in Word is one of the clumsiest contrivances my computer has ever witnessed.
  • It reuses any verbatim repetitions it finds, so I give them for free on jobs involving over 5,000 words.

And this is all I get from it. I usually discard the TM after a job is finished. Actually, I proofread and review after cleanup.

Once I got a message form SDL inviting me to take a quiz, my answers leading to how long it would take - considering specifically my type of work - for Trados to pay for itself. The result was impressive: 13 years! ... yet disregarding the fact that an expensive update is required every year.

However some people say that Trados paid for itself in only a few weeks. Not impossible! My very first laser printer, in the late 1980s cost me USD 7K (smuggled into Brazil when it was forbidden here) and paid for itself in three months!

However I stay away from greedy translation outsourcers who demand heavy discounts on fuzzy matches, which I'm sure they don't and won't transfer to the end-clients. My guess is that they'll be quibbling forever about those 9 segments that fell into a different match range, in order to stall for time before payment is made. Crooks will be crooks.

I tend to equate CAT tools to automatic transmission and/or power steering in a car: it's the operator's problem. I won't demand a discount from a cab driver because he invested more of his money to have things easier on him. Likewise, all my good clients simply don't care if I use any CAT tools, as long as I leave no trace of their use in my deliverables. Those agencies that won't give the time of the day to a translator who hasn't got the latest version of Trados won't talk to me, even if they need a script-less video translated for dubbing. My pleasure...


Seriously. Period.


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Peter Linton  Identity Verified
Local time: 22:07
Member (2002)
Swedish to English
+ ...
More advantages Jul 9, 2011

rich. wrote:
I really can’t see how using CAT tools saves time and increases productivity,

I agree with the reasons explained by José Henrique Lamensdorf, plus a few more:
Without a CAT tool, most people overtype the original text in some way or other. With a CAT tool, you can see the source sentence and leave it untouched while you enter your target sentence. I find this is a much better interface, so much so that I use a CAT tool for all translation, regardless of any other advantages.
A CAT tool often has several facilities, such as Translation memories, a Concordancer to see words in context, a glossary facility that enables you to incorporate customer glossaries or your own glossaries in a very convenient fashion.

Is it not true that the main reason translators are spending so much time and money on CAT tool usage is because of pressure from clients,

No, the main reason is that a CAT tool offers many advantages that increase your productivity, both quantity and quality. It also makes it easier for clients to provide translation memories and glossaries in a convenient format, once again improving both quantity and quality. It is a win-win situation. If it is not, then you are not functioning as a business person prepared to negotiate, but rather as a sensitive translator not very good at business.

One other question, is which CAT tool is best for working within the Microsoft Word environment?

Working within the Microsoft Word environment involves using Microsoft's VBA, a programming language that works within Microsoft Office, but may be discontinued. So it is smarter to get a CAT tool that does not rely on VBA.


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Glenda Janssen  Identity Verified
Local time: 16:07
English to Italian
+ ...
Interesting topic Jul 9, 2011

Peter Linton wrote:

Without a CAT tool, most people overtype the original text in some way or other. With a CAT tool, you can see the source sentence and leave it untouched while you enter your target sentence. I find this is a much better interface, so much so that I use a CAT tool for all translation, regardless of any other advantages.


Peter, I'm not sure what you mean, here. I assume that "overtype" is the UK equivalent of "overwrite." I never overwrite the original text. I do what Wordfast Anywhere does, which is take a segment (usually a sentence) and write my translation right underneath.

Your comment does not seem like a really good reason to use a CAT tool. Yes, it takes time to then "reconstruct" the original document, but I use that time as a proofreading pass.

I am still evaluating if CAT tools are worth it for me. I tried one of the earlier versions of WordFast back in the late nineties, and it gave me a headache. I tend to be quite good at learning to use new software, so I figured maybe a newer version wouldn't give me as much trouble. WordFast Anywhere also gave me an immediate headache. I didn't look deeply into any manuals, though, so I'm willing to give it another go. I'm also considering free trials of other programs. However, I don't think Trados would ever win me over. Such an incredibly steep purchase price seems hard to justify.

And I sure hope that agencies asking for Trados discounts supply ready-to-go translated segments for matches, as well as extensive glossaries.

Thank you Rich for bringing up the subject, and thank you all for your insights!


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Eileen Cartoon  Identity Verified
Local time: 23:07
Italian to English
Typing is much faster in CAT Jul 9, 2011

[quote]Peter Linton wrote:

rich. wrote:
most people overtype the original text in some way or other.


For me this in and of itself is key. whe I don't use CAT I have to type and delete, type and delete, or type over and maybe not remember the whole sentence and have to undo and go back. With CAT I have a side-by-side look at the text and can type straight, without worrying about losing something and while keeping my eye on the source. This speeds up my typing greatly and this means productivity.

There is in my view one very, very big catch to the use of CAT. You tend to lose sight of the original. If there is formatting you might not have a clear idea of the paragraphs or lists. Therefore I have taken to doing a final readthrough in the Word just to check if I missed something and this may or may not mean losing extra time.
However, the end product is always better.

Eileen


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Sergei Tumanov  Identity Verified
Local time: 00:07
English to Russian
+ ...
Am I the only one? Jul 9, 2011

... I still feel that its akin to believing that It’s quicker to edit a machine translation than to start from scratch, which, of course, it’s not. ...


Am I the only one who sees an error in the prime assertion?

a machine translation
and
CAT (Computer Assisted Translation)

ARE NOT the same thing


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Glenda Janssen  Identity Verified
Local time: 16:07
English to Italian
+ ...
Sergei, you misunderstood Jul 9, 2011

The poster did not say that CAT and MT are the same thing, or even similar. He said that some people may believe that editing machine translations is quicker than translating outright, and he says that this is definitely not so. He then says that maybe those who believe that CAT make us faster make the same mistake as those that assume editing MT's is faster, i.e. it's not true, it's an illusion based on the fact that it /seems/ that some of the work is already done for you.

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Tony M  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 23:07
Member
French to English
+ ...
For me, it depends on the specific situation. Jul 9, 2011

I have had the occasion to compare my performance on very similar (regular) work, with and without the use of Wordfast (classic).

I don't find the TM feature much use, since I have virtually zero repeated segments; however, for the particular work in question, there is a lot of repeating terminology, where the glossary feature is very useful... or at least would be, if it worked properly! Sadly, it is so buggy, I often spend longer sorting out the glossary problems than I save by using it! Also, since I usually have to create my glossary from scratch, it wastes quite a lot of time 'teaching' the glossary new words.

Similarly with the formatting; my segments often have a lot of formatting changes within them (bold, italic, font changes, etc.), and sometimes sorting those out (during or afterwards) can be quite a headache; in one particular instance, the document was irrevocably and catastrophically corrupted! That wasted literally hours of work for me

So overall, for the majority of the type of work I do, I don't find that this CAT tool saves me anything much in the way of time; it may or may not contribute to quality issues like consistency.

However, what worries me much more is a trend I see time and time again; I am positioned at the 'rather expensive but high-quality' end of the rates spectrum. I have noticed agencies giving me one or two jobs for an important new client, just enough for me to establish a glossary and TM; then suddenly, the work for that client dries up — and hey presto! what do I find? The work is being given to another, cheaper translator; benefitting, of course, from the 'quality' of my TM. I have even had such agencies have the cheek to then ask me to proof the cut-price translator's work, based on my own TM! An enlightening exercise, inasmuch as it becomes evident that even with a good TM, in the hands of a lousy translator, you still get an unsatisfactory result!

So in this sense, yes, TMs are losing me money — or rather, losing me jobs; because it may be that those are jobs I wouldn't have wanted anyway... or in any event, wouldn't have been very profitable, if the agency insisted on cut-price rates and/or CAT reductions.

[Modifié le 2011-07-09 19:13 GMT]


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Sergei Tumanov  Identity Verified
Local time: 00:07
English to Russian
+ ...
Perhaps I am wrong Jul 9, 2011

Glenda Janssen wrote:

The poster did not say that CAT and MT are the same thing, or even similar. He said that some people may believe that editing machine translations is quicker than translating outright, and he says that this is definitely not so. He then says that maybe those who believe that CAT make us faster make the same mistake as those that assume editing MT's is faster, i.e. it's not true, it's an illusion based on the fact that it /seems/ that some of the work is already done for you.




but from the above I see that the editing of machine translation and use of CAT seem to be the same for the poster.

But maybe I am wrong.



[Edited at 2011-07-09 19:27 GMT]


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Tony M  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 23:07
Member
French to English
+ ...
Faster typing? Jul 9, 2011

Eileen Cartoon wrote:

...whe I don't use CAT I have to type and delete, type and delete, or type over and maybe not remember the whole sentence and have to undo and go back. With CAT I have a side-by-side look at the text and can type straight, without worrying about losing something and while keeping my eye on the source. This speeds up my typing greatly and this means productivity.


I guess all this really depends on ones own particular workflow. Personally, I always read about a paragraph ahead, make my segmentation decisions, then type upstream of the s/t, using Ctrl + Del to delete ahead a word at a time till I perhaps get to a word that I can keep, then hop over it, and carry on in the same vein. I don't find I 'forget' very often, as long as I only handle manageable sized chunks! I always have the source document open in another window, so it's very easy to flip over to this if I need to check anything, or perhaps copy-&-paste a section I've incorrectly deleted.

Because I'm a lousy typist, I've devised all sorts of strategies for simplifying my work — perhaps a more efficient typist wouldn't need these workarounds, but overall, I find they do save me a huge amount of time, and are much quicker than going through all the rigmarole of segmentation, validating, etc. — unless, of course, you have tailor-made TUs all ready to hand in your lovely TM!


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Tony M  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 23:07
Member
French to English
+ ...
Yes, Sergei, I'm afraid you are wrong Jul 9, 2011

Sergei Tumanov wrote:

but from the above I see that the editing of machine translation and use of CAT seem to be the same for the poster.


As Glenda said, I fear you are misinterpreting the original post: the poster was simply asserting that the assumption that CAT is faster is as false as the assumption that post-editing MT is quicker than straight translation.

So there is no suggestion whatsoever that CAT and MT are equivalent.

[Modifié le 2011-07-09 19:27 GMT]


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