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Should I buy a tool like Trados?
Thread poster: Sonja Marks

Sonja Marks  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 21:24
Member (2006)
German to English
Dec 31, 2007

I am a freelancer with jsut enough work at the moment. I don't use any CAT software except Transit occassionally and SDLXLite with one agency. I am toying with the idea of buying Trados and taking advantage of the end of year discount. My question is this: is it worth it?

When I had it on a 30 day trial it seemed so big that it would take more time to learn than it would save. It also caused some glitches on my computer. So what are the advantages? Anyone using it - does it really help? Lots of agencies seem to want us to use it so they can pay less for pretranslated words but are there more benefits? Should I splash out a significant sum on something that might just give me a headache?


Thanks for your ideas!


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xxxLatin_Hellas
United States
Local time: 21:24
Italian to English
+ ...
It depends on your customer mix Dec 31, 2007

If you do a lot of work for agencies with big and/or ongoing projects allocated over several translators, then it is probably worth it. If you have a combination of direct customers and agencies that do not require it, then you don't.

I bought it this year, but so far have not made a return on the investment. At the same time, 2007 was a record year for me, so, at this pace, I will not renew or upgrade Trados since for me it has had negative value.


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Kevin Fulton  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 15:24
German to English
Some advantages, big expense Dec 31, 2007

First you should ask how you like using Transit and SDLX lite. Are you comfortable using a tool apart from a word processing program? Are you easily fazed by buggy software and unexplained glitches?

Second, do you regularly receive MS Office electronic documents, rather than pdf files, faxes, etc. ? If you mainly translate PDF files and faxes, you may have to invest in additional software to convert such documents to something that can be processed by a translation tool.

Many translators get along quite nicely without a CAT tool, others have bought a CAT tool to enhance their own productivity, while yet others have purchased a CAT tool with the intention of expanding their job possibilities. All 3 of these groups put forth valid arguments for their positions.

You will not realize immediate advantages from an investment in a CAT tool. Trados/SDLX, DVX and some other full-featured programs are expensive. Unless you luck into a big job that allows you to take advantage of terminology leveraging, it could easily take a year or two before you see any real productivity gains. Add to that the time and effort in learning the tool, and you will see that the costs are not purely monetary.

I use 2 CAT tools regularly and take every opportunity to use them. I have large terminology databases, and it's nice to research an obscure term and not have to look it up once more when I run across it again a few years later.


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ViktoriaG  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 15:24
English to French
+ ...
The underlying problem Dec 31, 2007

The use of CAT tools has several purposes, but from an agency point of view, the most important of them is productivity gain (followed closely by financial gain). Agencies are managing the service provider's side of the market, and most of them seem to not take the time to educate their clients, and that is why most end clients imagine that a 50-page document can be delivered overnight. Because of this, translators are expected to work ever faster, and it is becoming increasingly impossible to deliver both the quality and the quantity required. This is where CAT tools come in.

I keep telling people to resist the pressure to use CAT tools (I've been using them for a long time now since I translate technical texts and I find them very useful) unless they are really interested in using them. In other words, don't you buy a CAT tool and painstakingly learn to use it only because your client said so. If you do it, do it for your own purposes - if you think a CAT tool can help you do your work better or faster, buy one. But it seems that the CAT tool end of the balance really is heavier because most of us bought the thing, afraid to miss out on opportunities. So, now, the choice we have is to either resist and keep working the good old way and hope and pray that "manual" translators are not an endangered species or get the CAT tool and contribute somewhat to the growing expectations of agencies and end clients. I mean, if they all want speed and we give it to them, then next year, they will want more. Then, we will be forced into also buying speech recognition, etc., etc. We need to find a balance here.

I know my post is not really helpful in helping you to make up your mind - but I thought this is useful information to ponder before making up your mind.

It may be helpful for you to know that if you work on text that uses lots of terminology, like reports, manuals, software interfaces and company documents like statements and such, as well as if you work on longer documents or series of shorter documents like websites, or if you work with a client that sends you documents that always deal with the same subject (this is especially so with direct clients), then CAT tools will be very useful, especially in the long run. However, if you work on marketing documents or more creative texts, then the chances to leverage your translation memory and terminology will be minimal and in such cases I would find that learning to use a CAT tool would be a waste of time and money. If you are simply looking to get more productive, you may want to try Dragon Naturally Speaking instead - speech recognition can speed you up loads, no matter what type of texts you deal with (I once managed to translate 13K words in a day using Dragon - sounds impossible, yes, and I would never have managed without Dragon).

Trados will give you a headache at first, guaranteed. It is not user friendly. You will only start getting productive after several months. But if you do it right (either buy training or read the entire set of manuals, which amounts to around 700 pages, and then practice, practice, practice) and stay patient, you will discover useful ways of using it. Another trick is to use other tools, most of which are free, that will support you in using Trados. One of them is Olifant ( http://www.translate.com/technology/tools/Olifant.html ) and ApSic offers another two very handy tools: XBench ( http://www.apsic.com/en/products_xbench.html ) and Comparator ( http://www.apsic.com/en/products_comparator.html ). These are fully compatible with TMX and TTX files, produced by Trados, and will help increase your productivity. XBench even has some features which I wish Trados had, or which Trados has but XBench does it way better.

The bottom line is that you need to figure out if you absolutely need a CAT tool to keep your clients and pick up new ones. Do your clients expect that you use CAT tools? Would you prefer working with people who don't need you to work with CAT tools? Therein, I believe, lies your dilemma.

All the best!


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Noe Tessmann  Identity Verified
Local time: 21:24
English to German
+ ...
a must Dec 31, 2007

Hello,

unless you're translating only faxes, PDF documents and hardcover books as my colleague said, it's a must for a professional translator. It doesn't have to be Trados, there are free tools like OmegaT. You can start with off with this. There's no profession where you don't have to learn new tools. If your business is running well and the clients insist you can switch to Trados or any other CAT (TENT). Even their price is not inaffordable, anyway you have to deduct some expenses.

Regards

Noe


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Sonja Marks  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 21:24
Member (2006)
German to English
TOPIC STARTER
thanks for help Dec 31, 2007

Thanks so much to all of you for taking the time to give me your opinions on this. It is really useful to get some insight from people using CAT tools already and get a balanced view of the question. I think that for now I will concentrate on work with my clients who are happy that I don't use such tools. The few times that Trados would have been useful in getting a job don't really justify the expense or effort involved in buying and learning it. I shall carry on the old-fashioned way a little longer

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Lesley Clarke  Identity Verified
Mexico
Local time: 14:24
Spanish to English
My experience Dec 31, 2007

I use wordfast and find that the best feature of that programme as far as I am concerned is the ability to make glossaries.

It is easy to use and the manual is easy to follow. I had Trados for a few years, could not make head nor tail of the manual so never got to use all its functions and then it ended up being incompatible with later versions of windows which meant that I would have had to buy expensive upgrades.

I do not know how wordfast compares with OmegaT or other CAT tools but I do think you would find the glossary feature very useful.


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LegalTransform  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 15:24
Member (2002)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Support for more than five languages? Jan 1, 2008

Unfortunately, I cannot use Trados because you are limited to five languages and I need six.

Do any of the other (preferably Trados-compatible) CAT tools support six languages (five language combinations)?


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gdesai  Identity Verified
Local time: 00:54
German to English
In my humble opinion... Jan 2, 2008

Wordfast is the tool you may invest in. It is not at all expensive, you get unlimited period trial (with glossary limiterd to 500 words) and once comfortable go in for paid version.
But what I found imprerssive was the ease of learnig the tools.
One hour to set you off and three days (max) to go through manual and thereafter practice,practice,practice.


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Noe Tessmann  Identity Verified
Local time: 21:24
English to German
+ ...
Virtually no limit Jan 2, 2008

Jeff Whittaker wrote:

Unfortunately, I cannot use Trados because you are limited to five languages and I need six.






You can always name a TM "Portguese/English" but actually it's "Spanish/Urdu". So there is virtually no limit. There are reasons not to buy Trados, but this is not a real one.

Regards


Noe


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Noe Tessmann  Identity Verified
Local time: 21:24
English to German
+ ...
User friendly? Jan 2, 2008

gdesai wrote:
I found imprerssive was the ease of learnig the tools.
One hour to set you off and three days (max) to go through manual and thereafter practice,practice,practice.


I am always laughing when people pretend that Wordfast is easier than Trados. Have you ever changed the Settings in "Pandoras Box"? If you have learned using Wordfast, tell what's so difficult about Trados?

Regards

Noe


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Tony M  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 21:24
Member
French to English
+ ...
My two ha'p'orth Jan 2, 2008

Noe is clearly a fan of Trados — like others in this thread, the un-intuitiveness of it and other competing products turned me off them at once, but I did find Wordfast at once intuitive and easy to get started with — though I confess that I have not so far invested the large amount of time it would take for me to master it at all but the most basic level.

Looking at the question very simplistically: is the amount of money I have to spend buying a CAT tool + the amount of time (lost earnings?) that I have to invest in learning to use it properly justified by the gain in productivity and/or earnings that will result?

In my own case, the answer is a resounding NO!

I have been managing, and continue to do so, for the last 12 years perfectly well without using CAT.

Most of my work is the kind of documents with zero repetitions where a CAT tool is more likely to slow me down, and minor terminology issues are more easily and quickly solved using global search-&-replace.

On the kind of documents I have had occasions to work on where there was a high degree of repetition, and CAT appeared ideal, there were other problems specific to the format of those documents that precluded its use.

I have recently invested in the paid version of Wordfast, with the intention of starting to try using it seriously, in particular, for one specific job. But even here, where the circumstances appeared ideal, the problems encountered in the real situation almost cancelled out any possible gain in productivity that might have been envisaged.

In a perfect world, if all original documents were perfectly written and formatted, and CAT tools did not have quirks, 'features', and downright bugs, they might be the best things since sliced bread — but as things stand in this real world, I'm going to stay right here in Kansas with Toto, Dorothy, and all her other friends.

I am content (and have suffiicent reputation and work!) to simply refuse jobs that insist on the use of CAT tools, and stick with the more interesting and lucrative jobs that I know I am best at.

And by the way, as I have said before in these fora — I have often been asked to go back and manually edit/correct documents previously 'translated' using CAT — and the poor quality of those 'translations' might lead one to wonder if certain translators (including on this very site!) don't hide poor translation quality behind CAT productivity... Food for thought there!

To refer to Noe's earlier assertion that CAT is "a must for a professional translator", I would venture to suggest that the reverse is not necessarily true: having CAT tools available does not per se make someone into a professional translator...


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Noe Tessmann  Identity Verified
Local time: 21:24
English to German
+ ...
a step further Jan 2, 2008

Tony M wrote:

To refer to Noe's earlier assertion that CAT is "a must for a professional translator", I would venture to suggest that the reverse is not necessarily true: having CAT tools available does not per se make someone into a professional translator...



Hello Tony,

a CAT tool alone doesn't make a good translator. People who always did it the old way, why not. but somebody who starts off now, should go a step further.

I don't know anybody who got used to work with CAT tools and went back to traditional translation by overwriting the source text. When you can get a CAT tool for free (OmegaT), why not at least investing some time not even money.

But what are really 200 euros for Wordfast for example. Western European translators should earn this amount at least in one day. If not it's better to choose another profession.

Regards


Noe


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Tony M  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 21:24
Member
French to English
+ ...
Yes, a point in favour of W/f Jan 2, 2008

Noe Tessmann wrote:
But what are really 200 euros for Wordfast for example.


Yes, I quite agree, and that's why I did consider it a relatively small price to pay for the experiment, and to support Yves C. in his work, which I believe is very worthwhile.

The 'hidden' expense that concerns me more is the time spent learning — first of all, the jobs lost if days have to be taken practising; or else, the loss of productivity on real jobs during the learning period. At the frenetic pace of my work, I can rarely afford the luxury of taking twice as long over a job just so I can use CAT, create a TM and / or a glossary. I have tried it on a few jobs, but the time taken slowed me down so much, in the end I went back to doing it the old way! Maybe I could learn to get faster — but I can't afford to lose all my clients in the meantime!

I take my hat off to those computer buffs among you who thrive on such things — I don't!


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John Rawlins  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 21:24
Spanish to English
+ ...
Trados Jan 3, 2008

I wonder if it is possible to generalise about the types of translators that use, and don't use, Trados?

Any thoughts?


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