Nov 26, 2015

Fuzzy match of the month - WTF?!

Experienced translators using translation environment tool technology are quite familiar with the ludicrous results often obtained by so-called "fuzzy" matches in translation. For some 20 years now, the lie has been propagated that such matches usually help translators to work faster and that such "matches" therefore obligate one to offer discounts.

I will not rehash the familiar arguments and evidence that even truly close matches with the difference of a little word or two can cost more time that translation from scratch with no reference text or the fact that modern translation tools are useful primarily as a guide to facilitate consistency and not necessarily speed of work, especially if the translator is a real one with strong language and subject matter skills. Of course there are monkey-level jobs where a fuzzy match can usually be expected to save time, but once one ventures into fields such as legal or financial translation this is not the case as often as the linguistic sausage providers (aka LSPs) might claim.

I just wanted to share this little screenshot from my "daily bread", because it truly is worthy of sewer disposal.

All fuzzy matches are not created equal; every tool on the market will spew nonsense, and these nonsensical "values" are not even close to consistent between tools. It's time to cut the crap with fuzzies as a real means of evaluating work effort. Or at least share some of what the believers are smoking to reach such conclusions.

Oct 29, 2015

Revised target document workflows in SDL Trados Studio 2015 vs. memoQ

Yesterday I had an unexpected opportunity to see the new SDL implementation of the feature Kilgray introduced to memoQ two years ago, in which a revised target document (or some portion thereof) is re-imported to a translation project for purposes of updating the translation memory. Since my involvement with the concept and specification of this feature in memoQ, I have been expecting the competition to follow suit, since in principle at least, this is a useful feature which nearly everyone can use in several common scenarios.

The way in which SDL Trados Studio 2015 handles project updates with edited target documents appears very different than what memoQ does, so that one might easily think that the functions are different. And this is one of those rare instances where I have to give SDL credit for a smoother, more streamlined procedure less likely to cause confusion and frustration with users.

The positive difference starts with the choice of terminology in the command interface. SDL refers to a "target document" rather than a "monolingual document" - I think this is less ambiguous and potentially confusing to an average user. The fact that these updates are perhaps not supported for bilingual formats in memoQ is one of those nerdy details which will not interest most people, especially given that there is a stable, established update process for project updates using bilingual documents.

When the reviewed file to import is selected, the user has the option to go to the aligner and correct possible matching errors for the revised target document (desirable if, for example, edits might cause the segmentation to change), but the default is to go straight back to the working window for translation and editing, with the changes already shown in tracked changes mode. Very nice.

In memoQ, the trip through the aligner is mandatory, but for simple changes, this is usually not needed, so I like the fact that Studio 2015 offers this as an option. And in memoQ, several extra steps are needed to show the changes in tracked mode (redlined markup), with confusing traps in the interface along the way. In a recent blog post, I described how Kilgray's emphasis on commands and terms relevant only to server projects, with the usual tracked changes options a translator would want buried under the "Custom" command, causes many users to conclude that tracked changes simply do not work in memoQ, which is not true at all. You just have to run the evil interface gauntlet to get there.

Does this mean I think everyone should dump memoQ and start using SDL Trados Studio 2015? Heck no. There are many processes involved in successful translation work, and switching from one tool to another based on a single feature or a just a few features is not particularly clever, no matter which way you go. (Except for "away from Across", which is always a good idea.) I am very pleased and encouraged by SDL's different approach to this feature, because it shows once again the importance of competition and different approaches to a problem. Ultimately, ergonomics and user experiences should determine the further development of a feature. In my opinion, memoQ usually has the edge here, but not always, and this is a case where improvements to this innovative feature which first appeared in memoQ could very well be inspired by SDL.

Oct 27, 2015

Beware the document Reimport trap in memoQ!

In between sneezes and hot shots of gingered lime tea I saw the Skype icon on my Windows task bar change to indicate a message. A distress call from a financial translator friend who had just received a new version of the Q3 report she was translating. memoQ has excellent version management features, which include a document-based pretranslation (X-Translate), which allows one to use a current or previous version of a translation to identify unchanged sections which have already been translated when the client sends a new version. This avoids potential confusion with undesired matches coming out of any ofd many translation memories or LiveDocs corpora which might be attached to a project.

This time, however, memoQ seemed to be getting weird on her, with error messages referring to ZIP archives and password protection. Her customer's file was not password protected, and as far as she knew, there was no ZIP archive anywhere in sight. She was dealing with "ordinary Word files". I have no idea what those are, but I hear about them often enough, and that is often where the trouble starts.

Last July I was teaching a week-long introductory course to memoQ in Lisbon, and when I wanted to show the course participants how this X-Translate feature worked, everyone ran into unexpected problems. When it was first introduced in memoQ, I noticed that the updates would work in any format. A translation which starts out as a script in a word processing file might later be updated as a set of presentation slides, and memoQ's document-based pretranslation did an excellent job of enabling me to focus quickly on the new material. It still does, but since the early days, some advocate of unintelligent programming decided that the filter used for the Reimport function to bring in the updated source text should assume that the source format was unchanged from the previous version rather than simply offer an appropriate filter for the current format. One must specify the filter to be used for an updated version if this assumption is not correct (as I also explained in my book New Beginnings with memoQ shortly after noticing this).

I can probably guess why this was done. With certain filters, the filter to use is not obvious from the extension (the multilingual delimited text filter, for example, if it is needed), or there may be a custom configuration of an "obvious" filter needed. In these cases, the assumption of using the last filter settings makes a lot of sense. However, if there is a change of format, where it is clear that the new filter should not apply, then some action should be taken other than a virtual assault on the user with mysterious error messages.

In the case of my financial translator friend, the update came as a DOC file, where the original had been DOCX. Geeks who have nothing better to learn with their time might know that DOCX files are actually renamed ZIP files, so at least the confusing error message above was "truthful" in a sense.

I see this sort of "switch hitting" with Microsoft Word file formats of various generations or changes from RTF to DOC or DOCX rather often. But in the case of importing new document versions, these changes mean trouble for memoQ if the user does not notice the difference, and given that the majority of working translators I have encountered who use Windows operating systems never fix the default system setting which hides the extensions of known file extensions, the chances that your average mortal wordworker will figure out this problem is just about zilch.

Armed with new insight into the problem, my friend was able to import the new document version successfully by specifying the appropriate filter manually and then use X-Translate to get her previous translation applied to sections of source text which had not changed (so that inappropriate 100% matches from a TM or LiveDocs corpus could be avoided). But for the future, I hope that Kilgray will apply a little more intelligent logic to the selection of filters for the document Reimport function of memoQ.