Jun 17, 2018

Ferramentas de Tradução - CAT Tools Day at Universidade Nova de Lisboa

The Faculty of Sciences and Humanities held its first "CAT Tools Day" on June 16, 2018 with a diverse program intended to provide a lusophone overview of current best practices in the technologies to support professional translation work. The event offered standard presentation and demonstrations in a university auditorium with parallel software introduction workshops for groups of up to 18 persons in an instructional computer lab in another building.

The day began with morning sessions covering SDL Trados Studio and various aspects of speech recognition.

Dr.  Helena Moniz explains aspects of speech analysis.

I found the presentation by Dr. Helena Moniz from the University of Lisbon faculty to be particularly interesting for its discussion of the many different voice models and how these are applied to speech recognition and text-to-speech synthesis. David Hardisty of FCSH at Universidade Nova also gave a good overview of the state of speech recognition for practical translation work, including his unobtrusive methods for utilizing machine pseudo-translation capabilities in dictated translations.

Parallel introductory workshops for software tools included memoQ 8, SDL Trados Studio 2017 and ABBYY FineReader - two sessions for each.

Attendees learned about ABBYY FineReader, SDL Trados Studio and memoQ in the translation computer lab

The ABBYY FineReader session I attended gave a good overview in Portuguese of basics and good practice, including a discussion of how to avoid common mistakes when converting scanned documents in a number of languages.

The afternoon featured several short, practical presentations by students, discussions by me regarding the upcoming integrated voice input solution for memoQ and the preparation of PDF files for reference, translation, print deadline emergencies and customer relations.

Rúben Mata discusses Discord

The final session of the day was a "tools clinic" - an open Q&A about any aspect of translation technology and workflow challenges. This was a good opportunity to reinforce and elaborate on the many useful concepts and practical approaches shown throughout the day and to share ideas on how to adapt and thrive as a professional in the language services sector today.

Hosts David Hardisty and Marco Neves of FCSH plan to make this an annual event to exchange knowledge on technology and best practices in translation and editing work in discussions between practicing professionals and academics in the lusophone community. So watch for announcements of the next event in 2019!

Some of the topics of this year's conference will be explored in greater depth in three 25-hour courses offered in Portuguese and English this summer at Universidade Nova in Lisbon. On July 9th there will be a thorough course on memoQ Basics and workflows, followed by a Best Practices course on July 19th, covering memoQ and many other aspects of professional work. On September 3rd the university will offer a course on project management skills for language services, including the memoQ Server, project management business tools, file preparation and more. It is apparently also possible to get inexpensive housing at the university to attend these courses, which is quite a good thing given the rapidly rising cost of accommodation in Lisbon. Details on the housing option will be posted on this blog when I can find them.

iPhone Google Maps in translation

When I first moved to Portugal I had a TomTom navigation system that I had used for a few years when I traveled. Upon crossing a border, I would usually change the language for audio cues, because listening to street names in one language pronounced badly in another was simply too confusing and possibly dangerous. Eventually, the navigation device died as crappy electronics inevitably do, and I changed over to smartphone navigation systems, first Apple Maps on my iPhone and, after I tired of getting sent down impossible goat trails in Minho, Google Maps, which generally did a better job of not getting me lost and into danger.
For the most part, the experience with Google Maps has been good. It's particularly nice for calling up restaurant information (hours, phone numbers, etc.) on the same display where I can initiate navigation to find the restaurant. The only problem was that using audio cues was painful, because the awful American woman's voice butchering Portuguese street names meant that my only hope of finding anything was to keep my eyes on the actual map and try to shut out (or simply turn off) the audio.

What I wanted was navigation instructions in Portuguese, at least while I am in Portugal; across the border in Spain it would be nice to have Spanish to avoid confusion. Not the spoken English voice of some clueless tourist from Oklahoma looking to find the nearest McDonald's and asking for prices in "real money". But although I found that I could at least dictate street names in a given language if I switched the input "keyboard" to that language, the app always spoke that awful, ignorant English.

And then it occurred to me: switch the entire interface language of the phone! Set your iPhone's language to German and Google Maps will pronounce German place names correctly. Same story for Portuguese, Spanish, etc. Presumably Hungarian too; I'll have to try that in Budapest next time. And that may have an additional benefit: fewer puzzled looks when someone asks where I'm staying and I can't even pronounce the street name.

It's a little disconcerting now to see all my notifications on the phone in Portuguese. But that's also useful, as the puzzle pieces of the language are mostly falling into place these days, and the only time I get completely confused now is if someone drops a Portuguese bomb into the middle of an English sentence when I'm not expecting it. Street names make sense now; I'm less distracted by the navigation voice when I drive.

And if some level of discomfort means that I use the damned smartphone less, that's a good thing too.

(Kevin Lossner)

Jun 15, 2018

Better WordPress translation with memoQ

Translating websites is mostly a royal pain in the tush. And I avoid it most of the time. Why? Several reasons.
  • Those who request website translations often have no idea what platform is used nor do they really know how much content is present.
  • They have very little understanding of the technical details or importance of translatable information hidden in tag attributes, selection lists, etc. and so there are often misunderstandings about the true volume to be translated.
  • There are a lot of sloppy cowboys slogging through the bog, glibly bidding low rates to translate sites they neither understand nor truly care about, and their victims... uh, prospects, customers, whatever... usually lack the expertise or the patience to understand the difference between a wild-ass lowball guess from someone lacking the skills and tools to do the job right and a carefully researched, reasonably accurate estimate of time and effort from a professional.
Shopping for "quotes" when neither you nor the one submitting a "bid" actually understand the technical basis of the project is a process with no guarantee of a satisfactory outcome. And too often this process turns out badly.

These days, many small companies use the popular content management system WordPress to manage their web sites. It may not be the best by some technical standards, but sometimes it is better to define "best" according to the likelihood of finding someone to provide services involving a platform and of there being such experts available not only now but for a reasonable amount of time in the future. I think it is fair to say that WordPress has met that standard for some time and will probably do so for some time more.

I have had a good number of requests for translating WordPress content in the past, but none of the estimates given were accepted, because typically the content to be translated was an order of magnitude greater than the client realized or nobody could commit to a clear decision on what parts were to be translated and what parts were unimportant. And then we have the problem that many sites use themes which are poorly designed as multilingual structures.

The WordPress Multilingual Plug-in (WPML) makes sensible, professional management of websites with content in more than one language much easier. When I learned about this technology more than a year ago, I suggested its use to the person who requested a quotation for translation services, but that suggestion is probably still echoing somewhere out there in the Void.

At memoQ Fest 2018 this year in Budapest, I had the pleasure to attend a superb presentation by Stefan Weimar on how to cope with the translation of Wordpress sites and some of what you need to know to use the WPML technology right. I was inspired and hoped to have an opportunity to look at things more closely some day.

That day turned out to be a week later. Funny how that goes.

Three or four years ago I translated a small web site for a friend's company. At the time, the site used the Typo3 content management system, which proved to be troublesome. Not so much because of the technology, but because of the service provider using it, who rejected any suggestions for providing the content to be translated in a form that would not require his manual intervention at the text level. He copied, pasted and improved (German: verschlimmbesserte) my translation as only a German with full confidence in his grade school English skills could. It was... not what anyone had hoped for, and I never  found the heart to mention all the mistakes in the final result.

So now, when someone asked me to have a look at their new site, I felt a bit queasy. Nunca mais, I thought. No way, José. Or Wolfgang as it were. But in the meantime, unbeknownst to me, he had switched service providers and CMS platforms, and the new provider managing his web content is a professional with a professional understanding of sites for international clients in many languages. And he uses WPML. The right way!

So now it was up to me to figure out what's what in memoQ. So first I used the memoQ XLIFF filter on all the little XLIFFs supported by the plug-in. I quickly saw that a few other things were needed, like a cascaded HTML filter...

Somewhat messy, but doable once the HTML tags get properly protected by a chained filter.

Then I tried again, this time applying memoQ's WordPress (WPML) filter. And this was the result:

That was easy. Hmm. I think I know which method I prefer.

So for translations of WordPress websites properly configured to use WPML technology, the new memoQ filter looks like a winner!