Dec 31, 2012

Imagining the library

Nearly three decades ago, Tabbing Thomas was employed in a print shop, aligning four-color separations for glossy magazines and living a proletariat life at far remove from the world of ideas in which he truly dwelt. 1984 arrived, setting in motion changes to Thomas' world that made phototypesetting, tabbing and so much else the technologies and practice of hazy memory that they are today.

In his rather cloistered life of the time, Thomas imagined a world of information and ideas freely shared, connected in new ways which a few dreamers had conceived before but which Bill Atkinson's HyperCard made accessible to the masses. He created what I believe to be the first public hyperbook from the English text of De Imitatione Christi by Thomas à Kempis; this later grew into a virtual monastery library with diverse volumes from Thoreau and others as well as original art essays and windows on history such as The White Rose and paranoid speculations on the Kennedy assassination. If Monks Had Macs was a project of breathtaking originality and scope in the late 1980s; I was one of many captivated by it, contributing technical skills to support the creative vision of Brian Thomas, the project's architect. The project is now available free on the Rivertext website. Looking at its many odds and ends, one might ask questions like Why an e-book reader? There are so many of those! Ah, but not twenty years ago; this was one of the first, long before the rise of Amazon and the commercial wave.

HyperCard and the Monks project have largely passed into digital history now. And sadly, in the quarter century of the virtual library's existence, the physical libraries that older translators grew up with have suffered great declines in very many cases. A recent New York Times essay cluster asked whether we still need libraries and what their roles should be today. My reflex is to shout Of course we do! and call for continued support of these institutions as I knew them and as most have ceased to exist. Does this really make sense? Card catalogues? When was the last time you used one?

I think the last time I found myself in an institutional library was eight years ago at the Bodleian in Oxford. A scary thought. This is not entirely by choice, but over the years I found it increasingly difficult to use community libraries which were mostly shuttered and open but a few hours in the week. When the doors were not barred I could still lose myself in the stacks for most of a day, but now I do that in the poor substitute of commercial bookstores which are usually clever enough to provide plenty of comfy chairs and a coffee bar. I've spent many weeks of my life thus at Powell's in Portland and Alexandra in Budapest. Some capitalist souls cry out for the abolition of libraries altogether for the damaging influence they exert on bookshops, video stores and Internet cafés. No kidding. Read some of the insane comments for those New York Times articles.

When I consider the economic and intellectual misery of the village where I currently live in Brandenburg, Germany, I cannot help but remember how libraries have helped individuals without other access to education and ideas to reach for better. My naive imagining of the library is an educational institution of equal stature with schools and universities. And in many places I am sure it plays such a role in often unique and creative ways. But not often enough.

How will we see libraries a decade from now? In fifty years? I cannot extrapolate the current trends of virtualization and see structures which offer substitutes for some of the very tangible things libraries once offered me and still can. But in an age when words of Alexandrian scope or greater fit on a thumb drive, how can we persuade budget-strapped public administrations and their tax-allergic subjects that libraries are a relevant common enterprise worthy of investment? Imagine.

Dec 29, 2012

Prato on pretzels and my start in translation

The holiday season is a time when many of us are involved cookery tasks of one sort or another, preparing for meals at family gatherings or making seasonal baked goods. At this time of year and on so many other occasions, my eyes drift to a red book that has accompanied me through countless moves in over thirty years and which I can often find quicker than my wallet or car keys.

Shortly after I began learning German in the ninth grade, an aunt of mine stopped by to visit my parents and gave me an old cookbook in German. How it came to her I have no idea; she didn't read the language, nor did anyone else on her side of the family. I was attracted to its old script, which one still encountered fairly often then in classroom libraries, university stacks and book piles at yard sales, but at that time I had not yet begun cooking beyond the occasional slice of cinnamon toast, so I hardly expected that many years later this book would still be with me when so many thousands of others had found their end with rats and mold in damp cellars and barns or disappeared to parts unknown in an ill-considered loan.

I soon found a use for the book, however. The German Club at my school had frequent parties, and members were expected to bring appropriate eatables to the occasions. I don't know any more who had the idea to do pretzels and strudel, but I soon found myself deciphering the 19th century text with the help of an old learner's dictionary and not much else. No public Internet in those days; in fact, the following year the Cybernet I used in the Cal State University system had its chat function shut down because it was considered a waste of resources. Online dictionaries and scanned texts were not even a distant dream. When all else failed, I think I bugged the German teacher, but she was bugged enough dealing with grammar and spelling acquired from my reading of Luther's original bible translation, so I tried not to do much of that.

My first translation ever was, I think, for cinnamon pretzels. It was at the same time a clear lesson in the frequent need for translations to be adapted for their purpose.

Translating old texts like that taught me a lot of things. Even those who can't read German may notice that no times or temperatures are given. Those who think of recipes as precise prescriptions to be followed may be disturbed by the approximate nature of the quantities. And of course in another age, in another country, the units of measurement were different anyway. It's common enough for me to have to convert units from American recipes for German friends or vice versa, to convert volumes to weights to reflect different cooking customs or to explain patiently that units of the same name are very often not the same in England and California. And the yeast available in the 1890s was probably rather different than today's yeast, so indicated quantities are probably useless to a modern cook. Stick that in your engine, Gargle Translate!
Cinnamon pretzel. It makes dough from 4 deciliter meal, a piece of butter size of an egg, a yolk, salt, sugar, a little cinnamon, a Deka yeast and fresh milk, knocking him off good and let him go into the bowl. Then you form it into pretzels, and this can go. To this stirred an egg with a tablespoon of sugar and a teaspoon of cinnamon, sweeps the pretzel with the stirred and baked.
Yeah, right. A fourteen year old with a crappy dictionary can do better than that, though admittedly it does beat the standard of many German to English "translators" found on ProZ.
scant 1¾ cups (400 ml) flour
an egg-sized piece of butter
1 egg yolk
½ tsp salt
2 tbsp sugar
½ tsp cinnamon
1 pkg yeast
½ cup (120 ml) milk
Beat well and let rise in the bowl. Form into pretzels and let rise again.
Make a glaze by beating together
1 egg
1 tbsp (brown) sugar
1 tsp cinnamon

Brush the mixture onto the pretzels, then bake at 325 °F (160 °C) for 10-15 minutes.
The original translation was a collaborative effort with a monolingual subject matter expert - my mother - who had a much better idea of what to do with an oven than I did. My first attempt to use an oven in those days involved drying homemade gunpowder, and that did not go well. And now, some 37 years later, the recipe is being reworked for processing in a bread machine. Despite advertising from SDL and others, language and technology do change, and old information may indeed need to be retranslated. Today's text may not do for tomorrow's kitchen or even for a different cook today.

Dec 23, 2012

The Translator's Psalm

The WORD is my compass; I am not lost.

It inspireth pastoral contemplation;  it stilleth my mind's unruly waters.

Words restore my tired soul: they lead me through the stacks of the library for a term's sake.

Yea, though I tap the keyboard in the shadow of Google, I will fear no machine: for words are in me; their rhythm and logic comfort me.

I prepare special terminology in the interests of understanding and anoint my keyboard with tea; my cup runneth over.

Surely words without MT shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell with books and good words in abundance.

Dec 21, 2012

Book review: Found in Translation

When I sat down this evening to share my thoughts on Found in Translation by Jost Zetzsche and Nataly Kelly, I realized I had something important to do first. I logged in to Amazon and ordered a copy for my father. Many times in the past week as I read this delightful book up in my sleep loft at the end of a long day I thought how much he would enjoy the anecdote or the explanation I was reading. Although he never learned another language beyond bits of Saxon nursery rhymes distorted by a hundred years away from the Old Country and the smatterings of street Spanish one can't avoid working retail in many Southern California neighborhoods, I think it's fair to claim that a lot of the appreciation I have for books and the words in them as well as the words which never make it into books I have from him. He is very much alive to the nuances of language and its importance, and I think that those he taught in school, hospitals and home assignments probably enjoyed at least some of the enchantment with words that he shared with his lucky children.

This is a book that I feel good about sharing with family and friends, not because it will give them better insight into what I do (it certainly will), but because many parts of it cannot help but engage and entertain them and give them a better appreciation for the importance of language in today's world. If I were a middle school teacher in the US, I would read parts of this book to my students in most any subject I might teach, because it is very relevant. And fun. Hey, there's even a lot of good content for sports fans.

I bought the Kindle edition to read, because despite my initial skepticism about e-readers, since I got one last year, it has given me so many hours of reading pleasure at home, in my travels and in long hours in the hunting blind where I sometimes give a friendly wave to a passing deer and leave the rifle in the corner as I "turn" the page. I was a bit annoyed with the start of the book. Endless positive statement from various luminaries talking about what a great book it is. Yada yada. I know enough about marketing to realize the importance of text like that and placing it where it was placed, but I'm not interested in someone else's opinion of a book until I have read it myself. After a bit of a slog I finally got to the actual content, and I was hooked.

For a week, I looked forward to the end of the day, when I would digest a bit more by the light integrated in the cover of the e-reader. When I was so tired that the clear, interesting text stopped making sense, I resisted the urge to skim, because the details were simply too good to miss. As much as I wanted to go on and see what came next, I waited for the next rewarding end of a day.

It wasn't until I got very near to the end and wondered why there was an index with page references in the Kindle edition that I had anything to criticize. I learned a lot. I had a great read. And I'm excited about sharing this book with others, because I think that even non-linguists will really enjoy the stories and behind-the-scenes looks at the lives of sports and entertainment stars, political crises and so much more.

And that's all I'm going to say about the content - spoilers suck. If you want to know more, go get the book and read it yourself. I can't imagine you won't enjoy most of it.

Dec 18, 2012

Do we need a marketplace for MT post-editing?

Today technology guru Jost Zetzsche posed this question:

Jost's newsletter - the Tool Box (yes, it used to be called Tool Kit, and he has a great book on tools by the same name, so the new name is a bit confusing) - is one of my favorite... er... tools... for keeping an overview of the rapid developments in translation technology. I have subscribed to the premium edition for years and find it well worth the modest investment, about the price of a lunch. Jost is offering a holiday special on premium edition subscriptions. He writes:

... if you would like to spread some holiday cheer among your contractors or colleagues (and at the same time help them up their technical ante), make sure that they receive a Premium edition of the Tool Box newsletter during the next year. Rather than the regular $25 per year, for a limited time you can pay only $10 per subscriber for packages of five subscribers or more. Just send me an email with the names of the subscribers and I will check to see whether they already receive the Premium edition.
Have a blessed holiday season.

P.S. For 20 subscribers or more, pay only $5 per subscriber!
He can be contacted at jzetzsche [at]

Regarding the marketplace for post-editors of machine translation, I take a conservative view. I feel that the traditional marketplace is perfectly well suited to handling this sort of commerce:

What do you think?

Dec 14, 2012

memoQuickie 6.2: recovering a previous translation status

For a given source document version, it is possible to recover the complete status of the translation at any minor version stage created by import, export, a snapshot, etc.

From the menubar, select Translation > Toggle Track Changes > Custom... and choose the earlier version you want to go back to:

Click OK and the differences between the current translation and that old version will be shown:

Then choose Edit > Select All Segments:

Selected segments are highlighted blue. Now choose Translation > Revert To Earlier Version:

The translation is now in its previous state and can be changed further, exported, archived in LiveDocs, etc. Changed segments now have the edited status.

Note that content which has been overwritten in a TM can be recovered this way.

Versioning in memoQ: changes and a surprise

Versioning in memoQ, particularly the handling of changes in the translation of a given version of a source document, has had a rather "unfinished" feel since it was first introduced in memoQ 5.

It has generally suffered in the comparison with the implementation of tracked changes in SDL Trados Studio 2011, and rightly so. Even recent improvements in memoQ 6.2, with the addition of a command to revert to an earlier minor version in a comparison, falls far short of the ease of use of a function that enables one to move from one change to the next and accept, reject or further modify the changed text in a large document. [Update: this is not actually true - see the comments]

Tracked changes for minor versions is in need of improvement for ease of use, but I did discover one undocumented feature which gives it more redeeming value than I thought the feature had.

One tantalizing feature of memoQ version tracking is the Row History. I've always thought of it as an irritating tease, which it is.

It shows you every change which has been made to a particular target segment during the translation and editing of a major version. But there is no way - no obvious way - to apply any of those previous versions to the target text. Ideally, one should be able to select one of the previous translations and replace the target segment with it.

Well, you can after all. Sort of. Selecting a given version of the target segment and pressing Control+C will put the entire row of the table displayed in the Clipboard. It can then be pasted into the target segment:

In the example above, I have the display of tracked changes turned on, so it looks a bit messy. The view is cleaner without displaying the edits. As you can see, a bit more is copied than just the original text. That text is preceded by tree spaces, and the text from the version, date and user information is included and must be edited out.

Clearly, this was not an intended feature, but it has been there since versioning was first introduced in memoQ 5. Now if Kilgray would add a button for replacing the target text and perhaps an edit box as well where further changes can be made before replacing the current text, this feature would be much more useful.

A particularly ideal implementation might be the ability to move from one change to the next automatically and be able to accept the latest change or revert to any previous translation of the segment, all in one well-integrated operation. That's more or less what I've been waiting for in the year and a half since memoQ versioning was introduced.

Dec 12, 2012

Studio Steps: where to find help on SDL Trados Studio

Guest post by Jayne Fox

I’m an avid reader of the Translation Tribulations blog and have enjoyed collaborating with Kevin on projects in the past, so I was delighted when Kevin asked me to help kick off a new series of blog posts on SDL Trados Studio. The series is called Studio Steps and will be published alternately on Translation Tribulations and Between Translations with references to the site with the current post. The aim of the series is to provide translators who use Trados Studio with tips for some of the most common scenarios and trouble spots that they might encounter. To start us off, I’ve put together an overview of where to find help on Trados Studio. This list is by no means exhaustive, so please feel free to add other useful sources of help in the comments below.

SDL resources
SDL Language Technologies Support
Provides support for licensing and installation issues, plus full support for other issues if you have a support contract 

SDL Trados Studio 2011 Documentation
Release notes, Trados Studio help, and help on upgrading from Trados 2007 and SDLX to SDL Trados Studio 2011
Start / All Programs / SDL / SDL Trados Studio 2011 / Documentation /
Release Notes
SDL Trados Studio 2011 Help
SDL Trados Studio 2011 Migration Guide
SDL Trados Studio Quick Start Guides

Introductory guides to:
Project management
TM management
Translating and reviewing documents
Start / All Programs / SDL / SDL Trados Studio 2011 / Documentation / Quick Start Guides / English:
Project Management
TM Management
Translating and Reviewing (also available here)
SDL MultiTerm Documentation
Help on using MultiTerm and converting dictionaries and other termbases into MultiTerm format
Start / All Programs / SDL / SDL MultiTerm 2011 / Documentation /
SDL MultiTerm 2011 Help
SDL MultiTerm 2011 Termbase Creation Guide
SDL Online Help
Online help for SDL Trados Studio and MultiTerm
SDL Knowledge Base
New articles added regularly. Includes tips on licensing and installation and common issues. Subscribe by RSS or follow #sdlkb on Twitter.

Browse the knowledge base for other resources such as FAQs and a glossary
SDL Translation Zone
Links to help on:
Installation and licensing
Logging a support case
SDL Knowledge Base
Online product help
Tips and tricks
Video tutorials

You can browse the Translation Zone for other useful resources and downloads, useful links and the OpenExchange.
Non-technical support: contact SDL

Contact form and live chat for support with purchases, certification and training
SDL Trados YouTube channel
A wide range of help videos
SDL’s Paul Filkin on Twitter
Paul is the Director of Client Communities for SDL Language Technologies.
SDL OpenExchange
Offers useful applications to get more from Studio as well as a number of resources for manuals, guides, AutoSuggest dictionaries, termbases, etc.
SDL QuickStart
SDL new starters forum

Third-party resources & user groups

SDL Trados Studio Manual You can buy this comprehensive manual for Trados Studio 2009 or 2011, written by Mats Linder or
SDL Trados Studio 2009 Handbook (in Polish) By Jerzy Czopik, available by mail order
CATguruEN videos Dominique Pivard’s YouTube videos on Trados Studio
Yahoo Unofficial SDL Trados Usergroup Yahoo user group

multifarious by Paul Filkin Paul Filkin is the Director of Client Communities for SDL Language Technologies
Translation Tribulations Blog by Kevin Lossner
Between Translations Blog by Jayne Fox
Signs & Symptoms of Translation Blog by Emma Goldsmith
My Migration to Trados Studio 2009 Blog by Tuomas Kostiainen about Trados Studio 2009 and 2011
Nora Díaz on Translation, Teaching, and Other Stuff Blog by Nora Díaz


About the author: Jayne Fox is a German to English translator for business, technology and health care. Jayne has a background in science, training, technical writing and management and has been translating professionally since 1996. You can contact her through her website and you can follow her on Facebook or Twitter.


Dec 7, 2012

Terminology collaboration with Google Docs: new twists

A few years ago, I put a notice in this blog about a colleague's interesting use of Google Docs to share terminology with faraway colleagues in a project. Earlier this year I enjoyed a similar collaboration with a Google Docs spreadsheet used to exchange and update terminology on a very time-critical annual report with translators using two different versions of Trados, memoQ and no CAT tools at all.

Sharing information via Google Docs was quite easy, and we were able to configure the access rights without a lot of trouble. But at the time I still had a bit of extra, annoying effort to get the data imported into my working environment for frequent updates.

Tonight another colleague contacted me with basically the same problem. Her client manages data in an Excel spreadsheet, which gets updated and sent out frequently. She already had the idea that this might work better in Google Docs, and I agreed.

But I kept thinking about that annoying update problem....

One can, of course, export Google Docs spreadsheet data in various formats:

I've marked a few of the export ("download") formats which are probably useful for a subsequent import into a translation environment too. But the downloaded data still won't be in the "perfect" format in many cases, and there will be extra steps involved in matching it up to the fields in your term base.

One way to simplify this problem is to create another online spreadsheet in Google Docs and link it to the original, shared spreadsheet. In this second spreadsheet, which is your "personal" copy for use in your favorite tool, you reformat the data so they will export in a form that makes your later import to your tool's termbase easier.

In my case, I use memoQ, so I created a Google Docs spreadsheet with the first row containing the default field names of interest from the CSV export of my memoQ termbase:

I linked the columns in my personal online spreadsheet with the shared spreadsheet using the ImportRange command. It has two arguments, both of which have to enclosed in quotes. The first one (argument #1 above) is the key for the online spreadsheet to be referenced; it is shown in the URL of the online spreadsheet (just look in the address bar of your browser and you will see it). The second one specifies the sheet and the range of cells to copy. I put this formula in one cell and it copied the entire column for me.

I could, if I wanted to, use conditional (IF) statements and other tricks to transform some data in columns of the other sheet and build the semicolon-delimited term properties list (Term_Info) that memoQ uses to keep track of gender, capitalization enforcement, forbidden status, etc. But none of that is needed for simple sharing of terms, definitions and examples for instance.

I simply export my personal Google Docs spreadshit as CSV, then import it into my desired termbase in memoQ. If I have IDs set for the term entries in the online spreadsheet, I could even choose ID-based updates of my local termbase when I do the import.

Those who use other tools, such as Trados, OmegaT or WordFast can set up their spreadsheets and do exports as best suits their needs.

This approach enables you to take source data in nearly any format in an online spreadsheet and rework it for the greatest convenience in the tool of your choice. Although not a "perfect" solution, it is perhaps a convenient one until better resources are commonly available for dynamic, cross-platform translation collaboration.

So what do I recommend my friend to try as a first step? Maybe take the client's latest spreadsheet, copy and paste it into Google Docs and share it with the client and others on the team. Then it's already "up there" for everyone's convenience (local XLSX copies can be downloaded any time), and she can get on with creating a convenient "view" of this shared data in her personal spreadsheet, which can be exported for local use any time. That personal sheet could also be shared (read only access recommended) with other team members using the same translation environment tool.

Dec 5, 2012

Clients get the translators they deserve

A guest post by Valerij Tomarenko 

How can a client benefit from a translator’s advice? How can s/he achieve best results when working with translators? 

Since I studied music and was educated as a musician (apart from graduating from another Russian university as a philologist/translator/foreign language teacher), a music analogy came to my mind: a relationship between composer and performer. They say Bach’s last works were meant neither for instruments nor voices, they were intended to be studied rather than heard. A “normal” composer, however, creates music for a specific instrument/voice or a group of instruments or voices in mind. By studying orchestration, a composer gets to know various instruments and learns how to best use them to produce the desired results. That goes hand in hand with, generally, making life easier for the performer. A composition should be playable, an instrument player fretting over ridiculously complicated fingering is not a good ally. The comparison might be somewhat new, but what I am driving at isn’t: it is common advice for authors of technical or corporate documentation to keep in mind that, for eventual translation, they’d better produce translatable text. Without getting into details of writing conventions or localisation guidelines, I would urge caution on too much corporate lingo or, on the other hand, too heavy, even if seemingly natural, idioms. To translate the German “0815” is not a problem, but please bear in mind that a German “Punkt in Flensburg” would hardly sound that short in any target language (my spellchecker just tried to make a “Punk” out of “Punkt”, but anyway, the most commonplace examples to this effect are not German, but American, e.g. baseball idioms in American everyday language.

I will not discuss the technicalities of preparing documents for translation, since I expect others will do so. But again, another thing which came to my mind has to do with relationships. Kevin’s request to share some ideas and advice coincided with my leafing through the pages of “Ogilvy on Advertising”. The book, first published 30 years ago, still holds true not only for the advertising industry. After all, advertising is about convincing (or call it persuasion) and so is, to a large extent, our translation business (think writing skills). Chapter 6 of Ogilvy’s book is called “Open letter to a client in search of an agency”. Much of his advice is applicable to translators. (I don’t mean translation agencies, rather freelance translators.)

One piece of advice I’d rather quote verbatim:
“Don’t keep a dog and bark yourself. Any fool can write a good advertisement, but it takes a genius to keep his hands off a good one. I had just finished showing a new campaign to Charlie Kelstadt, the Chairman of Sears Roebuck, when his Comptroller came into the room, started to read my copy – and took a fountain-pen out of his pocket. ‘Put that pen back into your pocket’, snapped Kelstadt.” 
Ogilvy’s situation, I am afraid, rings familiar bells for many fellow translators. Whereas you outsource a translation job to a freelancer (or an agency, for that matter), your company may have native speakers of the respective language. (Or your CEO’s family has an au pair from this or that country, of all things.) Sometimes it is a good idea to ask their opinion, but more often than not I, in such a situation, had to correct the correction again and, embarrassing for both sides, explain mistakes. More often than not, there was no need for internal correction or censorship altogether. Trust your translator, if you care about motivation.

“Even the best copywriters are preternaturally thin-skinned”, Ogilvy says. It is true of many translators. So, when explaining things, don’t be overwhelmingly paternalistic. As a rule, experienced freelance translators are both knowledgeable and also capable of thinking out of the box (that is to say they are probably less susceptible to corporate tunnel vision than some of your staff).

As regards motivation, Ogilvy suggests insisting (!) on paying more that what the agency normally charges. “The extra percent won’t kill you... and you will get better service.” I think it also enhances trust and confidence on both sides. Translation is not a commodity. For a serious translator, it is important to feel that the client is well aware of this fact. Very often, when the first (and only) question from a potential client is about my “per unit“ price (words, lines or pages), I’m inclined to ask whether this potential client also considers price to be the most important (or only) reason for his/her own products or services.

And, last but not least, I think that building a longtime relationship with the translator (your very special, not easily replaceable translator) really pays off as s/he is gaining ever more experience and knowledge of your company. In the end it all boils down to the ancient advice about treating your translator as you wish to be treated yourself. It is in the Bible and, as the rabbis say, the rest is commentary.


Valerij Tomarenko is an established colleague for Russian, German and English translation and interpreting based in Hamburg, Germany. His blog, Anmerkungen des Übersetzers, is often a source of useful insight in both German and English as well as of his delightful photography.

As part of a small article I was researching, I asked several colleagues whose professional experience in language services extends far longer and usually deeper than my own if they could summarize their best advice for translation buyers in 50 words or less. My intent was to see what different points these experts chose to emphasize, what they had in common and where they differ. The responses so far are quite interesting and will be shared in various ways in the future. Few have managed to stick to the 50 word brief, and my friend Valerij has been a particularly egregious violator of that concept. But as is so often the case in my exchanges with him, I can't find a word to cut which would not detract from the quality of a message worth sharing, so with his kind permission I have adapted this private correspondence for the blog, because I feel these points are really worth contemplation.
-- Kevin Lossner

Dec 4, 2012

Migrating memoQ segmentation rules to another language variant

As we work with memoQ, many of us optimize our segmentation rules bit by bit to improve the results when importing documents to translate or align. But what do you do when you've worked hard setting up good rules for your usual target language but one day find a need to apply them to another variant of the language? Take all the rules you've spent months fine-tuning for "German" and apply then to "German (Austria)", for example?

The current version of memoQ offers no obvious way to do this. But it's not that hard to "cheat" and save many hours of tedious and unnecessary work.

First, find the ruleset you want to reuse. Segmentation rules can be accessed in three ways:
  • Tools > Resource Console... > Segmentation rules > [language in the drop-down menu]
  • Tools > Options > Default resources> Segmentation rules > [language in the drop-down menu]
  • Project home > Settings > Segmentation rules
Click Export and save the MQRES file somewhere you can find it.

The segmentation rule sets are named like this: <language-variant>#NameOfRuleset.mqres

So for German, for example: ger#MyRuleset.mqres, ger-DE#MyRuleset.mqres, ger-AT#MyRuleset.mqres, etc.

Rename the ruleset appropriately, then open it in Notepad or another text editor:

Then adapt the information in the part marked red here:

Change the text between the language tags particularly. The final result will be something like this:

Save the file. Then go back to the segmentation rules in memoQ in one of the three places listed above.

Click Import new and select your file that you edited.

Make whatever changes you like to the name and description. Click OK.

That’s all. If for some reason you forget to change the language codes in the file, you will get an error message (here I did that by choosing my original file for generic German and tried to import it to Austrian German):

This is not very helpful; it would be much better for memoQ to indicate that the language settings are wrong and perhaps offer to change them. But maybe that's on the Kilgray Roadmap for another day ;-)

Dec 2, 2012

Kilgray's Language Terminal: A Communist plot!

If you type definition: terminal into Google's search field, at the top of the hits you'll see:

Although it's clear that Kilgray's new Language Terminal is extremely useful, it's certainly not the end of the line. As in so many other cases in our profession, where a good translator will look up five definitions for a word and choose the sixth, his own, a very different definition is needed for this service, and it is by no means a final one. What the ultimate definition will be only time and the occasional information leak from Kilgray employees will tell, but I think it will be one well liked even by those who are not fans of memoQ.

Here was the official announcement on the Yahoogroups list for memoQ by the company's chief developer, Gábor Ugray, last Friday:
Hi All,

One announcement is not enough on a day like this. Today we are also officially launching, our first Cloud offering ever.

What are the benefits?

  • Convert InDesign files (even INDD) to mqxlz, and enjoy translating with a live preview
  • After translating in memoQ with a preview, or in any other XLIFF-compliant tool without a preview, get your export back in the original format
  • Review the source text and your translation in PDF format
  • Back up your memoQ projects into the cloud, straight from memoQ. We are giving away 1 GB of storage to you.
  • Share your favorite auto-translation rules or other light resources in the Resource Marketplace. No, it's not an app store to sell: it's a free space for sharing.
  • Create a profile and allow other members to find you
Why is this a beta?
This is the first Cloud offering we are launching. Until we see how this scales up to a growing user base, we are not charging for anything. We are also going to keep the basic service free once the beta is over. If you have any feedback or comments to share, do not spare us!

Signup is now open at

Enjoy! BR,


WTF? I'm not sure what Gábor means by basic service, but I would gladly pay cold  cash (or cash of any other temperature) for this useful service. And free? Even to users of other tools like OmegaT and SDL Trados Studio? Not sure I like that. At least he hasn't revealed the secret to my competitors using other tools that the mysterious MQXLZ format (which reminds me vaguely of a villian's name in an old Superman comic) is really just a ZIP file with the extension changed, and that the XLIFF file can be extracted from it and translated with any tool. I'm certainly not going to help them out by revealing more. I hope SDL plans to respond to this outrage by introducing its own service and charging users a hefty fee and requiring verified competence in SDL Trados MultiTerm before allowing users to sign up. And I want to see it work only as a plug-in the the latest version of SDL Trdos Studio 2011, available on the SDL OpenExchange with a price tag of at least € 299.

I've tested the Language Terminal service myself, particularly for backing up some memoQ projects. Nice. The integration with memoQ 6.2 is excellent and easy to use; just choose the usual backup command under the project list and select the option to save the data to your Language Terminal profile.

PDF previews of InDesign translations are nice; I enjoyed these for years using Ontram, but this goes well beyond the functionality I remember from that high-end corporate tool developed for the likes of Daimler and CLAAS. The dynamic preview created for use in local memoQ projects is a very, very welcome feature, because in most cases, memoQ will not offer a preview of exotic formats. The "trick" for doing that in this case tells me that this might be possible in the future for other formats using a web integration approach like this.

I'm not terribly excited about this "marketplace" thing. The capitalist pig in me is vehemently opposed to giving things away, which is why each reader of this blog pays a hefty monthly subscription fee for the privilege of reading my tips and rants. This silly idea probably reflects the bad attitude of Kilgray CEO Istvàn Lengyel, who poo-pooed the idea of a commercial exchange for Kilgray modeled on the superb OpenExchange offered by his competitor when the suggestion was made at this year's memoQfest. You would think that a young entrepreneur like him would show a little more raw meat spirit. Oh wait. I forgot he's a vegetarian.

Another terrible thing about the Language Terminal beside its enabling of those disloyal enough to want to translate InDesign in tools other than memoQ and its awful Communist approach to a "marketplace" (and oh yes - István has spoken openly of Five Year Plans for Kilgray too!) is that fact that the best features are missing.

That's right. I was hoping to see sharable online translation memories and termbases integrated in memoQ which could be used by the teams of expert translators forming in transparent alliances to end translation agencies' reign of anonymous quality terror, where good but faceless translators are used to bait the client, who is later switched to a monkey translating in the jungles of Burpal. Declaring openly who they are and what they stand for, these allied freelancers, who blatantly sign their work and take responsibility for its usefulness, would be using those integrate features to outcoordinate and outperform the linguistic sausage factories in eastern Europe and India who salivate over the memoQ 6 features for slicing and dicing translatable text and passing it to dehumanized first-come-to-the-cattle-call resources in a sort of virtual assembly line linguistic whorehouse operation.

And when and if we ever do see these Cloud-based collaboration tools for memoQ , those pinkos at Kilgray will probably want to share the wealth and offer access to our enemies using other CAT tools. Next thing you know, they'll be getting endorsed by Obama.


Nov 30, 2012

The Translator's Serenity Prayer

God, give me grace to accept with serenity
        the fools who cannot be helped,
        Courage to charge the things
        which should be charged,
        and the Wisdom to distinguish
        clients from time wasters.

Living one page at a time,
        enjoying one sentence at a time,
        accepting Trados as a pathway to grief,
        taking, as Jerome would,
        this awful text as it is,
        not as I would have it,
        to shape as I would have it,
        trusting that I can make all things right,
        if I render not with MT,
        so the client may be happy with this translation,
        and I supremely happy with payment in net 30 days.

Nov 26, 2012

Coming to terms with MetaTexis and memoQ

I've never dealt with MetaTexis before last night. I had heard the name mentioned, but I have neither the time nor good reason to concern myself with all the myriad technical environments for translation out there except to hope fervently that some day their makers will all grow up and learn to exchange data with each others' tools properly.

But when a colleague mentioned that she was having a few issues trying to migrate her 40,000+ entry termbase from MetaTexis to memoQ, I was intrigued, so I asked her to send me the data in various export formats. I got TBX and some sort of delimited text. Although memoQ currently can't do anything with TBX, I tried reading it into a few other tools (memSource and SDL Trados MultiTerm) to see if I could use them in the migration, but even after tweaking the file a bit I could not get the other tools to digest that alleged standard format, so I gave up and decided to attack the delimited text export.

First stop, Microsoft Excel import:

The data were semi-colon delimited. So far so good. Text qualifier is a quote mark.

When I looked at the data in Excel, it was quickly apparent that there were a number of corrupted records; I assume the export routine had a few hiccups. I also saw that the identifiers for the languages were badly scrambled in places. I don't know how much of this problem might have been inattention by the "data owner", but any hope of separating data by sublanguages went out the window. Fine. Just "French" and "English" then.

There were quite a few data columns to deal with, so I had a look at the headers and did some sorts to see which fields were actually used, how they were used and if they were really important to preserve. In the end, only six fields really mattered:
  • Source_Text
  • Source_Notes
  • Source_Definition
  • Translation_Text
  • Translation_Notes
  • Translation_Definition
I looked a bit more closely and realized that the data owner had used the Notes and Definitions fields interchangeably over the years. Where there was an entry in one, there was none in the other. So using a concatenation formula in Excel, I merged the text from those columns into a single definition field for each language. Then I renamed the headers to make them work for a memoQ terminology import:
  • French
  • French_Def
  • English
  • English_Def
Then I saved as Unicode text and imported into memoQ, right? Maybe in an ideal world or with an ideal data set, but not in this case.

There were funky things to deal with. Synonyms. Non-standard entities. And lots of crap, corrupted record structures that even messed up selection.

I got out my electronic scalpel and performed about an hour's worth of "data surgery", sorting and deleting to clean up most of the messy, useless stuff. Then I replaced the entity code &#34., which I had figured out should be a single quote mark, with a single quote mark. And the delimiter for synonyms, &#59., was replaced by semicolons.

In the course of testing, I discovered that some term records had been duplicated in the definition fields. No idea how that happened, but some of these had synonyms, and this really messed up later steps, so I copied those columns to another column and replaced the semicolons with a placeholder character, then copied the modified definitions column back. This step was only necessary because of problems in about 0.3% of the data.

Then it was time to decompose the definitions. I cut and paste the target term column to the last data column and saved a copy of the sheet as Unicode text. Then I opened it again from within Excel and specified two delimiters:

Then I sorted the data by the separate target term columns to figure out the maximum number of synonyms in the data. There were 21 English synonyms in one case! I named each of the target term column headers "English".

Then I cut and paste the source term (French) column so it was after the last target term column. To keep the data from getting screwed up, I had to put a placeholder in as a substitute for the semicolons to separate synonyms before I saved the data as Unicode text last time. So now I changed those placeholders to semicolons again, saved as Unicode text again and re-opened the file specifying two delimiters as above. Then I repeated the sort procedure to figure out how many French synonyms there might be. One entry had 15 synonyms. I named all the source term columns "French" and saved everything as Unicode text.

With the four column names all set to memoQ defaults for the languages involved, an import into a new termbase worked flawlessly with the defaults. Over 43,000 term entries came in cleanly with their synonym groupings in the entries preserved. The definitions (which were really just explanatory notes of various kinds) were associated with all the terms of their respective languages.

I expect that most cases of data migration from MetaTexis will not require as many tricks as I had to use to clean up the dirty data in this instance. But even such a "worst case" scenario worked out rather well, enabling the translator to test and use her old data in the new working environment.

Score another one for interoperability. Sort of.