Dec 22, 2013

My favorite library: Project Gutenberg

I've been fond of Project Gutenberg since I first became aware of it long, long ago. However, since acquiring an e-book reader I have become especially appreciative of this resource. Time and again it has had exactly what I'm looking for in classic literature, and the portable library I've built with it has been a fine companion in my travels and on long nights when I need good words to send me to sleep.

The recent discovery of Andrew Lang's fairy books has been quite an interesting thing, and when my Portuguese teacher recently recommended José Maria Eça de Queirós as a good author to familiarize myself with dialog, I was delighted to find many of his works available there in the original language.

Why not have a browse yourself if you haven't been to the site for a while, and if you get much out of it as I do, consider making a donation to support this good work.

Dec 12, 2013

In HAMPsTr We Trust?

So many times when I hear the bright and happy predictions of commercial interests spouting nonsense about "translation as a utility" and hoping to feast on the roadkill of communication, who claim the highest of motives and show the basest motivations in their real acts, I hear a saxophone in my mind and a strained voice declaring that some day "they may understand our rage".

Machine pseudo-translation (MpT) and human-assisted machine pseudo-translation (HAMPsTr) are big business for the profiteers offering pseudo-solutions which typically start in the low six figures of investment. "Get on the MT boat or drown!" declared one such profiteer, Asia Online CEO Dion Wiggins at his unfortunate keynote presentation at memoQfest 2012 in Budapest.

It seems that each week a new story line to justify the linguistic lemmings' rush over the cliff appears. Recently I heard for the first time how translators suffer from the "blank page syndrome" (note: as of 25 December 2013 the entire blog with that "blank page" link has disappeared) and need machine generated babble for inspiration. I thought perhaps I was just an odd one, usually struggling with many ways to render a text from German into my native language and trying to choose the best, but experienced colleagues I asked about their fear of blank pages all asked me if I was joking.

This morning another colleague sent me a real screamer:
"Smaller language service providers (LSPs) process fewer words than larger ones... [this] puts them at a disadvantage when it comes to leveraging linguistic assets due to the smaller size of their terminology databases and translation memories (TMs). These less comprehensive language resources limit reuse on subsequent projects or for training statistical machine translation (SMT) software."
The author of that particular bucket of bilge is Don DePalma, head of the Common (Non)sense Advisory, an organization rightly seen as incompetent to interpret even third-grade level mathematics in their discredited report of dramatic rate decreases for translations, which turned out to be an artifact of calculations involving mismatched survey populations. In any case, the idea that small translation agencies or individual translators, who are generally more aware of and concerned with their clients' business are at any disadvantage by not being buried under mountains of monkeyfied mumbo-jumbo from bulk trashlation nearly ruined my keyboard as I spit my coffee laughing. Don deserves an extra Christmas bonus for that transcreation of the truth.

But the best was yet to come:

This inspiring graphic accompanied an article on how to motivate those involved in post-editing MpT in the HAMPsTr process promoted by Asia Online and others. There has been some vigorous and interesting speculation on where that arrow is pointing :-)  The colleague who sent the link to me commented:
An interesting read from a humanitarian perspective. If they need to go to these lengths to "motivate" people, even those who are otherwise happy to swim in the muddy, toxic pond that these LSPs (your definition of the term) have created, one would have thought that they will understand that there is something wrong with their concept and goals. But why let the facts get in the way, I guess.
Indeed, those swimming in the pond do seem to have some real issues, even in cases frequently quoted as a HAMPsTr success. I long ago lost count of how many MpT advocates have told me of the wonderful words at Microsoft and Symantec, nicely extruded from controlled language sources and lovingly shaped into their final sausage form by happy hamsters. But this TAUS presentation by a Symantec insider tells another story:

And further indications that we are all getting mooned by the MpT Emperor can be heard in the excerpts of this recent GALA presentation in Berlin:

Unlike some of my colleagues, I have no fear of being replaced by Mr. Gurgle or any of his online Asian cousins however well-trained. What provokes some rage in me and more than a little concern is the callous dishonesty of the MpT profiteers and their transparent contempt for truth, the true interests of modern business and the health of those involved in language processes.

I have no little sympathy for the many businesses and individuals struggling to cope with the challenging changes in international business communication in the past 20 years. Nor do I feel that MpT has no role to play in communication processes; colleagues such as Steve Vitek have presented clear cases of value for screening of bulk information in legal discovery to identify documents which may need timely human translation and other applications. Kirti Vashee of Asia Online has commented honestly on numerous occasions on his blog and elsewhere about the functional train wreck of most "automated translation" processes one encounters, but still cannot take proper distance from the distortion and scaremongering practiced by the head of his team and others.

I am particularly concerned by the continued avoidance of the very real psychological dangers of post-editing MpT, which were discussed by Bevan and others in the decades before the lust for quick profits silenced discussions and research into appropriate occupational health measures. If Asia Online and others are truly concerned with developing sustainable HAMPsTr processes, then let them fund graduate research in psychology to understand how to protect the language skills and mental function of those routinely exposed to toxic machine language.

All this disregard for true value and truth reminds me so much of my days as an insider in the Y2K programmers' profit orgy: we all knew it was bullshit, but all the old COBOL programmers wanted to take their last chance to score big before they were swept into the dustbin of history. Some 60 years or so after it began, is machine translation ready to assume its place in that bin? The True Believers and profiteers will loudly say no, but at some point the dust will settle, the damage will be assessed, and we will find that the place of MpT is not at all what many imagine it to be today.

Dec 11, 2013

General settings for memoQ TMs

memoQ TM settings are found in the Resource Console, the Options and a project's Settings.
This is a very useful "light resource" which is well worth nearly every user's time.
To define the TM settings to be used in new projects, select a settings configuration under Tools > Options... >  Default resources > TM settings (in the row of icons) by marking its checkbox.

To define the default TM settings to be used in the project you have opened, go to Project home > Settings > TM settings (in the row of icons) and mark the checkbox for the desired project default.

Different settings for individual TMs in a project (for example to set higher or lower match criteria) may be applied by going to Project home > Translation memories, selecting the TM of interest, clicking the Settings command at the right of the window and choosing the settings to apply instead of the project's standard TM settings.

The General settings tab is the same for all currently supported versions of memoQ. Role options are included on another tab in memoQ 2013 R2, and the Project Manager editions of memoQ offer additional possibilities for filtering and/or applying penalties to content on a Filters tab.

Match thresholds
The first value here (minimum) controls the fuzzy percentage below which a match will not be displayed in the translation results pane at the upper right of the working translation window.

The "good match" threshold is relevant to pretranslation (though this is unfortunately not made obvious in the dialog). The default value of 95% is really too high and would only apply to matches with small differences in tags or numbers; since any small difference in words is penalized significantly in memoQ (something I find very helpful, as I can understand more quickly what differences to look for compared to working in Trados). I usually set my "good matches" to 80%.

Not a "good match" according to the memoQ TM default setting
In my work, an alignment penalty, which is a deduction from the match rate of a translation unit created by feeding an alignment to a translation memory, does not make a lot of sense. This is because
  • I almost never send alignments to a TM. Why bother? LiveDocs may be slower in pretranslation, but it provides context matching just like a TM, and you can actually read what you find in a concordance search in its original document context. TMs suck because you do not get the full context for your matching segment and are thus at greater risk for missing information which may be important for a translation. This is especially the case with short match segments.
  • if I happen to be aligning a dodgy translation and want to send it to a TM, I'll put it in a "quarantine TM" which already has its own penalty.
  • on those rare occasions when I might feed an alignment to a TM, it's because the content is going to a user of another CAT tool, and if that person uses Trados or another tool that can read XLIFF files or other available bilingual formats, I'll send the data as that instad, so it can be reviewed and modified more easily before feeding to a TM. This also gives the other person a bilingual reference with document context.
  • alignment for TMs is soooooo 1990s!
User penalties: If you have the misfortune to share a TM with someone whose work you do not trust completely and you want to avoid letting that person's 100% and context match segments slip past you unnoticed, apply a suitable penalty for the level of "risk" that person represents. If you want to be sure that user's content never gets used in a pretranslation and never appears in the translation results pane, apply a whopping big penalty like 80%. Those segments not be shown or inserted but will still be there in a concordance search if you want them.

TM penalties: Sometimes a client provides you with a TM you do not trust completely, or you may have a "quarantine TM" with content of dubious quality. Or I might have a TM with good content in British English but need to deliver a translation in American English. Applying penalties to such TMs will reduce the priority of their matches and prevent 100% matches with inappropriate language from slipping past without more careful inspection. As in the case of user penalties, you can also apply a very large penalty to ensure that matches will never be displayed in the translation results pane or used in a pretranslation but still have the TM content available for concordance searches.

It seems to be a good idea generally to enable the adjustment of fuzzy hits and inline tags. In many (but not all) cases, this will correct small differences in numbers, punctuation, cases and inline tags.

The only significant effect I was able to determine in adjusting the inline tag strictness in my tests was that more permissive settings might count a match with different tags as a full match. While this might meet the requirements of some clients hoping to impose discount schemes, from a quality assurance perspective, this does not seem like a good idea, and I believe it is better to have a strict setting here to draw attention to differences and reduce the chance that errors might be overlooked.

Dec 8, 2013

memoQ TM settings: beware the Kilgray defaults!

memoQ 2013 R2 introduced a very significant change in the management of translation memory data which most users are likely not aware of. However, because the default behavior for information storage in translation memories was changed, it is important to be aware of this difference and what to do before your data are unacceptably compromised.

The screenshot above shows several different translations stored in my TM for the sentence in the second segment. In previous versions of memoQ, only one translation would be stored with the way this translation memory was configured. However, in memoQ 2013 R2, the role of the person editing the translation becomes an important part of the "context", and as a result, multiple translations can be stored for different roles. Personally, I find this a rather useless feature, because if I want to know previous translations for a segment, I consult the row history using the context menu. But I understand how in some processes, it may be desirable to maintain a record of translations entered by the translator and the first and second reviewer.

I have no use for these older translations, especially as these may contain errors (as seen in the example of the third entry in the screenshot). If I am proofreading my translation in a "reviewer" role and make changes, I want to overwrite the original entry in my TM and avoid the chance that its errors will be propagated in later work.

To avoid the problems that can result from this redundancy and preservation of errors in the translation memory, as of build 6.8.6 it is necessary for users to explicitly opt out of the current Kilgray TM settings defaults and create their own custom settings.

TM settings are "light resources" which can be managed in four places:
  • The Resource Console,where settings can be created, edited, imported, exported, etc.
  • The Options (Tools > Options... > Default resources > TM settings), where the default for new projects can also be set
  • Project Settings (Project home > Settings > TM settings) in a specific project, where the default settings for the current project can be set
  • Project home > Translation memories > (TM) > Settings where alternative TM settings can be specified for a particular translation memory selected in  project. This would be the case there you want to apply a special set of penalties to the content of that TM, for example.
The last tab of the default TM settings dialog looks like this:

To avoid the trouble of multiple, role-based entries being written to a TM, settings must be created in which the option to Store modifying user's role in the TM entries in not selected, and these custom settings must be applied to the primary translation memory in the project (by default or explicit selection).

Here's the "fast path" for staying out of trouble:
  1. Go to Tools > Options > Default resources > TM settings and if you do not already have custom TM settings to edit, select and clone the default settings. Give them a suitable name like "My Own TM Settings".
  2. Click the Roles tab and unmark the setting to store the user's role in TM entries.
  3. Click OK.
  4. Ensure that the checkbox next to these custom settings is marked so they will be applied to all new projects. Then click OK to exit the options.
  5. In any currently open project to which the desired settings have not been applied, go to Project home > Settings > TM settings and select the desired settings as the default by marking the corresponding checkbox.
Multiple entries written to the TM when the roles are included will not be eliminated after the TM settings are corrected. They must be explicitly removed by editing the translation memory.

I hope that in the future Kilgray will reconsider these troublesome new default settings and make the new possibilities "opt-in" values in custom TM settings. But for now, users must actively change their settings and defaults if they want to avoid role-based additional TM entries. (The current version of the memoQ Help describes roles as being disabled here by default. Would that this were so!)

You can, of course, make other useful adjustments to your custom TM settings, such as defining what a "good" match is (for pre-translation) or adjusting the tag matching behavior or applying various kinds of penalties to reduce match values for content which might have quality problems. The memoQ Help offers guidance on these options.

Even after the settings are "fixed", "existing damage" in a TM caused by the storage of unwanted, role-based information is not repaired. Any messes will have to be cleaned up in the rather inadequate TM editor in memoQ or in an external TMX maintenance tool. At the present time, there is no "easy option" to clean up a large number of erroneous or redundant translations stored because of this role setting. This case unfortunately underscores the woefully inadequate maintenance facilities for translation memory resources in the current version of memoQ. Perhaps some of the sophisticated options developed for Kilgray's TM Repository will finally trickle down in some way in an integrated option with Language Terminal or some sophisticated filtering and editing options will be added directly to the desktop product so that users can finally maintain their TM data in a reasonable way. memoQ is, overall, the best option available to us for project work in most cases, and I recommend it to colleagues because I know they will be able to do most ordinary tasks with a minimum of grief and calls for help (or expressions of anger) directed to me. But in 2013 it is ridiculous that my ability to manage my TM in my tool of choice is inferior to what I could do when I started using Déjà Vu as my CAT tool 13 years ago. Please join me in encouraging Kilgray to raise their game - soon - with respect to translation memory maintenance by writing to and expressing your need for better data management! (And more sensible default TM settings, of course.)

It looks like this default problem may end with the 6.8.6 build. One of the key people involved with memoQ and its features has stated that "After the [next] update, the default TM settings resource will have 'Store modifying user’s name in TM' unticked." Excellent.

For cases where there may already be data problems from older, erroneous entries being retained, the following workaround was suggested:
  • Export to TMX
  • Start up 6.5 and import into an empty TM
In the process, memoQ 2013 (version 6.5) will ignore the role information in the TMX, and entries with the same source will not create duplicates; translations with a later timestamp will be preserved in the TM if there are duplicates in the TMX.

This still doesn't change the fact that we need better means of maintaining our data in memoQ, but it is good that once again, Kilgray has responded quickly to important concerns of its users and is on the way to solving the problem.

Dec 2, 2013

Segmentation in memoQ server projects

Segmentation difficulties are often one of the most troublesome aspects of working with translation environment tools. Learning to configure segmentation rules correctly and applying that knowledge can save many hours of wasted time in alignments and translations and avoid filling translation memory resources with garbage from fractured translations of partial sentences with missing verbs, subjects and whatnot.

The usual alternative remedy for inadequately configured segmentation rules which lack the segmentation exceptions needed for abbreviations, for example, is to use the "join" function (Ctrl+J), and sometimes the split function (to manage very long, unwieldy clauses such as one might find in a patent text, and the join the parts again later).

There are situations where joining and splitting of segments is blocked. This is the case with any file which is part of a view, for example; the view must be deleted before segments can once again be joined or split. Segmentation changes are also not possible in a server project which has not been set up to allow them.

There are several options or documents available to project managers when setting up  memoQ server project. But to enable translators to correct unfavorable segmentation, there is really only one choice:

If Desktop documents (no web translation) is selected, then on the dialog page which follows, changes in segmentation can be enabled:

If a project manager does not configure a project to allow this, for example because a document is being split between multiple translators (which does not allow for segmentation changes for technical reasons), the full responsibility must be assumed by the project manager for any segmentation issues. The imported documents should be examined carefully, and if any problems are observed, the segmentation rules should be modified and the documents re-imported. Doing otherwise may unavoidably result in garbage being written to the project's translation memory.

This is a very important point for memoQ trainers to emphasize when they are teaching users of the memoQ server to set up projects. Segmentation topics should be covered thoroughly, and the potential for bad results should be understood clearly if translators are given badly segmented documents they cannot fix. Project managers should also be encouraged to avoid restricting translators options in ways which are likely to harm the quality of the results and make parts of the translation unfit for later re-use.

A good rule of thumb is to choose the desktop documents option for projects always unless there are very urgent reasons not to do so. In this way, you will avoid upsetting your translators by forcing unmanageable, fractured sentence fragments on them, and you will be assured of better quality translation memory resources.

Gratefulness and respect

I have to thank my Romanian colleague Laurentiu Constantin for sharing a link to a TED lecture by the Benedictine monk David Steindl-Rast. I lost my taste for the TED material for the most part some time ago; most of it is rather lightweight cardboard wisdom or even crappy pseudoscience, and some may consider this old man's insights and his suggestion that it is not the happy who are grateful but rather the grateful who are happy to belong in the former category.

But as I walked my dogs back tonight from their evening routine in the park, I thought about the puzzle of some people I have known in my life who have such wonderful gifts and opportunities... and how much misery some of them create for themselves, their families and their wider circles. Misery is a popular subject with some in our circles of translation, and it's easy enough to identify persons, companies or technologies to stand in the roles of greater or lesser Satans, and the facts and arguments behind some of the finger pointing are sometimes clear and well-grounded.

If we stand firm-stanced and triumphant in the field, our dragons slain and scattered in pieces at our feet, will we be happy, and for how long? Are we grateful for a new opportunity or insight or are we more concerned with missed opportunities past, the prospect of failure or the cost of late understanding?

There was a passing comment from the old monk somewhere after the 12-minute mark in which he made an interesting contrast between equality and equality of respect. The former is difficult, sometimes impossible and probably even often undesirable to achieve. But the latter, I believe, is very much in the grasp of all, and it might go a long way toward the bad conditions for which we often call for some sort of "equality" as a remedy.

One of the greatest problems I see in current controversies in translation which involve crowdsourcing, machine pseudo-translation (MpT) and machine pseudo-translation post-editing, the creeping deprofessionalization and demonetization promoted by Translators Without Borders or similar programs and their well-paid corporate advocates et cetera is the lack of respect shown for individuals, their personal interests and health and their very necessary capacity for useful, sustainable contribution.

But equally troubling sometimes is how easy it is to forget the importance of respect and dehumanize those with whom we disagree. Stephen Fry explored the use of language as an enabler of otherwise unimaginable awfulness, and I think the historical record largely supports his analysis. So I think that those who would stigmatize persons with legitimate reservations about the viability and desirability of machine pseudo-translation in many of the fields where some would apply it by calling them "haters and naysayers" or comparing them to Tea Party political fanatics should take some more care with their choice of words in the service of their paymasters.

I think it is also good to remember that even some of the most damaging influences in our field are not devils, even if there does seem to be a lot of brimstone in their choice of deodorant sometimes. And if their devilish intents require appropriate actions in response, we should not deny ourselves the opportunity to look for some common ground to temper our actions or at least our pride in a successful action.

And if it all goes to shit, I hope that I can still find the quiet to appreciate and be grateful for a warm paw in my hand, the ache in the joint of my index finger which reminds me that I have a hand to grasp a cup, the light acid bite of juice passing over my tongue, the heat of my fire on a cold December night and a well-chosen word from my head or that of a friend.

Nov 30, 2013

The state of the upgrade: memoQ 2013 R2

The memoQ 2013 release started off on the wrong foot with me in many ways. I was deeply disappointed by the features that were previewed in Budapest at the last memoQfest, and I was even less happy after I saw what a hash had been made of one of the features I use most: comments. In fact, I wrote a rather annoyed blog post about that not long after the release. There was a lot of talk about "game-changing innovation", but frankly I really could not see it. My translating colleagues asked me if it was worth it to upgrade, and aside from my usual warnings about the need to wait for at least 2 or 3 months after any release for it to mature and stabilize, I just could not find any compelling arguments for a freelance translator to move from the stable, excellent 6.2 version to the rather dodgy 6.5 version, or "memoQ 2013" as it was rechristened.

Almost on the usual schedule, however, two months later the bugs were largely sorted out, the initial mistakes in the comment feature redesign were well fixed, and I no longer saw the memoQ 2013 release in the same dim light, but could actually see some benefits for my freelance colleagues to upgrade to that version and no actual harm in doing so. And as I got to know the fuzzy term matching feature better and saw how it helped me deal with typo-laden source documents or the usual spelling chaos of German technical writers, I began to see some very compelling value in memoQ 2013 for translators.

Most of the "game changers" talked about in May actually arrived a month ago with Release 2 of memoQ 2013. I did my best to lower expectations for this release, not because I think it is crap, but because I think this is one of the best CAT tool version upgrades I have seen in 13 years, and I knew it would need the usual time to mature. I think by the end of the year this version will have so much to offer that I would rather not have people stressing over the small stuff that I am confident will be fixed well.

However, I decided to live dangerously, and I switched over all my production work to use this version even before the official release. The first few weeks were not fun with all the little quirks I discovered and duly reported, but I encountered nothing data-destroying or really shocking, mostly just housekeeping details like somebody forgetting to vacuum the rug after gutting the whole house and giving it a nice remodel.

One month after the official release, memoQ 2013 R2 is far more reliable than I remember any memoQ version being one month after release. There has been steady refinement in its features, and I continue to discover hidden gems that I sometimes suspect most of the Kilgray team aren't even aware of yet because so much was added and changed, but not in a way that disrupted older work processes. I have a long shopping list of refinements that I think should be made to new features like the TM search tool (which has only actually worked on my system since the release of the 6.8.5 build about a week ago) or that ground-breaking monolingual review feature which (will probably be the next big CAT feature to copy), but even the new features I consider rather immature are already looking pretty damned good. I can't guarantee that this release can be trusted for all your work right now (though it actually seems pretty good to me right now), but since it can be safely installed in parallel with older versions, I definitely recommend taking a look and joining the conversation on refinements still needed. I think Kilgray has been very responsive to user feedback in this round, and I can't say I am anything but encouraged by what I have seen in the last month.

One very exciting change for me in the current build (6.8.6) is that the rather risky non-optional export of target text comments with DOCX files has been sorted out very nicely. The solution seems a little strange to me right now, but it's a great step forward with some excellent possibilities.

When I saw those "severity levels" added to the commenting features in memoQ 2013 (6.5), I had very little good to say about them. I still don't think much about how they are named and wish I could choose my own labels, but now I can only applaud their usefulness. Why? Because the addition of the five checkboxes above has given me the control I want over comments to be included in an exported translation of a DOCX file. I can cleanly separate the comments which are notes to myself from those for my project partners and comments for my customers. This is very helpful.

I do think it is odd that this control was placed at Tools > Options > Miscellaneous > Translation when the comment exports (as far as I know) only affect DOCX files, but if there are plans to extend this feature to other exported formats, then this makes sense. I would like to see similar filtering controls for the ordinary view filters (on that last tab where comment and tag filtering criteria can be specified) and for comment inclusion in a bilingual RTF export. Either of these would be an enormous help to my frequent work processes, because I use a lot of comments intended for different people, and sorting these out cleanly can be laborious.

In recent weeks I have been working on the new edition of my memoQ tips book and taking a very close look at "corners" of the software that I suspect very few have time or inclination to look in. And I've had days when it really felt like Christmas has come early. One discovery after another of nice little refinements, lots of incremental improvements, which added together give a total with what I feel is a lot of value. I'm writing way too many private thank-yous to some of the people at Kilgray for what I see as excellent new directions even if I am inclined to argue over some of the details.

Since the release of memoQ 6.2 and its follow-ups with the bilingual text/Excel filter, there has been such a steady flow of useful improvements to help individual translators work better that those who claim that all the effort of development has been spent catering to the corporate sausage-making interests of the low-paying cattle call crowd simply haven't been paying attention. Or they have been confused by Kilgray's occasionally appalling failure to organize their messages properly for different interest groups. If you're talking to a big group of freelance translators and start discussing "great server features to monitor your translators' productivity", don't expect blown kisses and showers of rose petals. Sometimes it's obvious that the makers of the tool don't always understand the importance of what they have created for our work. Well, why should they? We're the ones doing it. But I tell you, right now there is a lot more gold for individual translators in the memoQ mine than anyone realizes. That goes for me too. I am surprised by fat new nuggets I find almost every week.

Do I care that so much effort is spent on developing cutting edge project management features for memoQ translation servers, even ones that I think can be abused in some pretty awful ways by some companies whose business practices I detest? Well yes I do... I think it's great. Besides, I can actually come up with nice uses of those awful features. You can do a lot of things with a cutting-edge: chop up a tasty salad... or the local nursery school. Blame the fool, not the tool.

Kilgray has avoided the disastrous errors committed by Atril in the last decade as their market mis-focus and disastrous failure to get the maintenance revenue needed to fix and develop features steadily eroded the ability of its loyal users to cope with a changing market. There was nearly a complete failure to compete for the business of translation agencies and corporate and government translation departments. And the solutions that prevailed in those quarters were mostly rather awful. I watched whole departments of Siemens traumatized by the disastrous Trados Teamworks, which made a number of those in the translation team of the medical products division look forward to retirement.

Kilgray has steadily built its business in the markets ignored by Atril a decade ago and in doing so has secured its future far better and ensured the funding of a truly remarkable series of improvements in the four and a half years I have been using memoQ. And now... when I look at the features of the recent SDL Trados 2014 release I see good things that I have known from other tools for a long time for the most part, nice to have really, but as I stifle a yawn I wonder if it all really has to be so complex since I'm not depending on consulting or training for SDL to pay my bills. And then I get back to memoQ and keep getting rocked by the "wow factor" as I find useful new things while trying to concentrate and get a job done. memoQ 2013 R2 is one of the worst offenders I've seen in a long time for its very real threats to make my work a lot easier and more fun!

Nov 24, 2013

Help!!! online for memoQ

Many are unaware of the fact that the Help files for various memoQ editions are available online in their most current versions. There it is also possible to give feedback on the quality of information, indicating errors found or other shortcomings or letting the team at Kilgray know that a particular explanation was very helpful.

On the whole, Kilgray has excellent documentation, and the Help files are very good compared to what I have seen with other software (in any field), but with the rapid pace of development, it is an enormous challenge to keep the information updated and relevant to the major interest groups using memoQ. So please, if you find problems when accessing the most current help files online, use the link at the top right of the page to call attention to the difficulty. The Support team is very responsive, and this will ensure that the quality of information remains at a level which serves everyone well.

The URL for the latest full help file for memoQ 2013 R2 (including the Project Manager edition) is in English and in German.

Currently no help is available in other languages, just the QuickStart (aka "thick start") guide and whatever you find in third-party blogs and other pages in Portuguese, Spanish, French, Russian and other languages.

Nov 22, 2013

memoQuickie: keyboard shortcuts for migrants (updated)

(PM - Pro - 2013R2 - 2013 - 6.2 - 6.0 - 5.0)

You can adapt memoQ keyboard shortcuts to your personal preferences or to be ergonomically compatible with other translation environments tools you use frequently for better productivity and reduced risk of errors.

Although keyboard shortcuts can be managed in the Resource Console, it is more useful to do so under Tools > Options… > Keyboard shortcuts, because that is the only place where a given set of keyboard shortcuts can be selected for use. Marking the checkbox for a list in the dialog shown above will make it the active one.

Look carefully at the keyboard shortcuts available in memoQ. Not all of these commands are found in menus (for example, the shortcut for quick search with selected text in a translation grid, Ctrl+Shift+F by default). To examine a set of keyboard shortcuts, select it and click Edit to show the list.

To change a keyboard shortcut, select the value in the Shortcut key column of the editing dialog and press the new key combination.

Nov 20, 2013

memoQuickie: fixing segmentation with goofy product and company names

The insistence by some companies to brand themselves and their products with names whose capitalization violate the usual rules of a language can cause segmentation difficulties for translators working with translation environment tools.

To correct this difficulty in memoQ, find the segmentation rules for the language in question and edit them.

On the Custom lists tab of the segmentation rule set, select the #cap# list and add the troublesome name (such as iPhone, iPad or memoQ). By adding the names to this list, you are essentially defining them as "capital letters"; if "memoQ" is in the list, then segmentation will also work for "memoQuickies". Then reimport the file using that rule set:

Nov 18, 2013

memoQuickie: filtering shortcut for translations

When I'm working on a text and want to see how a certain term or phrase in the source or target text is used throughout the translation - "Teilaufgabe" for instance:

I can select the text and use the keyboard shortcut

to automatically copy that text in quotes to the search box and filter:

If no text is selected and I use the keyboard shortcut, the cursor will move to the search box for the source or target text, depending on where it was. Click the red X filter icon to the right of the search boxes to show all segments again.

Nov 5, 2013

Proofreading LiveDocs bilinguals, recycling versions in memoQ

(These tests were performed with memoQ 2013 R2 but should, in principle, work the same in any version of memoQ 6.0 or later.)

I really like memoQ's versioning features, and I use the X-Translate function fairly often when a document I'm translating has been updated or a new version comes sometime later. However, I don't keep documents in my projects forever. I use "container projects" for particular clients or subject domains so that I don't have to keep reattaching the same translation memories, terminologies and LiveDocs corpora and various light resources (non-translatables, autocorrect lists, segmentation rules, etc.) all the time. These can get rather full, so I send my old translations off to a LiveDocs corpus after a while. And then if a new version of a document shows up, well... I'm sort of out of luck if I want to use the X-Translate function with the previous version.

Or so I thought. And then a friend rang me and asked how she can export a LiveDocs alignment she did to an RTF bilingual file to make it more convenient to proofread in Microsoft Word and pass on to one of her partners with tracked changes. With that the answer to both problems was clear.

Select the corpus and the file in it to export:

Click Export and choose a location in which to save the MQXLZ file:

In the Translations window of any memoQ project with the correct source and target language settings, select Import and choose your MQXLZ file:

After the file exported from LiveDocs has been imported as a translation file, it can serve as "version 1" for a new file version to be translated using the Reimport document and X-translate features. It does not matter that the file types are different. A bilingual RTF file can also be exported for external correction and commentary.

Here is an example of an exported bilingual RTF file with changes tracked. The changes do not have to be accepted before the bilingual file is re-imported to update the translation using the Import command.

Here is the updated translation:

Changed are marked with blue arrows. Only text changes were implemented in this case, no format changes such as italic text, because the XLIFF file does not support WYSIWYG text formatting. (MQXLZ is a Kilgray-renamed ZIP-package with XLIFF and a chocolate surprise inside.)

Now I've got a new version of my text to translate in a DOCX file. I use the Reimport document function, answer No to the dialog so I can select the new version at a different location:

I'm curious what the differences from the original text are, so I use the History/reports command in the Translations window to find that out:

Then using Operations > X-Translate in the working window, followed by pretranslation to get the changed "exact matches" (like "Aussehen und Gewicht" above) and the fuzzy matches, I end up with this:

If you make it a point to store your important versions in a LiveDocs corpus, this procedure will allow you to recover your archived texts and re-use them for more controlled, reference-based translation. It would be nice, of course, if some day Kilgray would enable specific LiveDocs files to be used as the basis of a reference translation, perhaps even scanning a corpus or a set of corpora to identify the best-matching document or documents. It would also be nice if bilinguals stored in LiveDocs could be exported to other formats and perhaps even be updated with something like an exported bilingual RTF. However, those bilinguals can simply be imported directly to a LiveDocs corpus as new documents, and any corrections made to a document in the Translations list can be sent back to LiveDocs using the relevant command in the Translations window.

Nov 3, 2013

Kilgray training resources: is this what you need?

Some years ago I was relaxing at an informal occasion with one of Kilgray's directors, who expressed concern that the growing number of features might lead to confusion among users and obscure the basic simplicity of memoQ, which at the time was the company's only product. I think version 3.5 or 4.0 was the current release at the time of our chat. I disagreed with him at the time, because compared to other tools at the time, memoQ was easier to understand, more ergonomic than any of the leading tools. It still is.

But as most users of the software know, things have gotten a lot more complicated since then. As memoQ has taken a forward position in the market for translation environment tools, many features have been added (by necessity one could argue) to accommodate various interest groups. Some of these features I find very good and useful, others inspire a response that cannot be expressed in polite company, because they support server workflows which I personally find exploitative and offensive in the hands of some companies. But any tool can be used for good or bad purposes, and one of my favorite tools for planning my time accurately - the homogeneity analysis - is sometimes abused by Linguistic Sausage Producers to put further economic pressure on individual translators, yet I would not wish it to go away.

Many, many features to master for a wide range of work challenges. Even the so-called "experts" often don't have a clear overview. This problem is, of course, common to almost any popular software application: the situation with SDL Trados Studio is similar, and look at Microsoft Word, my God. An "expert" might understand 10% of Word's features.

Kilgray, it must be said, does try to go the extra mile and provide information to users in many ways so that they can work effectively and avoid frustration when navigating the sometimes tricky paths one must follow in a complex project. Each month the company offers free webinars, and recordings of these are available for later reference in most cases. There is also a knowledgebase (which is quite a challenge to keep up to date given the software's rapid pace of development). The company has also produced a number of shorter instruction videos. The Kilgray YouTube channel has a wide mix of material, including some recordings of past conferences, which are not always easy to understand but which contain a lot of interesting and useful material for some groups. There is also an extensive collection of user guides and white papers on the Kilgray site.

More recently Kilgray as taken its first steps with integrated e-learning, adopting the Moodle platform popular with many educational institutions. I think this is a very interesting new direction; since late spring I have been researching and testing such platforms myself, and I expect very good things to come of this in the future.

The first Kilgray e-learning course was a memoQ basics course, consisting of ten recorded PowerPoint lectures, each about 10 to 15 minutes long. There is a short review quiz at the end to give learners some feedback on what they have retained, and a certificate is offered for those who get a certain number of questions right. Although this course structure uses only a small part of the potential of the Moodle platform, it is easier to navigate and find particular information than it might be in a webinar, for example. The basics course is free to any memoQ user with a current support contract and is worth a look. Others can take the course for a fee of €90 (which is close enough to the cost of annual support that you might as well update your contract and enjoy the updates it includes). Feedback and suggestions should be sent to to help in the planning of further courses to help users.

More recently, another Moodle course was published for project managers working with the memoQ server. I know from my own experiences as a consultant and someone who occasionally has to deal with the frustrations of misconfigured server projects set up by my clients that there is a real need for better training for those who work with the memoQ Server. Many of my clients who have adopted this solution have had very little prior experience with CAT tools at all, and given the many pressures of a production environment, they may find visual media a more effective form of support than "RTFM".

The structure of the PM training course is similar to that of the memoQ basics course: ten recorded PowerPoint lectures in English. There is also a quiz at the end. The course is available free to all licensed memoQ server users, who should contact their Kilgray support representative to arrange access.

As the screenshot above indicates, Kilgray has moved its e-learning resources to Language Terminal, and along with all the other plans for that platform, there are many under consideration to expand the scope and quality of learning resources available, not only for Kilgray's products, but perhaps for other knowledge which can contribute to their successful use in the complex world of real projects.

What is your experience so far with Kilgray's training resources? What has worked for you? What has not? What kind of resources do you think would help you and those with whom you work to master the challenges of your daily routine?

Nov 2, 2013

Games freelancers translate

ames are no longer a big part of my world despite years spent collecting, playing and developing them ages ago. In the world of translation, I am an interested observer, fascinated a little by the technical peculiarities I hear of in that domain as well as what appears to be a diversity of opinion and working methods even greater than one finds in my familiar areas of work.

I always enjoy a close look at the working processes of colleagues and clients; often I learn new things from the observation, and I like to ask myself as I see each stage what approach I might take or whether there are changes in the available tools which might make a process more efficient.

An Italian freelance team (leader?) put together a series of seven YouTube videos showing how jobs are prepared and distributed, as well as some particulars of their translation process and QA. The main working tool is Kilgray's memoQ - one of the 6-series versions it seems - as well as the Italian version of Dragon Naturally Speaking and Apsic Xbench, which also make a brief appearance. Altogether 22 minutes of show and tell, which I find mostly interesting and recommend as a nice little process overview.

I've made a YouTube playlist compilation here so it is easier to view the clips in sequence, since I had a little trouble navigating them myself in the somewhat random YouTube suggestion menus. I'm not embedding them here, because the interface for navigating a playlist is much easier to cope with on YouTube itself.

I wish there were more overviews like this available for common translation workflows in other areas as well, such as patent translation, financial report translation in the midst of the "silly season", web site translation or just about anything else. It's doubtful that any of these would betray great trade secrets, but they might offer clients and prospects a little more realistic view of what some might think involves little more than "retyping in another language".

Some content notes on the individual videos of the playlist:

#1 Discusses background research and style guides in the team's approach

#2 Covers the import of the source files (Excel) and the selection of ranges

#3 Term extraction

#4 Statistics, handoff packages and sending out the jobs with the project management system

#5 Creating views of multiple files, voice recognition in Italian, concordances and term lookups

#6 Receiving translated project packages; text to speech reviewing!

#7 QA in memoQ, export to XLIFF for final QA in Apsic Xbench

Oct 28, 2013

Want a revolution? Try memoQ 2013 Release 2.

OK, so I'm exaggerating a bit. And even though the new version of memoQ was officially released today by Kilgray, it really is still beta software. But damned good beta. I expect that there will be more of interest to individual translators added in this version of memoQ than in any other version I've seen up to now. Lots of T's to cross and i's to dot still, but there is great promise, and it's worth having a look now at the future of memoQ.

I'm not talking about changes to the memoQ Server. There are lots of those in this version, and for a change many of them actually seem to be helpful to translators working on the server and less focused on slicing and stuffing linguistic sausage faster like many of the 6.x server features introduced. The rollout webinar with István Lengyel and Florian Sachse of Kilgray showed enough of why memoQ Server users should be pleased. But they could have filled the hour and three quarters with nothing but presentations of new or improved functions for the rest of us and still not run out of material. Since I still have a project to finish tonight, I'll just hit a few of the highlights that I'll probably return to later as the features stabilize and are truly ready for productive work.

Language recognition
memoQ now intelligently recognizes the language(s) of the source text. This is a small convenience in setting up projects perhaps, but for those occasions when a source language has many passages in another language or more than one other language, these other language segments can be identified automatically, copied source to target and locked. I can think of more than a few patent dispute translations where this would have been helpful.

Startup Wizard
A new feature under the Help menu gives a quick, friendly guided tour of important settings that are often overlooked that are hard to find for new users and many experienced ones. This is actually one of my favorite new features and possibly the best help I've seen yet for making a better start with the software.

Better Microsoft Word spelling integration
Custom dictionaries can now be imported from Microsoft Word with greater ease. Users can now also choose Microsoft Word for dynamic marking of possible spelling errors (unknown words). This is a good thing for those of us who hate Hunspell. Oh, and those pesky doubled words are caught now.

More stuff with Microsoft Word...
like exporting tracked changes between translation versions to a DOCX file (sans formatting I think), exporting target comment to a DOCX file (alas! in writing the specification Kilgray failed to consider that one might want to select which comments get exported and possibly suppress all the comments, but I'm told this will be remedied quickly), font substitution in DOCX files (this was a major WTF feature for me, but if I understood correctly, there is some way I can use this to protect text formatted a certain way, such as code in a programming guide - if that's true, this is cool) and...

the TM lookup tool,
an external application which runs in Microsoft Word and any other environment and allows you to look up text copied to the Clipboard in selected memoQ TMs. Too bad they didn't include termbases in this new feature. Yet.

New filters and processes
like direct import of InDesign files with a preview using the free online Language Terminal integration, Adobe InCopy and some file formats that must be pretty damned geeky because I've never heard of them.

Why am I excited about
a plain text view which is about as exciting as lukewarm, unspiced pea soup. Well, because it's absence has been driving me nuts for years now. It's in this version.

Meanwhile, back at the termbase
great things are happening with new import options that are still a wee bit buggy but will get very good very soon. Until now memoQ could only import terms as TMX and delimited text. New options include Excel (at last!), MultiTerm XML and TBX. It was child's play for me to tweak a couple of TermStar MARTIF exports from STAR Transit to import those terms, because TBX is a dialect of MARTIF and STAR's MARTIF is very close to TBX. Extra effort? About 2 minutes of search and replace so I'm hoping Kilgray will go the extra five yards and touch this import option down.

The addition of the MultiTerm XML import option means that memoQ users can now roundtrip data from memoQ to partners using SDL MultiTerm and back for termbase updates. Unfortunately at the moment, the only meta data transferred in the import is the definition field, but efforts are in progress to support at least the MultiTerm fields memoQ exports to XML with Kilgray's own definition. That was simply forgotten at specification time (oops). But still, this will be serious headache relief for those of us who work in teams with SDL Trados users and want to share terminology in the most effective ways.

Is that all?
No. This new version of memoQ is like a very messy Christmas where one can easily lose the overview of hat's under the tree with all the wrapping paper and bits of ribbon cluttering the floor. As it gets cleaned up, we'll all notice a good bit more, and I suspect that Santa's Hungarian and German helpers will be slipping a few more things under the tree that they might forget themselves until some user trips over them. There has been so much effort put into consolidation and improvement of existing features that it's simply too much to keep track of. I've made a list and checked it more than twice and still find things to add. But I'll end with another look at something I've already blogged about, that groundbreaking

Monolingual Project and TM Update
with edited files in any target format. It still has a lot of little quirks, especially with some formats, but here I expect a lot of improvements. I've made a little demonstration video and put it on YouTube; it shows the reimport of edited translations to update the translated file and the TM in memoQ, and it shows two different ways to look at tracked changes before revealing the dark secret of Row History Recovery which I think Kilgray didn't realize was possible. Well, damnit, they should have made it a feature with a button anyway.

(View this in full screen mode by clicking the icon at the lower right of the video window.) 

Oh yes, and one more cool little thing about this release that I forgot to mention...

... the quickstart shortcut to creating memoQ projects
in the context menu by right-clicking on a file. I'm not much into single-file projects any more and prefer to use "container" projects for customers or categories instead, but it's still a nice little addition that can save time once in a while: