Aug 31, 2013

The Miracle of Late Language Translation and Modern Quality

This morning a colleague was kind enough to share a link to a thoughtful essay by Italian to English translator Wendell Ricketts, whom I have long considered to be one of the professionals among us with the clearest insight into some of the practical and philosophical problems of current translation practice. In his article Please mind the gap: defending English against 'passive' translation, Wendell describes the train wreck of unprofessional translation into one's later acquired languages quite well.

I particularly like how he distinguishes the cases of limited distribution languages and French, Italian, German and Spanish (FIGS, but be careful before you eat them... dogs have urinated on the low-hanging fruit). There are also some interesting statistics shared, such as
"An average of 59% of ProZ translators into English from Spanish, German, or French are not native-English speakers."
There's an old saying in German about how even with a golden ring an ape remains an ugly creature, and those translating into a language acquired in school or in bed who assume that revisions by a "native speaker" will make the result "all better" would do well to remember that. I've seen what they consider to be acceptable results often enough, and I often see no ugly ape there but at best a gut pile from one which has been too long in the sun :-)

Of course, in an age when charlatans work the conference routes selling snake oil and machine translation "miracles" and conjure quality in a bottle with metrics received on faith from technocrats with little understanding of real language, and presumed reputable purveyors of translation assistance technologies sprinkle themselves liberally with these elixirs and exude their perfume, Wendell's commentary is most likely to be dismissed with a knowing smirk and a learnèd discourse on fit-for-purpose quality and customer satisfaction.

I smile with some pleasure when I hear such Wise Words as low-grade linguistic sausage purveyors and their suppliers would have us believe. There is a certain economic dynamic in the circles of fantasy fandom which may lead them to conclude that they are on the right path, as an individual lemming might think with the comfort of the crowd around him.

Until there comes the cliff on which the skeptical competition will stand and look down on the remains of those who trusted in Common Sense Advice and translators without native language mastery of their target language for critical communication with customers and prospects.

Aug 24, 2013

Games agencies play, Part 1: "basic information" for Google searches

The other day a fellow freelancer called me up, irate to learn that a translation agency owner in her country had appropriated one of her ideas and literally taken her words from an online interview to represent his services as something they probably are not.

This started quite a discussion about some of the tactics we and others have observed in the trench warfare being waged for business in some segments of the market. It's not often I see egregious cases of plagiarism like the one I was shown two days ago, but there are plenty of sneaky moves and not-so-sneaky ones employed to try to get those little prospect fish in a world wide net online.

So I've decided to offer a little "series" featuring a few of these tactics and how freelancers might respond appropriately to them to promote their own business and support the real interests of translation consumers in an ethical way. And maybe we'll find a few candidates for the Hall of Shame on our tour.

In Twitspace and in my YouTube content research, I have encountered quite a number of pages, video clips and other material describing basic concepts of translation technology or translation processes, such as translation memory, terminology mining and management, etc. Rarely these are quite good presentations of academic value, which are prepared by knowledgeable colleagues or university instructors, and which are so clearly presented that I am pleased to share them with my clients and others when they are needed. More often these are superficial overviews stuffed with keywords, which communicate too little of the real information needed to assess a technology and its relevance to certain types of problems. Some of the self-serving crap I've seen on YouTube by agency representatives pushing their services is so bad that I'm sure their competitors must smile. What are they trying to accomplish?

no translation agency spam
Quite a number of different things most likely. Being noticed first by potential prospects searching for information is certainly high on the list for some. Influencing the discussion of certain technologies and approaches to translation is probably another goal of the more clever content presenters and one which freelance service providers should consider.

I am not going to give links to any of these pages I've found. Today's gem - "Guide to Translation Memory (TM)" - found on a US agency site, is fairly typical. It's superficial, but not particularly toxic, but it really makes no useful contribution to helping clients understand the advantages and limits of translation memories. The description of fuzzy matching is actually wrong in some contexts and by no means describes what a fuzzy match might be in some major translation environment tools.

But as more translators discuss their tools and working methods (which may or may not interest translation buyers and consumers), a lot of jargon gets used without adequate definition or appropriate references to consult for more information. And important concepts related to the limitations and risks of these technologies or their most appropriate uses are also very often missing.

A good response to this on our own freelance business web pages would be to present such information on secondary pages of our own sites or provide links to balanced, reputable information sources that can help our clients deal confidently with the concepts if they have an interest in them and avoid some of the traps. Linking good information pages on association web sites, university information pages or even Wikipedia may also help to raise the ranking of these pages and bury the SEO spammers in agencies or propaganda organizations like TAUS or the CSA in the far-back pages of a search where they belong. If an agency like Lionbridge, TransPerfect, thepigturd and others offers such "infopages", for God's sake don't be stupid enough to link them or tweet them; there are more ethical alternatives to be found for sharing such information.

I'm not calling for a boycott of any page associated with a translation agency. There are plenty of good ones out there with highly knowledgeable people who should be the first stop to find information on some topics. There was a guide to preparing source documents for optimal translation prepared by a small agency in Australia years ago; its original link is dead now unfortunately, but I would add the new one to a page of mine without hesitation, and if the author draws in a little extra business for that, I consider it a well-earned reward for sharing his hard-won expertise. But pages like the Guide cited above offer no real expertise; they are just more spam in a too-polluted online world.

Aug 19, 2013

Selectable metadata for memoQ 2013 projects

One of the things I have missed very much since switching from Déjà Vu to memoQ years ago is the ability to create and maintain selectable lists of metadata for classifying my data. One of the strengths of DVX was that this data could even be used to prioritize TM and terminology relevance during translation. But even for simple things like sorting and filtering data for an export, it can be very helpful.

Let me give an example. I have an old client I'll call National Translators. Well, sometimes that's the name I use when filling in the Client field for the memoQ project. Sometimes I write Nat'l Transl, sometimes it's NatTrans or even NT. And then when my fingers get rebellious I might have the occasional NtaTarns or worse.

Despite the messy appearance of screenshots of the TM and termbase lists in my various tutorials, for the most part I follow the "Big Mama and Papa" approach to data management with a large master TM and termbase with over a decade of archived reference material. But I do occasionally like to filter those data and produce a more focused termbase or TM for a projects, such as all the NatTrans material from projects involving Poultry. That was easy with Déjà Vu. Each client had a unique, selectable code. Subjects were number coded with a sophisticated classification scheme that I adapted for my own use. With memoQ it's been a real pain in the ass.

Well, it seems that times are a'changin. A little bit at least in this respect. One change that sort of slippe under my radar in memoQ 2013 was the addition of selectable data to projects through the use of the free Kilgray Language Terminal. I almost missed it completely, because I was looking at some of the latest "innovations" there from the wrong perspective. Wrong for me at least.

Clients list on my demo profile on the Kilgray Language Terminal. Click to enlarge.

Kilgray recently introduced the ability to do basic project "management" on Language Terminal. Price lists. Clients lists. And more. I was appalled, or at least quite uninterested in that, though I rather like other aspects of Language Terminal. I have a good tool for quoting jobs and maintaining my client records, and I really don't think I'll be replacing that with the rather simple start that has been made by Kilgray in this area. And having lived in Germany for years, I have almost adopted the knee-jerk aversion to storing my client data online which is so common there.

But... there's another way. Better for me. I don't have to enter my clients' details. I can enter just the names. Or better yet - my preferred codes (which can protect their identities but let me sort my data better). Click on the screenshot above to see an example of this in the last two entries. You need not be as cryptic as I was in that example.

On the "Professional" page of my Language Terminal profile (the link to the left of "Clients"), I can enter my subjects. Kilgray intended this for their find-a-translator search function that they are adding to Language Terminal, but I'm probably not going to be interested in being found and approached by the sort of prospect that might use their database. My philosophy is that looking for a translator based on tool use is fundamentally backward, and I really don't want to support bad practices like that. Translators should be engaged based on subject and linguistic expertise; the translation technology involved is like a shirt, tie and a pair of shoes - you just put on what is appropriate for the occasion. But without the subject and linguistic competence, you really ought not to be part of the game at all.

So once again, I would enter my subject data on Language Terminal, not with the idea of being "found" by some Indian or Mongoloid agency to be offered the opportunity of a lifetime at 2 cents per word, but rather with an eye toward sensible data classification for use in filtering later. Here's an example of what these metadata entered on Language Terminal look like when you start a new memoQ project and mark it to be "entered" on Language Terminal.

I still like the local DVX approach better for such metadata, but this is actually an improvement, and it will help me clean up my data organization. And using these features for my purposes, rather than the purposes for which they seem to have been created, will also maintain confidentiality as I want to. In fact, the profile seen here is not even viewable by other Language Terminal users.

There are many other very useful features of Language Terminal, which make it worthwhile to get a free account, even if you don't use memoQ. The blockbuster is still the free InDesign processing service, which enables one to handle native INDD files, get PDF previews at any time and convert InDesign files to XLIFF for convenient translation in most modern CAT tools. As a memoQ user, I find the backup feature useful as well; the Resources page is starting to get a few useful things, and rumors of future plans make me think this is really something to watch closely.

But this recent "revelation" of the possibility of selectable metadata for my memoQ projects is a small but very welcome addition to my toolbox in memoQ 2013, and finding this in an area of the site that I had already written off as uninteresting to me was perhaps the most pleasant surprise. It's nice to be wrong like that.

Aug 16, 2013

SDL Trados Studio vs. memoQ: Translating Text Columns in Excel

Paul Filkin of SDL recently showed a few "little known gems" of SDL Trados Studio 2011 in one of his recent blog posts, which is quite useful for learning how to approach some not-so-rare project challenges with Trados Studio. Here I would like to share his video tutorial about one of those gems - how to translate multiple columns of text in an Excel file. (HINT: these embedded videos are easier to watch if you do that in full screen mode by toggling the icon at the lower right of the play window.)

memoQ can also translate Excel files with a similar structure, and here's how to do that, with a little bit of Dragon Naturally Speaking thrown in just for fun:

memoQ AutoCorrect: mysteries revealed

Actually, AutoCorrect isn't that mysterious to those familiar with it. Many Microsoft Office users love it or hate it. I usually love it when I type English, but when I switch between languages in the same document, strange mutations occur in my words and I often wonder how I could possibly have typed some of the things I seem to have typed and of course did not.

Last December when I started the research to update my book of memoQ tips (which is still in progress, because the software is a fast-moving target to describe), I found a way to migrate the AutoCorrect lists from Microsoft Word to memoQ (and vice versa). This was a happy day for me, as a Dutch partner had been asking for exactly that for a very long time, and Kilgray's Support had not been able to offer a solution. I never did get around to blogging my findings, but a few months later, a similar solution was published in the Kilgray Knowledgebase. It states that it's perhaps only for migrating AutoCorrect lists from MS Word 2003, but I used an old macro from MS Word 98 when I worked out the problem, and if that still functions for MS Word 2010, then I'm sure Kilgray's posted solution must be fine for new versions. (Just be careful to use UTF-8 as the code page of text files you transfer or there may be trouble.)

But the best solution was actually published a few years earlier by Val Ivonica. In Portuguese. She included the macro code, and I like her macro (or the one she got from someplace) better. For some strange reason, the only really good information available on memoQ AutoCorrect up to now that I could find is in Portuguese. There are some nice examples of useful AutoCorrect shortcuts for periods of a year from William Cassemiro on the Janela Tradutória blog.

I was quite surprised to learn that many users of memoQ have no idea what AutoCorrect is; Déjà Vu offers the same feature, but I think it's missing in the various Trados versions, possibly because of the history of Trados Workbench as an application used primarily in the MS Word environment. The Kilgray documentation I could find was rather skimpy and seemed entirely focused on typing shortcuts. The idea of correcting spelling or vocabulary differences between language variants wasn't anywhere I could find it.

So I put together this "little" overview of how AutoCorrect works in memoQ and how and where to manage the AutoCorrect list resources there. It's a start... perhaps Kilgray or someone else can fill in the missing bits.

Time  Description
0:38  Activating AutoCorrect in an open project
1:47  AutoCorrect in action while typing
3:30  How the "primary" AutoCorrect list "rules"
3:55  Slide show: overview of AutoCorrect
4:59  Slide show: Three places to manage AutoCorrect

Aug 15, 2013

Comments on memoQ comments and YouTube playlists

I recently produced a small video tutorial on what I feel are the useful aspects of the comment feature in memoQ 2013. Although quite a few new things have been introduced to commenting in the current version of the software, the real significance of these changes for ordinary users of the software is limited. Now that what was broken in the memoQ 2013 release is largely fixed, those who care about comments for offline use can continue to use this great feature without much inconvenience.

Here is an idiosyncratic overview of how I use comments in my projects (HINT: these embedded videos are easier to watch if you do that in full screen mode by clicking the icon at the lower right of the play window):

Time  Description
0:28  Opening the comment dialog
1:01  Commenting highlighted text
1:48  Adding "codes" to comments for later filtering
2:44  Selecting all files, creating a view with all comments
3:35  Comments shown in speech bubble tooltips
3:57  Creating a filtered list of comments (code = '@PM')
4:50  Creating a filtered list of comments (code = '@CST')
5:20  Exporting commented segments in a bilingual RTF file
6:15  Check segments for extraneous comments before sharing the exported list
What I didn't show here is my usual way of accessing and exiting the comment dialog: keyboard control, opening with Ctrl+M and exiting with a quick tab to the OK button and hitting the Enter key. Having multiple comments makes editing slightly less convenient if one has to click on an icon, but the ease of deleting an entire comment in a series, and the separation of comments by a new paragraph in an exported RTF bilingual file are compensating conveniences.

That six-and-a-half minute video really has more information than someone generally familiar with the old way of using comments in memoQ would care about. The only part which might really interest someone who already knows how to create an exportable view with commented segments is how the procedure for creating views of selected comments differs from creating a view with all comments. So I decided to use the excerpting feature of YouTube playlists to create a special "view" of the tutorial video which shows only that little bit from which I believe many experienced users may benefit.

(Use the link above to look at the trimmed playlist on YouTube - I removed the embedded video code here, because its behavior in the Google Blogger environment seems to be quirkier than links on a Moodle web page or Facebook page. This technique is useful but may still require careful testing of the environment in which it will be used.)

No index needed here - the video is barely over a minute long in its two parts. This technique of playlist excerpting on YouTube could be used to "mine" longer teaching videos for specific bits of information needed to understand a specific issue. One can combine separate video clips, "in whole or in part" as contract lawyers like to say, or individual segments of a single video as I have done here. This is a useful technique which, along with time index lists such as that shown above, I hope to see applied more often for the education and support of translators.

How does Kilgray present the state of commenting in memoQ? The video clip below is from Kilgray's YouTube channel - interesting, but really another world. The video shows the commenting feature as it was at the end of May, with "innovations" which sparked the Commentgate controversy.

This presentation is really very focused on users of the memoQ server, because all that lovely highlighting is only visible in the memoQ environment itself, and these comments with highlighting do not currently export in the usual medium for sharing feedback (comments) with clients offline: RTF bilingual files. In fact, it's really a shame that in all the years that memoQ has offered exportable comments, this very helpful feature has hardly been part of the official teaching, because in the real world of client relationships, it is often a great asset.

Aug 10, 2013

Translation editing in memoQ with LiveDocs and a QA check

Recently I showed how Dragon Naturally Speaking can be used to dictate translations without a translation environment tool. Quite a number of translators work this way (or simply type in a word processor without a translation tool, because they feel they work faster that way). But what about the advantages lost by not having the integrated terminologies, translation memories, etc. in Trados, memoQ and others similar tools?

Well, that's really not a problem. You can have the best of both approaches. Some people do their first drafts as they like without a CAT tool. The translation can then be imported very quickly to the integrated working environment, for example by a quick memoQ LiveDocs alignment, and then the LiveDocs alignment can be used for pretranslation, with any relevant translation memories or terminologies used to check and correct the draft.

I've created a little demonstration video in which I use my dictated translation on snakes in a quick alignment, pretranslation and editing procedure with a subsequent QA check for key terms. This is just one example of the many ways we can creatively combine tools to get the flexibility we need while taking full advantage of the technologies we want to assure quality.

Time Description
  Adding the alignment pair to LiveDocs
1:17  Importing the source document to pretranslate with the LiveDocs alignment
1:28  Quick pretranslation
1:40  Examining the pretranslation result
2:07  Ad hoc improvement of the LiveDocs alignment
3:05  Inserting a match from the improved LiveDocs alignment
3:20  Beginning corrections of the translation
4:06  QA check for terminology (check the settings)
4:42  Running the QA check
5:00  Examining the QA check results, correcting terminology errors

Aug 9, 2013

An SDL Trados Studio update question answered

Thank you to the team at SDL for a timely answer to my question. Although in most of the 13 years I've been translating commercially I have relied on other tools for the bulk of my processes, because these were generally more efficient or ergonomic than the available Trados technology, there are some things which SDL's products really excel at, and I often use various versions of Trados for preparing projects that I translate in Déjà Vu (once upon a time) and (now) memoQ.

However, when I upgraded to SDL Trados Studio 2009 some time ago, I missed the cutoff for the Studio 2011 update which soon appeared by a very short time. In most cases this didn't matter; my copy of Studio 2009 served me well for consolidating the TMs of translators migrating from OmegaT to memoQ and for testing a number of interoperability scenarios. But there were a few times that having SDL Trados Studio 2011 around would have been helpful, like the time I had to turn down the opportunity to translate a bunch of the latest Worldserver packages with some interesting content. And it gradually grew embarrassing to have to pester various colleagues to test processes on their Studio 2011 installations to be sure they really would work with all versions of Trados. After the long wait for that version to stabilize, I considered various upgrade opportunities, but the business case was always a bit borderline for me, because I will never "CAT hop" for translation. The efficiency loss is simply not worth it; if I ever do switch to some future version of SDL Trados Studio or another tool such as Fluency or My Incredible Translating Machine!, then my other tools will be relegated to project preparation tasks as Trados is now.

But with The Third Coming (SDL Trados 2014) on the horizon, I though that it is finally time to do the upgrade and have the full range of versions available for my process compatibility studies.

I am aware, of course, of the desire of many SDL Trados Studio users to jump off a cliff or lay themselves on train tracks to end the despair, but this condition is usually treatable by a good course of ACT (alternative CAT therapy), and as I have a cabinet full of that I'm not worried.

So I boldly logged on to the SDL site to explore my upgrade options. These were explained clearly enough, but after getting burned last time I was very careful about believing what I read, especially as the web pages I looked at freely swapped dollar and euro signs for prices as if these currencies were at parity. (It seems that the boys in Maidenhead figure that anything other than "real money" - GBP - is just play money anyway.) So I made a "quotation request" online, and two days later received a very kind response assuring me that an upgrade to my SDL Trados Studio 2009 Freelance Plus license to its Studio 2011 equivalent would indeed qualify me for a free upgrade to partake of the Third Coming Communion of 2014:

Dear Kevin
Thank you very much for your enquiry.
If you do upgrade now your SDL Trados Studio 2009 license you will receive Studio 2011 immediately and Studio 2014 when it releases in September.
The upgrade to Studio 2014 is therefor included in the price of your current upgrade.
The price is $235.

You can purchase directly online on our shop

Or Steve can also help you with an upgrade.

Yours Sincerely,

Fair enough all round. So I'll do this and be able to continue examining the best ways for people who follow different technology paths to continue working together successfully. And I can see whether I'm on Riccardo's side about the damned ribbons or whether Paul and Daniel are right. They certainly present some good arguments.

Translating against the clock with Dragon Naturally Speaking

After a discussion on voice recognition, which began in the comments for a totally unrelated post about a scatologically bad Linguistic Sausage Producer (LSP), I attempted a timed test of translation with voice transcription in my usual working environment as a demonstration of the productivity gains to be achieved. The Gods were against me that day or my microphone was adjusted wrong; the results were somewhere around 2000 miserable words an hour with a lot of edits as I dictated.

Tonight I resolved to do better with the deck stacked against me. I waited until about 3 am (easy to do on a hot day in a Mediterranean climate) and picked a relatively easy but unfamiliar German text from Wikipedia, took out most of the Greek words I can't pronounce and fired up The Dragon to burn the translation.

No CAT tool this time, nothing but me, the text about snakes and a timer... how many words of draft translation would you expect to do with an easy text in an hour in the middle of the night without coffee? (Of course it will need some revision later, but I wanted a crappy translation for editing demos anyway.)

memoQuickie: Exporting TMX from memoQ

Translators are often asked to export translation memory data (TMX files typically) to deliver with their work. Although this is fairly simple to do in memoQ, too often more than just the required data is sent by mistake.

Select the TM from which to export via Tools > Resource Console... > Translation memories or Project home > Translation memories.

Click Export to TMX to export all the data in the chosen TM.

If a selective export (just some of the data in the TM) is desired, click Edit, enter the filter criteria in the dialog that appears and click OK. It is also possible to filter in the editor view. Only the data shown will be included in the TMX file created.

The memoQ TM editor with filtered records shown. Click to enlarge.

Here is a "video tour" of the process:

Ten brownie points to anyone who can figure out where I "cheated" with the translation information shown in the video.

Aug 8, 2013

Meltdown! Could this be YOUR laptop?

Last weekend I was shocked to see the report of German colleague Tanya Quintieri, whose laptop batteries suddenly exploded, destroying her computer while she worked. "There but for the Grace of God go I" was my thought at the time. I now no longer put my own laptop to sleep when I decide to give it a rest until the next day. I shut it off. Look at this mess and read her own words about what happened.....

In 2010 I spent about €1800 on a Lenovo laptop. I wanted to have the best equipment available to do my work. I needed something reliable that would survive many hours of working per day and would not make any problems when I’m on the road, which I am quite frequently. Well – who would have thought that it would only last 3 years? 

Last weekend I was sitting at my dining room table, typing a comment in the NT group on Facebook while taking a break from work. Thank God my dining room table is made of glass! Because, while I was typing, I suddenly noticed a hissing sound that came from my laptop. And within a second, there was an explosion! It was followed by a flame darting out from the back and at me from the gap between the keyboard and the screen. And yes, I still had my fingers on the keys – that’s how fast it went (and flying battery parts and the flames did burn the back of my hands, my arms, my fingertips and I had three holes in my t-shirt – but not bad burns! They’ve healed already!) .I jumped up from the table and ran down the hallway to get my fire extinguisher. Meanwhile my husband was trying to put out the fire using a towel. But that didn’t help. More fire, more smoke, lots of smoke! I handed him the fire extinguisher and he fired it off, but that didn’t help either, since the home edition is not made to fight chemical fires. So I called the fire department and asked them what to do and the guy on the phone asked: Can you bring it outside and water it from a safe distance? My dining room, which is open to the kitchen and the living room, had meanwhile filled up with nasty smelling smoke that made me choke. My husband tried grabbing the laptop to take it outside onto our patio and from there into the garden. But it kept on literally spitting flames and smoke. Eventually he managed to grab it and throw it onto the lawn in our garden. While it was flying through the air, there was a second huge explosion that blew the battery pack off the laptop. The parts landed several feet apart from each other on the lawn and we tried putting the fire out with water. There was another explosion, worse than the previous ones, and the damp grass actually started to burn. Eventually the water did put the fire out. 

All of this happened within no more than 120 seconds. Since the battery pack was literally blown off the laptop and the laptop wasn’t hit with water, the hard drive survived. At least I didn’t lose any of my data. But as you can see in the pictures, the entire thing is simply waste now. 

So – what had happened actually? I don’t know. I only know that I kept my laptop hooked up to the power cord at all times when I was in my office. I hardly ever shut it down. It wasn’t hot the day it happened. There was no direct sunlight. And had it happened 4 hours earlier, nobody would’ve been at home (except for my son who was asleep in his room on the first floor of our house. Would he have woken up in time to escape?). If it would’ve happened 24 hours earlier, I would have had that laptop on my lap. I don’t even want to think about what could have happened to my son or my legs. 

So far, Lenovo hasn’t really responded to this case. And many of my colleagues are worried about their laptops (Lenovo is a popular brand among them). But I will be sure to keep them posted on what Lenovo has to say. Perhaps an entire battery pack series is affected, who knows. Truth is: This should not happen! The main board usually has an emergency shutdown for when the battery pack gets too hot. Well, it failed in my case and to be honest, this incident scared the heck out of me. I don’t handle such situations very well. I don’t know what would have happened, if my husband hadn’t been there. I would have freaked. And I don’t know what would have happened, had there been stacks of paper on the table as there are on my desk in my home office. 

What did I learn? My next laptop is an Apple Mac Book Pro. They say that the battery pack is safe. I don’t know if that’s true. But I will make sure that I turn the laptop off whenever I’m traveling or I’m not around.

Aug 6, 2013

Translating presentations in memoQ: PowerPoint vs. OpenOffice Impress

Microsoft PowerPoint files can be a real nuisance to translate. One of the biggest challenges with these files is the haphazard formatting that many authors apply when working in that medium: line breaks and paragraph breaks in the most inconvenient places, which can cause some stress when working with many translation environment tools.

The current status of the PowerPoint filters in memoQ (version 6.5 build 10) is not as well developed as the filters for Microsoft Word and Excel files; in particular the inability to configure the handling of "soft breaks" (line feeds) causes me no little grief. However, I can at least join segments to get complete sentences where I want them. That's something you can't do in SDL Trados Studio, though that tool at least represent the breaks as inline tags. Sometimes I prepare my PowerPoint files in Trados Studio and then translate the SDLXLIFF file in memoQ if there are a lot of breaks in the sentences. But then I miss the preview.

Recently I had occasion to look at a presentation created with OpenOffice Impress, a rather nice alternative to PowerPoint. Given the confusion over Microsoft's new licensing practices for MS Office 2013, I would not be surprised if more of my corporate clients begin to use the clever free alternative.

However, when I tried to import the Impress (ODP) files to memoQ, I found that the files were not recognized as a translatable format. However, that problem was quickly solved, and the technique for translating ODP files in the current and older versions of memoQ is shown in the video below. One could, of course, convert these to PowerPoint formats, but you might not want to. With ODP files, it is possible to have breaks treated as inline tags.

Time Description
  Importing the PowerPoint file to memoQ with options
1:10  Examining the segments of the imported PowerPoint file
1:35  Joining segments for "broken sentences" in the imported PowerPoint file
1:43  The presentation as an OpenOffice Impress (ODP) file
2:07  Importing the ODP file to memoQ
2:39  Setting the filter for the "unknown" file type
3:04  Configuring "soft" breaks as inline tags
3:34  Examining the segments of the imported ODP file
I hope to see a few more refinements of the PowerPoint and OpenOffice filters in future builds of memoQ!

Aug 3, 2013

memoQ&A: How do I leverage the pretranslated SDLXLIFF content?

Given the interesting and surprising answers I received in previous two-stage "quiz posts" in which a challenge was posed for others to answer before I present my approach, I have decided to try a series of such posts. I've polled a few friends about a possible name for this series - memoQuiz, memoQ&A, CATquiz or perhaps something else. The first two choices suggest that memoQ would be the focus, but despite the impressions some may have of my publication habits, memoQ is far from my only concern with productivity involving the software we use for translation processes. So I'll leave that question open for now and use the current "vote leader". Arguments for and against in the comments are welcome.

Today's "quiz" is inspired by my continuing research into the current status of interoperability between SDL Trados Studio and memoQ 2013. As Kilgray has continued to upgrade the quality of its filters and other features for working with files from other platforms, SDL advocates have been increasingly at pains to find the rare, exceptional cases that do not work well or at all and present these as "common" and proof that we should all just bow down and kiss the One Ring ;-) The latest variant of that theme which I saw involved tracked changes displayed in source segments of the translation grid. It was fascinating, really, but a bit bizarre and utterly outside anything in my experience with 13 years of commercial translation. I'm not about to torture myself with an unergonomic application if a simpler one covers most of my professional needs. The Pareto principle rules.

Here's the scenario:
  • You receive a pre-translated SDLXLIFF file with segments of various status. Some are pretranslated fuzzy matches, some are not-yet approved or even rejected pre-translated segments or one which the outsourcer confirmed (but did not "approve") before sending the file. And some segments have not been translated at all.
  • The outsourcer just went on holiday and forgot to send you the translation memory!
  • You want to be able to use the pretranslated and approved content in the SDLXLIFF file as a reference while you translate this file and others. How can this be done???
  • Here is the file to translate. It is an English source text being translated into German.
The file to translate as seen in SDL Trados Studio. Click to enlarge.

Thank you to those who contributed their suggestions in the comments! Here is how I approached the problem:
The bilingual file I was given has different "qualities" of translated segments. There are unconfirmed (and possibly dodgy) sentences, including a "rejected" 100% match, translated (confirmed) segments and approved (proofread) segments. A TM in memoQ gives me no opportunity to differentiate match quality based on row status. LiveDocs does!
So I send the SDLXLIFF file received to a LiveDocs corpus on a "temporary" basis, where I apply special settings to apply a fairly heavy penalty to unconfirmed segments, a mild penalty to translated (confirmed) but unapproved (not proofread) segments and no penalty at all to the parts which have already been check and approved.
Details of the settings configuration and an example of how these settings apply to the SDLXLIFF file used as an example are shown in the video below. A similar approach can be applied to any bilingual file (or translation stored in LiveDocs) where there may be significant differences in segment status.

Time index to the video tutorial:

0:30  Creating a new LiveDocs settings profile
1:05  Editing the new LiveDocs settings profile
1:29  Match threshold settings
2:16  Alignment penalties
3:01  Bilingual document penalties
3:45  Penalty for unfinished alignments
4:24  Sub-language difference penalty
4:57  A "tour" of the row status for segments in the SDLXLIFF
6:20  Adding the translation file to the LiveDocs corpus
7:14  Applying the new LiveDocs settings to the LiveDocs corpus used
8:00  How the new LiveDocs settings work for matches in the translation window
9:22  Advantages of using LiveDocs rather than a translation memory

Aug 2, 2013

About your defective translation....

Dear Mr. Svenson, 

Thank you for the timely delivery of your translation which we acknowledge herewith. It was not easy to find someone to undertake a technical translation of this kind from German to Swedish at such short notice.

However, upon proofreading your work, we noticed a careless error, which we would like you to correct. The German expression for the dimensions LxBxH (Länge x Breite x Höhe, or length x width x height) has not been translated. Please correct that and send us the new version with your invoice corrected to account for our effort in this matter!

Respectfully yours,

Ima Genial, M.D., Ph.D., M.O.U.S.E., F.U.C.U.
Director of Purchasing
Brilliant Products GmbH & Co. KG


Dear Dr. Genial,

Please be advised that the Swedish expression for  "length x width x height" is "längd x bredd x höjd" and thus the use of LxBxH is appropriate in both Swedish and German.

Best regards,

Sven Svenson


Dear Mr. Svenson, 

Thank you for your information regarding the expression of dimensions in Swedish. There is still, however, a problem remaining regarding your invoice. You have charged for the translation of 173 words, but "LxBxH" occurs six times in the text. Because it does not need to be translated, it should not be charged, of course. The accounting department has determined that your word count includes a improper charge for this expression, and we will be most grateful if you can correct this properly so that your invoice may be paid in a timely manner in 90 days according to our procedures.

Respectfully yours,

Ima Genial, M.D., Ph.D., M.O.U.S.E., F.U.C.U.
Director of PurchasingBrilliant Products GmbH & Co. KG


Dear Genius,

My prior communication was copied and pasted directly from the text of one of five previous communications with your firm in the past three months in which I have been asked to address the same issue. I have attached my amended invoice, which has been updated to include charges for this correspondence text on five of the now six occasions altogether. As is appropriate for a valued customer who does business with me so frequently, I have applied a discount to the repetitive text, although according to the service contract between us, such discounts are required only for actual translation text. But I believe in rewarding good relationships, and the one with your company shall remain ever on my mind.


Sven Svenson

Translating SDL Trados Studio SDLXLIFF files & more in memoQ!

My latest demonstration video actually covers a number of memoQ features so that I would have an excuse to create this video index:
Time  Description
  Importing the first SDLXLIFF file to memoQ
1:12  Exporting the finished translation
1:27  Viewing the translation in SDL Trados Studio 2009
1:40  Re-importing the edited translation for a TM update
3:24  Saving the translation in a LiveDocs corpus for later reference
3:55  Importing a new version of the text in an SDLXLIFF source file
4:25  Comparing source text versions
5:55  Document-based pretranslation ("X-Translate")
7:11  Examining a "warning" for forgotten tags
7:46  Results of the second translation in SDL Trados Studio

That is the sort of thing I was talking about in a recent blog post about new approaches for online instruction. Many times I have wished for just such an index for long webinars or even much shorter reference videos like this one.

This tutorial was inspired by a Skype chat with a colleague in the US a few days ago. She uses memoQ but works with a number of others who use various versions of SDL Trados Studio, and there were some questions about about how one might deal with TM updates after a translation as well as the inevitable new versions that legal and financial translators often encounter. 

I have also noticed that quite a number of people are not up to date on SDLXLIFF compatibility with memoQ; this video also shows that former issues with preserving segment status have been taken care of, and everything now works well.

What is not obvious in the video is that one can also change the segmentation of the SDLXLIFF in memoQ; this happens only in the memoQ environment to allow better translation and more sensible translation memory content, and when the SDLXLIFF file is exported from memoQ, the original segmentation from Trados is preserved in the Trados environment.

Also not shown in the video is how I imported a third version of the source text, this time as a Microsoft Word file, not an SDLXLIFF. The document-based pre-translation (X-Translate) worked perfectly, and the target file was exported in the proper format (DOCX).

There are, of course, many other ways one could handle a "project" like this, but the procedure shown is not unlike what I sometimes do in projects myself.


I apologize for the quirky click animation in this tutorial; Camstudio had some problems I have never encountered before, and I'll have to get to the bottom of that if I keep using that tool. Otherwise, the video quality is probably the best I have achieved so far, and I would like to thank the friend who revealed the "secret" of better quality video for YouTube.

Aug 1, 2013

The "WordPerfect Computer"

A recent discussion on a closed CAT tool forum on Facebook reminded me of an encounter with a school secretary some 23 years ago. At the time I was an Apple Education Sales Consultant and systems engineer for a couple of computer dealers in the Los Angeles area, advising educators on what to do about all the technology that was beginning to accumulate at their institutions.

One of the incidents I'll never forget from that time is an encounter with a school secretary who was getting a new computer for her duties. Actually, I have forgotten most of the incident.

What I will never forget is how she mourned the loss of her "WordPerfect computer". At first I was utterly baffled by what she meant, and then when I understood that she meant her old, dead IBM PC which had WordPerfect installed on it, I thought, "What a stupid person" and patiently tried to explain how the hardware was from IBM and WordPerfect was merely one of a number of applications installed on it. All in vain. For the entire length of my visit, she continues to speak of her WordPerfect computer. And how great it had been.

I was the stupid one, of course. I was a technically savvy 20-something, utterly deaf to the fact that she was giving me an important lesson in brand experience. For her, the experience of working with WordPerfect was so significant that all those other programs - Lotus 1-2-3 (an old spreadsheet application), Harvard Graphics (the pterodactyl to the bird PowerPoint) and so on - were merely other, less important things to be found on that WordPerfect computer.

As translation management servers from Kilgray, SDL, Across and others have spread among language service resellers and corporations wanting to manage their own large-scale translation resources, I am seeing some things that remind me of the secretary so many years ago.

The first encounter that many users have with a particular CAT tool is now very often in an online project. An online project with a host of problems. Very often the companies operating the server are inexperienced and haven't a clue how to operate their new platforms properly. The translators time is wasted and their work is compromised as resources are mismanaged, connections are difficult and the value proposition remains totally opaque to those doing the work. "Linguistic Sausage Producer" is probably one of the nicer thoughts entertained about an LSP at such times, as translators feel themselves chopped up virtually like bits of meat and extruded into some oozy gray mass of words in which a few specks of color and globs of fat can be dimly identified.

When a translator has had such a first experience with memoQ or SDL Trados Studio, for example, and engages in discussions with colleagues about the tool, there is often very little real communication. the victims were usually thrown at the tool like bits of meat stuffed in a grinder, trained for little, if anything other than the most basic mechanics of how to be part of the sausage (if that), and when I read their words in forum posts I see a lot of confusion, frustration and occasional rage. Except for cases like an obviously worthless tool like Across, that's really a shame. A lost opportunity in so many ways.

Who is to blame? Everyone can probably take some share of the blame, and certainly everyone suffers the consequences to some extent sooner or later. The providers of the translation environment tools should be more aware of and concerned about the experience of translators with their online tool and do more to ensure that these first experiences will be good ones. Train the language sausage producers, language service providers and corporations who buy their technology better and encourage best practices, which have an equal part of human concerns and psychology with the technology. Very often these translation servers are bought based on word-of-mouth from translators talking about their good and bad experiences.

My good experiences with memoQ as a desktop application led rather directly to a number of significant server software sales although I hadn't a clue about that environment. And I have experienced some well-managed online projects with companies that understood their memoQ Server well and used it appropriately. But I have had other server experiences that would have burned a very ugly mark on the Kilgray brand if I had not had good experience before and elsewhere. I haven't been terribly impressed by what I have seen from SDL server users, but I am trying to keep an open mind about where the problems lie. Across? (Well, the evidence is clear for Across, and we can just write it off as a lost cause.)

There are so many issues tangled up here with so many parties that there will not be an easy, packaged solution to all of it. Not even in TIPP format ;-) But most of the problems can be resolved well enough in ordinary learning processes if we make a conscious effort to be patient, to treat our business partners, clients and suppliers as reasonable people should, and if we commit ourselves consistently to better communication and education. Companies selling technology could be more aware that even after the deal is closed and the price is paid, the payables and receivables for karmic interest can continue quite a long time. The best thing SDL could hope for would be that some day some happy translators might innocently refer to their "Trados Studio" computers.