May 24, 2017

What is it with teaching translation at universities?

Many years ago as an exchange student at the Universität des Saarlandes in Saarbrücken I marveled at the competence and breadth of the university's offerings for translation and interpreting and the great competence I found there in its Dolmetscherinstitut. Other programs in linguistics with Max Mangold and Vorderasiatische Archäologie offered complementary enlightenment for analyzing language structures, early writing systems and long-dead languages of the Fertile Crescent. Most of that is gone today.

Reports over the years of the decline of language teaching programs in Saarbrücken felt like watching a slow-motion car crash. So a few weeks ago when a friend in that area informed me of the demise of the translation and interpreting institute and its replacement with some IT-based nonsense emphasizing machine translation, I was not particularly surprised. I have watched other university translation programs wither or at least fail to thrive under current conditions, largely as a result of their failure to adapt to changing times in a responsible way.

Most would agree that adaptation is necessary, but there is less agreement on the actual changes which should occur. There is, of course, no single right answer to this dilemma (except in Germany, where such things are Pflicht), but it is nonetheless disappointing to see the lack of vigor and vision with which the necessary discussions sometimes take place.

A recent article by Ramón Inglada on the European Parliament DG TRAD Terminology Coordination site presents some key issues regarding the use of technology in translation teaching but fails to provide accurate information or useful recommendations. This is surprising given that the author has been a professional translator for some time, and colleagues tell me that he is not unfamiliar with the current state of technology in the the real world of commercial translation. I take particular issue with his mention of possible "disadvantages" to the use of technology in the instructional program:
  • Some students might struggle with the technology and this could have a negative impact on their acquisition of translation skills. 
  • Some universities might not have enough staff with the required technical skills. 
  • The potential costs associated with a technology-based approach (computer labs, software licences).
First of all, in the programs with which I am familiar, students do not struggle especially with technology taught in an appropriate way. The "struggle" is too often instead with teaching faculty unwilling to update their professional knowledge and not-so-quaintly antiquated curricula. One also encounters toxically ignorant professors like one I know at a Portuguese university, who did his best for years to discourage new students in the now-suspended masters program by informing them that translation is all about poetry and literature and that it is impossible to make a living as a translator.

I can understand the fear of some faculty who recognize that things have changed and continue to change but who are baffled by the bullshit barked in the catastrophic carnival of machine pseudotranslators and confusing and sometimes creepy CAT clowns. I take their concerns as a sign of mental health and hope for the future; a healthy dose of skepticism will be needed as some universities transition from pen and paper work, with the odd bit of word processing and Moodle thrown in, to more modern tools for organizing reference information, text sources to translate, and writing tasks.

Most of these skeptics understand some fundamental truths that many crazed advocates of computer-assisted translation have forgotten: without an excellent foundation in source languages, first-class writing skills in the target language and a clear understanding of the relevant subject matter to be translated, technology for translation is more useless than lipstick on a pig. Anyone who tries to tell you that machine translation or massive archives of parallel translated texts or any other gimmicks can replace the actual competent mastery of language and content by qualified translators or subject matter specialists with outstanding linguistic skills is either a liar or a fool or both.

Those who have the competence to assess translation quality are usually of the considered opinion that more emphasis should be placed on developing language skills, subject expertise and research skills, while the hucksters, the wordblind and those who really don't get the meaning of "fit for use" or who try to sell snake oil with a label stating that "Quality Doesn't Matter" tend to push more monetary transfers to the IT side of things.

One cannot argue responsibly against the first position: the utter train wrecks we see so often in the bulk market bog of translation, with its unsustainable practices of exploitation and frequent disregard of the occupational health and safety of service providers, make it clear that only a few dishonest middlemen are served much of the time by its unusual business as usual.

Good linguists are hard to find and often not so easy to train, so it is important to consider where technology can provide some relief in organization and ergonomics and improve the processes of learning and professional work. There is a lot of scope for technology to streamline current teaching programs at universities and in programs for continuing professional education and free up more time to focus on essential language skills and knowledge acquisition.

As for the concern that there might not be enough staff with the requisite technical skills to include technology in university programs of instruction, I find that suggestion ridiculous and insulting to a lot of competent people. Anyone who is competent enough to teach at university also possesses the wherewithal to evaluate how technology might contribute effectively to the curriculum. Too often, the failures are on the part of technology advocates who have too narrow an understanding of their own "expertise" and do not listen to the teaching experts and understand their needs and objectives. With patience and open discussion, we will all get a lot further.

As for "potential costs", I almost hurt myself laughing about that one. Universities are among the places on this planet most familiar with Open Source software, and there are quite a number of such tools or other free software which can fully meet the requirements of teaching professional concepts for the use of technology in translation. The OmegaT project is just one example, but it is an excellent one. Major commercial tools are also available for teaching and learning at low or no cost: SDL offers many resources to universities at minimal cost, and Kilgray's memoQ - the most flexible environment available for the widest range of translation workflows - is free to instructors and students for educational purposes, with server resources also available for a small support fee. There are quite a number of other tools available for corpus analysis, speech recognition, format management and a myriad of other peripheral needs of translators on similar terms. Money is not the real issue, but a commitment to doing better with the resources available most certainly is.

There are of course points of light in the firmament of academic blight. The Facultad de Derecho at Buenos Aires University is one such. In April 2017 I visited the law school's integrated translation program and spoke to students, some staff and guests about various ways in which technology can help to better organize the work of legal translation.

Students in the Certified Public Translator program at the Buenos Aires University Law School take many of the same courses as those working toward a law degree; some pursue both degrees. This means that the young professionals graduate with the kind of solid subject matter competence one might expect only from those with significant work experience or who have side-stepped to translation from another field.

In today's market situation, where very few translation graduates can look forward to staff positions in an in-house translating team for a law firm, engineering company, hospital or other institutions as they might have in the past, the problem of acquiring real subject matter competence seems difficult. But programs like BAU's Facultad de Derecho offer can serve as good examples of how similar programs might be established with engineering schools, medical schools, science faculties and other such institutions. Interdisciplinary cooperation is inevitably a great source of creativity and useful results, and I think that struggling translation programs at universities have much to offer in collaboration with other departments and much to learn as all reap the good harvest of such cultivated seeds.

Even the miserable state of translation's bulk market bog offers a fruitful source of research topics to investigate the implications on physical and psychological health under current conditions and to propose remedies for problems. This would seem a much more useful thing than yet another boring and useless doctoral thesis on machine pseudotranslation and post-editing underwritten by short-sighted and unscrupulous promoters of human sacrifice for corporate profit today and who knows what destruction tomorrow.

Do universities need to consider a greater role for technology in their teaching programs for translation? In most cases probably. But just as the real value of technology is measured only by its ability to improve our lives, the most difficult challenges ahead are not technical, but human. A program which fully embraces technology but fails to deal with matters of psychological and physical health and which does not reinforce its credibility and open doors with many possible alliances with other departments or outside institutions will sadly not achieve its full and evident potential. But with good will, open eyes and a willingness to commit to learning and partnership we can all get there.

May 23, 2017

IntelliWebSearch: really the best Windows-based search tool for translators.

When I began using Michael Farrell's IntelliWebSearch (IWS) about a year ago, shortly before a few IAPTI webinars on that subject, I was impressed with the tool's flexibility, but one thing drove me nuts: the browser kept adding tabs with each search, unlike the tool I favored at the time, memoQ Web Search. But the latter is restricted to use within memoQ, so I had some hope of sorting out the problem with IWS.

I asked the program's author for a solution, but I think I failed to articulate the problem properly: I was told that this was simply a shortcoming I would have to live with. Not true. Michael's tool is better than he said.

The solution turned out to be in the program's settings, which are accessed under the Edit menu.

An example of "improved" settings more to my taste is above. The important thing for me to get the behavior I wanted was to define the return behavior. Use the return shortcut and close the browser. Subsequent actions can include pasting any copied text if you like.

Of course, adding extra tabs to the open browser is not such a bad thing in some cases, providing a sort of tab-based "history" of the searches. And simply using the search window shortcut opens an IWS window with text copied to a search field, where individual searches can be launched in the browser of choice using icons for various configured searches.

The much greater flexibility of IntelliWebSearch, its universal application in any Windows software, its memory stability (memoQ Web Search has had a serious memory leak for a long time, resulting in crashes and other troubles) and its very modest price for licenses after a 2-month trial makes it my search tool of choice now that I can get the browser window behaviors I want. And various "profiles" for searching can be saved in external files for backup and sharing with others.

For educational and professional use, this is a superb choice. The program can also be linked to local information, such as CD-based dictionaries or desktop search tools. Check it out!

Your working software tools as Xbox "games" in Windows 10!

For the last few days I have been away from the office, working from home on a relatively new laptop which doesn't have a lot of the software installed that I use on my main machine. Then today when I needed to make a screen recording to document a memory leak in one of my software tools, I was annoyed to realize that Camtasia wasn't installed on the laptop and I had to find some other means of video capture.

That was when I found out about the nice little video recording tool included in a somewhat obscure way with the Windows 10 operating system. When invoked for the first time in an application, such as memoQ, the Windows Task Manager or anything else, you'll be asked if the program you are running is a game. Lie and click Yes, this is a game.

The recording bar invoked with the Windows-G key looks like this:

Continuous recordings can be made for long periods of time, but the really cool feature of this recorder is that it can be set up to maintain a history of a defined period just passed and save this history as an MP4 video file.

The default is 30 seconds; in the screenshot above, the backward recording buffer is set to three minutes.

What good is this? Well, one thing you can do is record a retroactive video after the program you use crashes. This can then be submitted to support experts to help them figure out what went wrong, or you can review the recording yourself to see what was done.

The videos are stored in the default path for Videos in a folder named Captures:

A very boring example of this is shown below; it shows the activity in the Windows Task Manager as I launch various applications. The results showed me the steady increase in memory consumption by the memoQ Web Search feature (amounting to over several gigabites after perhaps 20 minutes, leading to crashes and/or other problems) versus exactly the same search in 5 tabs of Internet Explorer using IntelliWebSearch. The latter is rock stable in its memory use, causing no problems at all and offering much greater flexibility, which is why I strongly recommend this search productivity tool, which can be accessed from any Windows application.

May 2, 2017

Survey on Internship and Mentoring in Translation

Internships are an important part of university translation programs in many places, and mentorships of various kinds play a significant role in professional development in a number of professional associations with which I am familiar. Attila Piróth, a Hungarian translator based in France, has conducted and published a number of very thorough, interesting studies on several aspects of the language services professions and is now undertaking the study of intern and mentorship arrangements from various perspectives. I think the results will be very interesting.

If you have been involved in such arrangements, please take the time to contribute your experience to the study. Please note that in its present form, it is difficult to take on a smartphone, so it is probably best to use a full-sized computer or large tablet of some kind.
In a series of surveys I want to explore translation internship and mentoring programs from the viewpoint of different stakeholders: interns/mentees, mentors, organizations running internship programs, educational institutions and translator associations. 
Through a mixture of learning by doing, expert supervision and building a professional network, internships and mentoring programs serve to accelerate the transition of early-career translators into the profession. Yet graduating students are often under pressure from their educational institutions to complete an internship in order to gain credits, but the internship environment is often quite different from their future work environment. 
Therefore this series of surveys aims to identify best practices for internship and mentoring so that students, mentors and other stakeholders can make better choices in planning and implementing their internship and mentoring programs. 
I would thus like to ask your help in completing this survey. There has been no comprehensive research conducted to date on internship/mentoring practices, even though such practices are becoming more common. All stakeholders can benefit from knowing more about current practices in order to avoid negative experiences, to promote positive ones, and to hear what the perspectives are of other stakeholders. 
If you participated in an internship/mentoring program as an intern/ mentee, please complete 
If you participated as a mentor, please complete 
If you represent an organization that runs internship programs, please complete 
If you represent an educational institution, please complete 
If you represent a translator association that has promoted internship/mentoring programs, please complete 
Please also share information about these surveys among other stakeholders.
The full survey report will be available for free to survey participants and other interested parties. I thank my colleagues, Catherine Howard and Maria Karra, for their help in creating this series of surveys. 
Thank you for taking the time to complete it.
             -- Attila Piróth

Apr 5, 2017

Webinar April 8th: Translating in Rhythm with Susan Bernofsky

Susan Bernofsky is my favorite German to English translator of literature. Mind you, I can't name a lot of them if asked. But my usual experience of reading literature translated from German to English is to rush to the original German text out of disgust at a result I could easily better. With Susan, the translation honors the original work and amplifies its best qualities. Her Metamorphosis is more readable, yet more Kafkaesque than Franz's laudable effort. Several years ago, I reviewed her terrifying translation of Gotthelf's Black Spider, which I enjoyed far more than the Swiss German original. Hers is a name worth knowing and remembering, and her work is a standard of excellence.

So when I heard some weeks ago that Ms. Bernofsky would be holding a talk about her education and experiences with her mentor, William Gass, I walked around for some hours with a very big smile on my face. The burdens of workload being what they were at the time, however, I completely forgot to register until this morning.

The registration page is here. If you are interested in literary translation and the philosophy behind it, why not join us for what promises to be a very interesting hour?

Mar 29, 2017

Get started April 10th with extension development for SDL Trados 2017

On April 10th, 2017 at 4 pm (UTC) there will be a free webinar for those interested in the basics of development for SDL Trados Studio 2017 using SDL's application programming interfaces and software development kits.

Romulus Crisan, an SDL Language Platform Evangelist Developer, will guide you though:

  • configuring the development environment 
  • new APIs introduced with the Studio 2017 release
  • upgrading current plug-ins to support Studio 2017
  • building a simple editor filtering plug-in
Heads-up to Kilgray developers: maybe here you can figure out how to fix problems with that cool plug-in that allows SDL Trados Studio 2014 and 2015 users to read and write memoQ Server TMs so that it will also work with the latest Clujed Maidenhead Madness.

You can register for the webinar here.

Mar 28, 2017

The "Revision Club"

Colleague Simon Berrill, who works from Catalan, Spanish and French into English, writes a rather thoughtful blog which I have enjoyed very much in recent months. His latest post, "Better Together", describes a rather interesting mutual review arrangement, a linguists' triangle, which I thing could be an interesting and beneficial thing for translators at any stage of their careers.

The particular arrangement between Simon and his revision partners, Tim and Victoria, is striking for me because of its flexibility and the fact that it is not linked to specific work assignments. My first thought while reading his post was something like "Gee, I could really benefit from something like this!", and my mind began to drift to all of the interesting things that could be learned in a swap like this with the right people.

No more spoilers... go read the post yourselves and comment there. Thank you, Simon, for another thought-provoking contribution.

Mar 23, 2017

First month with SDL Trados 2017

A month ago, when I announced the Great Leap Forward from my rather neglected SDL Trados 2014 license to the latest, presumably greatest version, SDL Trados 2017, after seeing how wet the largely untested release of memoQ 8 (aka Adriatic) has proved to be, there was some surprise, as well as smiles and frowns from various quarters. It's been a busy month, and I am still testing options for effective workflow migration and exchange (useful in any case given how often memoQ users work together with those who prefer SDL tools) as well as discussing the good and bad experiences of friends, colleagues and clients who use SDL Trados Studio 2017.

As can be expected, this product has more than a bit of a bleeding edge character, though on the whole it does seem to be a little more stable and less buggy than memoQ Adriatic so far, with fewer what the Hell were they smoking moments. However....

I was a little concerned at the report from a colleague in Lisbon that the integration of the plug-in for SDL Trados Studio access to Kilgray Language Terminal amd memoQ Server translation memories doesn't work with SDL Trados 2017 after functioning so well in SDL Trados 2014 and 2015. Despite the stupid inter-company politics between SDL and Kilgray, which hindered the approval of the plug-in so that a warning dialog appeared each time it was loaded in SDL Trados Studio (bad form by the boys in Maidenhead), it was a great tool for users of SDL Trados Studio and memoQ to share TMs in small team projects. I was very happy with how it worked with SDL Trados Studio 2014, and I am very disappointed to see that API changes in the latest version have bunged things up so that Kilgray will have more work to re-enable this useful means of collaboration. I hope that SDL will see fit to be less petty and more cooperative with the upcoming "fixed" plug-in! It is in their interest to do so, as this makes it easier for SDL Trados users to stick to their favorite tool while working on jobs for or with those who prefer memoQ as their resource. Better work ergonomics for everyone and no BS with CAT wars.

I was pleased to see that SDL Trados Studio has added AutoCorrect facilities recently. And they seem to work reasonably well in English and mostly in German, though there was a strange quirk which hamstrung the "correct as you type" feature. That setting took a while to "stick" somehow when I tested it first with German. It was fine for Portuguese too. However, Ukrainian and Arab colleagues can't get it to work for some reason. I did not believe this at first until a colleague in Egypt showed me live via shared screens in Skype how the autocorrection simply failed to activate. Perhaps this is an issue with languages that don't use the Roman alphabet, so I suppose colleagues in Russia, Serbia, Japan and elsewhere may be tearing some hair out over this one. It doesn't affect me directly, but it looks like a pretty serious bug that ought to be addressed ASAP.

SDL generally kicks some butt with regex facilities in SDL Trados Studio; customer service guru Paul Filkin has written a lot about these features on his Multifarious blog, and most advanced users of the platform make heavy use of regular expressions in filters and QA rules. For a long time, memoQ users could only look on in envy at all the excellent possibilities before Kilgray belatedly added more regex options to its work environment. However, there are a few raw rubs remaining.

My Arabic translator friend pinged me recently to ask if I was aware of the "regex trouble" in the latest Studio version. He made heavy use of these features for Arabic and English work in some rather amazing, creative and inspiring ways (I had not imagined) in earlier versions of SDL Trados Studio, and some of these features are rather broken at present in SDL Trados 2017. He gave me a very useful tutorial (which I had planned to beg him for anyway soon) in the use of regex in SDL Trados Studio for basic filtering, advanced filtering and QA checks. Overall I was very impressed with the possibilities, but the failure of some regular expressions which worked well in the advanced filters to work at all in the basic filter or in QA rulesets was very disturbing. We argued a little about what the basis of the problem could be in the software programming, but it is a major problem which limits the functionality of SDL's latest software severely and should cause advanced users and LSPs to wait and watch for the fix before upgrading to the latest version. The persistence of such a major flaw in such an important area as quality assurance some 6 months after release is frankly shocking. I hope this will be addressed very soon so that I can migrate and upgrade some of me favorite QA routines from memoQ.

Last but not least is an irritating bug in an auxiliary feature for what has always been one of my favorite terminology tools, MultiTerm. It was the first Trados product many years ago, and despite many quirks over the decades, it remains one of the best. Face it: the memoQ terminology model is OK for most practical uses, but for maintaining high quality corporate terminologies tracking many important attributes it is hopeless garbage. Most other CAT tool terminology databases and glossaries are far worse. MultiTerm sets the standard today still for affordable, flexible, powerful terminology management. For 17 years I have used this excellent platform for my best terminologies for my best clients and delighted in its output management options (even when they can be a pain in the butt to configure properly).

When I want to access my high value MultiTerm resources while translating in memoQ or working in web pages or MS Word, I use the convenient MultiTerm widget to access the data. However, I am very disappointed to find that recent versions do not display the attributes for terms when the widget is used for lookup. Damn. That makes the results just as annoying as the lobotomized MultiTerm/TBX imports into memoQ. I really hope that SDL fixes this flaw ASAP and remains on top of the terminology game with MultiTerm and its lookup tools as a valuable resource even for translators who hate Trados Studio and won't use it.

Overall I am seeing a lot of nice things in SDL Trados Studio 2017, and I would say it is probably more mature and stable than memoQ 8 at this point. But it really is just a late-stage beta release, and more fixes are needed before I can trust it for routine production work. We are all better off for now to stick with the prior versions of both SDL Trados Studio and memoQ.

Mar 8, 2017

Countdown to IAPTI 2017 in Buenos Aires, April 22-23

This year shot itself out of a cannon in early January, and the trajectory promises to be a long one, allowing little time for frivolity and the usual conferences, as much as I might like to drop in on some. But there are two I would rather not miss. This one and METM2017 in late October.

Given some recent, loud public controversy regarding the organizational status of the International Association of Professional Translators and Interpreters, some might wonder that I am attending or even continuing my association with the group. But living in the somewhat magical Latin reality of Portugal myself, I had an instinct that the complications of final registration of the organization by the Argentine authorities might in fact be just another version of the oddities I sometimes experience in my own world, and the recent completion of that process showed that I was right.

In an age where too many of the "professional" translators' associations have turned themselves into amateur whores for corporate interests and the machine pseudo-translation lobby, it is refreshing to see the few groups like IAPTI, the German BDUE and MET who focus on and promote the professionalism of individual practitioners from a strong ethical foundation. Not always with perfect pitch, but it seems the ATA and ITI barely know the music and words to that tune any more, alas.

This year's program in Buenos Aires offers three parallel tracks, dense with professionally valid, valuable presentations for individual translators and interpreters at the top of their game or aspiring to be. This is not your ProZ wannabe event; it is serious business for serious professionals who are serious about the services they provide and who aspire to ever better practice in an often tumultuous international environment. And you can be sure that the corporate shills won't get past the door.

I'll be doing two talks myself at the event, one on terminology, another on collaboration with memoQ as a central resource. But given the promising talks scheduled, I am tempted to skip my own and sit in on the other sessions. Check out the event's professional rogues' gallery and you'll see why.

As for those rumors that the real reason I am going to IAPTI2017 is to play hookey and hit the bookstores, well... uh... no comment. I have a few days on the tail end for that, as I hear there are a lot of them.

The early bird rates for registration run until March 10th, but now or later, the event is an investment worth consideration. See you there?

Mar 4, 2017

Documenting auto-translation rule development for memoQ

In an recent article, I described my simple method of recording examples of structured information like dates, financial expressions or legal references to help developers plan auto-translation rules (or other features using regular expressions, such as Regex Tagger rules) in memoQ and other applications. These are a sort of simplified performance specification - a table of examples showing how the rules should "perform", what they should do: what patterned source language expressions are to be transformed into particular structured expressions in the target language.

The need for proper documentation of such efforts does not end there, however. It is very important, especially for more complex sets of rules, that there be clear documentation of the purpose and logic of the rules developed, and that this documentation be present
  • in the rules themselves (as comments) and
  • in external documents to be used as references for troubleshooting, maintenance and further development.
Auto-translation rules and other resources using regular expressions should not be scripted and maintained for the long run in memoQ itself or in any other environment which does not allow thorough commenting of the regular expressions used. Without comments, it is simply too easy to destroy functioning rules by forgetting why they were written a certain way once-upon-a-time, and an environment able to use comments also allows old rules to be "commented out" (disabled, but still available for reference or later re-use) while new versions are tested. That is basically impossible with memoQ's internal resource editors at the present time. And to make matters worse, if auto-translation rules are edited inside memoQ, their order changes, sometimes with dire consequences if functionality depends on the rule order. Try sorting out problems like that in a set of 70 or so rules.

Excerpt from a large set of currency format rules with extensive comments. These comments are stripped when
the rules are imported into memoQ, so all maintenance should be done externally in a tool like
As I began to revise and improve old rules that I created years ago for dates and currency expressions, I found that it was helpful to create a record of what changes I had made - and why I made them - and keep this information in a tabular form for easy reference and re-use.
Click to access a PDF sample of my rule development record (2 pages)
The graphic above is one example of how I maintain my personal records of some work developing regular expressions. I usually include
  • descriptions of all information recorded
  • a specific example on which I will base the general rule
  • a simple ("fragile") version of the rule part (source input and target output) with only the most essential elements; this is not error-tolerant, but it is the easiest to understand and the first place to look if something isn't working as I would like it to
  • more robust variations which take into account differences in spacing, punctuation, etc. or include things like non-breaking spaces that might be desired in the output (this can get cluttered and hard to read)
  • color-marking for easier identification of some elements
  • comments about why things are written as they are or about possible improvements or problems
This record is a template of sorts from which rules can be assembled very quickly or rules can be re-purposed for other languages or formats in a way that is easy to follow and catch mistakes. Such records are also helpful if the rules are to be shared with other developers or maintained by someone else.

My example is certainly not the final word in project documentation for such efforts; it is simply part of a set of personal tools to help me work more efficiently with the limited time I have. Professional development and consulting organizations often have far more extensive and detailed systems of project documentation; when I was part of one such shop nearly 20 years ago, my (downloadable) 2-page example might easily have filled twenty pages of very important-looking professional technobabble. Life's too short for shit like that anymore.

But if you value your time as a developer or your investment as one who hires others to develop such useful rules, it pays big dividends in most cases to demand some sort of clear, systematic and accurate record of how your special rules, filters, etc. were developed so that they can be maintained and improved in the future.

memoQ Server Mystery: The 99% Solution

Several times in the past year when working on memoQ Server projects for clients, I completed my translation but found that strangely the progress bar was stuck at 99%:

It wasn't until I took another memoQ Cloud subscription for a collaborative project and encountered the same trouble that I realized what was going on.

If you are working on a server project, and graphics in the documents have been imported as well, these are assigned some default text noting that they need to be transcribed (as part of memoQ's interesting graphics translation and substitution workflow). If there is no text to transcribe and translate in these graphics, then nothing is usually done with the graphics. In a local project this does not matter.

But that little bit of default text is in fact a problem currently in server projects. It blocks the use of the "Deliver/Return" function, which may in fact mess up the schedule planning of the project manager who assigned the work. And it is not the translator's fault.

The translator might not even see the graphics if they are not assigned. But even if they can be seen, they cannot be deleted from a checked-out project copy. Not even by someone with administrative privileges for the server.

The solution is to delete the graphics in the Manage Projects window:

This changes the progress bar to 100% after the checked-out project is synchronized, and the translated files can be delivered for further processing and review. Problem solved.

Mar 3, 2017

Security threat: SDL CHM Help files!

US Homeland Security deals with many threats in its daily routine: the occasional radical Islamic jihadi, lots of christofascist buddies of Bannon bombing black churches in their dreams and sometimes their neighborhoods, presidential cabinet members and maybe even The Big Orange Man himself trading their daughters, wives and mothers as well as national secrets for hard Russian rubles and caviar-grade hacking, but the greatest threat in some minds are those Help files from SDL. Bad words from bad hombres as we know.

Fortunately, working together with patriotic Americans and wannabe Americans at Microsoft, they have managed to block the pernicious content of those CHM help files in many a colleague's work environment, preventing an unimaginable number of involuntary seductions by The Dark Side.

If you are one of those fortunate people protected from mind-bending propaganda on the MultiTerm Object Model and other elements of The Dark Arts, praise all the gods and sacrifice a black chicken so that your good fortune may continue.

Do not, I repeat DO NOT allow yourselves to be led astray by seemingly innocent computer geeks suggesting that you right-click on the icon of the CHM file, select Properties and then....

... as they say in memoQ (or used to anyway), DO NOT PRESS THIS BUTTON!!!

If you do, there is no telling what sort of Evil may confront your eyes!

Mar 1, 2017

The case of the disappearing blog

When I finally got done with my morning goat and chicken chores and rolled into the office for another long translation slog, I found a number of concerned messages from friends and colleagues wondering at the sudden disappearance of Translation Tribulations.

Rumor has it that the champagne flowed freely in many a den of iniquity where bulk market bogsters and Linguistic Sausage Purveyors do their dirty deeds. Many a shot of vodka was downed with a robust cry of Чтоб хуй стоял и деньги были! in honor of Putin's man in Pennsylvania, presumed to have done one better on his work in last November's election, and his punk, the Plump Pygmy of Porto, thought to have eradicated this troublemaker's soapbox so translators can be nailed more securely to Across and the Borgian HAMPsTr progress can continue unhindered as well. 

Alas, the blog is back. What actually happened is this: for more than a month I have been receiving notices that the domain ( was about to expire, but every attempt to log in to my so-called Google admin console ended up in a confusing, circular mess of web links telling me that I could not add an admin account for my stupid Google profile. Today I finally figured out that I had two Google accounts, one of which I knew nothing about, which was somehow linked to the blog and used a non-existent e-mail address as its login. Apparently the last time a domain payment was made on this account was three years ago, so I am actually surprised that trouble did not hit sooner. Google is a bloody, confusing mess, and if they have a customer service department to deal with such things (and a dozen other messy little service subscription problems), then I have no idea how to contact the bastards.

In any case, it looks like this agitator will be online for another year at least unless someone figures out where to send the drones for a strike. I hear that the French have been training eagles to deal with such menaces, and I am considering taking up falconry here, so maybe I will be ready for that challenge as well.

Feb 27, 2017

Planning special rules for structured "expressions" and multi-word abbreviations

Translators and editors often deal with what I'll call "structured expressions" or "patterned data" in many forms, which include:
  • long and short dates (2016-01-13; 1/13/16; 13.01.2016; January 13, 2016; 13th January 2016; etc.
  • time expressions (14:35; 2:35 pm; 2:35 PM; 2:35 p.m.; etc.
  • currency expressions (EUR 2.3 million; € 2,300,000; €2.3m; etc.) 
  • legal references (Section 14a paragraph 3 line 2; section 14a (3) line 2; etc.
  • bibliographical references for chapters, pages, margin notes, etc.
  • and much more.
There is also a wealth of abbreviations for multiple word expressions in some categories of text; favorites in German include:
  • in Verbindung mit (variously written as i.V.m., i. V. m., iVm or some typoed hybrid of the aforementioned with spaces and periods included or forgotten depending on the authors' preferences and degree of care)
  • im Sinne des (i.S.d., i. S. d., iSd, etc.)
These can be devilishly hard to check efficiently for consistency or other quality factors in a long text, and for the translation, there is often no single "right" way to format the target text equivalents, with many individual preferences to be found with translation buyers. Even with a good style guide (all too rare anyway), these issues can be challenging time-wasters.

Translation assistance tools such as Apsic Xbench, SDL Trados Studio and others, even memoQ, have various approaches to making life easier for a translator or editor faced with these challenges. Unfortunately for most people, these approaches usually involve the use of "regular expressions" or "regex" as nerds affectionately call it. Not an easy thing even for many hardcore techies!

On past occasions when I have written about the use of regex in translation tools, I have usually stated clearly that the best approach for the best, most reliable results is to have the regex "rules" for handling the text developed by a knowledgeable third party. The experts who deal with this stuff routinely can often reduce a task that would take a semi-skilled person like myself hours or even days to the time for a coffee break, and even if a task takes a while and runs up a bit of a bill, it's much more likely to be done right the first or second time.

But... there's a catch usually. Most of these regex fireaters are not skilled in mind reading, many are not translators, and even those familiar with translation challenges might not be familiar with your working languages or your particular subject areas and their possibly unique challenges. So effective communication is really, really important (it always is, of course, but here even more so if you are dealing with a verbally challenged, monolingual math freak who might be your local expert for regex).

Even for areas I know reasonably well and languages I more or less master, I am often frustrated by help requests from colleagues and clients who need special rulesets developed for a client's preferences for date and currency information, because the request is not clear in its scope and detail, and many important cases are left out, so the end result is not fully satisfactory.

Over the years and with a lot of back and forth (sometimes inside my own head with yours truly as my nightmare of a "client"), I have developed a system of simple documentation for planning and testing rules to help translate and quality check patterned information or multi-word abbreviations. This system provides an easy structure for non-techies (or even hardcore techies) to organize the help request for most efficient handling. Here is an example of part of such a planning sheet for a recent project involving Arabic:

When the time comes to test, just copy the source text column into a separate file, add whatever variations you want to the examples to test your accomodation of typos, etc. and then load that file as a "translation text" for testing in your working environment. If you have the same information for another, overlapping language pair, such as German and English, it is easy to couple that to make a ruleset which maps multiple source languages to a target language. An example of such a result is a memoQ auto-translation ruleset for mapping long dates and month-plus-day dates from German, English, French and Spanish into Portuguese which can be obtained here.

This simple, tabular approach to data collection to plan regular expression rules has made me a lot more efficient at such tasks and faciulitated the re-use of data to make new rulesets for clients and colleagues (or myself) as needs arise. The liberal commenting of examples can be very helpful; information to include which could affect rule structure might involve capitalization, location in a sentence, variations or differences in particular contexts, etc.

For my own work, rulesets include a series for dates, currency and legal reference formats from German to English for generic and client-specific use for US and UK English. With the help of these tabular planning sheets, I can adapt any of these quickly for most other languages.

For tracking the development of rules and their improvement history I have another set of templates which I use for systematic planning and identification of areas to improve. That will be discussed on another occasion.

Feb 23, 2017

memoQuickie: version 8.0 begins public "beta" testing

At breakfast in the Social Media Cafe this morning:

You may have seen the hype behind the "memoQ Adriatic" rollout yesterday. AFAIK this is the first version of the software released without beta-testing, so the release is essentially a beta test. Beware.

The early reaction of one LSP project manager on the memoQ Facebook group makes many of the relevant points. The "new" features are mostly quite beside the point for most of us and are dealt with better elsewhere.

The choice of version "name" also strikes many as bizarre and out of touch. When Kilgray began to ape Microsoft and SDL by including years in the release designation, I said it was a bad idea. This apparent attempt to take cues from Apple's marketing is even worse.

I think this version can be ignored for the most part. Certainly for now in this dangerous beta (or perhaps alpha?) phase. Style is all very pretty, folks, but we need some real substance to address the challenges of translation technology today. Really.

For a "management summary" of new features it seems that the online Help file is your best bet.

Feb 20, 2017

Building a regex-savvy "termbase" in memoQ

For years I have been frustrated by and dissatisfied with how abbreviations are handled in the current memoQ termbase model. The crux of the problem is the handling of the periods in the expressions. This can be seen with termbase entries like the following, for example:

If the abbreviation "Art." appears in the source text, only the second source entry - the one without the period - will give a match result in memoQ. The first entry is simply ignored.

An additional problem which one would face, even if the terminal period character in the term did not pose a problem, is that authors are often notoriously variable in the way they write abbreviations. Take, for example, the abbreviation for the German expression "in Verbindung mit", usually written as "i.V.m."

In recent legal translation work, I have encountered this expression written as above, but also as "i. V. m." (with spaces), "iVm" (no spaces no periods) and sloppily typed variations like "iV.m" or "i. V.m." What's a poor wordworker to do?

The answer came to me while refining a set of auto-translation rules for bibliography formatting and legal references. These, too, can suffer from similar troubles: "page 7" might be abbreviated as "p. 7", but in the sloppy chaos of source texts poorly edited one might find "p.7", "p 7", "p7" or even variations with the letter capitalized, like "P.7". If you are translating nearly 1000 references in a bibliography, robust shortcuts are very helpful and save a lot of time, and if those shortcuts are based on memoQ auto-translation rules, they can also be used in a QA profile to ensure that every bit matches correctly.

As the screen capture from a memoQ Facebook group above suggests, the way to go about this is to identify which parts of the expression might vary with different deliberate and accidental typing. These are usually spaces and periods in the case of abbreviations; sometimes, particularly with German legal abbreviations, capitalization and dashes may play roles as well. (I tore my hair out not long ago trying to understand an Austrian legal text referring to two laws, which differed in their three-letter abbreviations only by a dash inserted after the first letter of one.)

In regular expressions, the question mark character means "zero or one" of whatever character precedes the question mark. So if I want a rule that acts in the case of one or no periods, I put a question mark after the period character. And because in the language of regular expressions, a period is shorthand for any character, if I want to talk about an actual period ("."), I have to precede that character by a backslash ("\."). In the technical jargon of Nerdworld that is known as "escaping the period" and there is no escaping such syntax if you want a regular expression rule about periods, period.

Spaces (normal or non-breaking ones) are represented by an escaped lowercase "s": "\s". So a matching rule for the English abbreviation "e.g" which catches a lot of typing variations might be


And in German, the target replacement rule might be


Of course, if a typist is sloppy, there might be more than one space, or a comma might be typed accidentally instead of a period (the keys are adjacent, and if your screen is as dirty as mine gets sometimes, your eyes might not notice); capitalization might also differ accidentally or based on context. The regular expressions for matching can be adapted to handle all these cases if need be.

Rules of this type are not particularly difficult to construct, but refining them to accommodate all the variations you are likely to encounter may require an expert hand. Thus, as I have suggested before,. the average user should focus on documenting all the possible source variations clearly in a table which includes the desired target equivalents, and this table should be given to an expert (Kilgray support, a qualified consultant like Marek Pawelec or a technical programmer familiar with regular expressions and their use in memoQ). Trust me, this will save a lot of frayed nerves and probably significant time and money as well.

So now I am building a few memoQ auto-translation rulesets which are essentially fault-tolerant abbreviation glossaries. These, together with the similar rulesets for formatting bibliographical references and references to sections, paragraphs, lines, margin notes, etc. in laws, have been very helpful in reducing the time spent translating messy legal source texts, and the accuracy of the work has been improved significantly. Give it a try for your translation challenges!

Jan 12, 2017

The ART of all-round translation....

There is a certain mythology that in Ye Goode Olde Days, life was simpler and more generalist and a whole lot easier. I suspect that is mostly bunk. The stresses and pressures were different, but probably no less when considered objectively. I remember trying to help my wife, a sometime English to German translator, find clients in the early 1990s, and back then if you weren't local, the clients mostly did not want to know. And don't get me started on the time and effort of terminology research for my own translations then and in the decades before.

But I think it is fair to say that today, even the specialist must be a JOAT of sorts, at least when it comes to the bag of technological and project management tricks to subdue the unruly projects that many of us often face. Colleagues Dorota Pawlak and Ellen Singer recognized the difficulties faced by many language specialists in acquiring some of the specialist and non-linguistic skills needed to cope with particular work challenges and designed a program of quarterly, half-day small workshops to provide just the environment needed to cultivate this new knowledge and establish bonds with others in the same endeavor.

Upcoming workshops I find particularly interesting include:

Transcreation with Alessandra Martelli on February 4, 2017 in Leiden and

no kidding, the regex workshop on April Fool's Day 2017 with my favorite tech guru, the brilliant but articulate Marek Pawelec, a first-rate teacher who can make even nasty stuff like regular expressions seem simple for the rest of us. And as I have pointed out in various articles, this knowledge can be extremely useful for those who work with tools like SDL Trados Studio, memoQ, Xbench and more.

I encourage you to have a look at the ART project site and see what else is on the menu; it seems to me that they have the right approach for those looking for a good start in interesting new areas.

And keep up to date with them on Twitter....

Jan 6, 2017

A matter of priority in memoQ

Every memoQ user knows the Translation Results pane.

It's that subwindow on the upper right part of the memoQ translation/editing environment which shows content matches from various sources, including translation memories, LiveDocs corpora, term bases, etc.

Most of us don't really do much with it. And why should we? Well..........

Sometimes there are an awful lot of "hits" displayed in that pane. Lots of matches from the TM, and if you're like me and record a lot of specialized terminology and company names not to be translated, sometimes the entry you need to see is not apparent at a glance; you must scroll down some way to find it.

This is a real problem when I am doing financial or legal translations using specialized autotranslatables, or when certain names and nontranslatable acronyms come up very often and cannot be seen conveniently in the visible part of the list in the results pane.

So what's a memoQ user to do? Change the order of data types displayed, for example.

Under Options > Appearance, you are able to change the relative display priority of hits from every kind of memoQ data shown (as well as change the color codes, though I think this is usually a bad idea). The example above has the autotranslatable matches (coded green) set to display at the top of the list. If I had a lot of proper names saved in nontranslatable lists, I would move that category toward the top as well to take advantage of improved visibility and better keyboard shortcuts.

Some jobs definitely benefit from a customized display order in the Translation Results pane. You can change the order in the Options each time to meet the needs of a particular job, or...

... more conveniently, you can have several different configuration files with particular settings for certain work. The relevant configuration is saved in the file Preferences-editor.xml, which is found at C:\Users|{username}\AppData\Roaming\MemoQ.

There are, of course, a lot of other files in that folder. I keep a shortcut on my Desktop now so I can get to the various configuration files quickly when I want to make changes.

The relevant changes to make in Preferences-editor.xml are found between the tag sets for <hitorderex> and <disabledhittypes>:
The first is the order in which the various types of translation hit results are to appear. The second lists those types in the sequence which are not to be displayed. Note that  also includes the types that will not be shown so that if their display is re-enabled, memoQ will know where they belong.

The correlation of the numeric codes used here to the hit types is as follows:
100 = Translation memory
200 = Term base
300 = Non-translatable
400 = Auto-translation
500 = Fragment assembly
600 = LSC
700 = Machine translation
So in the example above, the display of TM, fragment, LSC and machine translation results has been suppressed.

One convenient way to switch quickly between configuration "profiles" is to keep versions of the XML configuration files with descriptive suffixes in the filename and put an alias (shortcut) for that file somewhere convenient, like on your Desktop. Such a file where autotranslatables and nontranslatables are shown at the top might be Preferences-editor_Autotrans-Nontrans.xml

Before starting memoQ, I find the shortcut for configuration file I want loaded, open it by double-clicking and Save As... with the additions to the filename deleted. This will overwrite the preferences file that was used previously. To switch back, I quit memoQ, open the backup copy of the preferences file I usually use and save it under the name Preferences-editor.xml. Until Kilgray implements actual saveable/loadable user profiles, this is as easy as it will get. Of course this method can also encompass other aspects of configuration.