Jun 30, 2011

A ♥ for Language Blogs

Judy and Dagmar Jenner, the translating twins behind the Translation Times blog, recently suggested that fellow language bloggers post a list of their "ten favorite" language-related blogs and offered their own favorites. I find it hard to pick ten since there are quite a number in the two languages I read well which I enjoy for diverse reasons, but since the motivation behind the suggestion is to give exposure to interesting writing which might otherwise be overlooked, I shall deliberately omit any favorites I have found posted elsewhere under this title to date. Except Mox's Blog, which I described in a recent post. That brilliant little strip about our profession can be considered necessary comic therapy for any serious translator who reads English and deserves all the promotion it gets and more. Here are my recommendations for eleven (well, twelve actually, or a lucky 13 counting Mox) interesting, unique language blogs in German and English, grouped by language:

  • 300 words by Susanne Schmidt-Wussow (@frenja). I love her concept: as a writer with an overabundance of vocabulary, she disciplines herself to make a relevant point with each post in 300 words or less. God help me should I ever try that.
  • Über-Setzer-Logbuch by Gabriele Zöttl. A friend of mine in Munich sent me so many links to brilliant, thoughtful essays here that I became besotted with the blog and its author before I realized it. Not for the weak-of-German but always worthwhile for a mental stretch and linguistic massage.
  • Fidus interpres by Fabio Said. A trilingual blog (English & Portuguese too) with a very large following by a Brazilian translator based in Germany. I've enjoyed and benefited from his posts for years and once learned a lot about traffic analysis from its author. My only regret is that I can barely get the gist of the Portuguese content, so I know I'm missing a lot.
  • A Pragmatic Eye by Charlie Bavington. The author is an irreverent Brit who translates from French to English and has great good sense as well as an unerring nose for bullshit, both of which make him a suspicious character in a ProZian world.
  • Language Mystery by Victor Dewsbery. I became aware of Victor about a decade ago, possibly earlier, because of his many helpful contributions on the Yahoogroups dejavu-l list. He has a rare, thoughtful competence and solid professional ethics, and his occasional well-informed commentaries on his Christian faith are interesting and enjoyable even for a Richard Dawkins fan like me.
  • Words Matter by Doug McCarthy, a thoughtful linguist based in Paris. The blog is only a few months old, but Doug's points are well considered, well expressed and carry real weight. Words do indeed matter there as do the ideas.
  • Financial Translation Blog by Miguel Llorens. Don't let the tile fool you: most of the content hasn't a thing to do with finances. Miguel takes on and exorcises the major demons of today's translating world, including MT, Lionbridge and content farms. He's possibly crazier than I am, but he's right more often and more entertaining.
  • Diary of a Mad Patent Translator by Steve Vitek. Steve also has a range well beyond patents and brilliantly deconstructs the bullshit behind MT (which he uses for some of his work), rate issues and many other topics of current interest for translators. Even when he's trying to explain some obscure linguistic point about Japanese I find his contributions interesting, and even if they're not I enjoy the music videos on every post (and occasionally emulate this when the mood strikes me). I disagree with nearly everything he has to say about translation tools but still like to read it.
  • The Greener Word by Abigail Dahlberg, a German to English translator from the UK, now based in the US. She writes a lot on waste management and recycling topics (her specialty), and I often learn a lot from her posts.
  • Translating Berlin. Since author Sarah Vilece took a day job her posts have been far less frequent than they once were, but I have always enjoyed them for their content, local relevance (I live near Berlin) and their beautiful style.
  • Translationista by Susan Bernofsky is a recent discovery from another world - literary translation. The great thing about reading her blog is that I can enjoy the insights regarding the translation of literature without having to engage in the field's usual habit of starvation. And the writing is good. She also has a good culture blog about Berlin.
Addendum: I see that a number of others have joined the effort inspired by Judy and Dagmar. I'll list links to these posts in no particular order as they come to my attention. I'm particularly pleased that there are few redundancies, and a number of blogs I enjoy but omitted from my own list for no good reason are to be found in these others.
I've also noticed that various scumbag spamming content scrapers have taken some of the posts above as well as my own, changed some words and tried to use the content to draw traffic. Apparently they haven't heard the latest fatwa that makes the perpetrators of such actions fair game....

    Jun 27, 2011

    Safe deliveries

    The process of creative writing has occasionally been compared to that of giving birth, though for most of us writing, the result is less miraculous as a rule. The same is true of translation. Yet an undeniable common element is the importance of a safe delivery, and indeed with some translations, such as urgent medical instructions or nuclear safety training materials, the consequences of a failed delivery have greater potential for harm than childbirth complications. In some cases, even minor delays can have longer term effects on the health of one's business.

    A typical translation assignment for a typical translator typically does not contain life-critical instructions on follow-up medication and treatment or a plan for preventing a meltdown, but it usually is important to the translation buyer and it is often important that the work be received according to some sort of agreed schedule. It should be self-evident that some reliable system of tracking these delivery schedules is useful to reduce the chances of forgotten deadlines; this system should reflect the realities of one's working life and environment. For some, sticky yellow notes on the edge of a monitor work fine. A few others still use paper notebook schedulers, and increasing numbers of professionals rely on software tools such as the Outlook Calendar, AIT's Translation Office 3000, Plunet or the Online Translation Manager (OTM) to keep an overview of their job schedule.

    Once a job is completed, however, there remains the challenge of getting it to the customer. At this stage a number of things can go wrong.

    First of all, e-mail is by no means fail-safe. Just because a message was transferred to the Sent folder of your e-mail client does not mean that it made it to the client's Inbox. The messaging connection from your computer to mine is not direct, and along the way many things can go wrong with host servers, spam filter algorithms, virus or DoS attacks that shut down the relay stations temporarily and more. Lately I have even seen headers from one message grafted onto the bodies of others so that a mailed inquiry with confidential documents from one agency appeared with the name an e-mail address of a competing agency. Thank God I noticed that one before responding. By now most of us have probably seen e-mail messages that arrive hours after they are sent. Or days. Or months sometimes. Or never. I have mail accounts on four or five servers, and I have experienced intermittent problems with every one of these over the years. No e-mail system is foolproof when it comes to delivery on time all the time.

    What can be done? In urgent cases when I think of it, I make a personal call to the client to ensure that the mail has been received, though often the person I want to reach is out of the office, in a meeting or using the office's sanitary facilities, so the important question of the delivery's arrival remains frustratingly unanswered. I'm not fond of this approach for other reasons as well. While I do enjoy talking with my clients, often one or both of us don't really have the time for the contact, and when I call ten times in a row and all is well each time I begin to feel a bit like Chicken Little and stop at some point. Then the next delivery e-mail doesn't make it. And of course I find this out when I'm far away from my office up to my knees in mud with a rifle in my hands looking for boars or trying to keep the dog under control. Not the best time to take a panicked client call.

    My personal solution for this recurring problem was to adopt a bit of agency infrastructure for my freelance business and use translation business portal accounts from LSP.net, a platform for which I also now do the English localization. I've written about this online translation management system on my blog rather often, and I find that the 30 euros a month or so the company asks for a project manager account is cheap insurance among other things. The delivery e-mails from that system so far appear to be more reliable than with my various other hosting providers (Hosting Matters in Florida, ProZ in God-knows-where and some German company), but being somewhat paranoid I do not rely on this. Like many translation business portals, the SaaS solution OTM allows me to create free login access for my customers where they can check on their own to see if a delivery is ready, then download it without my intervention. This has proved useful a number of times in the past year when clients did not receive the files and called me as I was racing down the Autobahn at 160+ kph. With just a short reminder to log into their secure private area they got what they needed in just a few minutes.

    Security is another important difference with portal solutions of this kind. OTM and others offer encrypted HTTPS access, far better than the common frightening practice of attaching confidential client files to insecure e-mail. Some of my clients are well aware of the problems inherent in ordinary e-mail attachment of unencrypted files and have in the past demanded various encryption schemes, some public key variations of which have caused havoc with my Windows operating system to everyone's confusion and consternation. Another occasional client has a system of passwords for zip files that I often find confusing when I am in a hurry, and when I substitute the wrong special character as a separator for the password elements the poor fellow tears his hair out trying to crack the file. A secure connection to an encrypted online portal solves this problem. It also provides a more convenient way to transfer large files, far less confusing that dealing with FTP servers, each of which has its own unique operating quirks. Clients can also upload large jobs to such a portal, avoiding the problems sometimes associated with large e-mail attachments.

    Given the many vulnerabilities of an online business, it makes good sense to take the extra step in technology and use a secure online platform for business communication and data exchange. There are a number of solutions available, and the implementation expenses and effort fall in a range where any viable business can find a cost-effective option.

    Mission drift

    Off to a late start after a torrid night of term extraction with the memoQ 5.0 beta, I scanned the tweets of the morning as I munched a cheese roll and gulped my Milchkaffee. The announcement of the new ProZ Gift Shop stirred a little curiosity as yet another sign of the platform's greater openness to experiment than a participant in a Haight Ashbury orgy around 1969. This time it seems that the German language at least got roundly screwed:

    ProZ.com Geschenkeladen

    Willkommen auf der ProZ.com Geschenkeladen. Hier finden Sie einige Fun-Produkten mit den ProZ.com-Logo. Bring ProZ.com von Ihrem Bildschirm zu Hause oder im Büro!

    Auf der Suche nach Bücher über Übersetzung und darauf, ein freiberuflicher Übersetzer? Seien Sie sicher, dass Sie ProZ.com 's Books Abschnitt.

    Besuchen Sie die Bücher section>>

    Laden Sie eine kostenlose ProZ.com Wallpaper für Ihren Desktop
    et cetera

    The general consensus seems to be that some idiot used MT for the text as opposed to dropping acid for an enhanced translation experience. Even stoned it's hard to screw up a translation that badly assuming that you have some reasonable grasp of the language.

    While I applaud the perpetual willingness of Henry & Co. to broaden their business horizons within the confines of their ideology and find even this diversion with dog dishes and teddy bears to have some redeeming social value, I am disappointed once again at the utter lack of regard shown for core principles of the profession off which the platform feeds, to wit: quality and accuracy. With various mechanisms available on the ProZ platform to identify translators and assign texts like this to them, or even to make use of crowdsourcing options as has been done in the past, it is truly curious how this could be fouled up so thoroughly. I wonder what other languages look like.

    I wonder if the founder and staff, who consistently show an endearing geeky attraction to technology over legal or social appropriateness, have been drinking a little much of the L10n Kool Aid which causes so many to hallucinate about a future of Translating Machines of Ever Loving Grace and the post-editors who serve them.

    I actually like the idea of a bit of merchandising on the platform, though I find the prices a bit appalling. Anything that helps pay the overhead of the server infrastructure in an ethical way is welcome as I see it, but for what ProZ aspires to be there are a few basics which ought to be kept in mind. Instead of drifting aimlessly through the waters of platform experimentation and hitting the obvious rocks shown here, the responsible parties should steer their way to competent members and work out a deal for service that won't further degrade the platform's reputation for quality and drive customers off in disgust.

    Jun 25, 2011

    Laughing at ourselves in Mox's world

    In ancient times when I was a college student, there were two popular cartoons in the free papers around Los Angeles that succinctly described the absurdity of existence and helped me to laugh at it: David Lynch’s The Angriest Dog in the World and the Life in Hell strip by a young unknown named Matt Groening. The themes of angst, frustration and loathing of self or others were a mirror in which many on the fringes of that fast lane metropolis could recognize their lives. More than thirty years later, after a peripatetic professional journey, I find myself working as a translator among peers whose real world and imagined tribulations are not unlike the comic characters of my college days. Great leaps forward in communications technology and infrastructures have made the global local, and while this has created opportunities for many, there are also many who feel threatened by the wide-opened world in the shadow of the Machine Translator and the threat of terrorist language monkeys in faraway jungles willing to work for peanuts. Online forums bristle with fear and indignation at the perceived attempts of “big player” agencies – puny enterprises on a global scale with laughable fractions of market share for language services – to enslave poor freelancers and grind down their self-loathing souls further.

    Enter Mox’s Blog by the engineer and translator Alejandro Moreno-Ramos. Like Lynch and Groening long ago, he captures the spirit of our fast, confusing times in characters which are archetypes well known in the translation world. I can see more than a little of myself or others in my working environment in all the figures of the strip, even the poor pet turtle, who, like my dog, must endure the topsy-turvy life so common for translators’ companions.

    It is an odd phenomenon how the most communicative of visual media are so often the simplest in form. The crude stick figures Alejandro draws accentuate rather than diminish the essential characters and their message. Mox is the brilliant, but wide-eyed innocent who will probably never acquire the self-esteem to demand what he is worth. Long-suffering Lena, his girlfriend, doesn’t understand his world of deadlines and linguistic arcana but loves him nonetheless and is perhaps his only hope of connecting with the real world. Calvo, the experienced translator seduced by the Dark Side, is an ambivalent figure for me. He demonstrates the essential truth that to achieve good fees and respect in the language professions it is often necessary to project an attitude which commands them. He has mastered this well, but at the same time he suffers from ethical deficiencies which cause him to abuse others and which may ultimately lead to his fall. Pam the Evil PM and Bill the Clueless End Client show so many behaviors we encounter to our frustration, but in Mox’s world we can laugh at them and perhaps realize that they hold less sway over us in the real world than we might imagine.

    Indeed, laughter is empowering and can build bridges of understanding. In his comic, Alejandro covers a great range of our daily professional frustrations and humiliations, often exaggerating in the manner expected of the medium, but so better revealing the basic truths and the feelings we should acknowledge and respect. There is a little of Mox in me and a little of Calvo, and I welcome this realization for the opportunity to laugh at myself and reflect on how I can improve professionally and personally. I don’t know if agency project managers and other translation buyers would feel the same way about Pam and Bill, but I hope so. The world is much less cruel when we see the humor in it, even in its dark situations. And by bring humor to a profession whose participants too often despair at its absurdities, Alejandro does us all a great service.

    Jun 24, 2011

    My first look the new custom tagger in memoQ 5.0

    Many months ago while I was doing some localization updates for the Online Translation Manager (OTM) from LSP.net, the project's editor asked me if there wasn't some easy way to protect the many placeholders used for standard customer correspondence and other parts of the application. These typically looked something like [% variable %], where in the case of a variable for a company name, the placeholder might be [% COMPANY_NAME %]. In this case, during translation, care had to be taken not to omit the spaces around the variable name, mistype it or accidentally edit the characters. This usually meant copying the source to target as a precaution, but this approach has some disadvantages in efficiency, as does copying placeholders from the source to insert into a fuzzy match.

    When I asked the support team at Kilgray if there was some way in memoQ to protect these placeholders, Gábor Ugray, the head of development, told me "not now" but that a solution would be at hand with the release of memoQ 5.0 and its custom tagger. I passed on that bit of news and promptly forgot it.

    More recently I had an irritating small translation with a lot of markup like [B]for boldface type[/B], [U]for underline[/U] and so on. The markup played havoc with the spellchecker and was generally a nuisance. Only a few hours after I sent the finished job to my customer, I saw the solution to my problem in the introductory webinar for memoQ 5.0. "Cascading" filters and the custom tagger using regular expressions.

    A few days later I had my first opportunity to try the technology myself. By then I had forgotten the work sequence from the demo and tried an approach which had not yet been fully debugged (but now works perfectly in the current build), but some generous hints and good application examples from the developers soon put me on the right track.

    I imported the files like I did earlier using the Microsoft Word filter. Then I opened a file which contained the tags that concerned me and selected the command from the Format menu to run the regular expressions tagger:

    In the dialog that appeared, I tested expressions for the bracketed content I wanted to convert to tags and viewed the results (saving my configuration for future use once I had what I wanted):

    When I ran the tagger, the text in the working area then appeared with the markup protected as tags:

    I then made a view with the rest of the files in the project and ran the tagger configuration I had saved so that all the files were properly tagged. I should have made a view of everything in the first place and tested the tagger with it, but I only thought of this later.

    Pretty slick. I don't encounter this sort of challenge every day, but it comes up about once a month or more in some job, and this will make those projects much easier. Once a custom tagging filter has been configured, it can be chained ("cascaded") with other filters to form exactly the configuration you need for your file import.

    Addendum / June 27, 2011: Other users' reaction to this technology:

    Jun 20, 2011

    memoQ 5.0: great things ahead for freelancers, LSPs and enterprises

    I wasn't much of a Boy Scout today; having taken an elderly neighbor to a doctor's appointment that was supposed to take a few hours, I hurried home to catch Kilgray's introductory webinar for memoQ 5.0, and when I got a call to tell me that the treatment was complete, I left the patient stranded until Gábor Ugray, the head of development at Kilgray, had finished his fascinating presentation and answered the last question. I think it's fair to say that the upcoming version is the greatest advance in memoQ technology in the company's history. And the most exciting innovations aren't even the ones I've been looking forward to the most for anybody's product for many years.

    In his presentation, Gábor did a good job of describing the benefits of the new features for the three major target groups: individual translators, language service providers (agencies) and enterprises. The major innovations in version 5.0 include:
    • change tracking and versioning
    • terminology extraction and a project lexicon
    • an "on-the-fly" tagging feature (using regular expressions) for improved content filtering and protection
    • cascading (sequential) filters for mixed context such as XML embedded in Excel files
    • a source content connector interface for CMS integration, etc.
    The major benefits of the new version for each target group were described as follows:

    Individual translators
    • initial analysis of project terminology with term extraction
    • term precedence in fragment assembly with the project lexicon
    • better handling of complex, mixed formats with the regex tagger and cascading filters
    • selection of the termbase to which terms are added (supports better QA procedures)
    • customized inclusion of tags in word and character counts to enable appropriate compensation for the extra effort involved in translating heavily tagged content
    • viewing of corrections using the tracked changes features
    LSPs (agencies)
    • the new X-translate feature leverages previous work better and more accurately based on source documents, not TMs
    • more accurate feedback with segment histories
    • improved audit trail with reporting features
    • automation via content connectors
    • open interface for content management system (CMS) integration with memoQ
    The new web-based technologies, qTerm (the advanced server-based terminology management tool released last spring) and WebTranslate (a soon-to-be released product offering the features of the memoQ translation client in a browser) also offer functionality of interest to many agencies and enterprises. Here the Kilgray products are behind the market introduction of similar products offered by SDL and others, but a lead in time does not necessarily translate to a lead in value or function. Kilgray's server products offer innovative features that may be decisive for many clients in the targeted markets, features which are not offered by the more expensive competitive server products.

    The regex tagger essentially enables custom tagging of any content, and the configurations can be saved and used sequentially with other filters. This would have been very useful in a number of projects I have done over the years, where HTML content was embedded in Excel or XML files and particular care was needed to avoid damaging the tags. I can also use this feature to protect placeholders in an ongoing localization project I do based on Java Properties files. Placeholders like [% COMPANY_NAME %] can be turned into tags and protected from damage. The tagger and the ability to chain file filters together are the features I find most personally interesting in the new version, though it is the terminology features I have wanted the most and for the longest time and shall benefit from in nearly every project. The combinations of sequential filters can also be saved for re-use.

    The new memoQ statistical term extraction feature will not replace SDL's MultiTerm Extract for bilingual term mining of TMs, an application I am rather fond of. It is, however, a clearly superior tool for monolingual term extraction from source texts, and the integration with term bases looks promising at first glance. I am also quite excited by the inclusion of a feature I suggested some time ago: combination of term "hits" by stemming. If, for example, I want to combine various forms of a German adjective like säurefest, säurefeste, säürefestes, säurefestem, säürefesten, etc., I merely set a pipe character after the word root (säurefest|) and all the other entries and their statistics will be combined. I don't know at this point if it is possible to define exceptions, though I do see this as necessary, for example for German superlatives. But it's a good start in any case.

    The tracked changes feature and versioning will be extremely useful to those who have to deal with projects where new versions come fast and furious and it's easy to lose the overview. It also has a lot of potential to improve editing and review workflows. Changes can be displayed between any two document versions, and "snapshots" of work in progress can also be saved for purposes of work and comparison.

    The new features I've described are by no means all of what we can expect in memoQ 5.0. Gabor mentioned a number of other things in passing, such as "watched folders", which I assume will enable some sort of file import automation in projects, but frankly there was so much to absorb, and I found myself dwelling on a number of personally exciting points, so that I missed other features which may also be of interest.

    Version 5.0 will be published at the end of June as a release candidate (i.e. presumably table beta version), with the official release a few weeks later after the inevitable initial bugs are ironed out. During that transition period, a parallel installer will be available so that users can work safely with the current version 4.5 while still making the acquaintance of the new version.

    Congratulations are due to the Kilgray team for the many important advances in the upcoming release. I also look forward to the effect this may have on the market: by setting the bar of innovation and usability higher than ever, Kilgray should further inspire its competitors to respond with interesting new features and variations on these new themes. And that will be good for all of us.

    Jun 17, 2011

    Kilgray offers memoQ special until June 23rd

    A 40% discount on memoQ translator pro licenses is available until June 23rd, 2011 as part of a group purchase on ProZ.com. That translates to 372 EUR / 462 USD, significantly less than similar offers in recent weeks from competitors.

    One day into the special offer, which began yesterday, more than half the allocated software licenses have been ordered. This is an excellent price and an opportunity to acquire the tool which is currently the most versatile, easy-to-master translation support environment for freelancers. Given the rapid pace at which the memoQ Server is capturing market share among translation agencies and companies who deal with large translation volumes, there are also increasing numbers of outsourcers looking for translators who work with memoQ. Kilgray's legendary support for all classes of customers is one of the biggest reasons for this growth, though the company's leadership in introducing revolutionary features for reference management, compatibility with other tools and - in the upcoming version 5.0 - terminology management surely plays a role in the success of memoQ as well.

    If you have questions regarding this group purchase or Kilgray's products, they can be submitted via this contact form. One question I can answer here - the deal does, of course, include a free upgrade to memoQ 5.0, scheduled for publication as a release candidate at the end of this month, with the "official" release expected in mid-July.

    Those interested in a preview of the cool new terminology features and other stuff in memoQ 5.0 should join the free webinar on June 20th. Another webinar introducing memoQ 5.0 is scheduled for July 5th.

    Jun 13, 2011

    How not to seduce good translators

    Last Saturday I received the following missive from a translation agency located in a town near Düsseldorf, Germany:

    Sehr geehrter Herr Lossner,

    über das Verzeichnis proz.com sind wir auf Sie aufmerksam geworden. Bottomfeeders Sprachenservice GmbH ist ein etabliertes Übersetzungsbüro, das qualifizierte Fachübersetzungen in fast alle Sprachen der Welt erstellt. Zu unseren Kunden zählen namhafte Wirtschaftsunternehmen, wissenschaftliche Institute und Einrichtungen des öffentlichen Dienstes. Gerne würden wir auch Sie zu unserem Übersetzerstamm zählen und langfristig mit Ihnen zusammenarbeiten.

    Gerade Ihre Sprachkombination mit Ihren Fachgebieten ist für uns sehr ansprechend.

    Wie Sie sicher verstehen, müssen wir unseren Kunden attraktive Preise anbieten, um eine hohe Auftragsquote zu erreichen. Dies ist natürlich nur dann möglich, wenn auch unsere freiberuflichen Mitarbeiter günstige Tarife anbieten. Nur so können wir eine gute Auftragsauslastung realisieren, von der wiederum unsere Übersetzer profitieren.

    Wie hoch ist Ihr Wortpreis im Ausgangstext? Bieten Sie ab einer bestimmten Textlänge Rabatte an und wenn ja, in welchem Umfang?

    Sobald wir uns preislich einig geworden sind, würden wir Sie gerne noch mit einer kurzen Probeübersetzung (ca. 20 Zeilen) beauftragen. Dies ist eine im Rahmen des Qualitätsmanagements festgelegte Vorgehensweise.

    Wir hoffen auf eine positive Rückmeldung und würden uns sehr freuen, langfristig mit Ihnen zusammenzuarbeiten.

    For those of you who can't read German or prefer not to, the compelling message is:

    We found you in the ProZ.com directory. Bottomfeeders Sprachenservice GmbH is a well-established translation agency producing professional translations in nearly all the world's languages. Our clientele includes well-known commercial enterprises, scientific  institutes and public agencies. We would like to count you too among our regular team of translators and work with you long-term.   
    Your language combination and specialties are particularly appealing to us.
    As you surely understand, we must offer our customers attractive rates in order to achieve a high order volume. This is, of course, only possible if our freelance collaborators offer low rates as well. Only in this manner can we achieve a good volume, which in turn benefits our translators.
    How high is your source text word price? Do you offer discounts as of a certain text length and, if yes, to what extent?
    As soon as we have agreed on rates, we would like to assign you a small test translation (of approximately 20 lines). This is part of a defined quality management procedure.
    We hope for a positive response and would be very pleased to work with you long-term.
    My rather spontaneous response to this honor was
    Sehr geehrte Frau B,

    es tut mir leid, aber auf eine solche Ansprache kann ich leider nicht positiv reagieren. Wenn Sie Dumpingpreise benötigen, suchen Sie bitte in Bangladesch. Die Ziele meiner Kunden sind vorrangig gute Kommunikation und rechtssichere Arbeit sowie geeignete technologische Umsetzung und zügige Abwicklung. Preis ist ziemlich nachrangig, und Ihre alleinige Betonung des Preises lässt vermuten, daß Qualität und Fachqualifikation eher eine Nebenrolle spielen. So ist das jedenfalls der Eindruck Ihrer Worte.

    Ich bin stets soweit ausgelastet, wie ich sein will, und zwar mit interessanten Projekte meiner Wahl bzw. langfristigen Kundenpflegearbeiten für zuverlässige Partner. Geeignete Projekte haben immer die Chance, Interesse zu wecken, aber so 'ne Geiz-ist-geil-Philosophie kommt bei mir einfach nicht an.
    For the non-Teutonophiles:
    Dear Ms. B,

    I'm sorry, but unfortunately I cannot react positively to such an approach. If you need price dumping, please look in Bangladesh. My customers' goals are primarily good communication and legally secure results as well as appropriate application of technology and timely processing. Price is rather secondary, and your sole emphasis on price leads one to suspect that quality and professional qualification play more of an ancillary role. That is, in any case, the impression made by your words.

    I am always as busy as I choose to be with interesting projects of my choice or long-term work to support customers for reliable partners. Suitable projects always have a chance of interesting me, but this "cheap is cool" philosophy simply doesn't work.
    I found it particularly amusing that these bottom feeders are in Germany, a country where most of my contacts with agencies emphasize better values. Even when my contacts are with cheapskates who don't give a fig about quality, they at least talk a better game. This particular "vendor manager" in the virtual sweatshop reeks of amateurism.

    Recruiting is a bit like seduction, maybe a lot like it. I have it on good authority that if one wants to attract a partner worth having, it's best not to talk too much about oneself, at least not in an opening line.
    Hey baby, I found your number in the telephone book. I'm a well-established professional who can translate almost anything your little mind can imagine (except fashion). My customers include famous companies and scientific institutes as well a whole lotta government gigs. Whatcha say? Wanna crawl under the covers with me and make some beautiful words? (Long-term, of course, since we all know a relationship with someone as Heaven-sent as me is forever).
    Does that work for you? Probably not. And if it does, I want to see the results of your AIDS test first. Anyone who falls for a line like Ms. B delivers must be desperate to the point of extreme incaution.

    My correspondent, having established what she perceives me to be, thinks that all that is now necessary is to haggle over the price. But unlike the tired, old joke, she fails to show a modicum of respect by asking if I would work for her for some appallingly high price. I'm still waiting for someone to offer me a million euros for a quickie translation; I have a great response prepared for the first one who does.

    I shared the inquiry and my response with a few colleagues to ask them if they felt I had been to harsh. Apparently not. If one soft-spoken respondent had given the advice I received to that wimp General Sherman, the United States would not be burdened with its troublesome Southern politicians today. He, too, has no big problem with translation work being "exported" to the developing world by companies who care little for communication quality and customer safety, but like me he wishes they would go quickly and directly there and not bother us by ringing our doorbells like so many delinquent children.

    It is really not our problem that bottom feeding agencies like this one have proliferated like rats on a garbage heap and are now gnawing at the cables in more respectable establishments and invading corporate boardrooms. When the food supply of clients where purchasing clerks are the key decision-makers for quality-critical elements such as translation grows scarce, the rats will turn on each other (as they have done) and eat each others' flesh. The red ink at Lionbridge for so many years in the past decade is just one example of this. I would think no more of stepping into the price wars between these lowball losers than I would of involving myself in the drug wars of the gangs in the areas of Southern California where I grew up.

    I would like to contrast Ms. B's failed seduction with a successful one some eight years ago. The agency principal called me one day to chat, sounded me out about my specialties, work experience and general philosophy. He said he wanted to try me out with the idea of working together long-term if we were both satisfied. He offered a paid assignment, and when early in the relationship, his British reviewer had a fit about my work, calling it literal Germanic crap or some such thing, we discussed the matter at length, and when I challenged him to ask the customer which worked better for a US audience, he passed on both my original translation and the revision and never questioned my competence again after that. And the price? Oh yes, we did agree on one. It was OK at the time, now it's actually at the very bottom of my rates, but I've been so thoroughly seduced by excellent project management, reliable payment practices, respect and mutual support in many matters that I not only don't care, I actively help recruit new clients (for languages I don't do) and refuse to charge for doing so most of the time, because I get a great feeling from helping a friend and his team succeed in a tough, competitive environment.

    I suspect there might not have been much difference between what Ms. B was willing to pay and what I take from this other agency. But the latter knew all the right dance steps, when to lead and when to be led. I have a great time working with them, and I never feel used. And when something warrants a special charge, I say so, and there isn't a problem. My other partners offering double and triple the rates of my old partner are often as fun or respectful, but while they might now take up most of my schedule, they cannot break the loyalty I feel to a partner who underpromised (never spoke of big volumes or any of that horsefeathers) and overdelivered with a truly productive long-term relationship.

    Jun 12, 2011


    Codex Guelferbytanus B, 026, folio 194 verso
    I've had a fascination with this word since I first encountered it twenty years ago in a translation of Umberto Eco's Il nome della rose. As a calligrapher specialized in a few European medieval and Renaissance scripts, I appreciated the link to a history in which resources such as parchment were all too scarce, especially as I had little money at the time and had to do most of my work on paper rather than vellum. I imagined scraping away the heretical pagan scribblings of some earlier scribe to reuse the valuable page for the important task of recording in livid, illuminated knotty-beastie color God's Holy Word... and shuddered.

    A recent article in the New York Times reminded me of palimpsest once again. Literary translation isn't my world; working in this area would be too toxic for me, I fear, even if I had the mind for it. My belletristic encounters tend to lead to legal actions, stalking and stressful affairs, and a host of other things best avoided, but I will occasionally indulge in some good reading, and when the text is translated from a language I cannot read, I wonder wistfully about the original. Occasionally, I'll read two translations of a novel transmitted from a third language I do not know: Der Name der Rose / The Name of the Rose was one such case. I was appalled at the apparent omissions in the English translation, and I could not help but try to reconstruct in my mind the original from the evidence of similarities and divergence seen in its translations. There are so many philosophies of translation and fidelity to the original, and all are wrong - or right - depending on the purpose or context. Yet even the most careful rendering of a source text seldom captures the full spirit and purpose of the original; sometimes fidelity to the Mistress of Meaning requires that one betray her words. This is one of the things that fascinates me most about translation, and even with a rather pedestrian commercial text, there are often revealing moments of linguistic intimacy that touch a very satisfying harmonic chord.

    Errors in a translation also often reveal the original text to the trained eye. One of the reasons that I refuse to do monolingual revisions of texts in English is that I expend too much effort trying to discern the original meaning. In the case of an English text by a German or Korean author, for example, that meaning is locked away in another person's head, and the palimpsest I am given conceals as much as it reveals.

    When we overwrite the original text on the screen, replacing it with our own words that pretend to be original, how often do we really succeed? And is this a good thing? Is the spirit of the original expressed full in the flavor of our words, or is there a bitter afternote which tells the reader that there is more to the story?

    Post scriptum: I was informed via Twitter of the term 'palimptext' from one Michael Davidson. Being a strict avoider of the postmodernist bullshit plague, I was previously unaware of this word, which applies very well to the matter presented here. Those who read Italian might enjoy this post.

    Jun 6, 2011

    The Compleat Translator

    This was a theme I suggested to Steffen Walter many months ago when planning for this year's annual powwow in Berlin began. I had in mind a series of small presentations on various bits of hardware and software that might constitute a complete and functional - and possibly mobile - translator's office. Due to a busy schedule and general mental malaise as I reoriented myself in a new life and new surroundings, I didn't add anything to the original suggestion, and when later I saw that a presentation of Dragon Naturally Speaking was planned, I breathed a sigh of relief that this year's meeting would be another where I could simply relax and mingle with good people whom I see too seldom as well as meet interesting new ones.

    Translator's luck struck as it often does, and on the afternoon of the first day of the gathering, the presenter's laptop died, and I was asked to step in and give the talk I never prepared. Since I never really prepare talks anyway, I agreed to do so, and after the first night's bacchanal at Restaurant Lei e Lui in Berlin-Moabit, I hit the couch hard and awoke groggy early the next morning to feed the chickens and organize some notes for speaking later that day. I had been asked to speak in German, something I don't do much of these days, and when I do I usually make more extensive notes than I would for a presentation in English, then gradually distill these down to a few points on an index card as I review and reconsider what to say. There was no time for any of this, unfortunately.

    When I pulled out the A4 pages on which I had printed the draft text for my talk, I realized that I couldn't read it without glasses. Even with glasses it wasn't so easy. Ah, the joys of growing old. I had a horrible vision of hunching over my illegible, ungrammatical notes and squinting, struggling to choke out inchoate bits of advice presumed to have some greater, though undiscernible context. As it was, fear gripped me full by the throat and the evil spirits of SDL and others possessed me and spoke through me. What was actually said in that session is unknown to me (age, chronic memory dysfunction), though I have been able to reconstruct some of it via Twitter (#pwberlin11), and it occasionally bears some relationship to the original notes.

    Below I've copied my original notes in German for those who wish to marvel at how badly I write the language after so many years of sneaking around with it; I've included a few additional comments in English on things I remembered, might possibly have added or heard from others during the session. My apologies to those who suffer with the length of my posts: this one will be worse than usual.

    The talk was delivered without slides or audiovisual aids, just a few pieces of paper and a sleeping dog on whom I tried not to step.


    Heute werdet ihr „Kevin unplugged“ erleben: die wichtigsten Aspekte der Technologie und des Übersetzerlebens kann man auch ohne Rechner und PowerPoint vorführen und besprechen.

    Den Titel des heutigen Vortrags hatte ich vor Monaten vorgeschlagen als ich an die häufigen Fragen von Anfägern bei ProZ gedacht habe. Dort sind man immer wieder Grundfragen zur Ausstattung und notwendige Schritte, um das eigene Geschäft nachhaltig zu machen. Gedacht habe ich damals an eine Übersicht der technologischen Möglichkeiten. Da diese aber ohne die menschliche Komponente wenig taugen oder sogar schädlich sind, werden wir auch von nichttechnologischen Aspekten reden.

    Vorab muß ich aber betonen, was alle erfahrene professionelle Übersetzer wohl wissen: der Weg zum nachhaltigen Erfolg ist kein Weg, sondern ein Netwerk von Pfaden, die unterschiedliche Abenteuer und Möglichkeiten anbieten. Der von mir gewählte Pfad ist nicht Dein Pfad, aber vielleicht können meine Erfahrungen und Erläuterungen dazu als Denkanstosse dienen, womit Du – womit wir – manche Stolpersteine vermeiden können.

    Reden wir erstmal von

    I. Hardware
    Dass ein Rechner heute zur Grundausstattung des Übersetzers gehört ist wohl klar. Aber nicht nur einen Rechner soll das sein, sondern mindestens zwei. Voll ausgestattet, arbeitsfähig und am Besten synchronisiert. Selbst sehr erfahrene Leute in der Branche ignorieren dieses Prinzip, und das kann teuer werden, insbesondere wenn lukrative Jobs durch Versagen eines Rechners zum Teil oder im Ganzen verloren gehen.

    Meines Erachtens sollte mindestens einer dieser Rechner mobil sein, also ein Notebook. Aber bald wird es klar, dass es besser zwei Notebooks sein sollte; der mobile Einsatz ist für mache so unentbehrlich, dass auch dieser durch das Redundanzprinzip zu schützen gilt.

    Wie groß das Bildschirm sein soll und sonstige Aspekte ist eine Entscheidung, die jeder anders treffen wird, da unsere Bedürfnisse und sehe Vermögen unterschiedlich sind. Das wichtige Prinzip hier ist Sicherheit durch Redundanz und Mobilität, also zwei mobile Rechner oder mehr. Ob statische Rechner (sogennannte Desktops) dabei sein sollen ist auch eine Geschmackssache. Diese finde ich heutzutage persönlich unnutz.
    (A quick poll of those present revealed that about half no longer work with a desktop computer at all but rely entirely on laptops of various kinds. Also, one participant pointed out the disadvantages of having a second computer for emergency purposes: this defeats the restful purpose of having a computer fail in the first place, since one has no excuse not to continue working.)
    Ein zweiter, unentbehrlicher Aspekt der Hardware-Ausrüstung ist das Telefon. In dieser Hinsicht habe ich Herrn Herbert Fipke viel zu verdanken. Sein Vortrag vor zwei Jahren bei diesem Powwow zu mobilen Telefondiensten, Kosten sparen und Flexibilität gewinnen hat mein Leben in mancher Hinsicht verändert und verbessert und mir ein Haufen Geld gespart. In diesem Bereich tut sich vieles. Wegen meiner Technologieallergie habe ich nur ein sehr einfaches Wegwerftelefon, dass ich u.U. bei der Schweinejagd im Sumpf fallen lassen kann. Aber ich denke, Smartphones – richtig eingesetzt – sind heute auch eine Technologie, die befreiend zum erfolgreichen Übersetzerleben beitragen können. Und da es jetzt eine Smartphoneschnittstelle für mein Projektmanagementsystem (OTM) gibt, werde ich mit hoher Wahrscheinlichkeit in den kommenden Monaten ein iPhone kaufen, damit ich Projektanfragen und Emails abrufen kann.

    Und ich würde auch mobiles Internetzugang über SIM-Geräte, ob Telefone oder Sticks in diese Kategorie (Telefonie) als unentbehrlich einorden. Ich benutze Vodafone und O2/Fonic und Blau als Prepaid – für absolut alles. Kein Telekom, kein Arcor, dank Herbert.

    Für Reisen habe ich auch ein Skype-Abonement womit ich von jedem europäischen Land mit meinem Netbook umsonst telefoniere.
    An understanding of current mobile telephony options and equipment that can be used with any SIM card in any county is liberating and cost-saving. It really pays to investigate this stuff.
    Ein Rechner, ein Telefon, mobiles Internet. Welche Hardware gehört noch dazu? Drucker natürlich, da würde ich auch vorschlagen, ein Scanner dabei zu haben. Wenn Hardcopy vorkommt, was je nach Tatigkeitsbereich oft oder nie sein kann, ist Scannen mit anschießender Texterkennung sehr nützlich. Multifunktionsgeräte sind heute gut und billig. Für einige hundert Euro hat man schon ein Topgerät!

    Was ist mit Fax? Habe ich zwar noch, aber die Tendenz ist so, dass das wohl besser virtell abzuwicken ist mit einer Nummer, die eingehende Nachrichtungen in Email-Anhänge verwandelt. Ausgehend gibt es Faxtreiber in Software bzw. Scanner – alles andere ist Luxus.
    Scanners and OCR are also critical to the use of CAT tools for better quality assurance of translation assignments received as hardcopies or scans.
    Das war’s für Hardware. 

    II.    Die Softwarewelt ist relativ eindeutig.

    Kaum einer kann heute bestreiten, dass sogenannte CAT-Tools wichtig für praktische Arbeit sind. Es geht um weit mehr hier als Wiederholungen, wie einige noch glauben – die besten CAT-Tools heute ermöglichen bessere Terminologiearbeit, Referenztexteinsatz und vieles mehr. Und die Möglichkeit, mit vielen Ausgangsformaten in einer einheitlichen Umgebung zu arbeiten. Diese entwickeln sich immer weiter als Werkzeuge für Datenmanagement, und das kommende Jahr wird von Kilgray und anderen viele schöne Dinge mit sich bringen.

    Hier empfehle ich einfach memoQ als Hauptwerkzeug. Andere können und sollen oft unterstützende Rollen für Datenvorbereitung oder QS spielen. Warum memoQ? Nicht wegen der führenden Technologie, die jetzt in mancher Hinsicht das Vorbild für die Entwicklung bei SDL und anderen darstellt. Sondern wegen Support. No man is an island. Oft kommen Probleme vor, Probleme die auch von einem wie ich mit 4 Jahrzehnten IT-Erfahrung nur schwer zu lösen sind, und das Support-Team bei Kilgray gibt auch zu Unzeiten beste Unterstützung. So was findet man nicht bei SDL, wenn man nicht gerade persönlich mit Paul Filkin zu tun hat.
    memoQ will make your translating life easier, and if it doesn't, Kilgray's support will.
    Nur eine ergänzende Software werde ich hier noch erwähnen: OCR-Software. Investiere hier in richtige, gute Software für Texterkennung; das lohnt sich. Das ist meht als Textextrahierung, wie man bei vielen sogenannten PDF-Konvertierern findet; diese sind mit gescannten PDFs völlig wertlos. Kauft euch eine Abby FineReader-Lizenz am besten und lernt alle Einstellungen. Und für Kunden ohne editierbaren Ausgangstext stelle den konvertierten Text bei der Lieferung bereit und in Rechnung. So habe ich etliche Tausende Euro hinzuverdient. 

    Eine weitere Kategorie, die zur kompletten Ausrüstung des vollarbeitsfähigen Übersetzers gehört ist Projektmanagementsoftware. Viele kennen Tools wie Translation Office 3000 von AIT; für mich stellt das ein absolutes Minimum dar. Diese sollen auch gleich am Anfang für Angebotserstellung und Auftragserfassung eingesetzt werden; richtig gemacht, und am Ende eines langen stressigen Projektes kann man dann meistens auf Knopfdruck die Rechnung erstellen.

    Hier gehe ich aus diversen Gründen ein Schritt weiter als die Meisten: mein System für Projektmanagement, Angebotserstellung, Rechnungsgenerierung, Lieferung und Kommunikation mit Kunden und mitwirkenden Übersetzern ist im Internet verfügbar. Dadurch habe ich viel größere Sicherheit – wenn bei mir ein Rechner versagt oder geklaut wird, geht alles an irgendeinem anderen Rechner weiter. Einige Infobroschüren habe ich mitgebracht; sie liegen dort auf dem Tisch.

    Vor allem hat sich auch die sichere, verschlüsselte Datenübertragung bei manchen hochwertigen Kunden bewahrt, aber das Wichtigste ist die Verfügbarkeit von jedem Standort mit Internetzugriff sowie alle Agenturfunktionen  für Vermittlung von Aufträgen, usw. nach Bedarf. 

    So hat man alles, was man wirklich braucht, um als mobiler Übersetzer in der heutigen Wellt volltauglich zu sein.

    Was braucht man noch? 

    III.   Kommunikation und Netzwerke

    Für ein langfristig stärkeres, nachhaltigeres Geschäft sind professionelle Netzwerke sehr wichtig. Ein Beispiel haben wir hier heute – die Möglichkeit, mit Kollegen auszutauschen. Aber man sollte auch aus vielen Gründen die Mitgliedschaft in Organisationen wie die BDÜ, ITI, ATA usw. anstreben. Das habe ich persönlich anfangs als Witz gemacht, aber die Qualität der Kundenanfragen über die Verzeichnisse dieser Organisationen allein berechtigt alle Kosten. Dazu kommen noch gute Weiterbildungsseminare und nützliche Informationen zu gängigen Honoraren usw.

    Wer ist hier BDÜ Mitglied? Und Mitglied in anderen Organisationen? Was hat das für einen Unterschied für Dich gemacht?
    More than half the attendees were members of a professional organization of some sort, a few were in professional groups outside the realm of translation and interpreting. More of that would be good for direct customer relations as well as continuing education in special areas. The experience of a number present confirmed that the quality of inquiries coming via contacts from these organizations' directories is generally very high. A copy of a past BDÜ rate survey was circulated as an example of the valuable information members receive.
    Und jetzt kommen wir zu dem wichtigsten Element für den Compleat Translator:

    IV.   ein Leben außerhalb des Übersetzens. Das mag für die meisten wohl klar sein, aber selbst die, die besser wissen, können in Existenzängsten, die das freiberufliche Leben oft begleiten, verwickelt werden und das vergessen oder die notwendige Ruhezeit verschieben. Tu‘ das bloß nicht. Schlaf und Auszeit sind unentbehrliche Bestandteile der Kreativität und Produktivität.

    Und wenn wir das vergessen, hoffe ich, dass wir uns auf unsere Freunde und Netzwerke verlassen können, die uns sanft oder auch unsanft daran erinnern. Das ist lebensnotwendig. Letzten Endes – trotz aller Technologie, sprachwissenschaftliches Können und alle bekannte Merkmale unseres Berufes ist das komplette, nachhaltige Dasein als Übersetzer in den wichtigsten Aspekten nicht von anderen Existenzen zu unterscheiden: Gleichgewicht in jeder Hinsicht, auch seelische, soll sein.

    Get a life or die.

    Jun 5, 2011

    Not a plague to the eye

    The ProZ powwow in Berlin, Germany has been organized by Steffen Walter since before I moved to the area, and it is by far the best such event of its kind I think. Attendees come from far away, in many years from Canada, Mexico and other obscure corners of the world. This year someone even came from Steglitz. Some three, actually, or four if you count the Sheltie. There were few dogs compared with many translators' events; only two in fact. But still, it was a great pleasure to meet familiar colleagues and new ones, one of whom I would like to introduce here.

    When Anne Plagemann handed me her business card, designed by a friend of hers, the well-chosen colors immediately caught my eye and interest. Then I tried to read it. The small type made it clear that her target customers were ones with excellent vision or at least a current prescription for reading glasses. I'm looking forward to the large print version, which I'll probably pass along to those in need of the kind of services she offers, because she makes a very professional impression and her English is excellent.

    Then I had a look at her web site. From time to time I like to highlight web sites of colleagues for various unique features or other things which I feel makes them a good example. Anne's site is excellent and very much worth a look. The web design by Franziska Pieloth is very easy on the eye. Ms. Pieloth is a Leipzig-based interpreter with talents that obviously extend beyond her language services. I was particularly pleased by how I could navigate between the three languages of Anne's site by clicking on the colored blocks with the word "translator" in German, English and Italian. But overall the simplicity of the site and the ease with which one can navigate it is very refreshing. I shouldn't be surprised, I suppose. The site designer's degree thesis included an extensive study of the good, bad and ugly practices on the web sites of a great number of fellow freelance language service providers. The lessons learned there were clearly distilled into a good site for Ms. Plagemann.

    Jun 2, 2011

    Interoperability Now!

    For over a decade now, I've been concerned with the interoperability of translation support systems for companies and individual translators in many ways. I became a professional translator after varied activities as a systems consultant, software developer, research chemist, medical technology consultant and sheep farmer in part because of a need at my employer at the time to make diverse systems and processes involving translated content work together with a minimum of data loss and time wasted. This led me to become familiar with Trados, Déjà Vu, Star Transit and a host of other translation environment and support tools, many of which have long disappeared from the active world.

    One thing that becomes quickly apparent to anyone involved with more than one of the major technology systems for translation support is the severe limits of compatibility for those with a need to move data between systems and exchange information. In this respect the translation world is decades behind the more mature world of corporate IT, where a mix of systems tailored to solving particular problems is the norm. In the translation world, this is not impossible - many people do it to some extent - but the biggest barrier is the mentality of the people involved. Face it, quite a number of translators are very uncomfortable with technology. Some even hate it.

    As someone about to celebrate the conclusion of his fourth decade of working with computerized information technology, I think I can confidently say that I hate this technology more than most translators. For good reason. Back in high school I discovered how an entire day could disappear as I hunched over a CRT to adapt Fortran IV code and update it to run on a timesharing system with Fortran 77; I would start in the morning with sunshine and birdsong, but after a while my eyes ached and my head hurt, and I realized that darkness had fallen without my stirring from the seat of technical torture. When I went to college, I made a conscious decision to use no computers for most of the four years it took to get my degree; I wanted to interact with people and learn things less ephemeral than new system software and computer "languages" (better called  "instruction syntaxes" I think).

    I have watched the inexorable forward march of computer technology as it has conquered too many areas of our lives. It has laid waste to far too many of my fifty years. But it has, of course, brought wonderful benefits as well. With a few mouseclicks I can place a free Skype call to family members in faraway California, and we can talk about the latest news, triumphs and tribulations without having to skip meals to pay a phone bill.

    One of the greatest burdens for me in all the time I have been involved with IT has been incompatibility of one sort or another. Our societies function best when information is shared freely and accurately. To the extent that IT support this, I find it good, or at least a beneficial evil.

    But our lives are ill spent running like hamsters on a wheel from one application to another to accomplish essentially the same tasks; while my life as a translator may be simplified and improved a great deal with the use of a great translation environment tool, it is in no way whatsoever enhanced by the need to use two or more of these for the same tasks. Yet the need to collaborate with colleagues and agencies often drives translators to do this: many of us have licenses for several "CAT tools". And a great many agencies have multiple systems, or their staff go mad trying to make their chosen system work effectively with the babelized translation IT-scape.

    It is certainly time for interoperability. Now. Well, yesterday actually, but there's nothing to be done about that except to do it now. Or suffer into the future. At this year's memoQfest in Budapest, Kilgray and a few others introduced the Interoperability Now! initiative and some of its participants. The hour-long session can be viewed here. When I look at the problems of data loss, barriers to collaboration and so many other problems in our field, problems which a few parasites benefit from but which harm most of us, including the "translation consumers" (a dehumanizing term to describe the individuals, organizations and companies who need our services), I can only stand up on my seat and cheer this initiative on.

    Although our field's mercantilists would disagree, I think that full interoperability of systems for data exchange without loss and work collaboration would bring considerable economic benefits to the creators and purveyors of translation technologies and rightly so. It might also reduce the waste of resources as companies struggle to create redundant functions best left to the few who would do them well and passionately. If WhizWareZ.com shows the greatest genius for client human interfaces, why should its translation client connect to and work with every major translation work server system on the market, freeing the user to do and learn better things than yet another damned CAT tool. Let the market decide whose terminology module will work best with the next version of the memoQ or SDL or Star server or client. Why should the IT geeks be on call every time a simple exchange of information is desired? There are better ways to spend time and money, so lets invest now with the geeks to smooth the way for the future.

    There was one discordant note in the song for the new initiative. An effort of this importance should, if possible, have the participation of a major market player like SDL. And SDL has not been invited to the party. The argument presented for this at memoQfest had, as I recall, something to do with keeping the team lean to pursue a quick resolution of these important issues, and when one considers SDL's history of clumsiness, predatory acquisition and disregard for standards, there is no little reason for caution. However, the past few years have seen SDL open its interfaces and improve the interoperability of its tools, so I do believe that it is worthwhile for SDL technical decision-makers to sit alongside their peers from Andrä, Kigray and other companies and hammer out better tools for trading data among other things.

    Even if this does not happen - I can understand the logistical challenges of too many involved in defining these interfaces - I hope there will be a good mechanism for public comment and subsequent revision, so that others - individuals or organization - can contribute their valuable knowledge and ideas. I would like to see the Open Source projects like OmegaT give input as well and implement the standards proposed.