Nov 26, 2017

MS Word Macros to Speed up Translation-Related Terminology Research

Guest post by Tanya Harvey Ciampi, English translator (DE/FR/IT>EN)

Is your terminology research slowing you down?

When we translate Microsoft Word documents, we often find ourselves having to leave Word to look up terms online, for example in monolingual dictionaries for definitions, in bilingual dictionaries or translation memory databases for translations, on specific reputable websites (such as newspaper websites) to double-check usage or frequency of use, or on clients’ own multilingual websites to check how certain terms have been translated in the past to ensure consistent use of terminology.

This sort of research involves switching to a browser, copying and pasting or retyping our term into a search box, possibly adding specific search criteria, and finally launching a search: all that typing and clicking can be time-consuming and easily cause us to become lost among the many windows opened.

Macros to the rescue!
This is where macros come in. A macro is essentially a short sequence of commands that automates repetitive tasks. Macros cost nothing to create and can be tweaked to do exactly what you need them to do, based on your specific language combinations and favourite online terminology resources, providing these lend themselves to this sort of querying.

How do macros work?
A macros consists of code, which you simply need to copy and paste into the Macros section of Word. That done, you then need to assign an icon to the macro and add it to your toolbar to launch the macro with a single click every time you need it. If you wish, you may also assign a specific key combination to the macro (for example CTRL plus a key of your choice) so that you can launch the macro from your keyboard, too.

From now on, when translating a text in Word, all you need to do is place your cursor on a word that you wish to look up and click on the corresponding icon in your toolbar (or use the assigned key combination) to launch the search. That’s all there is to it!

A few examples of macros and what they can do for you:

SCENARIO: Imagine...SOLUTION... with a single click! need to look up a term in the bilingual dictionaries and but this requires opening your browser, browsing to both dictionaries separately and pasting in or retyping your search term on each website... quite time-consuming! A macro to search both dictionaries at once taking your word from MS Word and inserting it automatically in both dictionaries for you... with a single click from within Word.
(This macro can be adapted to all sorts and any number of websites)
What this macro does essentially is launch a Google search from within Word, adding specific search criteria, in this case:
“your search term” or wish to run a search in the online translation memory database (or,, etc.) to check how other translators have translated a certain term or expression. A macro to search Linguee taking your word from MS Word and inserting it directly in the Linguee search engine with a single click from within Word.
This macro produces a list of source- and target-language sentences containing your search term along with context. are translating a text and need to check how a particular expression is used. You decide to search reputable sources such as high-quality newspapers to check usage and/or frequency of use of a specific term or expression. Where do you look? A macro to search specific newspaper websites which you consider reputable sources from within Word.
(This macro can be adapted to all sorts and any number of websites.)
This macro essentially launches a Google search from within Word, adding specific search criteria to target a specific website, for example:
“your search term” are translating for a company that has a multilingual website and you need to check how a specific term has been translated in the past. A macro to search for the term on a specific multilingual website from within Word.
This macro can be extended to cover various related multilingual websites. In banking, for example, these might include the following:
This macro essentially launches a Google search from within Word, adding specific search criteria, for example:
“your search term” or or are translating a text and can't find an appropriate translation of an expression or technical term in any dictionary. A macro to search for your term on a large multilingual website such as that of the European Union from within Word. This macro targets the section of the EU website containing translations side by side (“parallel texts”) on the same page, saving you precious time.
This macro essentially launches a Google search from within Word, adding specific search criteria, for example:
“your search term”
Once you have opened a page on the EU website, all you need to do is specify your target language under “Multilingual display” to view source and target language side by side.

See a couple of these macros in action:

These and more macros are available for free at

The macros themselves are written by a translator with translators' needs in mind and can be adapted to your specific requirements.

Macros may also be created to automate the web-based terminology research techniques for translators found at
... reducing them, too, to a single click in Word!

The original search techniques on which these macros are based were featured in the book entitled “Google Hacks” (“Hack #19: Google Interface for Translators”) by Tara Calishain, Rael Dornfest


Tanya Harvey Ciampi, Dipl. DOZ (Zurich)
English translator (DE/FR/IT>EN)
6673 Maggia, Switzerland,

Tanya grew up in Buckinghamshire, England, and went on to study in Zurich, where she obtained her diploma in translation. She now lives in the Ticino, the Italian-speaking region of Switzerland, where she works as an English translator (from Italian, German and French) and proofreader.

Nov 15, 2017

memoQ Cloud subscriptions and credit card tribulations

Kilgray's memoQ Cloud service is a very convenient platform for learning and testing the latest features of the memoQ server and operating a server for small teams without the hassles of maintaining the server infrastructure and software in-house. For those considering a dedicated server for their company or institution, it offers an excellent opportunity for pilot testing at low or no cost depending on how long you use it. The first month is free; after that the monthly charges (to a credit card) currently start at EUR 160 or USD 175 for an account with one project manager license and 5 web access licenses (to which anyone with a licensed copy of memoQ can connect, without the need to include Translator Pro licenses in the subscription - these are needed only if users without a license will be connecting with the desktop editions of memoQ).

I use the memoQ Cloud server occasionally for shared projects, because it allows me to configure files and resources (of all kinds) more conveniently than file-swapping by e-mail or Dropbox folders and provide better support to my team members. For €160 per month in the months I need it I am on equal footing with any large agency with a memoQ server for the team sizes I want to work with. And I can even share the translation memory resources with colleagues who use SDL Trados Studio using the free Kilgray plug-in for that platform which enables access to any memoQ server online (with an access account created).

The only disadvantage of this service for me is Kilgray's annoying tendency to force upgrades much too soon in the release cycle. This won't matter at all to someone testing the memoQ Cloud server to evaluate the latest release; in fact, this is helpful to avoid the occasional server setup difficulties with new versions on which the paint has not yet dried so you can focus on evaluating features and general stability. But if you are in the middle of a big project, this can be a nuisance. More often now I assume, since Kilgray's current strategy involves more frequent minor version releases. If there is a compatibility problem between the latest release and a team member's memoQ software version, and that person isn't current with the annual maintenance and support plan (which includes free upgrades), they will be stranded for access from their memoQ desktop application until the missed annual fees are paid up.

But until today there was another mysterious hassle that I finally got sorted out. When I first started using memoQ Cloud, I paid the subscription with a US credit card from an old credit union account there. No problems. However, when I incorporated my business in my current country of residence and tried to use a card from my business account there, it never worked, and the explanation screen was displayed for only a brief time, with the text completely garbled due to an incorrect codepage specification for the web page. The first time this happened, I assumed the problem was Kilgray's, and after some back-and-forth with support, the company kindly made an inconvenient exception to their "credit card only" rule and sent me a normal invoice to pay by bank transfer. This isn't a usual thing as I have learned from some frustrated potential corporate customers who don't want to pay by credit card, so I am grateful that something was worked out in that case so I could get on with some urgent teamwork.

After a break of six months or so, the need for a cloud server arose again, and again I had the same trouble with my business credit card. After grumbling briefly to a friend at Kilgray who had sorted the mess out before, I decided to call my bank, because in the meantime my reading skills had improved enough that I was fairly sure that the trouble had nothing to do with Kilgray. Indeed.

The credit card verification and approval service used by Kilgray for web payment is 3-D Secure. In the case of my bank, this service is not available for credit card payments unless its activation is specifically requested. Such a thing never occurred to me, because I use the same card with Amazon and others to order dictionaries and other work materials. As the technician at my bank's help desk explained, there are several different payment approval systems for web transactions with a credit card, and it's merely a coincidence that the others I have dealt with haven't used 3-D Secure. He activated the service immediately (no cost), and five minutes later my memoQ Cloud subscription was renewed with the means of payment I preferred to use.

So it was in fact not Kilgray's problem at all, but it's probably a good idea for their support staff to take note of this scenario, because I am surely not the only one who got tripped up by 3-D Secure not being activated for my card. I am sort of embarrassed that I didn't think of this possibility earlier, but I don't do a lot of shopping online, and for minor stuff if one card fails for reasons unknown, I just shrug and use another. In fact, I think the same problem may have occurred with an airline ticket last spring, but I never associated that with my earlier troubles.

So now I'm up and running with the server version 8.2.5 on the memoQ Cloud, hoping I can finish my training project on that version before the impending release of memoQ 8.3 and the possibility of an upgrade before I get the work done. Tick, tick, tick....

Nov 9, 2017

Machine translation, subversion and cyberwarfare

From time to time one reads reports about politically sensitive mistranslations from Google Translate or other popular machine pseudotranslation (MpT) services. At least some of these may result from deliberately targeted "corrections" from pranksters. And recent hype about in-ear real-time translation earphones and such make me wonder how often such things - or even the routine severe errors of MpT services - will result in some poor sap getting the crap beaten out of him due to such occurrences.

Although I happily engage in a bit of "corrective monkeywrenching" myself from time to time, I had not considered the wider implications of all this and the possibilities for more interesting trouble. However, in the light of recent events and the ongoing revelations of Russian cyber-interference in the US electoral process, we should think a little about the trends in the lower echelons of the business translation sector and what potential difficulties might arise from deliberate "interference".

The Unprofessional Translation blog recently posted an article about such things, which got me to thinking about how easy it would in fact be to mess with the data stores for machine translation systems in use at corporations, government agencies, healthcare facilities, etc., subtly altering records to produce results at odds with the purposes of their users.

Can't happen? Yea, yea. Not to the voter registration servers in the US either, much less the electronic voting booths in use there. If such things were possible, which of course they are not, then one might wonder where this cost-cutting lemming rush to use machine pseudo-translation for so many things might take the foolish users if their political or market adversaries had an interest in modifying the intended messages. Imagine the implications of tampering with a system used for criminal interrogations or judicial proceedings. Already, some fools are using machine-based processes for translation and interpreting in such scenarios.

I have already had considerable personal doubts about colleagues and their work when they talk of relying on machine pseudo-translation as a sort of "dictionary" to get vocabulary that they might otherwise have to research in a real dictionary or transparently sourced glossary. MpT results tell nothing of the sources from which vocabulary is derived and usually present no original context for comparison. This proved to be a problem domestically not long ago when my Portuguese partner used Microsoft's online translator to look up the English word for a common kitchen implement and got nonsense as a result. Mixing up pots and pans is no big deal, but medical, commercial, legal and political terms, or the subtleties of ordinary human interactions in difficult situations require accuracy or at least transparency to aid in identifying possible problems and their source.

And in the rough-and-tumble real world of commerce and politics there is now new scope for subversive action by paid and inspired data terrorists acting against those who put their faith in machines rather than the competence of professional translators and interpreters.