Sunday, July 30, 2017

Beware: "Phras.in" is now a zombie site

Several years ago there was a site that was very useful for translators: Phras.in. It allowed you to enter two different search strings, and see how many hits each returned, and what context they had. After a while, the site disappeared. It has recently resurfaced, apparently with the same graphics and interface, but it is not its former self: it is some Chinese zombie site. If you attempt to use it, it does not return any hits, and only display random text. I hope it did not infect my computer with some malware. I would advise against trying to visit it again.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Deceptive advertising from Fluency?

I've just received an e-mail advertising the Fluency CAT tool.

I tried out Fluency (and paid for a couple of licenses) a few years ago and was underwhelmed, to say the least. At that point, the program was simple and easy to use, but very buggy--all the (few) projects for which I used it run into problems. All issues were quickly solved by Fluency's support, true, but there were enough problems at that time to make me decide that Fluency was not helping me, and that the program was, in fact, slowing me down.

The tool might, in the meantime, have improved greatly, but, just like many other CAT tool vendors, I see that Fluency engages in deceptive advertising: prominently displayed in their ad is a testimonial in which a satisfied translator claims that "Fluency has enabled me to double my translation speed".

I have no reason to doubt that the statement is accurate, but, the same time, I suspect it most probably is misleading: when I hear from CAT tool vendors that their particular tool doubles translation speed, they are very careful not to say what this improved productivity is measured against. A CAT tool doubling a translator's speed if that translator didn't use CAT tools before? Yes, probably, even likely. But if that doubling of speed had been achieved when compared to the use of another CAT tool Fluency would be quick to say so. Since they don't, it's fair to assume that they are comparing apples to oranges, and that the claimed speed increase would in fact be achieved by using any other decent CAT tool.

To be clear--most professional translators by now use CAT tools, hence, any productivity increased claimed by CAT tool venderos should be measured against other CAT tools, not against not using CAT tools at all.

Monday, March 06, 2017

Something from the past

From the Atril time line:
1993 – Atril develops Déjà Vu software, the first Windows-based Computer-Aided Translation Tool (CAT tool) on the market.

Yesterday I was clearing a closet where I kept some old stuff, and I found these:

A couple of original Déja Vu diskettes. They might even  still be in good working order (that is if one had a computer with Windows 3.1 on it).

There is a date written in pen on them, from '95, when I must have checked those disks for integrity. But I know I had bought DV before moving to the States… must have been back in 1993, when I was working at Logos, in Italy, and that fits right at the beginning of Atril’s time line.

So, judging from the serial number (27) still clearly visible on them, I must have been one of the very first users of CAT tools for Windows. I didn't use Déja Vu for long: in 1994 I moved to the States to work in the translation department of J.D. Edwards, a software company. Shortly after I arrived the company adopted a translation memory program, but that was IBM's TM2 (later still, J.D. Edwards changed to Trados).

But I still remember the excellent technical support we received from Emilio Benito, the late founder of Atril.

Saturday, March 04, 2017

Sometimes, the best way to mislead is to tell the truth: the case of the nonexistent 36% productivity gain

Sometimes, the best way to mislead is to tell (part of) the truth. Case in point: to much fanfare, Memsource's blog announced some time ago that translation clients can increase their productivity by 36% by using translation memory:
[...] The table above applies a predefined net rate scheme to a sample of 500+ million words. It clearly shows that Memsource’s most active users increase their productivity by an average of 36% by using translation memory. This means that if you had an average cost of 10 euro cents per word, for this volume you could save €18.6 million. Not bad!
What they imply (but cleverly don't state) is that it's only by using Memsource that you can achieve such impressive productivity gains. They are careful not to say against what they measured. My guess is that this 36% productivity gain was measured against similar translations done without the use of any CAT tool at all: If they had achieved a 36% productivity gain over what other CAT tools can do, Memsource would proudly boast of it.

However, since most professional translators already use one or more CAT tools, the productivity gains that Memsource peddles to their prospect are really not there... in fact, some professional translators complain that Memsource actually slows them down... and I can confirm that from my own experience with the tool.

I understand why the program is attractive for translation companies. I can even understand why people who translate only occasionally may find a free tool useful. For full-time professional translators, however, the slow creep of Memsource and similar online straitjackets is a big step backward.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

memoQ fuzzy match blues

In the past, I've criticized SDL and its programs for offering as "fuzzy matches" sentences that were far from helpful.

But the worst I've seen from SDL doesn't even compare with some absurd fuzzy matches that memoQ is suggesting. See for example:


I cannot understand how the matching engine in memoQ is suggesting as a 98% match for "Legal Entity" the translation for "CALL 1-800-555-5555".

Friday, July 08, 2016

Studio QA: actual vs. irrelevant differences

SDL Trados Studio seems to be unable to distinguish, in its QA function, between actual markup differnces (e.g., between italics and bold), and trivial differences in the way the markup is written, and that don't affect correctness of a translation.

See, for example, how Studio is flagging as an error the difference between <cf bold="True"> and <cf bold="true">, where the only difference is the capitalization within the markup:

Both tags are equally valid, and produce the same effects, so flagging a difference like this as an error is only a waste of time. By the way: I tried running QA on the same text in Xbench, and Xbench correctly refrains from flagging this as an error.

Wednesday, July 06, 2016

Quick Tip: How to put the search boxes side by side in Xbench

Recently I had to explain to a colleague how to move the search boxes in Xbench so that they appear side by side instead of one over the other, as they do by default.

I had arranged mine side by side quite some time ago, but couldn't remember how it is done, nor could I find it easily in Xbench documentation. Finally, I had to ask ApSIC for help.

How to do it, is very simple: just grab the division between the options pane and the Search pane, and move it upward.






Monday, June 20, 2016

The trouble with Memsource

A major customer of ours recently switched from SDL Trados Studio to Memsource.

I don't know why our customer (a translation agency) chose Memsource. Probably a mix of several reasons, including that no software needs to be installed, since Memsource works in the cloud. Also, they can peddle it to translators as a "free" tool.

Memsource may be suitable for simple projects, but for more complicated ones and for advanced users it suffers from several serious drawbacks.

The most serious is that in the free version of Memsource you can't use your own memories and termbases—the program lets you work only on projects prepared by translation agencies, and only using the resources selected by them. Possible solutions to this are:
  • Upgrade to a paid version of Memsource, in which case you can add your own memories and termbases to a project. 
  • Load your translation memories and termbases in Xbench (or a similar tool), and use Xbench to search them. If you do this, however, you can use your resources only for reference—Xbench doesn't offer any automatic way to add new segments to a memory. Also, this workaround needs extra steps, so it slows you down.
  • Use a different program (such as memoQ) to translate your Memsource projects. Yet, if you do so, while you can use your own memories, you lose access to Memsource's ones. 
Another problem is that sometimes Memsource is painfully slow, even on a fast Internet connection. In certain segments of a recent project, 9-10 seconds passed between the moment I hit a key and the time the corresponding character appeared—this meant typing blind. When I complained about this to Memsource support, they told me the segments in question contained joins, tags, and were long, and this slowed online processing. I believe this speaks volumes about the limitations of the tool, although, to be fair, a Memsource representative told me they know of this bug and are working to correct it.

Memsource looks and acts like a stripped-down version of more powerful tools. This might be good for those who feel overwhelmed by too many choices, but experienced translators miss the advanced features they expect from professional translation tools. The first flaws that come to mind are:
  • Far fewer find and replace options than memoQ or Studio; 
  • Find and replace in memoQ, Studio and Memsource
    Find and replace in memoQ, Studio and Memsource
  • No such thing as memoQ's LiveDocs and Muses, or the wealth of added features SDL offers through the Open Exchange;
  • Limited segment filtering when compared with memoQ or Studio—for example, no regular expressions in the filters;
  • No auto-complete in the desktop editor;
  • Fixed screen layout. You cannot increase the size of the lower panes (CAT, Search, Changes). The little you can change, such as moving the panes from the right of the screen to the left, you can't save: next time you reopen the program, the panes are back where they started.
  • No way to show tracked changes inline in the Memsource editor—you can only see the differences in the Change pane, and that is not enough.
The lack of advanced features, the occasional slowness, and the fact you either cannot use your own memories and termbases or have to rely an external tool to search them, means that Memsource makes you less productive. According to our estimate, confirmed by what other colleagues say, we suffer a 30% drop in productivity when we work in Memsource instead of memoQ or Studio.

The supposed advantages of using Memsource

If Memsource was all bad, nobody would use it. So, what advantages does Memsource offer?

According to a Memsource representative, the main advantages are that it's cloud based, that it allows simultaneous access by several people to the same translation memory, and that for translators it's free.

Let's look more closely at these claims.

For translation companies, using a cloud-base tool may offer an enticing benefit: no need to install anything locally, and no need to migrate data when changing from one version of a program to a newer one, thus avoiding the risks associated with such migrations—though I wonder if these risks, far from being cut out, are instead passed to Memsource and to their staff in charge of the cloud servers.

Also, a cloud based tool means that project managers can work on the program remotely, even without personal computers: they can create and manage projects using a tablet or even a smartphone. I doubt, though, whether trying to create and manage projects using smartphones would be wise.

For translator teams and for translation companies another claimed advantage is that Memsource allows simultaneous read and write to the same memory in real time. I normally work on projects where I am the sole translator or editor, so this isn't much of a benefit for me. Even for projects with multiple translators, though, updating the same memory in real time can lead to fast spreading of undetected errors. Better to wait until a job has been edited and proofread before sharing the memory with others. Project managers may set up memories in Memsource so that only translations that have been reviewed and corrected are shared with others, but in my experience many project managers either are unaware of this feature, or choose not to use it.

Memsource is "free" for translators.
  • This is irrelevant for translators who have already paid for tools they have chosen themselves, and, if you wish to use you own translation memories and termbases in Memsource, you have to pay. A way to sweeten the deal for more experienced translators would be for Memsource to allow using a translator's own memories and termbases even in the free version.
  • A "free" tool is a real advantage only for beginners or occasional translators, who might be reluctant to pay at the start of their career for a more powerful program. Still, even if you are a beginner or occasional translator, relying on a tool that prevents you from building up and using your own translation memories is, in the long run, self-defeating. In fact, I think that beginners would be better served by other free tools—from OmegaT to Wordfast Anywhere—since they allow you to keep control of your own resources.
Overall, working in Memsource feels as I imagine a carpenter would feel if, after assembling during his career a rich set of specialized and high-end tools, his customers demanded that he use instead the simplest tools available at a dollar store and suitable only for the occasional user.

The developers at Memsource know that they still have much work to do: they started development only a few years ago, so more mature tools such as Déjà Vu, Studio or memoQ have a huge head start on them. But until Memsource catches up with its competitors, there isn't much in the program to appeal to professional translators.

Monday, June 13, 2016

How to increase your chances when contacting prospects: don't boast of obsolete software

A couple of years ago I wrote 15 tips on how to increase your chances when contacting translation companies (an article that was later followed by a response from a translation company: How to increase your chances when contacting translation companies - from a translation agency’s point of view)

Another suggestion I think some translators might find useful:

16. If you use obsolete software, don't advertise that.

I've just received a message that, among other things, proudly announced that this translator uses as software tools Microsoft Office 2007 suite, Adobe Acrobat 9 Standard, and Trados Studio 2011.
  • Office 2007 is nine years old, and Microsoft has since released three new version: 2010, 2013, and 2016 (and also Office 365). 
  • Acrobat 9 is eight years old, and also has been superseded by three new versions: 10, 11 e DC (in 2010, 2012, and 2015), 
  • Studio 2011 is five years old, and has been superseded by two new versions: 2014 e 2015.

If old programs still work for you, fine, but don't highlight the fact that you are not updating your software: to a potential customer this suggests that you might not be able to handle newer file formats, and also that your system might not be fully protected against malware (if you are still using software that old, it might be reasonable to assume that your antivirus or firewall also is not up to date).

Maybe you religiously update all your antimalware, and keep using old programs because they just work. If that is so, and still want to say that you use certain programs, don't mention the actual version number, and just say you use Office, Acrobat and Studio. You won't be actually telling a lie, and your prospects might assume that you are using the very latest versions of each program. 

A better option, of course, would be to keep your software up to date.

Wednesday, June 08, 2016

Quick Tips: How to translate a MemSource project using memoQ

Recently a major customer of ours changed from using SDL Trados Studio to using MemSource, an online CAT tool. Our customer probably has good reasons for switching to the new tool, but for a translator accustomed to more powerful CAT tools, using MemSource has a downside: many of the functions we have come to rely on are missing.

I will probably write more about MemSource in the future. For now a quick workaround if you find yourself having to translate a project in MemSource but would much rather use memoQ instead - for instance, because you find that MemSource lacks some feature you love in memoQ, or more simply because you find that MemSource is slowing you down.
  1. Log in to the MemSource cloud, accept your project, pretranslate it, and download it as a bilingual .mxliff file (just as you would if you wanted to translate using the MemSource desktop editor).
  2. Open your .mxliff file in the MemSource desktop editor. Join or split all segments that need to be joined or split (Important: do this in the MemSource editor - don't wait to do this operation in memoQ: you might end up with a translated file that doesn't load cleanly in MemSource). Save your file.
  3. Open memoQ. Create a new project, and add to it your .mxliff file. When adding your document select "All files" (don't select "All supported files" or "XLIFF files": memoQ doesn't yet recognize the .mxliff extension, but correctly handles .mxliff files once loaded).
Select "All files" to import the .mxliff file
Select "All files" to import the .mxliff file
  1. In Document Import Options, change the filter from "Unknown" to "Xliff".
Select "XLIFF filter"
Select "XLIFF filter"
  1. At this point you'll have successfully imported your file in memoQ, but you'll see that all the MemSource tags are unprotected. You need to use memoQ's Regex Tagger to protect them.
  2. First, identify all types of MemSource tags in your document. You can do that by simply filtering your source text searching for the character "{". Once you have identified your tags, clear your filter (otherwise the Regex tagger won't work).
  3. Go to the Preparation ribbon. Select Regex Tagger. In Tag current document you'll have to add the rules to correctly protect the MemSource tags. The rule for protecting the {b> (begin of bold text) tag, for example, will be \{b>. A more efficient rule that works for {b>, {bu>{i> and {u> would be \{[a-z]{1,2}>. Repeat, adding all the different types of tags you have in your document. 
Use Regex Tagger to protect the MemSource tags
Use Regex Tagger to protect the MemSource tags
  1. Save your configuration (to tag future projects). 
You are done. You can now translate your MemSource project in memoQ. At the end export your translation, test it by loading it in the MemSource Desktop editor, and from it upload it to the MemSource cloud server.

Bear in mind that if you choose to translate your MemSource projects this way, you won't have access in memoQ to the translation memories and termbases added to the project by your project manager: you'll be working exclusively with the local memories and termbases you have added yourself in memoQ.

Weather that is an acceptable solution for you (and for your client) is up to you.