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.

Thursday, June 02, 2016

A step back to the past: translating without a CAT

I'm working on a large translation project. Legal documents, scanned pdf files, not really suitable for OCR (too many stamps, signatures and handwritten text). The documents are repetitive, but without major blocks of identical text, although a few occasional sentences appear almost unchanged on different parts of different files.

This is exactly the kind of project (minus the "scanned pdf, not really suitable for OCR" part) that CAT tools were invented for. I'm translating these documents with the pdf open on the left of the screen, and MS Word on the right. My fingers itch for the concordance and filter shortcuts, but that is not possible here: I cannot really search the source (although there is a way to do it... more about that later), and while I can search the files I have already translated, I cannot perform a real concordance search.

This is the way we all translated up to a little over twenty years ago, when CAT tools were first introduced. Even without CAT tools, though, I enjoy a much larger and clear screen, a more modern word processor, and a fast Internet connection for looking up references. Still, it feels like going back almost to the days of pen and paper. I know that there are translators who still work this way, who refuse to use CAT tools, and who maintain that the only translation memory they need is the one they have between their ears. The only thing I can say is that everyone is entitled to their opinion, but that they should give CAT tools a try.

If you are accustomed, like me, to work on most projects using CAT tools, there are still a few things you can do if you find yourself faced with a large project to be completed using just a word processor.
  • If you know there are words, phrases and sentences that repeat themselves throughout the project, you can speed up things using a text expander program. MS Word includes similar functionality, but I prefer to use an external tool to have more control on what I do. In my case I use AutoHotkey. This scripting program allows me to create pairs of triggers and sentences. For example I can add to my triggers "<PBC", which then expands to "Provincia della Columbia Britannica." If you use a text expander, pay attention not to use as trigger a combination of letters that could appear normally in your writing, otherwise you risk getting garbage words: if you use the trigger "PR" as a shortucut for "Provincia" but then try typing "professionista", you end up with the garbage word "Provinciaofessionista". That is the reason I always add the "<" character at the beginning of my triggers.
  • Even If I cannot use CAT tools on this kind of project, I can still use translation memories and glossaries: I load them in Xbench, and use it as a search engine. I can even use Xbench shortcuts to highlight text in MS Word and transfer it to the Search box in Xbench.
  • Scanned pdf files are not normally searchable... at least not with a free pdf reader. The Pro versions of modern pdf tools, however, include OCR. So if you have Nitro Pro, for example, it indexes your scanned pdf files if their quality is good enough; you can then search them. The results won't be perfect, but better than nothing. Nitro Pro is pricey ($ 160 for the desktop version), but for a one-off project you can download the free trial version: this is exactly what I've done for this project. If you find the Pro version of Nitro useful (besides OCR, it offers a bunch of other functions), you may well decide to pay for it: it depends on how often you have to deal with scanned pdf files.
  • If you can put all your translation in a single file, MS Word search is excellent, but what if you have to create a separate word file for each of the many source files? What can you do, for example, if you want to know if you have used a certain term in previous files? In a CAT tool you can do that easily, either using the search function or, better, using filters. You can do the same on MS Word files using specialized search tools. In my case, to search the .docx files I created for this project, I used FUNDUC's Replace Studio Pro. If you decide to give Replace Studio Pro a try, read carefully the section of the help file devoted to searching and replacing in docx files. Replace Studio Pro works on many kinds of files, including .docx files. If you have to search in old-style .doc files, though, you need to use Word Search and Replace, a freeware utility again by FUNDUC. Be aware that searching in multiple MS Word files using an external tool is easy enough, but if you want to replace words you have to tread carefully, in order not to damage your files: if you damage them, MS Word might no longer be able to open them.

So, if you find yourself stuck with old-style files that cannot be translated easily in a CAT tool (some CAT tools try to give their users the ability to work even with scanned pdf files), you still have at your disposal a wealth of useful options to help you: no need to be stuck with the primitive techniques we used a quarter of a century ago.

After working for three days on this project, all I can say is that I'm amazed, in hindsight, that in the bad old days we were able to translate more than a thousand words a day. CAT tools are real time savers, and they do wonder for the consistency of our translations. They don't translate better for us, but they help us be better and more productive.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Top 100 Language Lovers 2016: voting phase has started

The Top 100 Language Lovers 2016 voting phase has started, and both this blog and my Twitter account are among the candidates.

This is the ninth year that the competition has been organized. About Translation has been voted among the top 100 a couple of times in the past, but this is the first time that my Twitter account has been selected for voting

The competition is looking for the best 100 Language Lovers in the following five categories: Language Learning Blogs, Language Professionals Blogs, Language Facebook Pages, Language Twitter Accounts and Language YouTube Channels.

The voting phase lasts from May 19th to June 6th. During this period, everyone can vote for their favorite Language Lovers in the five social media categories. The final results will be based on the internal ranking criteria of bab.la and Lexiophiles (50 %) and user votes (50 %). The winners will be announced on June 9th.

Click below to go to the voting page for the Language Professional blogs:
Vote the Top 100 Language Professional Blogs 2016

Click below to go to the voting page for the Language Twitter accounts:
Vote the Top 100 Language Twitterer 2016

(Once you are on the voting page, select your favorite and click on the Vote button)

Thursday, May 19, 2016

How to increase your chances when contacting translation companies - from a translation agency’s point of view

This is a guest post by Aniello Attianese, in response to my post 15 tips on how to increase your chances when contacting translation companies. Aniello Attaniese is a Project Manager at Translation Services 24, a translation company in London specialized in legal and marketing translation services which works with a variety of clients, from UK SMEs to Large multinational organisations.

Reading one of Riccardo’s articles published back in 2014 about "15 tips on how to increase your chances when contacting translation companies", I simply couldn’t help but agree that some of the points he had made sound awfully familiar and accurate. Working for a translation agency myself (Translation Services 24), every day I personally come across translators who wish to join our team, and so they approach our agency in a number of different ways.

Certainly, our agency receives a number of well written and professional emails and those are the applications we pay close attention to. Nevertheless, we also receive applications which, simply put, do not meet our agency’s standards. Sadly, because the translator behind the email could be very talented and professional at what their actual job is, still, due to the number of applications we receive, it is simply impossible to contact each person and so naturally we need to eliminate some.

Referring to Riccardo’s post again, I’d like to talk about some of the tips he has mentioned and look at them from our agency’s point of view.
  1. Running an in-depth research and finding out more about who you’re about to email is definitely an important point and perhaps something that can influence your success rate greatly. As an agency, we clearly state on our website that the preferred way to contact us regarding any job opportunities is by filling out our online application form or emailing our HR department directly. Instead, we receive countless generic emails to our accounts’ email address. Although we sometimes review these applications anyway, they might not be prioritised over someone who actually took their time to find out more about our company and followed our guidelines. Therefore, it’s always important to, for example, visit agency’s website or social media profiles to gather more information prior to initial contact.
  2. When receiving applications from translators, it is always extremely helpful to us, as a translation agency, when any specific sector and relevant information beyond languages covered are mentioned in the application. Due to the number of applications we receive, we simply cannot contact each and every person who gets in touch with us. Including such information not only allows our project managers to update their databases regularly, but also increases translator’s chances of being contacted by us if a project within their niche of expertise arises.
  3. Creating straightforward and self-explanatory subjects for emails is really important. This can be especially true when emailing agency’s generic email address so that it is not treated it as spam. Nevertheless, our HR department opens every application email regardless.
  4. Perhaps similarly to any translation agency, we prefer to work with native speakers of the target language. We do however work with possibly 10-15 translators who translate not only into their mother tongue but also cover other languages pairs. This, nevertheless, is very rare and each of these translators has been working with us for at least 5 years, proving their accuracy time after time and started working with us as native language only translators too.
  5. When it comes to the CV itself, Riccardo was quite right advising to keep it simple and straight to the point. From talking to our HR managers, I know they prefer résumés that focus on languages, experience and specialities, rather than rates and irrelevant details. Also, it is extremely important to make sure your CV flawlessly written, without any errors, grammar mistakes etc. If there are mistakes in your CV, which you could proof read a number of times without a deadline and stress before sending it to us, what guarantees do we have that you won’t make even bigger mistakes working with us, which often can be to a tight deadline and under pressure?
  6. Of course, all the information you include in your CV must be true. In our translation agency, we do have a small team within our HR department whose main job is to strictly check references, qualifications etc. of any translator with whom we are potentially interested working with.
  7. Also, as Riccardo mentioned in his post, it is quite important to mention any relative and industry specific tools and software you can use as well as any professional organisations/institutes you are part of. This really helps us paint a picture of you and will allow our managers to contact you regarding jobs that are more suitable for you and your skill set. A great example of this can be the knowledge of Illustrator/Photoshop. If you also provide DTP services together with your translations, make sure to mention it!
I hope this article has given you a little more insight into what translation agencies similar to ours expect from their applicants and what is it that makes a real difference and can help you stand out from the crowd, and believe me, it’s crowded out there!

Monday, May 09, 2016

WordWeb Pro: dictionary and multi-search application

A few posts ago, in my article on Reverso Context, I mentioned several multi-search applications from which Reverso could be called. One of these, the one I use the most, is WordWeb Pro.

WordWeb Pro is chiefly a dictionary: in its free version (more about that, and its unusual licensing terms, later) it comes with a large English language dictionary that offers synonyms, antonyms, other useful features such as subordinate and superordinate categories, the ability to restrict searches to a specific grammatical category and to search, from within the program, also Wikipedia and Wiktionary.

WordWeb Pro
WordWeb Pro
The Pro version adds optional dictionaries, for example the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, Chambers Thesaurus, the New Oxford American Dictionary and several others (but you have to buy them separately). It also allows adding your own glossaries, adding terms and definitions to the main dictionary, and adding searches from many online dictionary and search engines. I've added, for example, the Microsoft Language Portal, Google Advance Search, Linguee, Reverso Context, the WordReference EN-IT and several other specialized monolingual and bilingual dictionaries.

WordWeb Pro's tabs—with the dictionaries and searches I use
WordWeb Pro's tabs—with the dictionaries and searches I use
The full list of features is too long for a short article, but they include:
  • Thesaurus and dictionary for Windows 
  • Customizable hotkey, which allows instant look up from almost any program 
  • Restricting the search for synonyms and antonyms by part of speech
  • Full text search (so you can search within the definitions)
  • Adding your own glossaries 
  • Using various patterns and wildcards in searches (useful when you are looking for a word but you aren’t sure how to spell it) 
  • X-Ref button to extend the search to other dictionaries installed on the computer 
  • Adding new words or sets of words with their definitions and usage examples to the dictionary 
  • Importing and exporting the added terms to common spreadsheet-format files 
  • Bookmarks (for example, to remember past searches: useful to keep track of which words and terms most often give you problems) 
  • Replace button to substitute a synonym in a document you are editing 
  • Possibility of using the tool without the need to be online (for the installed dictionaries only: you need to be online to use the web search).
I use WordWeb in two different ways: to quickly search its main dictionary and thesaurus, and as a multi-search tool that allows me searching several dictionaries and websites all at the same time.

To add a new search site to WordWeb Pro, follow this procedure:
  1. Go to the Options menu
  2. Select Dictionary tabs...
    The Dictionary tabs window opens
  3. In the Dictionary tabs Window, click the New button
    The Web reference window opens
  4. Give a name to the new web reference (the new search), and add its URL (web address), using “%s” as a placeholder for the search term.
So, for example, to add Google, you put Google as the name of the search engine and https://www.google.com/?gws_rd=ssl#safe=off&q=%s as the search strings.

How to add a new search engine in WordWeb Pro
How to add a new search engine in WordWeb Pro
The best way to find where to put your placeholder in the URL is to perform a search and then examine the URL of the retrieved page to see where the search string goes. So, for example, to see which URL I needed to add, I searched for the word “test” in Google. Google converted that to the URL https://www.google.com/?gws_rd=ssl#safe=off&q=test and I then replaced “test” with the placeholder “%s” in that URL, to get the search string to use in WordWeb.

WordWeb Pro allows adding dozens of search engines but the number of tabs provided is limited to twenty-one or so—you can, however, select and deselect the ones you have added depending on which sites you need to search.

If you don't want to pay for WordWeb Pro, you can use WordWeb Free to evaluate the program (minus the Pro features), but if you continue using the free version instead of upgrading to Pro, the requirements to be eligible are fairly peculiar (and eco-friendly): WordWeb Free may be used indefinitely only by people who take no more than two commercial flights (and only one return flight) in any 12-month period—to restrict the free version to people who limit their carbon footprint.