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.