Posted by: patenttranslator | July 17, 2010

Friends Don’t Let Friends Use Trados or Other Translation Memory Tools


Patent translators are often very stubborn people. Sometime it works to their advantage, and sometime it works to their detriment.

I knew a translator in San Francisco who in the late eighties refused to use computers. He had been translating Japanese patents since the early seventies on his typewriter and he really liked the mechanical action of working on his typewriter. There is something about the mechanical beauty of writing on a typewriter that disappeared when humans stopped using typewriters after about 100 years and replaced them by computer keyboards by the nineteen eighties. This guy, who had his quota of translated pages that he was able to produce on his typewriter in the morning so that he could take the afternoon off (he was also refusing to work in the afternoon for a long time), eventually had to throw in the towel of course, because his clients wanted to have the translations in the form of computer files, not as typewritten pages. So eventually he did buy a computer, but refused to buy a modem – this was still in late eighties before there was Internet. He was sending diskettes by Federal Express, take it or leave it. Eventually, of course, he joined the rest of the e-mail literate crowd and started sending files from his AOL address. It must have saved him a bundle on Fedex charges. Some things just took him a little longer than most people – about 10 years longer. Incidentally, the only reason why the customers put up with the quirks of this translator was that he was also very good. Was he doing it mostly for his ego? Who knows.

I knew another translator who never learned touch typing. Instead, he developed his own method for typing with 2 fingers only. He was very fast, probably as fast as anybody who is touch typing. Plus the entertainment value of watching him pecking away on his keyboard extremely quickly with 2 fingers was simply indescribable. I could go on and on about translators who stubbornly refused to adopt new-fangled ways and resisted … almost until the bitter end – but usually not quite. For example, this translator refused to learn Microsoft Word for as long as possible. I was using WordPerfect 9 up until about 5 years ago and converting files to Microsoft Word, although it was a waste of time, of course, and the format was sometime messed up by the conversion. But WordPerfect was not really just a word processing program to some of us back in the day, it was more like a religion. I still have WordPerfect installed on my computers although I never use it anymore.

But to this day I refuse to use a translation memory such as Trados or whatever other translation memory tools there may be. There are many other translators, mostly people who have been translating for decades, who share my opinion. I don’t think that this is an irrational decision, unlike some of the decisions of stubborn translators described above. First of all, I would have to spend several hundred dollars first to buy the software and then I would have to learn it. It would probably take me a long time to learn it. I don’t want to do that. But the main reason why I refuse to learn a translation memory tool is that I don’t think that it would be very useful for my purposes. From what I understand about translation memory tools, they are very useful as they save a lot of time when one is translating chunks of repetitive texts with a lot of technical terms in them that are difficult to remember, for instance in instruction manuals which can be very technical and very repetitive, for example when new editions of the same software package are updated every couple of years or so.

But even though patents can be extremely repetitive, the same thing is repeated over and over like a Buddhist mantra in the claims, in the main description of the patent, and for good measure also in the description of the effects of the invention at the end of the patent application, the repetitive character of the text in one patent application is not applicable to other patents, which are written by other authors (patent agents) and may relate to other fields. Especially for somebody like me who works from several languages (Japanese, German, French and sometime also other languages into English), it would be expensive and really messy if I had to keep different versions of translation memory tools in different languages on my hard disk.

Some translation agencies these days require translators to use Trados or similar translation memory tool software. They can then create a database of technical terms in different languages which can be shared with other translators and used on future projects (but of course, the terms are then not owned by the translators who created the database, but by the agency). Oh, well, fortunately for me, I mostly work for patent law firms and none of them ever actually asked me so far about a translation memory tool.

In the interest of full disclosure, there is one translation memory tool that I do use. I use yellow post-it notes, the broad size, which I stick on the bottom of my monitor. On the left I write terms that for some reason are hard to remember in Japanese or German and on the right side goes the word in English. When I am done with the translation, the post-it note goes into garbage.

This translation memory tool works very well for this patent translator. And I don’t have to share my precious database of technical terms with anybody. I just keep them in my head. And when I die, another patent translator will have to create his or her own databases in his or her own head. The database that’s in my head will be gone forever. But the translations will still be there, on paper and on Internet. The other day I was Googling something and came across a translation of a medical study that was identified as mine. I took a look at it, and it looked fine, except that I could not remember at all that this was something that I had translated.

Maybe I do need a translation memory tool, but not Trados. I should probably eat raw carrots or fruits that stimulate brain functions or something. I’ll have to research these memory tools at some point.


A translator living in Germany e-mailed me this link to an interesting discussion about a fantastic claim that one can translate 34,501 words with Trados in 10 hours. It should be noted that the translator who made this claim is a “certified Trados trainer” and thus presumably she can make money from people who buy the software and need to learn it. I found out about this discussion too late to participate, but I would be highly skeptical of her claim.  I sometime translate very long Japanese patents with extremely repetitive passages. I remember a long patent that described in 62,000 words something that could have been easily described in 4,000 words. So obviously, I use a lot of cutting and pasting for this kind of work. However, because I have to proofread both the source and the target language and look very carefully for small differences (such as “widget flange a'” instead of “widget flange a””), I can almost never translate more than about 5,000 words a day even with this type of highly repetitive translation. If I try to push it over the limit of 5,000 words, I know that I will start making mistakes, which could cost me the customer.

I don’t think that the human brain can process 34,501 words of a translation in 10 hours (in two languages it would be close to 70,000 words, right)? Machines can do it easily, but machines don’t care about mistakes (or anything else for that matter).

I think the fantastic statement above is just another example of insidious commercial propaganda of the kind that we are unfortunately exposed to here in America on a daily basis.


Here is another argument against translation memory tools. I don’t have to use them because I mostly work for direct clients, usually patent law firms, rather than translation agencies. I am pretty sure that patent law firms would be kind of leery about translators who actually use translation memory tools to speed up the process. But many agencies require freelance translators to use a particular TMS, usually Trados. Once you use it, the agency (or even a direct client) may  create a sliding scale for rates depending on the number of “matches”, or repetitions of words and sentences, which means that you get paid less in the end if there are many repetitions in the text.

A few months ago, I translated two very similar Japanese patents for a very small agency. I have known the guy who runs it, who is a translator himself, for something like 20 years. I sent him an invoice for three thousand dollars. He e-mailed me back, saying that based on “matches” in the text of both patents, he would only pay me two thousand three hundred dollars. Well, some passages, such as prior art, were very similar, almost identical. But the final proofreading of these similar passages takes up so much time, precisely because they are so similar, that I have to charge full rate. In the end he did pay what was in my invoice, but only after I fired off a slew of very angry messages. And our relationship of some 20 years has been seriously compromised.

I think that this particular translator is used to this type of reasoning because that is what agencies and clients that he works for are used to as well, since he is using Trados or something like that. Translation memory software thus may exert a downward pressure on the rates of all translators, even those who are in a position to refuse to use them.

So after all, it might not be such a good idea to use Trados if you want to get paid a decent rate.


  1. I have to very strongly disagree with your post – Trados (or any other CAT tool) makes your life so much easier you will wonder why you didn’t start using it sooner.

    I do agree that it takes a long time to learn and be really efficient at it, and it’s not as user-friendly as it should be. It cost me EUR 800 or so, and it has absolutely paid for itself.

    In all fairness, I haven’t used any other CAT tool except Trados (which is the industry standard in Europe) and SDLX (which is the predecessor and comes with every full version of Trados), and I much prefer SDLX. SDLX is easy to learn, easy on the eye, and the termbase is much easier to handle than in Trados.

    The only downside is, Trados doesn’t handle PDF’s too well, so receiving a file in Word, Text, Powerpoint or Excel is fine, but with PDF’s Trados isn’t much help.

    Next time we meet I will give you a little demo 😉


    • “It cost me EUR 800 or so, and it has absolutely paid for itself.”

      Wow, that’s about 1,200 dollars per each language, right? Why do they have to be so greedy? I think the price will prevent a lot of translators from even considering this software seriously.

      Apart from the ridiculously high price, I doubt that the software would work for me the way it works for you. If ever I meet a patent translator who says what you are saying and can provide examples applicable to patents, I will reconsider my position, but not until then.

      Also, you said that Trados does not work with PDF files. I download patents as PDF files, so it would not work for me, right?

      (Hope you still enjoy the music videos even if you disagree with what I am saying).


      • That’s 1200 dollars for the software, it has nothing to do with the number of languages you use. You make your own memory, in no matter how many languages you want/need. Trados will work for you if the documents you translate are really repetitive. If not, don’t buy it. Oh, and you can learn Trados in 1-2 days. Maybe not all of it, but just the commands you need. It’s very easy to use. I learned Trados in about 2 hours and it helps a lot. Whenever you have a repetitive text, it will just go through the entire text until it finds a segment of text that is not a 100% match. And it shows you in colors what differences there are in the text, so really helpful. Again, if your work is really repetitive, once you’ll get Trados, you’ll wonder why the heck haven’t you bought it 10 years ago 🙂
        Good luck,


      • This input is all great and thank you so much for it!

        Indeed, we put in all the work, time and make the costly investments, etc, yet agencies take the liberty to lower the prices, insulting us, and I can foresee a medical translation costing pennies one day in the future if this keeps up. Why not pay the translator more to do a good job with the product, and sacrifice on their end and teat people well and reward them so there are no hard feeling, insults and bad karma? Seriously, it is really bad. when will this end and get back to how it was in the not so long ago past? Jeez!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Who forces you to tell the company you’re working for that you’re using Trados? Here is one example, a friend of mine had a client for user guides. These user guides were like 95% identical, so my friend was doing the translations in 1 hour instead of 4 days, but was still invoicing 4 days of work, as Trados was his deal, it had nothing to do with the customer. And, no matter what you say, Trados help a lot, especially with repetitive jobs, like those I have… With the jobs I have, I thank God things are no longer like they used to be. Only today I had 3 docs with legal stuff, all three had almost the same text, just company names were changed. Imagine having to do these almost 100 pages by hand?! With Trados, it took me about 7 minutes. And I’m sure the quality is perfect, as the memory is done by me.


      • How about payment, though, Alex? Do they pay you pennies? Please do not go ballistic, we are on the same side here. I am just wondering how all this affects payment and if you still make an ok living, or do these tools kill all that? You should be promised more work in turn and not be taken advantage of. These are my points.


      • He was paid quite well, and paid in full, since the company had no idea what a CAT tool is.


  2. Hi Steve

    I think I can help answer a couple of questions.

    When you buy the Freelance version of the software, which is $995, you are able to choose to work in up to 5 languages in any combination. You do not pay on a per language basis.

    We also offer an entry level version called Starter which costs $99 per year, and allows translators to work with SDL Trados files and create their own TMs.

    The latest version, SDL Trados Studio 2009 does offer a PDF file filter to enable translators to work with PDFs when the original source is not available.

    If you like, we have a trial version available here -

    Hope this helps,



    • Goodness, Trados used to (I hope doesn’t still) limit the number of language combinations you could use? What on earth for? It’s a translation tool – it shouldn’t matter what language you’re using (within reason, anyway).

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi Maria:

    Thank you for your comment. I will probably look into your trial version at some point, but somebody just asked me to translate 8,000 words in a Japanese patent in 2 days, so it will have to wait.

    Best regards,

    Steve Vitek


  4. I used to think I was smart for not buying a screwdriver, ’cause I could unscrew most things with a coin or one of the blades of a pair of scissors…. it’s smart, but only up to a point….

    There is a reason why people make professional tools and there is a reason why professionals use them.

    That said, SDL Trados, in my experience, is not a very good tool. Try DejaVu or MemoQ if you want to use a tool designed from the translator’s point of view…. both are very applicable to patent translations (and one can grow to love them with the same passion that one had for good old WP5.1).


    • Thanks for the tip. But will DejeVu or MemoQ work with PDF files of Japanese patents? That’s what I don’t understand.

      Steve Vitek


  5. PDFs are a pain – but you can get a long way with good OCR software (create an OCRed plaintext version of yr doc, translate it with the aid of the tool and then reformat the doc in your post-tool edit)….

    Translation and layout become separate processes if you’re working from .pdf. But this is true whether or not you use a tool (either way, .pdfs are not designed as a format for editable text, but merely as a cross-platform format for printable text).

    As for the ability of various CAT tool do deal with non-western languages, pls check with the tool vendors concerned, but I’d be really, really surprised if they haven’t addressed this.

    Perhaps it would help if you just ignored the standard CAT pitch about cross-leveraging work from the one project to the other (though this becomes more feasible and profitable over time as you build your TM and termbases). A good tool will already start delivering ROI within one and the same document in terms of speed and consistency (the latter is just like yr post-its, but WAY more efficient).

    “But I can already do 8000 words heavy tech JAP->ENG in 2 days (at quality!), without any tool! ”

    Good for you. Now get tech-savvy and learn how to do 14,000 or more in the same timeframe with no additional sweat.

    So enough with the excuses already 😉 You are obviously a very smart translator, but there are plenty of tools out there that would make you even smarter….


  6. Thanks again for your comments. I will look at what options I have at some point. Maybe I should go to the ATA conference so I could talk to other translators. The last one I went to was in 1998 in San Francisco.

    Best regards,

    Steve Vitek


  7. I’m not a big fan of Trados (because of the business model that goes with it) and I definitely wouldn’t want to work for any client that required me to use it. I do work for a client though that provides Trados memories and glossaries, but I use these with Felix the CAT (, which is a much better fit for me. The main American developer of Felix is also a very good Japanese-English translator, and it shows in the features of the software. And Felix is not difficult to use. I’d guess that you’d be able to install and use it within an hour or so. Keyboard shortcuts and other little tricks to suit your workflow will take extra time, but I’m pretty confident that if you saw how Felix helped me translate patents, you’d be interested in trying it. [BTW, this is the first time for me to read this blog, enjoyed the most recent post with the Latin quote].


  8. Thanks very much. This is just what I was looking for. I will take a look at both programs mentioned in the comments tomorrow. I have to proofread 15 thousand words today, last part of a 30 thousand word job, prepare invoice and certifications, you know the drill.

    Thanks again for the tip.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Fun to read! My daughter is a translator and is going to buy an new computer and Trados 2010 and Office 2010. That´s why I found this site via google. Sorry for my bad english.So I´m searching the web for her. She has not the time to do it. And we are wondering what is compatibel with what.

    Your English is much better than my Swedish.

    Good luck to your daughter!


  10. […] Yesterday I was inspired to write something about the need of translation memory systems by a post from the Patent Translator’s Blog. Basically (and currently) he does not see the need for purchasing and using a TMS and I must say: […]


  11. […] I don’t know what Natasha (again, not her real name) looks like, but I imagine her as one of the many conflicted persons who are being treated by “Paul” (not his real name) on my favorite HBO TV show called “In Treatment”. Perhaps Natasha’s father never really showed any love to her, which was Sophie’s main problem (see video above). Or maybe she was traumatized by clients who are looking for really cheap translations? Her offer translates to about 7 cents a word in US dollars which is less than a half of the going rate of an experienced translator in this country. I was actually charging about 7 cents a word for European languages to English when I was starting out some 23 years ago. But even back then when I was a clueless beginner, both as far as the translation business and the technical terminology that is used in patents is concerned, I knew that only a really desperate person would swallow “a discount for repetitions”. The kind of person who badly needs a few sessions of treatment by “Paul”, but could not afford a single one, of course, at such low rates. I should also mention that this is the second time this year that somebody asked me for a discount due to “repetitions” in patents, as I write in this post. […]


  12. I have to admit that I have no experience at all with patent translation. But I’m just wondering: does it ever happen that a patent that you’re translating is revised, and you’re asked to insert the changes in your translation? And maybe you have to compare the new version with the old, painstakingly comparing each and every line to see what has changed? Even if you have the opportunity to use a compare tool, you still have to insert each change manually. With a TMS, you just have the new document retranslated automatically, and you only have to look at the sentences that have changed. The tool marks the changes for you, so you can see if it’s something you need to change in your translation as well, of if it was just a typo correction. The reason I’m asking is that this is what won me over, almost 15 years ago. I was a sceptic like you, but the first time I tried a TMS it was in a situation just like that: an updated file that would normally have taken hours to process, and that was finished within 15 minutes with the TMS. I would now use a TMS for any kind of translation, whatever the subject, whatever the style. If only because it saves a lot of time that I’d normally spend looking up and thinking about the same words and expressions time and time again. And yes, clients who know about the benefits of TMSs have a tendency to require discounts for full or fuzzy matches. Anyone is free to choose whether or not they want to work for those clients. The truth is though, that in many cases TMSs do make translators much more productive. So maybe in the end you would not earn more for a translation, but chances are you *would* earn more per hour…


  13. “But I’m just wondering: does it ever happen that a patent that you’re translating is revised, and you’re asked to insert the changes in your translation?”

    It happened to me twice in 23 years. I think that although translation memory tools may be very useful for some type of translation, they are not suitable for translating patents. I also think that my clients (patent lawyers) prefer human translators who do not use TMS.

    Also, since I usually translate PDF files which cannot be processed by TMS, what would be the point of buying software that is not compatible with PDF files?


  14. […] Friends Don’t Let Friends Use Trados or Other Translation Memory Tools July 2010 16 comments and 1 Like on, 5 […]


  15. Hey guys,

    The Human Brain has a fixed size.

    As much as we resist, Trados et al are just the tip of the changes to come.

    Good machine translation is almost upon us. It’s the nature of the computer. They get better and learn (or are taught) more every year. Their random memory capacity is now virtually limitless (comapred to a Human).

    Ultimately, the only way we will be able to compete (at least as translators) is by augmentaion… either built-in biological or external devices.

    Don’t just become a Trados Trainer… become a Machine Translator Trainer.


  16. Which Russian poet was it who said “My ne raby, raby ne my” (we are not slaves).

    If what you say is true, all translators will be slaves.

    Good luck with your built-in biological or external device!


  17. […] It seems that quite a few people hate Trados. I don’t blame them. I hope these poor souls found some consolation on my blog. The likelihood that I myself will start using Trados, now that I know how so many people feel about it, is approximately 0.000000001, as I write also in another blog. […]


  18. “Patent translators are often very stubborn people. Sometime it works to their advantage, and sometime it works to their detriment.”

    That, to me, is the best part of the post. I did read the rest and the comments but I do not agree with your hesitation. Don’t get me wrong, I myself, along with many humans, are creatures of habit. If I find a system that works for me, as inefficient as it may be, I will hold on to it until someone shows me the worth in changing. That may not be the case for you but it seems like it might.

    You keep mentioning PDFs, which are bains to all translators. I don’t do patents so I don’t know much about their authoring but I have a feeling that, if not already then soon, there is/will be a way to translate them in their native file format. As is the case for webpages, content made in InDesign, etc…

    The cost of TMS or CAT tools do give sticker shock to a lot of people; however it is my understanding that the bigger companies that provide these tools do not pay the bills from the revenue coming from personal licenses. Rather, the licenses they sell to agencies is where the real revenue comes in. That said, the freelance versions that may have a sticker price of $1000 can be had for waaaay cheaper. I bought my freelance version of Trados 2007 for $200. Albeit it was a student rate, but the same should go for small groups or membership discounts. Either way, you won’t get the discount if you don’t ask for it.

    I would have to agree with some of the comments that say TM for your line of translating would be fantastic. Some argue that TMs limit the translation segment to one sentence or clause thus limiting the room for creativity, a point especially important when doing literary texts or perhaps marketing. But I see patents as the antithesis to literary translation. If you consider the fact that a TM is nothing more than a database with a very simple interface, it might be easier to convince yourself to join the revolution/bandwagon/party depending on how you look at it. I do not doubt your capacity to recall how you translated bionic fibulator from Japanese into English for that one patent you had in ’95, but simple “remembering” of translation units is not the only benefit afforded to you by TM. Consistency, within the document and for the client, as well as never missing a unit are two others that make me thankful I don’t have to remember if I translated it “dog” or “hound” yesterday. As for the discounts for repetitions and fuzzies, that is another post and comment 🙂


  19. “As for the discounts for repetitions and fuzzies, that is another post and comment”

    But this is a crucial point. The main reason why I think it’s not a good idea to jump on the bandwagon, at least in my case, is that I want to resist the trend toward “discounts for repetitive passages” to agencies, which is exacerbated by things like Trados.

    Fortunately, this is not a problem in patent translation, at least not yet. I just finished translating two German patents that were almost identical. One was filed as a German (DE) patent and one as a European patent (EP) in German. I e-mailed the client, a patent lawyer, to let him know that the patents appear at first reading very similar or identical. He just said “we need to know whether there are changes there because sometime they do have changes”. So I copied the text of the first translation into the second translation and then proofread both documents very carefully and found only cosmetic changes, such as wording in the description of drawings and the use of the word Figure in one version and Fig. in the other.

    But I still charge the full rate for this type of work because it takes me about as long to proofread a document which is very similar to another document as if I were translating it from scratch, especially if it is a translation from Japanese. If you mistranslate a character in Japanese, which may look very similar to another character, the whole thing is wrong, so you’d better take your time proofreading.

    But I do give the client a choice …. sometime.

    Incidentally, I had the following search engine search terms on my blog’s dashboard:

    “i absolutely hate sdl trados studio 2009”


  20. Dear all,

    I liked the story about the typewriter 🙂
    It is true, the noise (we really sometimes can call it “noise”) of a typewriter sounds romantic, gives you an undeniable artist-touch. The cliché of the writer, writing late at night under a little desk lamp, lighting cigarette after cigarette in a smoky room, and bended over his typewriter 🙂
    For most of this you can still work like that with a computer, but for the sound ? For the sound you probably can use some special program simulating this sound on each keystroke, like good old ICQ used to do in early years 🙂

    About using or not translation memory tools, some considerations to bear in mind, and my own point of view :

    TM : these “basic” CAT tools DO help a lot, especially if they are smart enough to spot almost-repetitions and highlight slight differences to be changed.
    It is not only about saving time, but also to obtain consistency by not translationg the same thing 10 different ways over time, which could puzzle the final reader, eventually user of some software or product.

    Hard to learn : I had never used a CAT tool before, and managed to get MemoQ up and running all by myself in a couple of hours, at least for the minimal necessary basics.
    (For the rest of its advanced features, I am still discovering and learning more ways to make the most of it today, 4 years later… )
    PDF : if you can copy + paste the text to be translated from the PDF Reader to an editable text file in Word for example, you can use the “Plus Tools” paragraph format conversion algorythm, that works pretty well to re-assemble phrases that have been sliced into single line chunks.

    Source is a hard copy : If you get your originals as paper, you must scan them first and convert them to editable text via “optical character recognition” afterwards. Almost the same applies if you cannot get access to the text within a PDF file, either because it is a scanned paper document or because it has been protected on PDF creation stage. You can still OCR it and correct the mistakes. This takes time, of the character fonts are designed too stylish or spaced too tight, but is still a lot faster than to re-type the whole thing from scratch.
    For OCR I use OmniPage 6 Standard Edition, which came along with a scanner-printer and virtually cost me nothing. And it works perfectly well for me.

    Repetitions: if repetitions are counted on the source text rather than on the target text (which is normally the case), these will be spotted anyway, independently of if you actually use a translatuion memory to leverage repetitions or not.

    “standard” asked by agencies : It is true, some agencies still request you to use Trados, because they have themselves been trapped into this tool using proprietary non-standard file formats, probably at a time where there was not much choice out there.
    But these times are gone. Now more and more CAT tools use open standards like XLIFF (be careful! The so-called Trados and WordFast XLIFF formats are still partly proprietary and uncompatible with the truly standard XLIFF…).
    Besides, if they really insist, you can still use MemoQ to read and produce 100% Trados compatible files, and they won’t even notice the difference 🙂

    MT : more and more integrated translation environment tools include some kind of direct connection to publicly and freely available machine translation engines, and this is true also for MemoQ with its Google Translate plug-in. It won’t replace your work as a skilled and professional translator, at all, but depending on the language combination and subject of the text to be translated, it can be a great help for a first draft, one must admit.

    Per language pair : MemoQ can handle all language pairs in the world, and using many many different alphabets. At no extra cost. No such thing as beint limited to 5 pairs or so…

    Price : Nowadays, MemoQ costs normally a 620 Euros, about 800 and something USD, but they currently have a special discount of 40% running as a ProZ group buy, until the 28th of March. Not to be missed! Limited number available.

    So, basically, for me I could not imagine myself anymore without a translation memory, and no doubt about it : I heard enough about all sorts of CAT tools to make me happily stick with my MemoQ, which fortunately was my first choice in time, which made me spare a lot of bad investments I would have wasted in buying anything else.

    Best regards,



  21. PS: some more comments :

    About repetitions : if the agencies were smart enough and were up to spend a little extra time before assigning you a job, they would get rid of the true 100% repetitions prior to sending you the texts to be translated, so you would not even notice you are translating a repetition, because to you it would look like a single sentence, whereas on their side it may represent several copies of that same sentence.

    About pattent translating : this really sounds great, with clients paying well and willing not to claim for discounts on 2 consectutive almost similar translations 🙂 Bring them on ! 🙂

    The proof reading of the second file you mentionned, being just a few changes away from the fisrt one, would have been spotted and fixed in 5 minutes max, using MemoQ 🙂

    So, really, I definitely think thatit would do you good to spend some money in a translation memory system, the sooner the better. And of course, I would recommend you nothing else than MemoQ, especially now that they offer a 40% discount.
    If you get paid as much as you say, it would have been paid for already just with that second file proofreading, which you would have done in 5 minutes instead of in hours and hours of tedious work.
    If you had nothing else to do that day, you could have gone for a relaxing walk in the park or woods, which I am pretty sure you did not do in years of hard work… reinventing the wheel at each occuring repetition of the same bits of text.

    PS: I do not earn a commission if you buy MemoQ. I really recommend it because I am convinced that it is today’s best choice, because it is powerful, versatile and yet easy to use and learn. And because Kilgray has a great support team that will help you out of any trouble in an eyeclick, if you did not find the solution yourself by browsing several blogs of the growing and enthousiastic user community.

    By the way : if you want to know more about MemoQ and about many other useful things and latest trends in translation technology, why not join me and the rest of the fans at the MemoQFest conference + training session, second week of April, in Budapest ? Come on ! It will be fun, you won’t regret it, it’s a guarantee ! 🙂



    • I think that the best way to make sure that nobody asks for discounts for “repetitions” is not to use memory tools.

      I can do cutting and pasting of repetitive passages on my own, I don’t need software for that.

      And converting Japanese PDF files to editable text does not really work.

      So there we are. I have no use for MemoQ.


      • Sure, you can cut and paste: it’s a question of remembering that you’ve already translated the sentence, then going back and searching for it. With me, and my multiple-repetition client who I will post more about in another post, that meant searching through a dozen different Word files to find the sentence which was closest to the one I was currently translating. Not clever.


  22. Honestly, I’m somewhere in the middle. I find TMs & CAT tools useful, but far from perfect. I’m translator as well as an advanced PC user & have used many programs (DTP, 3D design, audio, video, etc.) in many different projects, or simply with friends who are in other lines of work, and I have to say that a good CAT program is great.

    I would also caution that Trados sure ain’t it. I have never seen a program so buggy and so difficult to use. I just tried it out for a month and was seriously considering getting it, but now I absolutely refuse. The amount of time I have lost with Trados program & memory errors, difficulty working with large files or certain file formats, workarounds to simply export a file or perform a simple task that I know is a no-brainer to code into any program, etc., have totally turned me off to that program. I could make a list right now of both bugs and simply good features that a program that expensive & big ought to cover properly.

    In my opinion, it should cost $200 and simply be one among many. I still wouldn’t buy it, but at least I’d feel it was priced right and not misrepresenting itself or its capabilities. I have seen and read enough to be of the opinion that Trados is junk. I know it works well for many, especially ppl who are very into it & perhaps have used it for years. But as a specialized and expensive software application, it seriously under-delivers, and has caused me & many translators a lot of headaches & extra work when it hits a wall over something dumb.

    I’m looking into MemoQ. Heard it was good & just works. Anyways, that’s on Trados.

    As to CAT tools in general, I don’t use them for everything, only some translations. But there are translations & deadlines I know I could not have made without a CAT tool. Having only recently begun (last year) using CAT apps, and having been a translator for years before that & still preferring to do some translations without a CAT tool, I would still recommend you get into a decent CAT tool and use it a few times. I think it’s worth experiencing personally and trying out how it works before deciding against it. Couldn’t hurt. (Well, maybe the pocketbook, but I’d look at a free month’s trial & give it a good using in that time.)


  23. PS: I wouldn’t work hard to convince anyone to use a CAT tool. I’m simply the type of person who’s willing to give things an honest try & see for myself. That’s the only reason why I say it’s worth trying.

    But it’s not the all-in-all, and can be near worthless or simply not worth using to some.


  24. Thank you for your comment.

    I will probably give a try to MemoQ or something like that when I have some time.

    At the moment I am so busy that I have to work 7 days a week just to keep up with the work. It’s been like this for several months. Trying out tools that might or might not be useful seems like a waste of time right now.


  25. I use OmegaT (or OmegaT+, a modification); it’s an open-source CAT app, and therefore free. Won’t cost a penny to try. Also, being open-source, I can use it on a Mac, whereas most of the expensive CAT apps are Windows-only.

    I translate Japanese patents, among other things, and I get most of them as pdfs, . Readiris is not too bad as a Mac OCR app; lucky Windows users have more choices. Readiris (and probably any other OCR app) misreads a lot of kanji and even kana, especially with fuzzy pdfs, but it doesn’t matter if all you’re doing is using the CAT app for your own purposes, because as long as the OCR app keeps making the same mistakes, the CAT app will detect the repetitions.

    I don’t have any clients who insist that I use CAT apps, and who discount matches, etc., so I don’t have that problem. And I wouldn’t work for any who did. Some day, perhaps, I will run out of clients who are this nice, and then I suppose I will become a slave, too, but with any luck I will have retired or gone to my eternal rest by then.

    OmegaT doesn’t provide me any advantages for some jobs, but where it can be used, it does often save me quite a bit of time and effort.


  26. Thank you for your comment.

    I looked at the OmegaT website but there are so many options for downloading.

    Which one should I download if I want to use it for Japanese patents?

    Only agencies ask about CATs (sometime). I work mostly for patent law firms and they probably don’t know that there is such a thing and if they did, they would probably not want me to use it – I would trust a human brain more that some software too.


  27. Any one should work for Japanese. On the “OmegaT Download Selector” page, “Traditional” should do it.


  28. Thank God I’m not the only one who hates translation software! I think most of the gripes have been covered above, but basically: agencies use these programs to drive down the rates they pay to freelancers (do they charge their clients correspondingly lower prices, though? Who knows?), the ‘segmentation’ of text seriously stifles the naturalistic flow of the translation, a great deal of time is wasted scrolling and clicking through segments in documents for which a sizeable portion of the text already exists in the translation memory (you can waste hours scrolling and clicking through a large text until you eventually reach the part you are actually supposed to translate), and the software itself is often extremely buggy, not to mention ferociously unforgiving if you somehow do any one of the billion things that can disrupt the fragile formatting of the text. You can spot Trados translations a mile off, for example: the sentences are usually short and staccato, with little natural linking between them; any formatting errors or clumsiness in the original text is usually reproduced in the translation; and sections from other translations are often crowbarred into a new text where a different word or phrase would have been miles more appropriate.

    I’m a young, very tech-savvy translator (in fact I specialise in translating manuals for software and mobile devices) who has been using Trados for the last 6 months and I can honestly say that my translations take longer and are of worse quality as a result. I fail to see how a conscientious translator armed with a vocabulary list and a good knowledge of Word or other word-processing software cannot a) work just as fast as someone using translation software, and b) produce a translation that is of significantly superior quality. In forcing us to insert snippets of other, older translations wherever possible instead of engaging with the text and producing a cohesive whole, these kinds of programs make our job more mechanical and stop us thinking; and when that happens, poor translations are the result.


  29. Thank you for your comment. I could not have said it so eloquently because I don’t use CATs, so I don’t really know how they work.

    But you are hardly the only one who has such a low opinion of Trados.

    The problem is, most beginning translators think that they need to have Trados or similar software to be able to translate, they think it is as indispensable as a computer, a dictionary or MS Word.

    Which is why I wrote this post.

    Nothing could be further from the truth. You only absolutely have to have Trados if your goal in life is to work for agencies that will pay you very low rates because you are stupid enough to let them force you to buy for a lot of money something that is very beneficial to them, but of little or no benefit to you or to the quality of your translation.

    Anyway, that’s what I think.


  30. I think this discussion is fascinating, although I have to admit that I did not read all of the responses in detail so I apologize if I am repeating something someone else said.

    I think it is important to point out, though, that your background heavily influences your position – you a) do not work for translation agencies, b) work with unique language combinations in a unique translation market that requires a hands-on approach and c) have been in the business long enough to have developed your own clients “back in the day” before Trados was established.

    The reality for many new translators today is that they have to do work for agencies – in best case scenario until they can build up their own contacts, but in reality probably as a permanent supplement to their direct contracts – and agencies require Trados or a Trados-compatible tool. Period. Any other message is misleading.


  31. Well, then continue working for agencies that require Trados and discounts for “fuzzy matches”, extremely short deadlines combined with 60 days payment terms and such since there is nothing you can do about it because you are not me.

    I hope you have a pleasant, hands-off kind of life.

    I am thinking of writing a new post. I think the word “lobotomization” and different variations thereof, as in “meek, lobotomized translators” will play an important role in this post, and I thank you for the inspiration.


  32. Dear all,

    Of course I do not translate Japanese, so I certainly would not have the same PDF to DOC conversion headaches as you do, but I am pretty sure _SOME_ OCR software might be up to the job with quite good results. Am I wrong ?

    I use quite an old version of OmniPage (6, I think, from the early years of this millennium 🙂 ), the “Standard Edition” that came for free together with a scanner. This version does not read PDFs, that’s a shame (only the “Professional”.. and paid… version does), but after converting the image by printing to PNG, I OCR-ize that one, and it works just fine.
    If I got the documents in paper, I scan them into PNG and directluy jump to the OCR part described before.
    Then I export the results to plain text in RTF with embedded icons and images which I can then use and re-format according to the original, taking care of some layout details that will make it easy for CAT tools to segment at the right place.
    Then I import that RTF into my MemoQ, translate the bare text with no formatting concern whatsoever, export the result that will look just like the “original” I just made, but containing the translated text, and then just check if everything went well, to keep my conscience clear.

    This of course is when I get PDFs or paper documents to translate. The job gets a lot easier and faster, if you are provided with editable DOC or RTF files.

    So for me, there is no doubt that CAT tools ARE useful and make you save alot of time by enabling the recycling of previous jobs, when appropriate, without the hassle to copy and paste and check bits of text from scattered sources here and there.

    You can use a CAT tool just for yourself, without the customer knowing or noticeing. Then the full benefit of repetitions goes to you.
    If the customer does some pre-filtering and eliminates repetitions etc… well, fair enough, you will still get paid exactly for what you actually did translate that time.
    What is not so nice, of course, is when they ask for discounts on partial repetitions, because a match rate does not always correspond to the proportional amount of work you will have to fix a difference between two sentences, but then again, some smart CAT tools like the one I use will tell you exactly, segment by segment, where you have to change something, between the looked up reference text6 and the actual text you have to translate at that moment.

    What I do not understand and cannot bear is why, among all available CAT tools, some agencies still stick to Trados, despite of it high cost and despite of all the trouble it causes to translators, whereas there is now such a variety of alternatives, some of them using non-locking open standards, or even using widely accepted and interoperable formats.
    MemoQ for example (I only can speak of what I really know) can processTrados compatible bilingual DOC files, bilingual tables imported from other CMSs or Excel, etc… etc… among many other interoperable formats, and the customer will not even notice you did not use their tool of election.

    So please, translators, do yourself a favor and check for alternatives before running head down into a bad initial investment that will lead to a long term finatial lock-in with a CAT tool you will end up hating, sooner or later, as many other unfortunates did before you.

    Best regards,



  33. By the way, you can download and use the full and unlimited version of MemoQ for 45 days, for free, and still use it afterwards with some limitations, if you decided not to buy it after all (highly improbable not to have been seduced 😉 , unless you actually did not really try it out at all during that quite rarely generous trial period).

    Ah, another tip : you can install a MemoQ Translator Pro licence on 2 distinct computers… which can reveal itself as very handy, for several reasons…


  34. Hi Martin:

    I think you may be in love with MemoQ the way I was in love with WordPerfect 15 years ago. I started using MS Word only a few years ago.

    It is a strange kind of obsession, but fortunately, it is not nearly as painful as lusting after a woman that one can’t have.


    Although I never use WordPerfect anymore, I always install WordPerfect 9.0 on every new computer. I’m not quite sure why I keep doing that.


  35. 🙂

    You might be right, but then again, we would be thousands and thousands, and every day more of them, lusting after the same woman 😉
    The good thing is, we don’t have to share nor split, every single one can have its own copy 🙂

    But, just like WordPerfect for you (which I liked quite a lot too, while using it in ancient times), I truly think MemoQ is a marvellous tool, and is the best thing that happened to me since I started translating, and I sure could not imagine myself working without it today. And at every new release of it, there are more features and reasons for one to immediately fall in love with it.

    Trust me, have a go at it, and the love at first sight effect will happen to you too.
    It might sound a lot of money to invest in, at first sight, but a successful and well paid translator as you are will get its ROI in no time, believe me.
    At the time I started using it, and after a long period of time, managing to resisting the temptation, thinking “oh, I can do without those cheater’s tricks, I keep doing it the right way, with serious and dedicated and concentrated hours of solid work…”, I had that huge contract to get done ASAP, far to big for me alone to do it, actually, and after an extra few days wasted in trying to teach myself how to use several CAT tools (including the at that time most famous one, the “you know which” one) with no real success, I eventually stumbled over an apparently meaningless comment about MemoQ on some translator’s blog, so I gave it a try (thank God!) and managed to get seizable results in a couple of hours, with almost no effort at all. This saved my day ! and at least 2 weeks of solid work during those Christmas holidays I would not have been able to enjoy without an enormous weight on my conscience and many restless nights rewriting again and again the same dumb and repetitive sentences, just with slight variations each time.

    Ok, ok, I think you got my point by now, and I must admit you are right : I just love MemoQ 🙂 and I cannot even hide it !
    That’s another good thing : the woman you would be lusting and cannot have sometimes does not even know about your secret but impossible love, or at least, some people should not or would not like to know about your secret love… but with MemoQ, and you can confirm on many translators’ blogs, they can even have many other CAT tools and still will cry out their preference for MemoQ, openly 🙂

    Wouldn’t you just get curious and wonder why ?
    Once again : they give you 45 days to try it out for free, in its fully fledged version, but I bet that if you actually do try, if you do spend that afternoon fiddling around with it to see by yourself what it is capable of, not one week will pass before you fall in love too and decide to buy your own license 🙂

    It is catchy, believe me ! 🙂

    Enjoy !


  36. I am happy that you are in such a happy and fulfilling relationship with MemoQ.

    I will probably give it a try one of these days, especially since another blogger fell in love with the same program and blogged about it today, see below:

    (When I say one of these days, I mean, in another year or two, or three …..)


    • I don’t know why but I laughed (with you) on this one.:)


  37. See ??? I told you !
    It’s not just me who adores MemoQ.

    I could refer to many many other translators’ blogs, Facebook and Twitter pages, some of them even more passionate than myself, and giving extremely precise tips and tricks on how to squeeze even more juice out of your investment in MemoQ and get even more productive.

    Just google a bunch of those names, and you will see by yourself : MemoQ (of course), Translation Tribulations, Jeromobot, Danilo Nogueira, Renato Beninatto, Kevin Lossner, Nick Rosenthal, Carsten Peters, Val Ivonica, etc… among many many others…. are unconditional fans of MemoQ too.

    Now, if I could give you a piece of advise : don’t wait 2 or 3 years to try it too, because there is no doubt whatsoever that whenever you do, you will regret not to have done it way earlier.
    Do yourself a favor : take a couple of hours off from your day to day run-run routine, pour yourself a generous cup of coffee or your favourite flavour of tea, and enjoy, experiment, fiddle around with MemoQ a bit.
    And if you are really in a hurry and want to get it up and running in no time, you will manage in half an hour too, like the guy from the blog you referred to us earlier. It took me a couple of hours to get started, and manage to use it and get tangible results, because at that time I did know nothing at all about even the basic concepts of a CAT tool.

    If you need help to get started, I can give you some tips, but the introductory manual (among many other free pieces of very useful documentation) that you can download from Kilgray’s website should be more than enough, and then there is that MemoQ users community blog to help you too, and of course their very famous and quite responsive support team for the simplest to the most difficult questions or requests for specific help with that specific file that got you into trouble.

    Ah, and did I mention that before ? MemoQ can also handle Japanese charactersets, just like Cyrilic, Arabic, Hebrew and other unusual (for us) alphabets, with no problem whatsoever.

    I know you are a stubborn pattent translator, as you admit yourself, but please, drop guard for a chage and have a go at it, and you won’t regret it, that’s a promise.

    Take care,



  38. Wow ! I just gort to know about a new opportunity to buy MemoQ for less than the normal price.
    The latest newsletter from Kilgray says :

    Join us for the 3rd Virtual conference!
    Visit our booth next Friday (30/9/2011) and take advantage of Kilgray’s one-day promotion!

    Make sure you don’t miss the presentation of Balázs Kis, Kilgray’s CEO at 19:30 GMT, and learn more about the most powerful features of memoQ 5.0!

    … and …

    Early bird promotion for the Boston memoQ Day ends soon

    We’d like to remind you that early bird rates for Kilgray’s first US event are available until 6 October only.

    Save the date and join us on Tuesday, 25 October, the day prior to the opening of the 52nd ATA conference!

    Voilà, that’s it, FYI.


  39. Last minute update on the subject :

    Several CAT tools are currently for sale with variable discount rates during the ProZ virtual conference, until 30/9 or as long as the stock lasts, so hurry to take this opportunity, if you planned to get yourself geared up !

    Check this out on .

    And guess what ?

    Kilgray is offering the biggest discount of all providers, with 51% off the regular price of MemoQ 5.0, and less than an hour after the official announcement of the sale opening, already 20 units of the 100 available are gone, whereas the sales of other tools are only just about to take off…
    Currently they sold 45 units already, far ahead from other tools’ sales.

    There are signs that leave no doubt, more and more people cannot afford anymore to waste money and time and want to invest only in the best tools available.

    See more info on


  40. My two cents, if I may:
    I enjoyed your post and read the comments.

    I’m a translator. I think attempts to reduce our rates – be it by pimping agencies, or “lady of the corner” translators, or overpriced CAT tools – is almost verging criminal behavior…
    Agencies force translators to use TRADOS and only pay a percentage of the rate – I highly doubt agencies take less money for repetitions from the client (if they do it’s only from those who are aware of this “advantage”);
    “Lady of the corner” translators tend to be young and starting translators, really eager to get their fingers clicking and willing to work for 0.05 cents per word, not realizing they are spitting into their own well. Other types of cheap translators are either those who likely don’t value the profession or themselves highly enough, or are simply bad translators who at least know their worth!
    Lastly, the ‘Machine’ – in general, I think it’s like shoving a stick in the spokes of our bicycle. It will be far harder to get higher or even the same decent rates, if private clients get it into their heads that machine translations cut our work time in half – which from my experience is simply not true. I haven’t tried other CATs, and am not eager to, although the enthusiasm over MemoQ by some here is tugging at my curiosity.
    I am a light, limited and ambivalent TRADOS 2007 user, mostly for repetitive stuff, or for extremely lucrative must-use-TRADOS projects. I think the only really good thing about it is its concordance, which is a nice tool for finding those hard to remember terms you know you worked hard to translate once before. But, it is built into the software, so, it kind of loses its charm if you don’t want to use this particular tool. On rare occasions, it’s excellent at letting you skip segments which are not for translation (marked by the client), but from what I understand, that is not your case.
    PDFs are a different planet altogether… I always ask for (but sadly don’t always get) a copy in Word – let the translation agency work at converting the file; if anyone should spend money on CAT tool licenses and OCRs it should be the agencies.

    So, as my two cents kiss the one dollar mark, I’d like to sum by saying: if you are happy with your overall output and content with your personal life and the way these two intertwine, keep doing what you are doing. However, I implore you not to shy away from trying them because of any limit you think you may have at learning how to use any tool. After all, “I don’t think the brain remains flexible throughout life – I know it does; the only thing that becomes fixated is our fears” (borrowed from an old wise man).

    Wow, you know some tough languages !


  41. Very well put. Thank you for your contribution.

    It’s not that I am afraid of CATs, if I thought there were really useful and indispensable for my purposes, I would buy and learn one of the available software packages, although definitely not Trados.

    But I just don’t see the need for that. And I am not going to invest my time and money in something that I don’t need just because everybody else is doing it.


    • “And I am not going to invest my time and money in something that I don’t need just because everybody else is doing it.”

      Hear! Hear! to that, absolutely right!


  42. Hi there, what an interesting discussion! I know exactly what you mean when you say you prefer your post-it stickers and rely on your own brain. And when it comes to pdf in japanese I can also see why you would want to do it without a CAT. I am not against them, I use an already named open source one myself, but you named the reasons why agencies should be insulted on an hourly basis for insisting you use them.
    So instead of saying “wrong or right”, I just wanted to give you a little story. I work for a couple of agencies and am their main German translator for a couple of fields, one of them cosmetics. One of our clients is very picky (just imagine a group of 10 women all dressed up, covered in make up and nail polish, bitching about all day long and you have an idea what they come up with…) and might even send the same text 5 times a day with minor changes that you have to apply to your language. After 2 years and I don’t know how many products, power point presentations, new launches etc. I have a very good memory of all their products and mostly rely on only that. Still, I have moments when I simply do not remember if I put moisturizing, soft lip gloss or soft, moisturizing lip gloss as a translation. That’s when my CAT comes in handy. Because yes, for them it does make a difference, and they will tell you and go and check and ask how come you changed the order.
    I also translate legal texts as well, usually directly as a scan in pdf and guess what? They are quite often repetitive in sentence structure, phrasing etc. and I know it all by hard. But I would not use a CAT on them, simply because I need to translate from scratch as no text is ever exactly the same and I have to pay so much attention.
    So I think there is no right or wrong or good or bad in using CATs, it mostly depends on whether you need them or not. For what you do I guess I would not need one, as I do not need it for legal sentences and texts, but I have to rely on one for my cosmetic stuff simply because even though I remember most sentences by hard I sometimes cannot be bugged to spend 20 minutes into looking for the original phrasing in my archive.
    And let’s be honest, paying almost 1000 Euros, Dollars or whatever for a program that your agency will use against you, o hell no!


  43. “And let’s be honest, paying almost 1000 Euros, Dollars or whatever for a program that your agency will use against you, o hell no!”

    My feelings exactly.


  44. […] popularity of another post I wrote more than 2 years ago in July of  2010, which I called “Friends Don’t Let Friends Use Trados or Any Other Translation Memory Tools”. In fact, this post, which unlike my post about TD is not really meant to be funny, is now more […]


  45. […]   Patent translators are often very stubborn people. Sometime it works to their advantage, and sometime it works to their detriment. I knew a translator in San Francisco who in the late eighti…  […]


  46. […]   Patent translators are often very stubborn people. Sometime it works to their advantage, and sometime it works to their detriment. I knew a translator in San Francisco who in the late eighti…  […]


  47. I agree with this article. I am forced to use Trados, MemoQ and Transit by my customers and they are all rubbish. Without them I can easily manage 11000 words in a 12-hour day by other methods.


  48. Thank you for your comment.

    I read in a study somewhere that 45 percent of translators do not use any CATS.


  49. I wouldn’t dream of trying to convince you of the benefits of any CAT tool, but I do notice that you come back to the PDF files that you encounter daily when you do patent translations. I would have imagined that the client ordering the translation is the owner of the patent, and that owner really ought to have access to the original file from which the PDF was made. And *that* file is in all probability easily handled by all the major and minor CAT tools, which would bring in the true benefits to your niche of the market (exact translation of identical sentences, suggestions on very similar segments with highlighting of the differences, concordance funtion, terminology management and more). The only thing holding you back is the rather strange obsession of using PDF files that seem to be so prevalent. Fine and dandy they are, but ask for the original file as well. It is surprisingly often available.

    You don’t like being paid less for repetitions? Well, don’t tell your client that you use a CAT tool. Use it anyway. Think that you are being a bit miserly when you finish with that almost identical file in fifteen minutes instead of fifteen hours and ask the same price? Give the client a discount. Or take the next day off.

    My speed record is 28,000 *weighted* words (probably corresponding to your ordinary 50-60,000 counted before the advent of CAT tools) in 23 hours straight. I was miserable before starting that run on the Death Star, and more miserable afterwards, and more sore of fingertip.

    Kind regards
    Roger Sjölander


  50. 1. “I would have imagined that the client ordering the translation is the owner of the patent, and that owner really ought to have access to the original file from which the PDF was made.”

    The client ordering the translation is usually a patent lawyer who just like me only has a PDF file if it is an old patent, which is usually the case.

    2.”Think that you are being a bit miserly when you finish with that almost identical file in fifteen minutes instead of fifteen hours and ask the same price? Give the client a discount.”

    This is just weird, Roger. Fifteen minutes instead of fifteen hours?

    It sounds just like “buy our CD for 15 dollars and you can learn any language in 10 days or your money back”.

    Maybe things work like that in your line of work, but what works for you is not necessarily applicable to my field.


  51. Hello!

    One thing to keep in mind is that if the patent you are translating is suddenly revised in the source, a translation memory is going to make that process totally painless.

    You might look into translation software. It’s pretty good, and you can pay for six months at a time.


  52. Interesting article. I do think that your apprehension is of TMs/CATs is a bit irrational but I can understand not wanting to buy into the scheme of companies like SDL.

    But that’s sort of the distinction that’s important. There really is nothing wrong with the tools. They really only help you especially once you’re familiar with what they do. However, it’s how TMs are being used to change the climate and dynamics of the industry that’s worrisome.

    I take it you do know how the CAT tools and TMs work, right?


  53. OK, I understand why CAT tools might prove helpful for a translator, but I hate the idea sharing the TMs with others. I fear that one day, there will be no jobs for us, at least in certain professional areas, because the translation agencies will have collected huge databases built on our knowledge by then and their secretaries will just run the programs and adjust a word or two here and there… And maybe it is already happening, considering the quality of some of the manuals… I just simply don’t want the agency collecting my knowledge – I can use it and live from it, why to sell it CHEAP to an agency so that THEY live from it forever, leaving me with less and less? It reminds me, in a strange way, of the saying about the fish…. “give a man a fish and feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and he’ll eat forever.” We all know the price for a 50 or 60% matches, don’t we… Well, I spent years learning what I know. I am not selling it THAT cheap. I need to live from what I have learned all my life, not only a couple of years before someone will have everything from my and your head neatly stored in THEIR TMs…
    So, use CAT tools for your own good, but please do not give the agencies the reason to make us redundant (they are not far from thinking this way even now…) DO NOT GIVE YOUR KNOWLEDGE THAT SIMPLY AWAY.


  54. […] Based on what I discovered mostly by reading comments on my blog and blogs of other translators, I am hardly the only translator who does not use Trados or any other computer memory tool. At least 40% of translators and probably more do not use these tools, because although they may be very suitable for example for translating repetitive updates of software or computer manuals, they would be mostly or completely useless in other translation fields, namely fields that require creativity, experience and good writing skills, while other translators will probably not acknowledge that they do use them even if they do … because they don’t want to be forced to give discounts. […]


  55. Hi, Neat post. There’s an issue along with your web site in internet explorer, might check this? IE still is the market chief and a huge component of other people will pass over your excellent writing due to this problem.


  56. […] translators must use expensive translation memory tools that they are ordered to buy, for about eight hundred dollars, usually Trados. The reason for this is again efficiency –  translators using Trados or another preapproved […]


  57. […] But I do hate what these tools are doing to our profession. In other words, I hate how these tools are being used by some people, by which I mean translation agencies. […]


  58. When some one searches for his required thing, therefore he/she needs to be available that in detail, thus that thing is maintained over


  59. I hesitate to enter this somewhat vehement discussion of CAT tools, but I do feel compelled to share that as far as your difficulty with PDFs, there are OCR programs that handle Japanese. I also translate from Japanese to English and have found these programs invaluable. abbyy fine reader is an excellent choice and offers a free online option. The inability to change file formats should never limit your translation options. Using CAT tools is a choice, and one that you can make without the limitations associated with pdfs.


    • I use a Mac, so I am limited to ReadIris, which as far as I know is the only Mac OCR that does Japanese. It’s pretty OK, but what limits it for me is that many of the pdfs I get are rather fuzzy or otherwise bad quality, so it makes lots of mistakes. I have tried out the Abbyy program on Windows and don’t think it’s appreciably better on pdfs with the same quality. Of course, there are also 日本製 OCRs, but I haven’t had any experience with them.

      In my experience, OCR-produced texts with lots of misread kanji don’t matter anyway, because when I am translating a pdf document I always keep my eyes on the pdf itself, and if the OCR program is always using a wrong kanji the CAT will still match segments with the same mistake.


  60. Everything in life is a choice.

    And I choose to be free of the limitations associated with CATs.


  61. As a recent graduate and a newcomer in the field, I find this technophobia strange while I admire the effort of fighting windmills. Thing is that even though you refuse to work with CATs, your work you send to the agency or to your direct client can be “stolen”, stored and re-used in the agency TM. This is called document alignment, and usually it requires only the source and target texts and a good tool. I don’t know any way to prevent it, even if you hand your translations on paper they can always OCR and align them.

    However, all the agencies I know are way too busy to bother with exporting freelance material to the TM, no matter which format it comes in. Same agencies also favor those translators using CAT tools while non-users (even skilled) are a last resort as all the PM work is much more time-consuming with them.

    I am currently working for a governmental organisation trying to switch from Word-environment to using CATs, and this post helped me to better understand the feelings of senior translators.


  62. @Tupu

    Based on what I have read on translators’ blogs, there seems to be a tendency among translators who have been working in the field for many years if not decades to refuse to work for agencies who require them to use a certain CAT, usually Trados, in particular because these agencies then use this tool to limit the earning ability of these translators.

    This means that there should be more work for novices like you out there, as long as you young people don’t mind working long hours for very little money.


  63. Garnish with a mini-candy cane hanging along the rim
    of glass or prior to pouring the drink into glass, crush the candy cane and wet down the
    glass rim. Scar tissue replace healthy liver tissue, partially overcrowding the flow of blood from
    side to side the liver. Just as in other addictions, conquering the
    beast takes information, a well-developed plan, support and a
    whole lot of tenacity.


  64. You are remarkably stubborn (!), and it is to your own detriment. It is of course your choice, if you want to type the same things again and again and again, and then proofread them for any small variations…
    Should you ever consider using a cat tool, I would however recommend using Memoq, NOT any flavour of Trados, as it is a buggy mess (and I’m being kind here).


  65. O dear, is this discussion still going on…? I noticed you added a new argument:

    “A few months ago, I translated two very similar Japanese patents for a very small agency. I have known the guy who runs it, who is a translator himself, for something like 20 years. I sent him an invoice for three thousand dollars. He e-mailed me back, saying that based on “matches” in the text of both patents, he would only pay me two thousand three hundred dollars. Well, some passages, such as prior art, were very similar, almost identical. But the final proofreading of these similar passages takes up so much time, precisely because they are so similar, that I have to charge full rate. In the end he did pay what was in my invoice, but only after I fired off a slew of very angry messages. And our relationship of some 20 years has been seriously compromised.”

    So, you take your modern car in to be repaired. The mechanic turns out to be an old man who has refused to invest in new, up-to-date tools and needs a full day to find out what the problem is, and another full day to repair it. He quotes $20 an hour, but at 16 hours, you’d end up paying $480 in labour alone. A modern mechanic next-door charges $40 an hour, but does have all the necessary equipment. He’d connect your car to an electronic system, would pinpoint the problem within half an hour, and would be able to fix it in 4 hours because he has better tools. He quotes 4.5 x $40 = $180 dollars. Which one would you choose? And which mechanic is better off, financially?

    Another thing (and I haven’t gone through all of the discussion above, so I might be repeating someone else: even if you, for whatever reason, refuse to work for clients who want you to use a CAT tool, there’s nothing stopping you from using one anyway without telling your client, charging them the full load, but working faster and more efficiently because of the tool. You’d have earned back your investment in no time.

    (And no, I’m not a newcomer. 20+ years of experience in the field, having used CAT tools for at least 17 years and happily earning far more per hour than the average translator)


  66. @mum

    So how much do you make per hour?


    • That would depend on the client, the subject matter, the language, the complexity of the text, etc. On average about €75 ($100) per hour, though. And this includes ‘non-productive’ hours for administration, networking, education, etc.


      • Well, that is what I am making on average too, taking into account non-productive hours, without using any CAT.

        So why should I start using them again?

        (I make considerably more per hour when I am the agency, of course, but I mostly work as a translator).


    • “So why should I start using them again?”
      OK, a simple example from everyday business. This morning, I had 10 different active jobs in my schedule, ranging from medical equipment to dairy produce and from toys to ERP software. Three different source languages, five different clients, eight different end clients. Volumes varying between 200 and 12,000 words, and turnaround times ranging from 2 hours to 3 weeks. At the end of the day, I will have completed three of those jobs, and tomorrow I will be working on at least four others.
      There is no way that I can handle all of this without having at least the possibility of searching TMs – both my own and my clients’. If there’s some time left over, I might work on a large job with a long turnaround time, but I may not have the opportunity to continue with it until next week. I will have forgotten most of what I did today by then.

      Now, your reply will be that there’s no need for me to handle this many source languages/topics/… But that’s what makes my work interesting, as far as I’m concerned.

      If you’re happy working the way that you do, by all means continue in that way. No-one is forcing you to do otherwise.

      But no two translators are the same. And believe it or not, there are many translators out here who happily work with CAT tools, even if their clients don’t require them to. They’ve taken the time to get to know the tools, to find out how to make them work for them and not against them, and to use them to increase productivity, improve consistency and avoid boring repetitive work.

      It would suit you to respect that.


      • O, and one more thing. The 12,000 word job I mentioned (as an example) is actually 77,000 words, but I’m only being paid the equivalent of 12,000 words. Why? Because more than 80% has been translated before – and most of it by me. Why on earth would I want to spend a month retranslating 60,000 words that I’ve already translated before, when I can use that time to work on interesting other work for other clients?


      • I don’t have energy for this nonsense.

        You are comparing oranges to potatoes. What you translate is very different from what other people translate, and thus the rules are different – can you understand that?

        But feel free to post as much as you want.


      • Well, believe it or not, this is actually exactly what I meant. Your rant agains CAT tools is just not applicable to all of us. So why bother with the discussion. I posted a comment somewhere quite some time ago, and was amazed to find out yesterday that the discussion is still going on. I added my thoughts – that’s all.

        Calling other people’s valid contributions nonsense is not what I call a decent discussion. I’ll leave again, and will probably be amazed again in a few years time when your still here 🙂


      • I never suggested that my rant was applicable to all translators.

        You are twisting my words completely.

        Unfortunately, you cannot even consider the possibility that your situation may very different from another translator’s type of work is the problem here.

        That’s why I called it nonsense – it is not a useful discussion, just a waste of time.

        For you information, it is not just me – a large segment of translators either don’t use CATs at all, or hardly eve.

        We are all different people, and different translators work in very different environments using very different method. In some environments, these expensive tools are useless and counterproductive.

        Believe it or not, that’s why I don’t use them, not because I am stubborn to the point of being stupid.


  67. I have recently taken the plunge and downloaded a cracked version of SDL Studio, after ten years of refusing to participate in the monstrous confidence trick that has been perpetrated by translation agencies in the interests of their own profits. I have done a number of largish projects with Studio now, so the learning process is far from complete, but some things are clear. The first is that there is no advantage in speed. In fact using Studio takes two to three times as long as not using Studio. The second is that there is no advantage in quality, with the minor caveat that it is very good at noticing extra spaces. The only reason I have made this decision is that agencies now routinely require it, and the work I was getting was increasingly what was left over (pdfs, mainly). Younger translators nowadays have never worked in any other kind of environment and therefore don’t seem to understand why we more experienced people should resent this whole development so much. I am far from being a technophobe and use a lot of computerised systems. But using Studio makes me feel that I have been reduced to a mindless drone, servicing this large and ugly machine in the name of corporate profit for someone else. It’s all about project management, of course, and I can see it from the agencies’ point of view. Why should they care if the translations take two or three times as long? There are plenty of translators.


    • Agreed


    • You have the gall to complain about an application that you don’t seem to know how to use and have actually stolen? Well, you are really someone whose arguments are to be listened to with admiration and sparkling eyes. True merit, moral fiber and backbone.

      Jesus. Why don’t you write Trados support and complain?


  68. And let me add that in my experience Word’s cut and paste function will do 90% of what Studio does, without the stupid process of generating TMs, which in the vast majority of cases are never used again. Also, whenever I actually look inside a TM that has been provided by an agency, I find all kinds of mistakes and inconsistencies which could have been removed but which nobody has had the time to look at. Having several different translators’ work included in the same TM is obviously a recipe for disaster, as in practically every case there will be significant differences between translations produced by different people. This is not because they are deviating from the ‘true’ or ‘correct’ translation: it is because of the nature of language.


    • “And let me add that in my experience Word’s cut and paste function will do 90% of what Studio does, without the stupid process of generating TMs”

      Thank you. This is precisely why I am not going to waste my time and money on Trados or another stupid CAT.


      • So, Studio will do more than Word, saving you the trouble of having to cut and paste, and preventing you from having to retranslate words, phrases and sentences that you already translated 20,000 words ago and that you simply cannot all remember. And it will create a TM in the process, for you to use whenever you want. What your writing seems like the perfect argument for using a CAT tool, not against it…


  69. […] Stats for: Friends Don’t Let Friends Use Trados or Other Translation Memory Tools […]


  70. […] Awe are using the latest technology@ (by which they mean translation memory tools such as Trados, something that I would not touch with a ten foot pole), “we have implemented strict and highly effective quality controls” (including […]


  71. Have been translating patents for 20 years. They don’t resemble each other sufficiently to use a CAT tool and I find, when I have tried Trados, that it does not recognise the similarity between numbered claims and the same passages without numbers in the description. All in all, it SLOWS ME DOWN.

    There would be little or no value in collecting TMs based on texts which don’t resemble each other.

    Translating a tagged text is a total pain. I don’t believe formatting should have anything to do with the translator – we are here to translate, not to spend hours inserting tags. This task multiplies the time required. Surely it could be done more easily by a secretary in post-production?


    • Unfortunately it is all dictated by profit for the agencies. Ten years ago you could deliver raw text and they would format it. Nowadays it has become a norm in the industry that translators are expected to offer heavy formatting as a free extra service as a favour to the agencies. And if Trados slows everyone down, well so what? There are plenty more translators. What I find really pitiful is that young people starting out as translators buy a CAT package as their first move, thinking this makes them ‘professional’: so they actually don’t have any experience of working without it. It’s monstruous, really. I often feel that I am more of a text technician than a translator, as I often spend three times as long formatting a text as I do translating it.


      • “What I find really pitiful is that young people starting out as translators buy a CAT package as their first move, thinking this makes them ‘professional”

        Exactly. Every time when I see a translator advertising “Trados” on his resume, it is a clear sign to me that this is a beginner who can’t translate.


    • Trados is pretty widely despised by CAT users. Try to avoid it if at all possible. And don’t work for clients/agencies who pay less for matches.

      OmegaT or OmegaT+ (both free) solve most of these problems. Before you put a job in it, convert it to a plain text file — that will remove all of the tags, if you don’t need them. I do patents also, and I find that the OmegaTs recognize all the similarities in sentences, including the claims/description similarities.


      • I have written myself a macro to strip out the numbers from the claims. I copy them into a separate document, strip the numbers and brackets, then copy the relevant parts back into the translation as required. This is all done in Word so avoids the deformatting and reformatting. As an experienced patent translator, you know where the similar passages are going to occur and you are watching out for them.

        I do use Trados for one regular contract where there are maybe 30% standard sentences (with variations). I have to OCR, tidy up, translate, then copy back into a standard template, all of which takes about an hour, but there is some gain as I don’t have to remember the standard sentences,


    • Hardly. How is this secretary to know which tag goes where? And why on earth should s/he have to look at the original (assuming s/he works in the target country) and try to figure out where tags go (and assuming s/he works in the source country, perhaps you feel that s/he should be well versed in the target language).

      Perhaps it would be wise to remember that progress must be valued on the totalilty of work that has to be performed. If you have to do extra work (I find it extremely light compared to “raw” translation), consider the enormous burden that is lifted off the people whom you think ought to do this apparently menial task.

      Buying a CAT tool does not a professional translator make, but not buying a CAT tool does not a professional translator make either. I suppose you think that a carpenter who buys power tools before going off to that first construction job is a dilettante as well?


      • I would not describe CAT as a power tool. In my experience it’s a handicap for non-repetitive work. It’s more like asking the carpenter to wear a strait-jacket.
        Whether or not the translator does the formatting, it’s extra work over and above translation.


      • Why should a runner buy a high-tec pair of lead boots…because they’re high-tec?


      • ok, ok…I can see the need when it comes to texts subject to ongoing modification and/or requiring work by more than one translator.


  72. “Buying a CAT tool does not a professional translator make, but not buying a CAT tool does not a professional translator make either.”

    Be that as it may, but the fact is, when I am looking for a new translator (for a language that I don’t translate myself), I automatically ignore people who prominently advertise TRADOS on their resume because I think that the chances are they are not very good.

    I am looking for professionals, and professionals are usually not found in the TRADOS crowd.


    • Oh, I wouldn’t be unduly impressed by someone mentioning having any CAT tool in the first paragraph of (let’s say) his CV. I wouldn’t be put off by it either, if I found some evidence of actual capability (linguistic prowess, subject matter expertise, that kind of stuff) somewhere on the resume. In fact, I personally don’t much care whether he uses a CAT tool or not: I consider quality and price, in that order.

      But like I alluded to in a previous comment, this ab initio rejection is akin to assuming that the nine out of ten carpenters who mention that they do use power tools don’t know which side of the chisel is used to make a mortise and tenon through joint. It might be true, and it might not. Or sneering at someone for using a computer algebra system to solve equations, presuming that this person does not know the difference between a quartic polynomial and homotopy groups of CW-complexes. It might be true, it might not.

      Properly used, tools are beneficial. True professionality lies (partly) in knowing when to use them, which, and if not. And friends let friends hear both sides of the story and let them decide its worth on their own.

      Which seems like a good place to stop, but instead of writing yet another comment, let me mention my wife, an awardwinning literary translator with 25 years of experience in her field. She does not use any CAT tool. The novels she translates are not repetitive in the sense that most people think of, like your patents (although I would assume, perhaps wrongly, that his texts are *somewhat* more repetitive than hers).

      Now, literary translators are used to having their manuscripts either in book form or printed out on paper, but these days, if they ask, they can get them in some sort of computer file form. *If* a literary translator would deign to use a CAT tool (they are a conservative bunch), s/he would be hampered by the normal setting, viz. sentence segmenting. If s/he had a friend who mentioned that all major CAT tools (to my knowledge) now offer paragraph segmenting, s/he would not be hampered at all. Stylistically or otherwise.

      This is still not an argument for my wife to use CAT tools. But repetition doesn’t occur only on sentence or paragraph level. There’s repetition on term and phrase level as well. For instance, my wife was involved in the translation of George RR Martin’s latest novel in his Game of Thrones series. If you have read it, you know that there is a throng of people, placenames, medieval weaponry, torture methods, outlandish wizardry and what not. All of these things have to be consistent throughout the translated work, naturally.

      How is this consistency maintained, with an imperfect human memory? Well, she could always make a list of every single thing she thinks will, with the slightest probability, occur twice. This she does not do, since it entails an enormous amount of work with possibly no gain (she might be wrong about terms and phrases coming back).

      Now, if she translated in a CAT tool, with paragraph segmenting, and does not remember if she called (say) “Cathy the Wondrous” “Undersköna katten”, “Underbara Cathy”, or something else entirely 300 pages back, or what she called the guard on a rapier (rapiers are not household items here, and you won’t hear many people saying “parerplåten behöver putsas” every day), she can find out in a matter of seconds, instead of having to skim through a couple of chapters of hard copy.

      So you see, even she would benefit from a CAT tool. Not as much as I do with my much more repetitive (and “true” term filled) texts, but she would benefit.

      I sincerely and truly believe that even hardened and extremely professional patent translators could find a use for CAT tools in this manner, even though I wouldn’t dream of imposing the tools on them (like I don’t implore my wife to use them, even though I sometimes do mutter that “this wouldn’t be a problem if you had used XXX” when she storms around the house).

      The *one* instance that I feel it is painful to use CAT tools is when receiving PDF files, or hard copy. In that case, I ask for a proper file, and, if it’s not forthcoming, raise my quote. Friends don’t let friends use OCR. And clients will not make me.


      • As you say: tools can be beneficial. That’s why I don’t use CAT for 95% of my work.


      • I agree – even with literary translation, there could be benefits from having that translation run through a simple TM program, at some stage, just so you could check what you’d called something 30 chapters back. It’s known as terminology checking, but could be used to render names and so on consistently throughout without even having to think about it. But yes, I agree that the structure of a TM program might be inimical to the free flow of that translation (free flow is *not* a problem we patent translators have, since you rarely if ever run two sentences together).

        On the other hand, I believe that most programs will actually let you segment your text on a by-paragraph basis rather than a sentence-by-sentence basis, which could make a difference. I still think that if I were translating a novel or something I might still import the translation into a TM system afterwards and run a terminology check to make sure I’d been consistent in how I’d translated names and things.


      • I’ve just done a job for an Italian agency called Translated which over the last year or so has switched over almost entirely to using its own on-line tool called Matecat, thus forcing all translators to use it. I can see the advantages from the agency’s point of view, but it introduces various kinds of mistakes into the translations that in the nature of things are often just left in. It also means translations take about 50% longer. It really makes me feel I am part of an ‘industry’: just a machine-minder now, watching the goods go by on the conveyor belt and taking out any that haven’t come out right.

        Liked by 1 person

      • If an agency wants me to use their own in-house tool, they had better have very good grounds for making me use it. From my point of view, that means providing me with *lots* of work that will justify my time and effort expended on learning *another* TM tool. Unfortunately, this is rarely the case: I’ve so many times had the response “Well, we wouldn’t actually be able to guarantee you much work even if you used our tool” (at least they’re honest), so where is the incentive for me to bother? I can’t waste hours learning the basics of a new program if they’re only going to pay me for a couple of thousand words: it’s not economic. I stick with my own tool.


  73. Just got confused which one is good. Can somebody help me the best CAT tool for a freelancer. Thanks


  74. Steve, I don’t get it. You work for direct clients and you say the texts you translate are repetitive. That means the CAT tool will save you retyping your own work. How is making more money per hour and being more consistent a bad thing?

    Just use OmegaT. It is free. Managing translation memories in five languages doesn’t seem that big a deal to me but it won’t cost you anything if you find it is a hassle and you want to stop using it. Just make sure you convert any doc files to docx and you will be fine (unless you receive PDF files and then it gets complicated in any CAT tool).

    I posted some beginner videos on youtube a few years ago if you are curious. Just search for learnomegat. It developed and managed by a really nice community of translators who won’t leave you hanging if you have a problem.


    • I know you don’t get it, John.

      But that’s not my problem.


  75. “Be that as it may, but the fact is, when I am looking for a new translator (for a language that I don’t translate myself), I automatically ignore people who prominently advertise TRADOS on their resume because I think that the chances are they are not very good.

    I am looking for professionals, and professionals are usually not found in the TRADOS crowd.”

    I’ve translated my first project 20 years ago. However, I’ve started using SDLX for a project with close to two million words and 10+ translators three years ago. After close to two million words, I feel proficient in using the tool. Does this make me a non-professional? I don’t think so.


    • I am not saying that you are a non-professional, raustinat.

      I am just saying that I automatically discount translators who prominently advertise Trados as a major qualification because most of them are non-professionals.

      Although Trados is very important if you want to work for low-paying agencies as they usually require it so that they could cheat you on the word count.


  76. The important thing about the kind of translator that I prefer is what I think, not what you think.


  77. The Corporatization of Translation

    by James F. Shipp

    I love my profession. I have always loved it. That’s why I am extremely concerned by certain unsavory trends in the industry.

    CAT Tools
    So-called CAT tools are the biggest hoax ever perpetrated on the translation community. They are expensive to obtain and maintain, difficult to learn, and cumbersome to use. They make the translator’s task more difficult and diminish the quality of the final product, as well as its value. They cannot perform essential Internet research, work with scanned documents, or manipulate graphics. They are not intuitive, as a translator must be. They are demeaning to the translator as a human being.

    Circular Translation
    So-called circular translation is a process wherein a completed translation comes back to the translator, sometimes weeks after its submittal, so the translator can “edit the editor”. The translator is expected to halt paying translation work and perform this nontranslation task free of charge. First of all, I am not an editor, I am a translator. You don’t ask a barber to trim your nails, you ask a manicurist. Secondly, once a translation containing my best effort leaves my desk, it is up to the client, the client’s editor, the end client, and the end client’s editor to make any changes in it. I am eager to learn and I always appreciate feedback on my work, but it is not my job as a translator to do perform this task for you.

    Workflow Systems
    The advent of so-called workflow systems has begun to impact my work. The client sets up an internal system whereby you are expected to download source documents, then upload target documents and invoices, effectively shifting document control functions to the translator for no extra pay. First of all, you end up with an entire Rolodex full of user IDs and passwords for the various workflow systems of different clients. Secondly, what could possibly be easier than the original time-tested system: You e-mail me a source document, I e-mail you a target document, and you mail me a check.

    If the client agrees to an impossible end client deadline, that is not my problem. I already work from 5:00 a.m. till 7:00 p.m., seven days a week, 365 days a year, sometimes longer. I generate at least 4,000 premium words a day. I am not willing to do more than that for any amount of money and you cannot seek to shame me into doing it.

    An extremely disturbing trend in the translation industry is the editing of source>target documents by target>source translators. This is impermissible. If, say, an E>R translator was qualified to edit R>E work, he or she would then be an R>E translator. If they are not competent to translate it, they are certainly not competent to edit it. Who would you most trust to repair your car … a mechanic or a counter clerk at an auto parts store?

    Newly emerging clients keep trying to get me to work by the source word. This is like paying a carpenter for the wood he uses rather than the house he builds. I must be paid for the words I actually produce, not the words from which I produce them. I will not sustain a 35% loss of pay because you have made a source word deal with your client.
    Some clients are on a 45- or 60-day pay cycle. This is ridiculous. They want their translations “yesterday”, then expect me to wait as much as two months to get paid. All my creditors are on a 30-day cycle, so I must be as well. I allow 30 days for payment, plus 5 days mail time. This is far more reasonable than the deadlines I am given. Quid pro quo.

    Translator-Client Relations
    The client is buying the translator’s product. The translator is the vendor. As such, the transaction terms belong to the translator. You don’t by a TV or a refrigerator, then tell the seller how you intend to pay for it. The same thing is true of a translation. Translators are not employees, but independent contractors. The lack of benefits and the existence of heavy tax bills prove this. Do not let a “customer” bully you in your own “store”.

    I have been a paid professional translator for 46 years. I have championed translator rights for almost half a century. I helped found the only true translators’ union in the country (which has foundered due to lack of community support, but continues to breathe). If you want me to keep quiet about the dignity and integrity of translators, I’m sorry, but you’ll have to wait a few more years until I shuffle off to that Great Translantorium in the sky.

    Good translating,
    Jim Shipp

    Liked by 1 person

  78. Dear Jim:

    Thank you very much for your comment.

    I hope that it will be a very long time before you and people like you (and me) shuffle off to that Great Translantorium in the sky.

    We still have a lot of work to do before our time comes for the final journey awaiting each and every one of us.


  79. […] The comments below were originally submitted by Jim Shipp, a veteran Russian to English translator, as a reaction to my post Friends Don’t Let Friends Use Trados or Any Other CAT Tools. […]


  80. […] are often exposed to messages, sometime clearly stated, sometime subliminal, “to increase their productivity” by using various nifty “translation technology tools&#822…. We are told that if for example we start using voice recognition software (such as Dragon […]


  81. Hi, What a fascinating discussion and having read it all I am little the wiser as to whether I should take the time and effort to learn and use translation memory software. I run an export import company and am a translator and proofreader mainly in the food and drink sector (handling a few languages) What has finally made me think I must get something up and running is that I am doing so many technical specs and product labels for clients with recipe changes and amendments and it is driving me crazy. So I have been looking as what would really be the easiest now in 2014 to set up just to handle this kind of issue, It seems MemoQ is a favourite and maybe Omega and a translator I know in Germany uses Across (though not for everything).
    I also worked as a government consultant advising UK exporting companies on their multilingual communications and I did always feel a little uncomfortable about advising them to be aware of how translation software makes a translator´s job quicker and hence the company can barter for cheaper prices. Having said that, I also always advise a company to really plan in advance WHAT they want to say and coordinate the text and information across all media (technical, marketing, website etc) as it would make a translator´s job easier and save the client money also as they can use the same translated text in varioius places. Anyway just wanted to put my 2 pennyworth in!

    Liked by 1 person

    • So many discussions of CAT miss what seems to me a basic point: translation is far from a one-size-fits-all activity. Translation covers every type of writing that anyone wants to have hauled from one language into another. Therefore, there are many kinds of translation jobs, depending on what kind of text is involved. I work on many patents and patent-related documents, and even in that rather narrow specialization there are a fairly large number of different kinds of source texts, so that almost every job has some unique features. Obviously, then, not every CAT program is going to be equally advantageous for every translator, and not even for every job for one translator.

      Saying to everybody something like “use CAT tool X and you’ll save Y amounts of money and Z amounts of time” as a general statement is just not accurate.

      If I were giving a simple piece of advice, I’d say: (1) avoid like the plague working for clients or agencies that require you to use one CAT program (especially one that begins with “T” and ends with “s”) and make you take discounts for matches (if your current business model or list of clients makes this unavoidable, I’d advise changing your list of clients, and if you can’t, my profound sympathies) and (2) try using OmegaT (or OmegaT+, a variation) — it’s free, works with any OS, and is easy to use. Or relatively easy, anyway — it still takes getting used to if you’re used to working with a word processor. And by the way, I see evidence that it’s becoming more and more a CAT program that is recognized by agencies that are not locked into the Trados universe, and I wouldn’t bother with those agencies anyway.

      But as I said, there isn’t any single, simple piece of advice that is always right.

      I only use OmegaT on jobs with which it will obviously make my job easier and faster; on all the others, it’s the old word processor. And I always do the final editing with a word processor, but that’s because of the kinds of documents I work on.


  82. Just lost 2500 words of tough translation from French into English because of a(nother) glitch in Trados Studio 2014. I am trying to convince myself that I need to steer clear of it and use trusty old Trados Workbench which you can count on to destroy your Word layout when you clean up your translation. But then again it is more reliable.
    Studio 2014 also has an issue with Multiterm, a glossary tool that should be really useful but which has an ongoing problem with Java.
    Java updates tend to render Mutliterm unusable and so you have to reinstall everything. Java and Trados are apparently reliving WW II and blaming each other for Java and Multiterm not living in total harmony.
    All in all, Trados sucks.
    And it’s getting worse. I am a technical translator and as mentioned in some of the replies made above, it sometimes does save me a lot of time to use a TM. But in Studio 2014, very careful proofing is essential because it’s easy to slip over similar translations which are not exactly right – you have to check out tiny flags in a column or read the text from windows which are too small for the human eye.
    Oh yes, did I mention the interface?
    It also sucks.
    I’m trying to drum up the courage to try MemoQ but I’m leery of the learning curve. Another area in which Trados makes anything easy tremendously complicated. And it’s compounded by the fact that the technicians at Trados can’t write English so they’ve invented a whole new language of their own. Most of the error messages, and you see a lot of them, are totally incomprehensible to the human being. And you can’t copy and paste them into Google to find a solution because the text boxes are locked. The copying process is made even more complex because the sentences don’t make any sense so you have to copy letter by letter then hope that Proz is going to be able to help.
    Well now I’ve got that off my chest, back to work. By the way I am in the process of translating a patent and patentranslator is right, Trados is of no help at all.
    Good luck to all TM users.
    Always look on the bright side of life. And avoid Trados.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’d just like to add a couple of comments to this.
      – yes, Java has been a problem for some users. The current version has less problems.
      – the next service pack release (Nov 2014) for Studio removes Java reliance altogether
      – error messages that are hard to decipher tend to come from the operating system of your computer. If SDL Trados Studio (or memoQ or others by the way) can understand the error then a more sensible message is displayed. There is a small disk symbol in the error message window and this allows you to get the full error message which is more useful for troubleshooting


  83. I just bought Trados and have started to train on it, and it’s impossibly complicated for the average non-techie independent freelance translator. If you have corporate support and are working within that same company, I can see how it might work for you. But all alone with it…. I have even taken one of the training courses, and signed up for others, and it’s just…too much. Too much. The first course did not in any way prepare me for using it right off the back with incoming workflow. I cannot imagine how this will be helpful for my very varied workflow. It’s so complicated, and when something goes wrong with it, you cannot figure out what it is! I can see that someone who only does, say, patents in one language pair might find it handy. Agree about the errors being impossible to figure out. If you are even lucky enough to get an error message. I would say that it is not intuitive. I wish I had gotten one of the more intuitive CAT tools. It’s expensive and difficult enough already – you would think that you’d get a little bit of free support initially. I am disgusted and frustrated, as a beginning user. Wishing I hadn’t bought it. The last Trados I had was Workbench 2003. It was a lot simpler, and I was able to start real work immediately in it after only two 1-hour sessions. After two hours in 2014, I am still just lost as a lost thing.


    • Hi, I’m not a translator but I do work with many translators and am fairly familiar with most of the mainline translation tools. I got involved when SDL Trados Studio was released, and having started here I find the old Trados and SDLX clunky and difficult to use. The point being, if you can keep an open mind and don’t try to refer back to how your preferred tools work then the learning process is easier. I’d happily spend time with anyone struggling to use SDL Trados Studio and show how easy it can be with a few simple principles.


  84. […] I wrote a post in July of 2009 titled “Friends Don’t Let Friends Use Trados or Any Other Memory Tools”, only 103 people saw it, and by the end of 2009 it still had only 347 views. But after 2012, this […]


  85. Hi

    I don’t know if anyone’s mentioned it before, but Wordfast offer a free web-based version of their tool called Wordfast Anywhere. It’s free and works well. It’s an option for people to test out if they are wary of paying before trying.

    I’m a freelance translator, so I wouldn’t dream of forking out the hundreds of euros Trados asks when I can get a similar set up for free.

    Another thing to chuck into the for/against tech mix – I don’t type anymore. I use a dictation programme called Dragon Naturally Speaking, which does the job faster than my typing can.

    That said, respect to everyone who works in the way that suits them. Stuff the agencies; no one should be forced to buy a programme they don’t want.

    Cheers, Tom.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dear Tom,
      cloud based technology is cool and available everywhere, and sometimes free. But when you use online CAT tools, you are feeding someone’s translation memory for free too…


      • Regarding feeding someone else’s translation memory – I feel the same way, even if you work offline, on your computer, using a CAT tool. No matter if you created a TM yourself or if someone took your translation and the source text and “created” the TM, it’s your words that are in the TM. So, you should think twice about what to agree to or what you yourself should stipulate (with regard to permitting co-use of your TM) before starting a project. It’s your IP that’s at stake. It’s amazing how little this topic is discussed among translators. Instead, many are giving discounts for using CAT tools (100% repetitions and fuzzy word business) and giving away their TM for free.



  86. If anyone would please help me out here, I would deeply appreciate it. I just received word from am agency that Trados will be the main form of translation, including medical translations, which are mostly pdfs.

    What exactly is OCR? Will I need to change the pdf to Word in order to run the text through Trados, translate the doc and then change back to pdf? I have never used Trados and have been getting on splendidly without it. Also, I do lots of back-translations. Is Trados used for these as well? If so, how can that be, as BT’s are specific and unique in each translation. These are my preliminary questions.


    • OCR is Optical Character Recognition. It is a system of machine reading where a graphic image of a text (a pdf, typically) is converted into a word file or a text file so you can edit it. It can by done by scanning physical documents and making an image file, or by submitting a computer file directly. There are paid and free OCR services on line and my advice would be to use a paid one because it is a very cheap service. You have my sympathy: I have worked for agencies who insist on Trados too.


  87. […] 2014 or compatible tool – able to receive and return .sdlppx/.sdlrpx files (busted again, I would not touch Trados with a ten foot pole). Please submit the following: • A CV • A brief description of your specific experience with […]


  88. ” First of all, I would have to spend several hundred dollars first to buy the software and then I would have to learn it. It would probably take me a long time to learn it. I don’t want to do that. But the main reason why I refuse to learn a translation memory tool is that I don’t think that it would be very useful for my purposes.”

    And you’re a patent translator 🙂

    I agree with a lot of Martin’s comments from March 2011, which I’ve only just found.

    Okay, first things first: yes, the software isn’t particularly cheap, but there are reasons for that: translation memory is a niche subject, and there won’t be bulk sales as there are for Office products. I would however regard it as professional software, in the same way that if I were a draughtsman(woman?) for patent drawings I would have to pay for software to be able to do my job, and a valid business expense. As professional translators, we shouldn’t necessarily expect to have all our software for free, or close to free. What I *do* object to is having to pay an annual charge for the (dubious) privilege of using certain TM software, which is why I use DejaVu, which is a one-off cost (updates and support included in the price).

    Learning: you should be able to get familiar with the basics in a couple of hours. I still don’t use probably 90% of DV’s capabilities, I’d guess, although I may eventually learn to do so, as and when required.

    Let’s switch to a case study. I suspect I’ve mentioned it before here, but about 15 years ago when I was working in-house one of my major clients used to come up with patent applications where there were a lot of repeated sentences. By the time I’d done perhaps a dozen of these applications, I was faced with having to open all the old texts to see if I could find the same sentence, or if not the same, the one most similar to it so that I could modify it. My consistency was suffering horribly, as was my output, but the only other option was to translate these (long, long) sentences from scratch each time and hope I was doing it identically to the previous dozen times, which was even more terrible for the consistency. Eventually I managed to persuade the client to send me the texts as Word files, and bought a translation memory system (Deja Vu without the X, back in those days, Trados having proved pretty useless). No more hunting in individual Word files: the system saved all my previous translation pairs and would automatically bring up the pair most closely associated with my current sentence and flag up the differences so I could edit the translation if need be. Plus I entered all the client’s terms and other suitable strings of words into the terminology database so that I could keep them consistent throughout the text and throughout all the translations too.

    The upshot of this is that, when the client sent me through a batch of 12 interrelated patent applications, I ran them through the translation memory and it filled in all the translations for the sentences which were identical, filled in the translations for the similar sentences and flagged up the differences, and left any other sentences for me to deal with, consistently filling in any items of terminology which it already knew. There was certainly one day when I managed to process 12,000 words of highly technical translation in a working day. Sure, I gave the client a discount, but it was based on the time saving, rather than x for exact matches and y for fuzzy matches.

    Nowadays, as a freelance, I’m far less likely to get those sort of repeat texts, of course (although it does sometimes happen that a client will ask me to do a job because I’ve worked on the same one or a similar one previously), so I get a lot less in the way of (near-)exact matches (although having said that, I have just finished a job where the same sentence came up at the end of half-a-dozen paragraphs). On the other hand, those strings of patentese still exist, and are inserted each time, and the terminology database helps me to keep consistency of phrasing between paragraphs and even between texts. Not to mention that I will usually have to be locating segments of text from the description to use in the translation of the claims/abstract, and so on, so I usually find it is still worthwhile my using the TM system even when the client doesn’t supply Word files, even if I have to OCR the original text.

    Just as with the Internet, there is nothing inherently wrong with translation memory systems, which can be a great aid. It’s merely the abuse of them that is the problem, and yes, I strongly resist working for anyone who a) insists that I use Trados and/or b) tries to force any system of matches on me. I have done precisely one “Trados” job (SDLXLIFF), which I processed perfectly happily in DejaVuX2 – it was fiddlier than it would have been working in DVX2 alone, but I did appreciate that the client had built up a major controlled database of terms and phrasings for such jobs (it was a test piece, of a standardly-recurring form and format) and wanted me to use it, so I did. Yes, I also have doubts about the general principle of shared databases, but for the most part my database is my own and is filled only with my own translations, so generally it’s not a problem.

    Availability of electronic texts: I don’t know what type of patents you tend to translate, Steve, but won’t some of them be new filings, and be available as Word documents or the like? I can appreciate that you will get a lot of published applications which will probably come as the type of PDF which is only a glorified electronic photocopy (although the European Patent Office now makes theirs computer-readable – I don’t know about the Japanese one) and that that could be hard to OCR successfully because of the complexity of Japanese characters, but the texts of European patents tend to be available electronically on places like Espacenet and I often grab them from there – again, Japanese may of course differ. Presumably existing applications must be available electronically, otherwise how would there be so much machine translation of Japanese patents available?


    • There was a time when Wordperfect was a religion.

      Now, CATs are a religion, and Trados in particular.

      Contra gustum non est disputandum.


  89. Dear Fellow Translator,
    I’m a 64 y.o. American who has been translating Brazilian Portuguese to English part time for 40 years. (I live in Brazil.)
    Although I’ve never translated patent applications, I’m a competent translator.
    I found you because I’m doing some jobs for an agency that asked if I use Trados, which (silly me!) I had never heard of.
    They said they won’t pay per word any text that I’ve translated before, but that they’ll pay me per hour to determine that.
    This is where I totally agree with you: proofreading takes so long that they end up paying almost the same, as you said (20 % less?), and risking a crucial oversight, such as a quarterly safety report which indicates an impending disaster. (Oops, people died, but the translation agency saved 20%!)
    Thank you for “taking the words out of my mouth.”
    Do you have a blog? If so, I’d like to follow it.
    Paul VS


  90. “Do you have a blog? If so, I’d like to follow it.”

    What do you mean? You are commenting on my blog. Just go to the top of the post and click on”Sign me up”.


  91. I wrote two previous articles discouraging the use of CAT tools, which were published in SlavFile and on LinkedIn, then repeatedly picked up by other other sites. They both got rave reviews. I was very happy to see that someone else shares my opinion concerning these expensive, hard-to-learn, time-wasting, quality-denigrating, and value-destroying products. Just say no to CAT tool work (especially editing CAT tool texts). Thanks for your post. Best wishes, Jim


    • “hard-to-learn … quality-denigrating”

      See my post above. For most CAT tools, users seem to say that you can be up and running with the basics within a couple of hours. Is Word “hard to learn”? You may not be a power user, but presumably you’ve learned to do the basics of bold, underline, italics, paragraphs, page numbering, formatting and so on. Then you add the rest, as and when you need it. It’s much the same with CAT tools.

      As for quality, well, if my CAT tool prevents me from having to look up the phrasing of an article of the European Patent Convention for the umpteenth time, or saves me having to translate a 100-word sentence for the nth time, I’m all for it. It’s just a question of who takes control. As long as it’s me, it’s fine.

      Are you not confusing CAT tools with machine translation tools? It sounds like it.


      • “Are you not confusing CAT tools with machine translation tools? It sounds like it.”

        Don’t be silly.

        Is that really your argument? Sounds pretty desperate to me.


      • Desperate? Why? There’s a world of difference between the two.


  92. Hi Jim:

    Thanks for your comment.

    Five years ago when I wrote my post about Trados, I felt alone, like a “vox clamanti in deserto”. But with time I’ve discovered that there’s a lot of us who feel this way, probably the majority among established and experienced translators.

    I remember that I published your article about history of Russian translation, or was it two articles? But not about CATs, or did I?

    Please keep in mind that I would be happy to publish your articles about those darn CATs too in a guest post.


  93. Hi. I am a quality professional translator, specialising in IT and technical. I am a Trados user. I love it. OK, it has drawbacks like any software tool, but I have to say the latest version (2015) is really great. And, given that you are encountering the expectation of reductions based on repeats, I believe at some point you might just have to give in: this technology exists, and it does reduce the work-load: why should you be paid for more than you actually NEED to do? If it also allows you to increase your speed, you can take on more work and earn the same amount, if not more. So your business pattern may change, but it need not affect your income – unless, perhaps, positively, since it would open up those agencies who insist on CAT tools. Even end-clients are savvy on technology that can save them time and money, you know…

    I cannot advocate the ‘34000 words in 10 hours’ attitude. I propose up to 3000 words a day. Slower on a new project, with terminology research etc. I have no doubt I could do more, on certain types of text – in fact, I know I do. But I would rather quote slower, deliver faster if it happens, but give myself the space for quality. Using a CAT tool does not need to reduce your professional pride and quality, on the contrary, it should allow you to improve your consistency.

    I would like to take you up on your concept of the usefulness of a translation memory, when from one patent to another, you are unlikely to get repeats. You do, however, get considerable repetition within one patent. Bingo, you save HOURS and no more cutting and pasting – and no edit errors. Once you have translated that segment of text once, in that document, it will automatically populate the same-text segments for you. And if there are other segments that are the-same-but-not-quite, it will suggest the text to you (you can define what level of ‘fuzzy’ matches you want it to suggest to you), and you can take it and edit it to sort out the not-quite.

    What’s more, you don’t need post-its for those terms you can’t remember. You have a nifty thing called ‘concordance matching’ – highlight the source term, press a key, and it will search for that term and show you the translations of it you have already used. Not just in your present document, either – in past documents which have used that term from within your translation memory. That is where the long-term memory kicks in. Each patent may be written in a personal style and not repeat stock phrases (bet they do really though, at least again to a % ‘fuzzy’ extent), but individual terms can certainly return, don’t you think?

    And the in-built quality checks can much facilitate your proof-reading time. You can set it to check for many common issues (ensure matching capitalisation, punctuation, etc.). It will check number formats, and many other things. Not to mention spelling, of course. Personally, I add to that the Word add-on, ‘PerfectIt’, which finds more things.

    As to space for translation memories. I have 2 main ones, French and Spanish. After 4 years, one is 59Mb, one is 35Mb. Yours may grow faster, but honestly, space is not an issue, particularly since hard disk space nowadays is cheap – plus, I keep all my stuff on Dropbox now, so that it is available to me everywhere and if my machine breaks down, I’m not lost. I do pay for extra space, that is a recent decision (since one of my laptops died – no more local file-saving for me!).

    Now, that is not to say there is no learning curve. Of course there is. Personally, I invested in 2 training sessions (certification levels 1 and 2), through proz, and that is all I needed. I also find loads of help and advice on proz and, more recently, on the SDL community forum.

    Oh and PDFs. SCANNED PDFs! what a pain, eh? Well, Trados 2015 handles PDF files, although I find it more or less successful – generally less – in its handling of them. Personally, I use another tool to transform pdfs before processing them in Trados. My personal fave is Nuance Power PDF – great handling of formatting, excellent OCR (optical character recognition). Problem solved.

    Really – although Trados may not be your choice (many people swear by MemoQ, Wordfast, DéjaVu and other tools), I thoroughly recommend joining the 21st century in translation processing – I believe your life will be easier, and your pocket may increase rather than decrease.


    • “Once you have translated that segment of text once, in that document, it will automatically populate the same-text segments for you. And if there are other segments that are the-same-but-not-quite, it will suggest the text to you […] and you can take it and edit it to sort out the not-quite.”

      Sian, I largely agree with you, although the above may be of more use to you as a technical translator. With patents, you don’t tend to find that sentences repeat, or near-repeat, themselves, so propagation is less helpful (except in instances such as my 12-patent batch which I referred to above). You may well have to search out a short string of words from a larger chunk (often including numbers, which tend to foul things up a bit), so it’s less convenient.


  94. “Hi. I am a quality professional translator, specialising in IT and technical. I am a Trados user. I love it”.

    Good for you, man.

    I love French white bread. But I will not really think of you any less if you tell me that you don’t like that stuff.


  95. […] first time how intolerant some translators can be to an opposing view when I wrote a post titled Friends Don’t Let Friends Use Trados or Other Translation Memory Tools. This was in July of 2010, about 5 months after I started blogging, but this blog still has a lot […]


  96. […] This “translation industry” genius was standing on the shoulders of cunning merchants of CAT tools who were promising translators that if they start using this or that CAT tool, they would double, triple or quadruple their “output” (meaning the number of translated words). Most translators obviously thought that they would double, triple, or quadruple their income in this manner. But after a while, many translation agencies started to insist that all translators use CAT tools, usually Trados as I wrote in a post six years ago, so that they could pay them less for their transl… […]


  97. And he saith unto me, Write, Blessed are they which are called unto
    the marriage supper of the Lamb”. Parenting is about loving unconditionally, It’s the best gift that a parent can provide to their children. What’s tbh means

    Ornish provided a twice-weekly support group to help them maintain their motivation. But definitely run from that teacher, no matter how much you paid for that workshop or whatever.


  98. Yes, I agree wholeheartedly with this article. Trados and other CAT tools are utter BS. I am sometimes forced to use them by clients, but never use them by choice. (I add a 10% surcharge to my usual rate when asked to use a CAT tool.) They provide me with absolutely no added value, and slow down my progress. There is nothing they can do that isn’t done far better and faster by the simple split screen and search/replace functions of MS Word. The inability to split the screen when using CAT tools makes them an obstacle, not a help to translation. And when using them, it’s very difficult to achieve the same sort of letter-perfect quality that you can achieve when not using them. They’re quite sloppy. And I often find Trados useless at the one thing it’s supposed to actually do–ensure consistency among terminology. I often find myself just resorting to good ol’ search & replace within Trados to look up terms when it fails to provide the help it’s supposed to. I think CAT tools have become popular mainly because they give agencies a reason to charge clients more. Few purchasers of translations are going to be sophisticated enough to know that CAT tools are useless (and often worse than useless). I suppose it’s always this way with technology products. Once you put it in the dumb consumer’s head that this thing is ‘new’ and ‘high tech’, all reason goes out the window.

    Liked by 1 person

    • “The inability to split the screen when using CAT tools makes them an obstacle, not a help to translation. ”

      What do you mean by splitting the screen? You don’t mean put the source and target in separate columns/boxes/fields, do you? I understand that even Trados has now, very belatedly, done that (and just as well: it used to be that if you got a very long single-sentence patent claim it wouldn’t fit in its entirety on the screen, which was just one of the reasons I never used Trados). With my CAT tool, I have the screen split into 4 different sections, and can adjust it as I like.


  99. Hear Hear! My sentiments exactly, except that it’s not a way of charging clients more: it’s a way of paying translators less, as in the extreme case (Matecat, a fairly new online CAT system) ‘The cat and the dog and the parrot’ is only counted as 5 payable words: while the client still gets charged for 8.


  100. […] translators fear that computer-aided translation is bad for the profession as a whole. Here’s a very illustrative post by Steve Vitek, a long-time opponent of translation technology. (Interestingly, the post includes many of the […]


  101. […] heated discussions about various CAT tools online, and at one point I even wrote a post called Friends Don’t Let Friends Use Trados or Any Other Cat Tool, more than six years […]


  102. In general I’m middle of the road about CAT tools, but personally (i.e., when it comes to me having to use one) I’m more like Steve. For me a computer is a tool for getting a job done (in my case translation). I am computer literate, but far from a computer whiz. It’s analogous to “you don’t have to be a mechanic to drive a car.” Don’t get me wrong, I greatly admire and envy folks who have such skills and at times I wish I did too, but it’s just not something that I personally have a knack for, and I have tried. And I think you definitely have to have a certain knack for computers to really master (at least certain) CAT tools, on your own anyway. And most of us are not fortunate enough to have someone who can walk us through it step by step and have to master such things on our own. I have learned to use Wordfast on a basic level out of necessity (because some very good clients of mine want a CAT tool), but there are still a great many features in it that are beyond my comprehension. Occasionally TM helps, but more often than not the number of 100% or even near matches is far below the number of original words in the things I translate, and like Steve, it’s almost harder for me to review a fuzzy translation with near, but not 100%, matches and subtle differences than it is to translate it over. And sometimes translating it again actually helps. I often find a better or clearer way to express it, pick up an error or omission, etc. by doing so (like Steve, I translate a lot of patents). Many of my colleagues whom I know personally who do use CAT tools are also really skilled with computers (beyond standard computer literacy) and enjoy that aspect of it, and that’s great. In fact a personal friend (and godmother to our daughter) happens to have a husband (also a personal friend, in fact we grew up together) who is a computer whiz and she herself is super smart, so she had no trouble learning Trados. But as I said most of us don’t have that option.

    Liked by 1 person

  103. My Lord, what a long-lived discussion!

    Well, I’m just a part-time (quasi hobbyist) translator, but having to use MemoQ came with ‘the job’. As an automotive industry professional too, I had to learn that “customer is king”. And the rules of (the holy?) economy can be cheated only so long, time’s cogwheels only stop for a while before they grind down the piece of sand stuck in-between. What is happening now in my country is as follows:
    -There are more translators than assignments
    -Thus clients have bargaining power
    -Even old clients look for cuts in costs
    -Thus translators who offer lower rates get the job
    -Not surprisingly, those can offer lower rates who advance with technology
    -And the stubborn (quite rightly) lose market share.

    Basic economy, not a question of pride and guild consciousness; all of you are free to choose your tools and price, and clients are free to choose from competing professionals.


  104. Hi Alex,
    I enjoyed your article and the comments. Regarding CAT tools, I work for a translation company. We have translators that work with Trados or other CAT tools and some that don’t. I have discovered that translators that work with these tools tend to have more mistakes on the final document than the ones that don’t use any. Maybe this is because the ones that work with CAT tools rely too much on the software and don’t proofread the final document.


    • Hi Diana:

      Thanks for your comment.

      Maybe you can solve a minor mystery for me. Although I wrote this blog post (Friend don’t let friends use Trados or any other CAT tool) almost seven years ago, today it had 247 hits and 63 of them were Canada. Was it linked somewhere in Canada or what happened?


      • I followed a link on Facebook here. Someone posted this article to a Facebook group of translators.

        I would like to know if you still eschew CAT tools today?


      • I have no use for them and I believe they would be counterproductive in my line of work. I agree with the comment that translators who rely on CATs tend to deliver inferior translations. In any case, I work mostly for direct clients and I have never had a client ask me to use a CAT. In fact, I think that direct clients would be leery of such an excessive reliance on computers. There are some advantage to using CATs in some types of translation, but not in my field and many other fields. Incidentally, since I wrote this post almost seven years ago and it has had so far over 20,000 views, I wonder how many potential customers Trados lost as a result of my post.


  105. […] seven years ago the spirit moved me to write a post titled “Friends Don’t Let Friends Use Trados or any other Translation Memory Tool”. When I wrote it, most commenters somewhat forcefully disagreed with me, many gleefully denounced […]


  106. I am an interpreter who does minimal translation. I do not use CAT programs. However, I agree with patenttranslator, WordPerfect was a religion, better than Word, and I was sad to see its demise. Perhaps you can fire off that copy you still have so I can open it “for old time’s sake!”


  107. Although followers of the secret religion have been persecuted by Greedy Bill and His Cohorts for several decades now, it has survived!

    I wrote a post about it a few years ago.

    In case you want to read it:


  108. I think you’re right about translation agencies using CAT tools and “translation matches” (many of which are simple GoogleTranslate-generated garbage) to pay human translators less.


  109. I use a translation memory tool but not SDL. I agree that their “fuzzy match” analyses are robbing translators, especially since rates have stagnated for over a decade, at least in my environment.
    Since I am well-established enough not to have to rely on SDL-priced work, I base my fees on actual words counts.
    This has meant that some agencies only send me work in the form of PDFs, usually “dirty” PDFs, but my skills in OCR and voice-recognition software and formatting in Word allow me to overcome this inconvenience.
    Accepting work in completely unrelated fields and five languages limits the effectiveness of translation tools in my case.
    I just wish more translators would put their foot down and say “no” to this Trados/Studio pricing, but I realize that new translators who have yet to acquire a steady clientele are more desperate for work and are more willing to bend to the will of the “man.”
    Переводчики всех стран, соединяйтесь! ;<)


  110. Translators of all countries, don’t let sleazy agencies steal your money!


  111. What will be the speed of SDL Trados with 2M termbase entries ? If it is going to process a single sentence more than 1 second, it is not worth it.
    For now, I see a horribly overpriced software, which has no decent automation and would require 3rd parties plugins for much more extra money to get some decent performance.


  112. I came across this old post since I was browsing through Proz, trying to read other people’s opinions and experience re: CAT tools. I read most of the comments in this post and convinced that some translators just work better without CAT tools; either it’s because of their skill set or the nature of their projects. I also read a comment from someone whose wife is a novel translator, and I am one as well, and how she would benefit from CAT tools. In regards of creating an easy-to-locate database or TM (or glossary), CAT tools might be useful, if the novel uses a lot of repetitions (Game of Thrones series were the sample). However, this is totally useless in the case of any other non-series novel, such as a novel from Kazuo Ishiguro that I’m currently translating.

    It is also obvious to me that a lot of agencies demand translators to use CAT tools to cut costs, and not necessarily to produce better translations. There are countless of job posts on different websites demanding CAT tools and also ridiculously low rate (imagine translating for USD0.02/word) and some words will be considered as “fuzzy matches” thus won’t get the same (already ridiculous) rate.

    Of course one can say: well, don’t accept work from agencies like that. But trust me, there will be translators out there that will take work like this because they desperately need work (I’m from a non-European country) and will be forced to either pirate or buy CAT tools. Most agencies don’t accept open source CAT tools. I don’t understand why. CAT tools in this case have enabled the agencies to put even more pressure on the rates.

    I have a question for anyone who has the knowledge: if the source text is badly written (you can understand what it’s trying to say in general, but the structure and grammar are off), how well does the CAT tool cope? I’m really curious.

    Anyway, thank you for the post. It is old but still very relevant. I hope more translators fight for better rates with agencies 🙂 (with or without CAT Tools)


  113. I believe you should master any tool used in the industry and trust that technology is helping people. If you don agree certainly is because of your ego. This is hapenning for thousands of years. It is only about ego here and also maybe not being able to be smart enough to follow the evolution.


  114. I don’t work for “the industry”, I work for myself. That is why I have been so successful. But you are right, you need an ego to be able to determine your own destiny instead of doing what most people have to do. Fortunately for me, I do have a big ego.


  115. Okay, I realize this is an incredibly old post, but I’m responding here because I feel kind of bad that you and other translators like you who may be reading this are wasting your own time and cutting into your own income.

    “But even though patents can be extremely repetitive, the same thing is repeated over and over like a Buddhist mantra in the claims, in the main description of the patent, and for good measure also in the description of the effects of the invention at the end of the patent application, the repetitive character of the text in one patent application is not applicable to other patents, which are written by other authors (patent agents) and may relate to other fields. Especially for somebody like me who works from several languages (Japanese, German, French and sometime also other languages into English), it would be expensive and really messy if I had to keep different versions of translation memory tools in different languages on my hard disk.”

    CAT tools propagate confirmed segments within the document you’re working on, not just between different projects. This means that if there are a number of 100% matching segments, you don’t have to double-check them for added commas or slightly different wording you might have missed. The tool tells you which segments are 100% matches, down to the punctuation and font/formatting, and it tells you which segments are almost the same but not quite, and it will highlight the differences. Essentially, it takes away a lot of the lengthy process to weed out our own human errors.

    And, as others have said, you don’t have to buy multiple versions. You buy one version of the software, and then you can work with up to 5 languages. You just use a different translation memory for each project, which is not complicated or messy at all – you just have an extra .sdltm file for each language.

    My biggest TM has over 3 billion segments, and it’s 6.4 GB – which is negligible with the 1 TB hard drive.

    “In the interest of full disclosure, there is one translation memory tool that I do use. I use yellow post-it notes, the broad size, which I stick on the bottom of my monitor. On the left I write terms that for some reason are hard to remember in Japanese or German and on the right side goes the word in English. When I am done with the translation, the post-it note goes into garbage.”

    You can do this with a CAT tool, too, and you don’t ever have to share it. MultiTerm is exactly this, it’s a list of translated words, and when your current segment contains one of the words in your MultiTerm termbase, it’ll appear as a match. You don’t have to worry that you’ve messed up a section because you forgot about one of the Post-It notes. Just like your own translation memory, you can keep this private, personal mini-dictionary to yourself.

    “I sometime translate very long Japanese patents with extremely repetitive passages. I remember a long patent that described in 62,000 words something that could have been easily described in 4,000 words. So obviously, I use a lot of cutting and pasting for this kind of work. However, because I have to proofread both the source and the target language and look very carefully for small differences (such as “widget flange a’” instead of “widget flange a””), I can almost never translate more than about 5,000 words a day even with this type of highly repetitive translation. If I try to push it over the limit of 5,000 words, I know that I will start making mistakes, which could cost me the customer.”

    All of this is exactly what a CAT tool is designed to deal with. It would have taken you far less time. All the copy-pasting would have been automatic. All the tiny deviations would be mostly propagated and the tiny deviation would have been highlighted. Everything you just described would have made this document a perfect candidate for a CAT-translated project and would have saved you an incredible amount of time, incidentally allowing you to take on many more projects in that time you saved.

    Don’t get me wrong, CAT tools will never be that useful for fields that require transcreation rather than translation, like literature or advertising, and creative documents will always need a human brain. But you have better things to do than scan a document for a perfectly matching sentence so you can hit copy+paste over and over and over. That’s not what makes you valuable as a translator. That’s busy work. You’ve got better things to do with your time, like translation.

    “Here is another argument against translation memory tools. I don’t have to use them because I mostly work for direct clients, usually patent law firms, rather than translation agencies. I am pretty sure that patent law firms would be kind of leery about translators who actually use translation memory tools to speed up the process. But many agencies require freelance translators to use a particular TMS, usually Trados. Once you use it, the agency (or even a direct client) may create a sliding scale for rates depending on the number of “matches”, or repetitions of words and sentences, which means that you get paid less in the end if there are many repetitions in the text.”

    …you don’t have to tell them you use a CAT tool. Just proceed as you do now, but outsource the time-consuming busy work to the CAT tool. You are not required to volunteer this information.

    PDFs are a little more annoying to deal with, but you can. Someone else mentioned OCR tools, which transform your PDF file into a generally readable, searchable document, which you can then clean up if necessary and run through a CAT tool. Obviously, the messier/older/more illegible the PDF, the less effective OCR will be, but it’s still quite possible.

    My only issue with PDF conversion tends to be that the formatting they create is a headache, and it’s easier to strip the document of all formatting (unnecessary columns, tabs, margins, non-matching fonts and font sizes, etc.) and format the whole document your way. But you’d be doing the same thing if you were creating a document from a blank page, so it’s not really an extra step.

    Another thing that’s extremely helpful with CAT tools is that you can pre-program them to translate dates and numbers a certain way. In a document full of either one, it’s an absolute pain to have to go through and replace every decimal point with a comma.

    Overall: when you just use them for yourself, for your own private purposes, without telling anyone you’re using them, offering discounts, or sharing your electronic TMs and termbases, the one thing that CAT tools can do extremely well is save you a heck of a lot of busy work.

    Your time is too valuable to waste doing non-skilled tasks.


  116. Hear hear.

    (Other translation memory software is available)


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: