Posted by: patenttranslator | January 25, 2014

How CATs, MT and Chindia Created a New Bermuda Triangle for Translators

 

The Bermuda Triangle is an imaginary region near Florida, Bermuda and Cuba in the Western part of Atlantic Ocean where hundreds or even thousands of ships and airplanes are alleged to have disappeared under mysterious circumstances and for unexplained reasons.

The term Bermuda Triangle has been popularized in many books and movies. Of interest to translators is that Charles Berlitz, the creator of a popular series of language courses, believed that the mystery of the Bermuda Triangle is somehow connected to the disappeared continent of Atlantis which is using its “crystal energies” to sink ships and crash planes.

I don’t have any theories about the mystery of the Bermuda Triangle. But while I think that the reasons why rates paid to translators by the so called translation industry have remained stubbornly low over the last decade or so are not really a mystery, I liken them to the Bermuda Triangle in this post.

The triangle that is sucking in, sinking and keeping at the bottom of the bottomless ocean rates paid to translators consists of three equilateral parts: CATs, MT and Chindia. Many other reasons may be easily found as well, of course, such as the never-ending “global recession”, the predatory nature of the greed-driven, corporate translation business model, but I see the three reasons identified above as particularly poignant.

1. CATs – A Familiar Story of Broken Promises to Translators

CATs (computer-assisted translation tools) have been initially sold to translators as nifty tools that will dramatically increase their productivity and thus also their income with claims like these:

“I just completed a 34,501 word project in 10 hours thanks to AutoSuggest, Context Match and the other nifty time-saving features within SDL Trados Studio 2009 SP1. That’s without having much of anything in the pre-existing TM!”

I don’t use any CATs, partly because I believe that CATs would disrupt and slow down my thinking process, kill my creativity and that there is not enough repetition anyway in the types of patents that I translate from several languages, and partly because to those of us who deal mostly with PDF files, often of poor quality, the requirement to convert the files first renders a CAT very time-consuming and counterproductive.

Incidentally, CAT believers will find it difficult to accept this, but most translators in fact do not use CATs, some for reasons similar to mine, and many because some of these wonderful tools are so damn expensive and require frequent pricy upgrades. Some translation agencies require translators to use Trados, but that does not mean that all translators use Trados, it just means that only certain types of translators use it, namely those who are willing to accept work from agencies requiring the use of this particular CAT.

What has been the real result of the use of CATs by translators so far? When I read comments of translators on social media and blogs, it is clear to me that while some translators seem to love these computer tools, most admit that they have been used by translation agencies to lower rates by refusing to pay translators for “matches”, “fuzzy matches” and “repeated words”.

Instead of a tool designed to increase translators’ productivity and income, tools like Trados are used by agencies as a convenient blunt tool to hammer down translators and force them to work for miserably low rates.

2. Machine Translation Is Also Used as an Effective Scarecrow Tactic for Controlling Translators’ Rates

No matter how low your rates are, machine translation (MT) is even cheaper because it is generally free, as well as ubiquitous. Although MT is unusable for most purposes in my line of work (patent translation), the world is full of penny-wise and pound-foolish idiots who use it to save money. If you travel, for example, you will know that restaurant and hotel owners use it to advertise their esteemed establishment on the Internet in breathtakingly and sometime hilariously stupid MT gibberish. Just a few days ago I read in Washington Post that the geniuses in US government who designed Obamacare used MT to translate instructions for prospective enrollees into Spanish.

Some translation agencies came up with a novel although not very ingenious approach to keeping translation cost down (and their own profits up) by first running a text through an MT program and then asking a translator to “edit” the garbage at a low rate before selling it to an unsuspecting client as a real translation.

The real utility of MT is that it can be used to “translate” materials that are unlikely to be translated by humans due to the cost, such as my blog, and give a reader some idea about materials that may need to be translated by humans, but that is not the only way MT is used these days.

The scarecrow effect of free machine translation is thus another factor depressing translation rates, although in my opinion, the widespread use of MT is much more likely to result in more work rather than less work for human translators, at least in my field (patent translation), because MT identifies materials that would probably never be discovered without it.

3. Chindia on My Mind

I keep receiving e-mails from China and India asking me to quote my rates for translating Japanese, German, Chinese and Korean patents. For some reason, the people who keep sending me these e-mails usually sound bossy, almost angry, maybe because they think that this will scare translators into quoting a really low rate.

Although I ignore them, there must be translators, even in developed countries, who are desperate enough to work for outfits in third world countries who will pay a pittance to translators living in countries with a high cost of living and high taxes.

As I wrote in this post, Chindia is thus another factor that is effectively pushing down rates paid to translators.

*****************

 So what does this all mean? Does it mean that all translators have to adjust their rates in the downward direction?

I don’t think so. I think that the real meaning of the development outlined in this post is that the famously fragmented translation business will become even more fragmented and further divided into more and more very different segments.

On the low quality side of the range of translation services will be the segment which is based on cheap labor, namely the segment dominated by voracious translation agencies working with compliant translators who meekly accept obligatory discounts for CATs on top of very low rates, and who are even desperate enough to work for the emerging players in Chindia.

In this segment, the rates will keep going down because no matter how low the rates in this segment of so called translation business are at this point, as new people will be entering the market, both as translation agencies and as new, inexperienced and often unqualified translators, the only way to win in this kind environment, both for the translation agencies and the translators, will be to offer to do the work for even less in the future.

But in another important segment of the translation business, highly specialized translations will continue to be provided mostly by small, specialized agencies with experience in a given field, and by highly educated, highly experienced and specialized individual translators who work mostly or only for direct clients.

I believe that staying away from the dangers of the Bermuda Triangle of the modern translation business model, avoiding it altogether and trying to find your own way to run a translation business as a business that does not accept the insidious rules designed to keep translators at the bottom of the profit pyramid is the only viable alternative that makes it possible for translators to live a normal life and even to thrive in the challenging and rapidly changing environment.

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Responses

  1. “I don’t use any CATs, partly because I believe that CATs would disrupt and slow down my thinking process, kill my creativity and that there is not enough repetition anyway in the types of patents that I translate from several languages…”

    Forgive me, Steve…I enjoy your postings immensely and agree with most of what you write–but your frequent harping on the drawbacks of CATs and your complete refusal to use them lead me to think that you are actually using one on the sly but don’t want your clients to know about it so they won’t ask you for a discount for fuzzy or other matches… C’mon, let us in on it…

    And I don’t know what kind of patents you translate but I suspect that their formalism isn’t much, if any, different from what I translate from English to German. And if CATs aren’t useful for the translation of patents with their near verbatim repetitions between the patent descriptions and the claims, then I don’t know just what CATs would be good for. I would love to challenge you to a contest–you do a patent without CAT, I do one with my CAT. I am sure I would beat you by a large marging, both time-wise and with respect to consistency of terminology. Pity we don’t translate the same language pair.

    A few months back, I did five medical patents for an American Company (not an agency). I was paid for the full word count, whilst the difference between these patents were minimal. I did the last patent of the series (approx. 6,000 words) within one day; translating and proof-reading combined; and I didn’t put in a nightshift for that. It isn’t only speed that counts; it is quality, accuracy and consistency–nothing left out, no tangled terminology, no worries about formatting, no wrong numbers.

    And as for “expensive” upgrades…nobody forces you to upgrade. I bought my SDLX licence in 2007 and it still serves me well. I wouldn’t even be able to get an upgrade for it as the product has been discontinued. Plus, there are two or three CATs around that you can download and use for free and that offer you the functionality you REALLY need in a CAT.

    Lastly–why do you think CATs would slow down your thinking process and kill your creativity? Have you really tried one, beyond a cursory 10 minute test?

    No, Steve, give me a REALLY good reason for not using a CAT for patent translation, and I will accept it. But the ones you gave just don’t cut it, I’m afraid.

    “When I read comments of translators on social media and blogs, it is clear to me that while some translators seem to love these computer tools, most admit that they have been used by translation agencies to lower rates by refusing to pay translators for “matches”, “fuzzy matches” and “repeated words”.

    I absolutely agree. But it is always up to you to say, “No, thanks!”

    Keep it up, Steve. I always look forward to your posts. And–THANK YOU for them!

    Like

    • Thanks, Volkmar, for your comment.

      1. No, I really don’t use any CAT for the reasons cited in this and other posts. I am not faking it. But I understand that CAT lover can’t accept the simple fact that many translators would simply ignore CATs.

      2. Thanks, I don’t want to compete with you even though I translate German patents as well. You would probably beat me at speed because my highest number of words translated per day is only slightly above 5 thousand words, although I can cut and paste repetitive parts of patents with the best of them.

      But then again, can you translate in addition to German patents also patents from Japanese French, Russian and three other languages to English.

      If you can do that, you got me beaten.

      3. To paraphrase Obama, if you like your CAT, you can keep your CAT. (But unlike him, I mean it).

      Thanks again for your moral support!

      Like

      • Steve (and Vincenza)

        If someone doesn’t like CATs, that is his/her prerogative. I can see why some people prefer not to use them, and I would be the last one to question it. I will be the first person to stand up for this freedom of choice. What I am getting at is that Steve is giving reasons for not using CATs that don’t stand up to scrutiny. If he doesn’t LIKE them, fair enough!

        @Steve: I will never question your competence, and I have the highest respect for your kowledge of languages, especially Japanese (took a whiff of it a while ago, since I thought it an interesting language; never went beyond a whiff). But–what has that got to do with CATs? You can use one and the same CAT for all your language pairs.

        @Vincenza: I am not located in Austria but in Istanbul. For a coffee, I would prefer Trieste to Klagenfurt any time, with both of you. I think it would be an interesting and enjoyable exhange.

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      • @ Volkmar & Steve

        “Maybe you should get together with Volkmar and explain to him how some of us feel about CATs.
        He’s in Austria, so if you are in Italy, you could have a lunch or coffee with him somewhere in Klagenfurt or Venice or Trieste.”

        “Maybe we will meet one of these days somewhere in Italy”

        It will be a pleasure! At present, I am in Düsseldorf (Nordrhein-Westfalen, Germany) to update language and intercultural competences. Only occasionally, am in Milan. So please let me know it in advance. Have a nice weekend. Viel Spaß & Ciao!

        Like

  2. Good afternoon (from France),

    As an occasional user of CAT tools, I do agree with you, they are useful only for a small portion of documents, and sometimes only for small fragments of those small bits, but they nonetheless are helpful in these occurrences, though overpriced (I was even thinking of creating my own tool, a shame I am not versed enough in IT).

    I was pondering a few days ago on the fate of our profession through the ages. We are certainly doing one of the most ancient job on this Earth, why are people still unable to see us as rendering a real and proper professional service?

    Myriam

    Like

    • “We are certainly doing one of the most ancient job on this Earth, why are people still unable to see us as rendering a real and proper professional service?”

      My only explanation is that monolinguals hate bilinguals and multilinguals because we make them somehow feel inferior and inadequate.

      That must be why the keep trying to make our lives so difficult.

      Like

  3. I like your tone again here in this post, thanks for the comparison. The good thing is that as an industry we have you to be out there keeping us in the know. Thanks!

    Like

    • Thanks, Jesse.

      Another very good thing is that bloggers like me have readers like you.

      Like

  4. […] The Bermuda Triangle is an imaginary region near Florida, Bermuda and Cuba in the Western part of Atlantic Ocean where hundreds or even thousands of ships and airplanes are alleged to have d…  […]

    Like

  5. I agree on what you said. For the above written reasons, I do not use CATs and TMs as well. Protection of privacy and business information of my clients is another reason. I prefer to work offline and rely on my “homemade” databases, developed and perfected with reference to my expertise subjects since 1982 (my first year as professional in the translation business: by the way, I started with a typing machine too!).

    Like

  6. @Vincenza

    Maybe you should get together with Volkmar and explain to him how some of us feel about CATs.

    He’s in Austria, so if you are in Italy, you could have a lunch or coffee with him somewhere in Klagenfurt or Venice or Trieste.

    Like

    • @ Volkmar

      We do not work online, but there are colleagues who do that.
      There are suppliers offering them free of charge, provided that you work online and connected to their server … and can you guess where you store the developed glossary? Moreover, how can you be sure that the translated text is not stored and used in any way?

      My homemade MS Access databases work as efficient as yours and enable any amendment or change I need compliant to the interested translation project. With CATs & TMs, it often goes the other way round: you are supposed to adjust yourself and your needs to them. My best investment has been instead a voice recognition and typing software: no penalty but wonderful assistance to my productivity and earning. Since there are agencies and companies (I am in Düsseldorf, Nordrhein-Westfalen) who are convinced they can demand the purchase and use of their favourite CAT tool, in order to decrease due remuneration according to “matched-word” rates and the like. Once again no, thank you. I think that my working tool, an investment in terms of money and time, should be beneficial to my productivity and earning, and should not be my penalty to advantage of these agencies and companies. And certified and legalised translations are another “never-ending story”: I do not want to bore you with that. I am “the sceptical” who keeps faith and hope … in a perfect world. There are fair clients and customers out there. The good question is where.

      Otherwise, I deal with (and refuse with thanks) clients and customers who want to get the best professional competence and experience at the cheapest “thinkable & possible” fee. € 0, 04 per word in the source language was considered to be a fair price for a German to Italian translation: source text of 48 pages with a deadline of two days. More specifically, the best option for some of them would be free of charge at all: they call it a “translation test” of 300 or more words. On considering my professional background and expertise, they look for translation of legal and business / financial texts or, otherwise, scientific ones (healthcare) and technical ones (navigation systems and telematics, sanitary equipment). Once again, no thank you.

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  7. @Vincenza: Sorry for mixing things up. I just now realized that it was Steve who thought that I was in Austria.

    However, I don’t understand your remarks about privacy and business information. Everything I translate with my CAT remains private, just as your databases. A TM is nothing but a database, and it never goes beyond the confines of my machine. When I am working with my CAT I am always working “offline”.

    Like

  8. @Volkmar

    For some reason I thought you were in Vienna.

    You are Austrian, right?

    But Istanbul sounds really nice and exotic to me. I am kind of tired of Virginia after 12 years here (and 19 years in California before that).

    Maybe we will meet one of these days somewhere in Italy.

    Like

  9. @ Steve

    “Maybe you should get together with Volkmar and explain to him how some of us feel about CATs.
    He’s in Austria, so if you are in Italy, you could have a lunch or coffee with him somewhere in Klagenfurt or Venice or Trieste.”

    It will be a pleasure! At present, I am in Düsseldorf (Nordrhein-Westfalen, Germany) to update language and intercultural competences. Only occasionally, am in Milan. So please let me know it in advance. Have a nice weekend. Viel Spaß & Ciao!

    Like

  10. Thank you for this post, Steve.

    The topic of TST (Translation Supporting Technology) comes up often, and that’s a good thing, but it usually comes up as one conversation instead of two: The technology itself (its merits, shortcomings, best practices, limitations, appropriate use); and its abuse.

    Translation Environment Tools can be useful, MT can be useful to some extent, and so does any other technology.

    Then there is the topic of technology abuse by *humans*. The fact that one might use or not use a specific technology doesn’t say anything about them.
    Technology is a tool, and a tool helps the professional do his or her work better, it is not the professional who is there to help (and/or cleanup after) the tool – if he or she chooses to use it. What a professional uses and how he or she came up with their project fee is nobody’s business but their own.

    This abuse is part of a much larger scale Social Engineering effort by some of the technology developers and big agencies lobby that claim technology improvement (CAT tools make you work faster, MT can improve productivity by up to 70%, and other disinformation), but in reality work very hard to alter the perception of quality and use FUD tactics to manipulate and scare translators to join them in the race to the bottom.

    Like many others unethical practices, translators have mostly themselves to blame.

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  11. @Shai

    Thank you, very perceptive.

    For those who don’t know yet the FUD acronym, according to Wikipedia:

    “Fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD) is a tactic used in sales, marketing, public relations, politics and propaganda.

    FUD is generally a strategic attempt to influence perception by disseminating negative and dubious or false information….The term originated to describe disinformation tactics in the computer hardware industry but has since been used more broadly.

    FUD is a manifestation of the appeal to fear.”

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  12. I am a strong proponent of TM. I would not remain in the field without it. Some programs may have been written by agencies, but there are tools that are extremely helpful for freelancers, like me.

    And nobody forced me to use it. My best customers either don’t care, or they appreciate it because I work faster and more accurately. Another benefit to them is, it’s less overhead and more consistent to send a job to one person instead of two or more.

    Sure, it’s not for everyone or every job or every language pair. To my good fortune, it works very well for my languages (mostly Spanish > English, occasionally reverse), and I use it for anything larger than one short paragraph. My main specialization is oil and gas, and in that field and these languages, much of the subject and concepts are the same in both languages. The translation task is much simpler than, for example, writing about colors for a blind reader, or explaining Sherlock Holmes and 19th century London to a native of the American plains. Especially in technical writing, differences in style and sentence structure are relatively easy for the program to handle.

    As far as privacy, using TM is no more a threat to me or my client than to anyone else who uses a computer that can be hacked or infected, or who sends and receives email. After years of thinking about this (and with a degree in computer science) I have not figured out a plausible scenario in which client A would see a sentence that contains information that is proprietary for client B. And if that was a real concern, I could create a brand new TM for each client and project and depend solely on termbases that have no such information.

    Steven Marzuola

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  13. @Steven

    So are you saying that my claim that CATs are used by translation agencies to drive rates down is not true?

    I said that I don’t use them, but that does not mean I that I consider them useless for other other people. I only consider them useless for my purposes, which is something that CAT lovers (or maybe I should call them CAT afficionados? it’s less disrespectful) find impossible to accept for some reason.

    But the thrust of my argument is that they have been abused along with MT and other developments in the “translation industry” to keep translators in line and poor.

    That is what I am trying to say in this particular post.

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  14. Interesting opinion piece and I can certainly agree with you on some points, but not on others.

    One “critique” and one comment if I may.

    Can you provide supporting evidence for the following statement you made?

    “most translators in fact do not use CATs” – While it might be true, I’d just like to know what your source is. Or is this not a “fact” but merely conjecture on your part?

    One other comment/question on this statement.

    “But in another important segment of the translation business, highly specialized translations will continue to be provided mostly by small, specialized agencies with experience in a given field, and by highly educated, highly experienced and specialized individual translators who work mostly or only for direct clients.”

    I may be misinterpreting your statement but it seems as if you are splitting these two groups into an “either/or” grouping. What about the highly educated, highly experienced, specialized translators who work for specialized (boutique) translation agencies/companies? I am one of those. I have absolutely no desire to work for direct clients regardless of how much more money I could gross on a project. I know numerous freelancers who feel the same way. Of course, my agency clients are not the multinational bottom feeders that you speak of. They simply can’t pay my rates but I don’t need them anyway.

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    • Kevin Lossner has conducted a short survey about CAT tools use in his blog (http://www.translationtribulations.com/2014/01/the-2013-translation-environment-tools.html). It is of course not enough to determine a market-wide conclusion because the sample size is quite small compared to the number of translators and pseudo-translators operating in the market, and the blog audience might play a big role as many of them are probably (in light of some of the topics covered there) using CAT tools in the first place.

      I don’t think that the correct question is how many translators and pseudo-translators are using a Translation Environment Tool, but how many chose to use such a tool because they understand how it works and (really) know how to use it to their benefit, versus the number of users who use one (and hop back and forth between several of those upon request; barely understanding their most basic functionality) just because an agency told them to (to cheat them out of their money, both in terms of ROI and work done) and/or they bought into the idea that the tool in by itself will magically generate them more business, or do all the work for them?

      From what I see and hear, although I don’t have hard statistical evidence to back it up, I suspect that the percentage of true TEnT users is considerably smaller than the overall percentage of TEnT users in the market.

      The infatuation with translation supporting technology is very dangerous to everyone involved (except for the technology developers and abusers). When the type of technology takes center stage and pushes away considerations such as the translator’s skills, experience, and expertise, as well as ethics – someone got their priorities all mixed up.

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  15. @Ted

    1. I only have anecdotal evidence that most translators don’t use CATs based mostly on what I read on social media such as comments on LinkedIn, as hard evidence is obviously not available. You would have to ask every single translator, which cannot be done.

    It is logical that people who use CATs would think that everybody else would be using them too.

    But the fact is that CATs are only suitable for certain types of translations (highly repetitive texts such as updates of software or printer manuals) and if you think about it, how likely is it that most translators working out there on the entire planet Earth use CATs? Not very likely in my opinion.

    But what do I know, I could be wrong about this.

    2. “I may be misinterpreting your statement but it seems as if you are splitting these two groups into an “either/or” grouping. What about the highly educated, highly experienced, specialized translators who work for specialized (boutique) translation agencies/companies? I am one of those.”

    If I gave the impression that I am somehow splitting translators into these 2 groups, I should have expressed myself better.

    I too work for translation agencies, in fact I am a mini agency myself.

    It makes perfect sense to work for agencies if they know what they are doing, pay good rates, and treat translators right, just like it makes perfect sense to go after direct clients and work only or mostly for direct clients if that is your preference. It depends on how you want to run your business, and different people will naturally have different preferences.

    But it makes no sense to me to work for translation agencies who are headquartered in the Bermuda Triangle I tried to identified in my post (agencies who pay low rates, force translators to use CATs so that they could cheat them on word count, etc.).

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  16. “When the type of technology takes center stage and pushes away considerations such as the translator’s skills, experience, and expertise, as well as ethics – someone got their priorities all mixed up.”

    Agreed. A CAT does not a translator make.

    In fact, I noticed that among dozens of resumes that I receive and delete from my e-mail every day from people who want to work for me, those who prominently feature a translation tool, Trados in particular, tend to be people who are unlikely to be qualified to translate based on their education, experience and fluency in English.

    Like

  17. I believe the present state of the industry lies with the translators and their refusal or inability to create a guild or any other corporate body that would bring them professional recognition and protect them minimally. Other lowly bodies of workers have done what translators appear to consider the unthinkable, and created unions to protect their trade and interest.
    Translators will never regroup themselves ”Because they will never regroup themselves”.
    Their refusal to do so makes translators a commodity in capitalist terms and agencies will vie against one another to make a profit and will bring the industry down in the process. See, nothing is stopping them from doing so and they have all these modern cyber-slaves (fish) hanging at the end of an Internet line and potentially competing against all the other translators in the world for a diminishing pittance. And have no fear, there is plenty more to come from where that came from. ”Nothing can be done.”
    Maybe a knack for languages renders one oblivious to reality and the ways the world really operates.
    .

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  18. @Diane

    I agree with you, for the most part.

    Translators have their associations in different countries, but these associations seem to be run by and work mostly for agencies. The ATA is no exception.

    I don’t believe that a translators’ guild is a solution either. A translators’ guild was established more than 20 years ago in San Francisco (it was called The Translators Guild), but as far as I know, it did not work out very well.

    My experience with the SF guild back then was definitely negative, and I am not sure whether it still exists. I thought they were kind of stalinist and not terribly smart.

    Based on my past experience, I don’t have much hope for the ability of translators to organize themselves and look after their own interests.

    P.S.

    I am sorry I was kind of rude to you last time when you commented on my blog. You caught me on a bad day. I need to do better next time.

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  19. I welcome progress and innovation whenever they mean genuine and useful solutions, not source of misuse and abuse of power. Under other circumstances, CATs and MTs could have been my best friends. I have tried several of them and could not find a satisfying problem-solving solution to my needs. They are not flexible enough and “dare” to demand my adjustment to their technology and exigencies in order to assist them with translation. From my point of view, this should be supposed to go “the other way round”. I am the translator and do translate: they ought to be my assistants, and not I theirs. I hope that I could express my concept properly: otherwise, please forgive me since English is not my native language!
    This “old lady in the translation jungle” is still happy and satisfied with her antique and vintage MS Access databases, which she could flexibly update and develop according to needs and whims over decades. Therefore, she uses nor CATs or MTs at all. With great expectation, she waits for the wonder of this modern technology that will make her change her mind on this point. The old Lady is very fond of and enthusiastic about her voice recognition and typing software, instead: Mr Monster (of technology), that is the name she has given to him. Occasionally, it is pleasant to lie on the couch and dictate while her assistant does most of the work for her.

    I am happy to read that translators and some agencies and companies can live together side by side, and that a joint-cooperation with one another is no “mission-impossible” at all. I feel, I am like gold dust sometimes.
    I love to assist people in their private or business communication worldwide. I am less enthusiastic about commercial and administrative activities of my profession. Nevertheless, I cannot leave them aside and focus on my passion, as long as the search of direct customers (I mean the fair ones, of course) is “conditio sine qua non” of survival and fair remuneration in this business. On purpose, I had to learn to stay firm and say “no with thank”, to create and follow clients and customers’ care from the scratch. Since translating is what I have always wanted to do and still want to do. I have studied and worked hard to concrete my dream, with an enormous investment of resources in terms of money, time and commitment.
    I do not give up and do not mind to let “the tiger in me” come out and play her role to the achievement of this objective.

    P.S.: I was quite surprised at reading what you wrote about ATA and other associations, Steve. Now, I can understand some situations that puzzled me several times.

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  20. “Under other circumstances, CATs and MTs could have been my best friends. I have tried several of them and could not find a satisfying problem-solving solution to my needs”

    I feel that unlike CATs, MT is my friend.

    I use MT all the time, basically as a dictionary. Why keep looking up things laboriously online when I can translate something with MT first to get a rough idea about the text, and sometime a pretty good idea, in particular when complicated technical terms are involved that are not exactly on the tip of my tongue all the time in English?

    At the same, I feel that trying to use the MT product as something more than a dictionary, namely not as a list of possibly correctly or perhaps incorrectly translated words, but as a translated text that can be edited to arrive at a real translation, is a counterproductive and very dangerous method.

    Although I understand why many agencies would love such a method because if it worked, all they would then need would be a few obedient slaves formerly called translators who could be turned into so called post-processors.

    The only problem (for agencies) is, it’s not going to work like this because most of the time, the result of post-processing of machine-translated text will still be garbage, although it may look more like a real translation.

    But of course, this is something that “the translation industry” is not going to admit just yet.

    Like

    • I am and want to be a translator by profession, and not the assistant to a TM or CAT tool. Moreover, I can welcome whatever can increase my potential productivity and thus earning whenever this is not meant to be misuse or abuse.
      CATs and TMs could have been my best friends but are not, in actual point of fact. They will not be my best friends as long as they cannot be as flexible and efficient as my “antique and vintage” databases are. That is why I do not use them. I start any translation project with research of terminology online and integration of my homemade multilingual vocabulary (I belong to the old-school of linguistics). Thereafter, I can rely on their assistance and work offline: they will not miss the point of content and distract my attention from my work. Occasionally only, I need to look up in the dictionary. I find this procedure quick, easy to use and cost-effective too. Since I have focused on expertise and specialization.
      With TMs or CATs, I first need to check how good and reliable they are, which means additional research and work at the beginning of a translation project.

      There is another point deserving consideration: how is content of written communication affected by the use of these wonders of technologies? Is function more important than form?
      Viel Spaß & Ciao!

      Like

      • I agree with you on the most part. I respect your opinion but I think that you do Translation Environment Tools some injustice; they do differ from MT.

        Although TEnTs and MT are tools, they are different tools. Whereas it can be (falsely) argued that MT does all the “heavy lifting” for you, Translation Environment Tools do not. They don’t “translate” the text for you nor manipulate it any anyway, they just offer a work environment for processing the text. It is not different from translating in a Word Processor, a sheet of paper, or any other working environment that one chooses.

        Many people don’t like them because they never made the effort to really learn how to use them. Many (I would risk saying most) of the users don’t go a step beyond understanding the basic workflow that will allow them to get up an running for the next project shoved down on them by the agency they work with.

        The abuse and misuse of TEnTs is two-fold: first, the pricing issue that was already discussed; secondly, the misuse – the fact that many of the users (agencies included) don’t really understand how to use them and just take some self-serving instructions from the agencies.
        As much as there are blind adopters and advocates for these tools, there are at least as much of blind “haters”.

        As I’ve said before in this comment thread (and in many other places) I don’t argue that everyone should use a certain tool. Different people have different workflows and needs and certain tools fit those better than others.

        The common discussion about translation supporting technology, even among translators, is too simplistic. Instead of presenting professional arguments and sharing information, it quickly turns into an argument in which people feel the need to take a side, sometimes just to justify some of their choices or circumstances (they they are not always happy about) and that superficial level of discussion works for the benefit of the abuses because even alleged professional translators perceive the technology as their competitor or enemy (that you must reject or surrender to) instead of what it really is – a tool.

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      • I am not a blind hater. Since I tried several of them and was not satisfied with the results at all. Therefore, I keep relying on my tools and work environment: antique and vintage, yet efficient and compliant to my needs. This might be ascribable to that, I had a one-month trial only. As you wrote, you need to go a step beyond the comprehension of the basic workflow to appreciate them fully. Well, I am not ready to spend even a cent for something which utility I cannot see and comprehend prior to its purchase. From my point of view: they had one-month time to convince me and could not succeed. Thanks God, this is their problem, and not mine. I am ready to try and buy any innovation, provided they can persuade and convince me before I have to buy them. On considering that they are expensive -quite a lot actually-, I am not going to spend nor commitment or money on what seems to be groundless investment to me. That is all.

        My MS Access databases are helpful assistant and working tools to me. I have self-developed them since 1983 and have updated to the 2013 version over the years. Most important from my point of view (linguist and translator): an enormous investment in terms of learning commitment, time and money with an excellent and rewarding return on investment. I am happy and satisfied with them indeed.
        This might be ascribable to my subjects of expertise and target language -Italian. Medicine is rich in terminology but strongly individualistic too, which is also consequent to peculiarities of medical professions: to treat their patients, these professionals need individual initiative and talent as well as experience and competences acquired in the course of their career. Law is highly technical and though hard to standardise since significance is the leading drive. Economics and Finance would be more compliant to exigencies of TEnTs but feature an extremely dynamic evolution, needing steady and continuous updating commitment. On considering the investment involved in and the too short amortisation time given, I doubt a provider could cope with it and be competitive: however, this is not my problem!

        In the “translation jungle”, low or even ridiculous fees of translation projects (resulting from misuse and abuse of technological innovation) is no “simplistic” topic but true survival problem for too many colleagues, which leaves no time to waste on presentation of professional arguments and sharing of information on TEnTs of any kind. You are lucky; other colleagues of ours are not. I feel they deserve solidarity and respect.

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  21. “There is another point deserving consideration: how is content of written communication affected by the use of these wonders of technologies? Is function more important than form?”

    Something like this probably never occurs to people who use these tools.

    But I agree, when critical human thinking is “assisted” by a software tool, there is a danger that the thoughts of the persons using these tools could simply disappear, as is if they were swallowed up by the computer.

    Like

  22. @Vincenza

    I am not a hater either.

    Russians who refused the Soviet system because they thought it was a stupid system that did not work were called “refuseniks” in the seventies. Many people probably forgot this word already.

    Well, I am a CAT refusenik because these stupid tools don’t work for me.

    But it does not mean that I am a hater.

    The question that I have, though, is: Why do CAT lovers find it so difficult to accept that some translators don’t want to use their tools?

    CAT REFUSENIKS OF THE WORLD – UNITE!

    Like

  23. Just to avoid a misunderstanding, Steve–I can very well accept that you don’t want to use CATs. I have no missionary zeal and I don’t want to save the world (or humanity, or the translation “industry”, no, not even poor Steve stuck in Virginina ). I just think that, especially for the type of work you are doing, your arguments against CATs are off the mark, with the exception of the CAT misuse by agencies to lower prices.

    Having said that, I should still like to get to know you in person over a cup of coffee, maybe even in Prague, where I go probably more often than you do…

    Like

  24. @Volkmar

    I did not mean you. But some CAT lovers seem to think that we CAT refuseniks must be really dumb if we don’t see the world exactly the way they do.

    I would love to meet you for a coffee or a beer or two in Prague. There is at least a 50/50 chance that I will go there this year, probably in September, possibly with my son(s). Haven’t been back there for a year and half.

    We would probably start fighting (a Czech discussing things with an Austrian in a pub can be a volatile mix, even though I am a Czech-American now, about 40% Czech and the rest mostly American), but it should be fun.

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  25. @Vincenza

    I didn’t call you (nor Steve or anyone else) a hater. It was a separate – and general – comment.

    What I meant was that as much as some people can’t seem to accept that others don’t see the benefits of a certain technology or have a different workflow, there is just as much who don’t seem to be able to accept the opposite, abusers and blind-disciples excluded.
    For example, I’m sure that we won’t need to go too far to find someone who thinks that your Access databases are an abomination and nothing beats their own choice of technology.

    The broader point that I was trying to make was about the extreme polarity and oversimplification in the discussion about TST (Translation Supporting Technology) among translators, that to me stem from the wrong perception of TST as the enemy instead of a tool (not different than a computer, a Word Processor, or a pen and sheet of paper).
    If translators discuss technology as the focal point and start categorizing other professionals according to their view about certain technology and the type of technology that they use (technology profiling; another thing that the abusers promote and translators should be smarter than falling into), what should be expected from the translation buyers who don’t know nothing about our work to begin with?

    A professional should use the tools that fit one’s needs and preferences, and make sense to him or her in the global scheme of things. I’ve commented about it before, when technology becomes the focal point, something went terribly wrong.

    I don’t think that I got what you were trying to say with the article about the Text-to-Speech thing.

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  26. […] One big problem with these tools is that some translation agencies have been trying to pay less or nothing at all for words and passages that… […]

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  27. […] tratan de pagar menos o incluso nada por las palabras y oraciones que se repiten en el texto (llamadas coincidencias totales y coincidencias parciales en la jerga de las TAC). De esa forma, los traductores pasan a ser poco más que un procesador de textos obligado a […]

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  28. […] Translation agencies in Chindia, but also for example in some countries in Europe, have been hammering the rates paid to […]

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  29. […] quality of translations is that many translation agencies located in low-cost countries in Asia (collectively known as Chindia), or in Europe (such as in Moldova) now specialize in working as subcontractors for translation […]

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