Practical aspects of a translator's work

Extended Property for Entries plugin (serendipity_event_entryproperties) is required for this theme, which is not installed or is inactive. Please install the plugin to fully utlize this theme.

  • February, 2014
  • Free translator training at Proz

    Proz's logotranslator training

    Proz, the international translators' portal, is going to run a series of free webinars for registered users in March.

    According to the programme of events now available here, the sessions will mainly be covering computer-assisted translation (CAT) tools:

    • Wordfast Pro 3.3


    • memoQ 2013 R2


    • SDL Trados Studio 2014


    • Déjà Vu X3 (aka "DVX3")


    • Fluency


    • and Wordbee Freelancer.

    In addition, you will also be able to learn more about utilities like WordFinder, a web-based dictionary suite, and Translation Office 3000, a package for managing your translation and proof-reading assignments, your customers and your accounting. Several of these programs are now available in brand new versions with fresh interfaces.

    There are also going to be two sessions on getting in touch with potential customers via Proz's own web platform. At the time of writing this post, places were still available for the session on 20 March.'s free webinar week in MarchTo participate in any of these events, all you have to do is register to attend them. If you aren't a registered user yet, sign up for free or take out a paid subscription, depending on what features you would like to use. regularly stages training events for translators and interpreters, not just giving them an opportunity to learn about the latest software tools, but also to improve their knowledge of subject areas they work with such as legal contracts, interpreting in court or for the police, medical translation, tourism and travel, software localisation and audio subtitling, to mention just a few examples.

    Some of the events are recorded and can be viewed any time, albeit at a small cost. These are known as "on-demand courses".

    The training Proz offers isn't just in English, but that does seem to be the main lingua franca used. Sometimes presentations are held in other languages; some of the events in March are going to take place in Spanish, Italian, French, German, Russian or Chinese, for instance.

    Quality-wise, the free webinars and "virtual conferences" I have attended so far have generally been reasonable to good. Not brilliant, but generally interesting. Some were a bit too commercial for my taste, but still, you learn to pick out the cherries after a while...

    Why not take a look at the events lined up in March and see if there are any that interest you?




    images: screen shots taken from

  • January, 2014
  • Webinars on the new Déjà Vu!

    Déjà VuAtril's logo

    Déjà Vu is a versatile software suite for translators that has been on the market for twenty years now, ever since 1993. An established CAT tool produced by a European firm called Atril, it has a loyal following among its users thanks to its flexibility and robustness, not to mention the speedy and helpful technical support Atril provides.

    A new version of the software called "X3" is going to be launched this year. Two free "sneak preview" webinars will be held on it in the second half of January to give translators an idea of what enhancements and innovations they can expect. These are going to be on 23 Jan (7-8 pm CEST) and on 28 Jan (4-5 pm CEST), the company's website says.

    Version X3 comes with a number of enhancements and brand new features compared to its predecessor DVX2. These include:

    • a completely overhauled user interface for easier access to features (a ribbon approach)

    • live previews for Microsoft Office documents: Word, Excel and PowerPoint files from customers' Office 2003, 2007, 2010 or 2013 suites can now be displayed without Office having to be pre-installed on the translator's PC.

    • as for all file formats not supported by the live preview, DVX3 will display "live source context", thus providing code information in development formats, for example

    • WYSIWYG inline formatting in the translation grid ("What you see is what you get")

    • better quality assurance, including a dynamic inline spell-checker (with the possibility to add your own dictionaries)

    • enhanced file filters (IDML and Excel, specifically) for quicker import, fewer embedded codes, additional compatibility and interoperability and better handling of Quicksilver fileswebinars on Atril's website

    • automation (e.g. automatic update notification).

    If you would like to attend one of the webinars, all you need to do is sign up for it in advance on Atril's website at You'll see the two links on the right of the page in the section called "Training", as the screen shot here shows.

    This CAT tool is worth taking a look at despite the fact that the translation market appears to be dominated by various products made by SDL plc. In fact, if you looked behind the scenes at the software tools we translators use, you'd find that many of us are actually employing CAT tools that are not SDL's, but are compatible to them – and often more convenient to use (many of them are less expensive, too).

    What matters at the end of the day is that customers get the translations they request in the file format they ask for and that using other tools to achieve these aims doesn't cause them any extra work. Déjà Vu is one of these compatible alternatives. It has some ingenious features that can help you translate texts faster and produce work of a more consistent nature. It is capable of tapping several external machine-translation engines and also works well in conjunction with speech-recognition software, which means you don't need to use the keyboard or mouse all the time. (With a bit of practice, you can even work at a higher speed.)

    Hope you find the preview interesting.



    images: courtesy of Atril

  • New Year's resolutions

    Happy New Year!Although the word "resolution" sounds like a clear-cut decision to me, especially one made by a board of directors or a body like the United Nations, the resolutions we often make at New Year are less binding – at the end of the day, New Year's resolutions are really just expressions of well-meant intentions and are often abandoned quite quickly.

    Even so, it can be a good idea for us translators to spend a little time reflecting on what last year was like and wondering how certain things might be improved. Since many of us work alone, either at home or in a small office elsewhere, it's up to us to "review" our own working (and private) lives and do some planning to achieve a few specific goals over the coming twelve months. We're our own boss, after all, so we're in the enviable position of being able to set our own goals if we want to, with no-one looking over our shoulder but our own friends and partners (occasionally). I see New Year's resolutions as part of this planning.

    What kind of resolutions might come to mind for a translator, I wonder? Well, apart from resolving to "boost your income" a little more this year, you could try being more specific: boost your income by 5 or even 10% by (a) translating more material yourself or (b) taking on more work and sharing part of it with some reliable colleagues. You could also diversify your services a little – perhaps by offering a new one such as copy-editing or subtitling videos, for example. If you possess the right skills, that is (which you can also resolve to acquire this year, of course).

    In connection with diversification, you might also decide to invest some time each month in acquiring new customers. Again, be as specific as you can here: set yourself a concrete goal like spending two hours a week or five or ten hours a month on internet research and contacting potential customers). This needs careful planning and, above all, patience. You could try it out for six months and see what the outcome is.

    Another idea is to make sure you retain your current customers. This is easier than attempting to win new ones, but it still involves some effort. Like ensuring you have enough quality checks in place in your translation workflow and improving them if necessary, either by using better procedures or quality-assurance software, or by getting your translations read by a colleague before you send them off to customers.  

    Improving your skills in another language is another idea. Why not take part in a course in the morning or evening together with other learners? Or improve your knowledge of a particular subject area or a useful computer program over a number of months? That would also get you out of the office regularly, which would be a good way of combating the enforced isolation that's so typical of our particular line of work. Alternatively, you could start attending online lectures run by universities, some of which are now free (see Jayne Fox's interesting blog post on mass online courses, or "MOOCs").

    An additional idea might be to go along to monthly get-togethers held by a translators' association in your area and get to know some more fellow translators personally. You might even consider playing a more active, voluntary role in the association's activities by helping to organise and/or advertise them.

    There are lots of things we could do. Even reducing your workload is one if last year's was a bit too heavy. Think about your work/life balance. New Year's resolutions are an opportunity for us all to change things in our lives and achieve a little more satisfaction in them. 

    What objectives would you like to achieve this year as a translator? Have you thought about any yet?



    Some reading to inspire you

    • Charles Duhigg's blog post on how to stick to your New Year's resolutions


    • "The Entrepreneurial Linguist" by Judy and Dagmar Jenner, 2010 (see my review)


    • (in German) "Marketing für Dolmetscher und Übersetzer" by Birgit Golms, 2011, BDÜ Fachverlag (see my review)

    image: © Bernd Kasper,


  • December, 2013
  • In the news: a bogus interpreter

    I wonder how this happened. It's true, but almost seems too outlandish to be real...

    At a memorial service for late South African President Nelson Mandela held in Johannesburg just a few days ago (on 10 December), a 34-year-old man who claimed to be a sign-language interpreter stood on the podium next to high-ranking international speakers and proceeded to "interpret" what they were saying so that the deaf community could follow the events. The thing is, it turned out afterwards that what he had expressed with his hands was utter nonsense!

    the bogus interpreter in full swing...

    Photo: On the right, the sign-language interpreter "punches the air" beside India's President Pranab Mukherjee as he speaks to a full stadium of mourners during a memorial service for President Nelson Mandela (caption and photo credit: Reuters/Kai Pfaffenbach)

    There was quite an uproar among South African viewers and the media reported on the matter as a result. Paul Mashatile, Minister of Arts and Culture, has apologised publicly for the mishap:

    "Without passing judgement, nobody should be allowed to undermine our languages. We sincerely apologise to the deaf community and to all South Africans for any offense that may have been suffered."

    Fortunately, something good seems to have come of this awful farce. In his statement, Mr Mashatile went on to declare the following:

    "We have long recognised the need for the language profession to be reformed and improved. We hope to speedily begin regulating the profession in early 2014 through the South African Language Practitioners' Council Bill, so that this kind of incident doesn't ever happen again."

    The South African Language Practitioners' Council Bill was presented to Parliament earlier this year, according to the government announcement, which also explains what it intends to achieve:

    "The Bill provides for the regulation of the language profession, it also seeks to regulate the training of language practitioners and provide for control of the accreditation and registration of language practitioners [...] We are confident that the measures in the Bill will go a long way towards elevating the status of the language profession, ensuring that it is properly regulated and that it contributes meaningfully to language preservation and development."

    That's certainly good news for professional language practitioners in South Africa. If such people want to be taken seriously and receive adequate pay and recognition for the services they render, they need to obtain adequate professional training that is also reflected in the formal qualifications they acquire. What's more, they need constant practice and ought to keep on acquiring more knowledge in their subject areas throughout their careers ("lifelong learning"/"CPD").

    Professional associations can be a big help in this respect, providing they are well organised and focus on meeting international standards among similar groups of professionals, be they language teachers, copy writers, translators or interpreters. Judging by the profile of a South African language practitioner I found on a careers page on the Web, which also provides details of a training institute for translators and a potential government employer, the usual requirements are already in place.

    In view of this, it would be particularly interesting to learn how our bogus interpreter actually came to participate in an event of this calibre. Was his engagement intentional? Was he really an experienced interpreter who was simply overwhelmed by the event, as he claims? I doubt it; I don't believe you can keep on getting sign language (or, indeed, any other language) wrong if you really do master it. Perhaps contacts in high places played a role in getting him the assignment, or money did. SA Interpreters, the language company the man apparently worked for, had vanished from the face of the earth when Reuters attempted to get an interview, they say. Well, whatever happened, I'm confident the South African government will vet the language companies it contracts quite carefully from now on, meaning standards will improve.



    News links

    Reuters' own report on 12 Dec. 2013

    Announcement by South Africa's Minister of Arts and Culture

    Related blog posts

    Professional associations for translators

  • Converting scanned PDFs into translation-friendly files

    This week a customer from an advertising agency I work for sent me a PDF file to translate containing a newspaper article she had scanned. What struck me right away was that the whole article was an image and that it was laid out in a number of columns with a headline and large picture at the top. It looked quite nice as pieces of journalism go, but how did she expect me to make a quotation and translate the text? To be honest, I don't think she realised what she was asking of me; these days it's so common for people in PR, sales and marketing to work with PDFs of glossy-looking articles that they don't realise how tricky they can be for translators to deal with.

    One way of handling such image files is to load them into Adobe Acrobat®, a powerful but pricey application for creating and editing PDF documents. You import the file and then process it using the optical-character-recognition feature (OCR). This theoretically "captures" any text found in the image and makes it editable. After doing that and saving the results as a new PDF file, you can export it to an external word-processing application like Microsoft Word® and then check it to see if all the text has been captured and reproduced correctly. It's only once this last step has been taken that you can actually start translating.

    If you do most of your translating in a CAT tool, then you may also want to go over the editable file again before doing that using a utility such as Dave Turner's CodeZapper as this can reduce the number of formatting "tags" or "codes" in it, which appear in the translation grid and stop you from translating segments quickly (as you have to insert them in your translation one by one).

    Well, after creating an editable Word file from Adobe Acrobat XI and not being very impressed with the outcome, I remembered a blog post that Dominique Pivard wrote a while ago about handling scanned PDFs using a Web-based CAT tool called Wordfast Anywhere®. Dominique has made a large number of short but generally very instructive videos on CAT tools that you can watch on his blog or on YouTube for free, and this is one of them.Wordfast

    I watched the video twice (just to make sure I'd understood everything!), set up a free user account on the Wordfast Anywhere site and then uploaded the original scanned PDF file to it. You need to create a translation memory and set the source and target languages before it processes the PDF, but once you've done that, you're off! The Wordfast Anywhere server processed my PDF file using a powerful OCR algorithm and converted it into an editable file in just a few minutes. It lets you either translate the output in a Wordfast environment directly on the server or download the file and translate it by other means if you wish (e.g. in a desktop CAT tool).

    The results of the conversion I got it to do were very good and the file didn't need much fine-tuning at all it was better than Acrobat's output and didn't cost me a penny.

    Many thanks to Dominique for making his video tutorial. If you'd like to watch it, then just click here. (The 4-minute video will start running as soon as the page has built up in your browser.)


    image: Wordfast logo © Wordfast LLC

    Related posts: Uses of Adobe Acrobat XI (part 1)

  • November, 2013
  • Book review: The Entrepreneurial Linguist

    The Entrepreneurial LinguistAlthough "The Entrepreneurial Linguist" by linguists Judy and Dagmar Jenner first appeared on the book market in 2010, I have to admit it took me a while to get round to buying a copy and reading it myself. Fortunately, many of the subjects the book covers are still applicable to freelance translation work today – as the title implies, it's mostly about setting up and running a translation business long-term rather than using specific software tools to get your work done, although these are also discussed briefly.


    The book is basically a practical "how to" guide and covers 11 subject areas over almost 200 pages. The choice of topics is a personal one reflecting the two authors' own interests and activities – as translators, bloggers, members of translators' associations and conference speakers. This and the fact that it focuses on ways of doing business soundly and successfully ("the business-school approach" in the title) make it stand out from other works of this kind, which try to be as general as possible. It's also not solely directed at translators in the US market – the two authors actually work in different countries, the United States and Austria. They are also sisters and spend time together in each other's country every year, which gives them a broader perspective on business than usual.

    Consequently, the scope of this book is pretty wide. It sets the scene by addressing the way you should see yourself as a freelance translator, namely as an independent entrepreneur who wants to make a living from his or her skills:

    "The first thing you need to do is stop thinking of yourself as 'just' a freelance linguist and to start thinking of yourself as a business. You are selling your services; therefore, you are a business."

    (p. 19)

    This might seem obvious, but it's worth reminding ourselves what we are actually doing from time to time as it's easy to lose sight of sometimes. The Jenners also make a point of putting things into context: "In addition, one-person businesses account for a staggering 78% of all U.S. businesses" (according to figures from 2007; p. 20).

    Having discussed the best mindset to adopt, the Jenners turn to organisation and accounting, a section which contains useful tips (including the very wise insight that it might be best to get a trained accountant to help you rather than attempting to tackle the financial side of your business all by yourself, which not everyone's cut out to do). The authors then go into some detail about social media, networking, blogging and marketing (the longest sections, in fact) and subsequently talk about strategies for developing your business (in a nutshell, "no pain, no gain" and "yes, you can"!).

    This is followed by sections on pricing, negotiating, professional development, getting actively involved in an association and starting up a local chapter, and getting the right balance between your work and private life. A recap in the final chapter conveniently sums up the most important points made in the book.

    As I've said, this is a personal selection of topics; the sections on blogging and "giving back" won't appeal to every reader as we are all under time constraints and things like blogging and playing an active role in a professional association are time-consuming and may involve travel as well as background research. But still, there's something of value for every translator in this book. In fact, much of what's said applies to anyone who wants to set up a business of their own. A worthwhile read.





    You can order a copy of the book from, other internet bookshops or your conventional high-street bookshop. The book is available in print and as an e-book (PDF).

    image: © Judy and Dagmar Jenner, The Entrepreneurial Linguist

  • The EuroTermBank project

    EuroTermBank logoAs you may have gathered by now, I use a translation tool called memoQ to help me with most of my translation work. MemoQ comes with an interesting dictionary plug-in linking it to a huge external terminology database called the EuroTermBank, and if it is activated (which it is by default in version 6.0 and 6.2), then memoQ constantly looks up expressions that appear in my source texts in the database and "suggests" any English translations of them to me that it finds there.

    The terms that are "recognised", i.e. correspond to the source words in appearance, are displayed in a window to the right of the translation area in memoQ so you can see them easily while you translate and decide whether or not to pick them (sometimes they match the context, sometimes they don't). You can insert them manually or by using a combination of keys on your keyboard. The ETB entries have a special symbol next to them in the results list, as you can see from this screen shot showing a German source text and matching term-base results (the empty space in the middle is for the translation that is about to be done):


    The ETB hits are listed on the right in memoQ

    Fig. 1: The translations found in the ETB term base are conveniently shown to the right of the translation grid. Those from my own term bases are directly above them.

    Now, you won't find everything in the ETB term base, of course, but you will find a lot of material in a large number of European languages (currently 33, in fact), including those used in Eastern Europe and the Baltic States (Lithuania and Latvia, for example). That's because the ETB is actually a terminology project involving a large number of countries from the European Union.

    The EuroTermBank was set up by a consortium of organisations specifically with Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland in mind, but other new EU member states and interested countries and organizations outside the EU are invited to get involved in the project as well. The idea, they say, is to "exchange terminology data with existing national and EU terminology databases by establishing cooperative relationships, aligning methodologies and standards, [and] designing and implementing data-exchange mechanisms and procedures".

    According to the ETB website,, the project focuses on harmonisation and consolidation of terminology work in new EU member states, "transferring experience from other European Union terminology networks and accumulating competencies and efforts of the accessed countries". The aim of the project is to provide a source of "consistent, harmonised and easily accessible terminology" in the European Union, a "centralized online terminology bank for languages of new EU member countries interlinked to other terminology banks and resources".

    current scope of the ETB

    The terminology the ETB draws upon is taken from public-sector terminology resources, so it's obviously of particular value if you translate texts concerned with any of these (widely varying) areas. Business, finance and institutions are covered, for example.

    There's a quick summary of what the database covers on the left (as of 14 Nov. 2013). As you can see, the EuroTermBank is a big, ongoing multilingual project. What I find particularly useful about it is the fact that source terms are not just listed in the target language you pick, but some of them also come with a definition, giving you some background information that can come in handy as you translate.

    To access the ETB, you don't have to have memoQ (even though Kilgray is its first technology partner); you can access it from your own web browser by calling up its URL,, in which case you'll see something like this at the top of the page:


    search window on the ETB's web portal

    Fig. 2: The ETB on the internet (showing a window for an advanced search with several options, including definitions)

    ETB subject areasThe subject areas that are covered are displayed in the "domain" field, which is shown on the left when you do an advanced search (click on "Show advanced options" next to the orange search button). If you click on the little arrow there, a drop-down list will appear. Here you can see that the ETB covers a wide range of areas: politics, international relations, European Community law, trade, social issues, education, employment, energy, transport and more... Amazing!

    Incidentally, you can also download a special plug-in for Microsoft Word® that will help you with dictionary look-ups while you use that program. This enhancement can help you understand a text better, particularly one in a foreign language – mark a tricky word and then call up the ETB by right-clicking your mouse. Go to "Terminology..." and then a special pane will open listing possible equivalents in various languages.

    If you fail to find any terms you look up, the portal enables you to build up a personalised list of such words (in "My ETB"), which you can share with other users from the ETB community if you'd like to.

    This is a great resource for translators!





    images: ETB website and my own screen shots from memoQ

  • Webinar on memoQ 2013 R2

    Kilgray's logoAs I mentioned at the end of last month, the Hungarian CAT-tool maker Kilgray recently released a new version of its main product for freelance translators, memoQ, called "memoQ 2013 R2" (the "R" stands for "release", apparently). I've been using this version of memoQ ever since then and have found it to be robust and very convenient thanks to various enhancements to existing features and several brand new features it comes with.

    webinar messageTo find out more about this particular release, you can now sign up to attend a free, one-hour webinar by Kilgray on the tool's new features, which is going to be staged later this week: on 14 November at 4 p.m. GMT (= 5 p.m. CET). Click here to sign up.

    In Kilgray's own words on the event, the features to be discussed include "monolingual review (to update your translation memory by importing reviewed monolingual documents), PDF file import with full formatting (imported PDF files will keep the layout of the original file and texts can be translated as .doc or .docx files), a start-up wizard (to make configuration easier) and a couple of Microsoft Office Word integration enhancements".

    The last point is a very modest description of some major achievements in memoQ: "Use Microsoft Word dictionaries for spell-checking; change fonts automatically in .docx files according to the most widespread fonts when you translate between European and Asian languages (CCJK); comments added to your source document will appear as comments or translatable content in the translation grid, depending on your preference; and comments added during translation can be exported into a Word file", as Kilgray says. (The above outline is just a small part of a more comprehensive summary available on the CAT-tool maker's website – click here to view the whole page.)

    Reading about features is a good start, but watching a webinar will give you a lot of visual information as well as being more informative in general. You can also ask questions that may be answered straightaway, so it's a good way of finding out about key aspects of the program quickly. After which you should give it a spin yourself. Download a free user's guide from Kilgray's website and find out how the tool works – and most of all, how (like all CAT tools) it can help you improve your productivity and make sure you use the right terminology consistently as you translate. (More about the benefits of using translation software in a later post...)

    See you at the webinar. :-)



    image: logo courtesy of Kilgray Translation Technologies and my own screen shot from Citrix webinar software


    Closely related posts: Promising new features in memoQ 2013 R2

Page 4 of 7, totaling 51 entries