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investing in CAT Tool
Thread poster: Mona Aboeleyoun (X)

Daniel Williams  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 17:52
Member (2018)
German to English
+ ...
@Mona Dec 17, 2019

I am afraid I can't give you any advice about converting files between CAT tools. One of the advantages of running so many at the same time is that you don't have to do that, because you just use whichever system the client prefers.

 

Miroslav Novak
Local time: 18:52
Polish to English
+ ...
A different approach as inspiration Jan 7

The only reason to buy CAT tools is basically to make translation easier or faster. You can also use labels to impress those around. In this case you would need to buy all of them and put all their brands larger than your own name. No joke, it really happens.

The point is what kind of documents you are likely to translate. For simple communication, personal letters, and short text files (usually compatible with DOC), a Word-like program is still the best CAT tool. What I mean is tha
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The only reason to buy CAT tools is basically to make translation easier or faster. You can also use labels to impress those around. In this case you would need to buy all of them and put all their brands larger than your own name. No joke, it really happens.

The point is what kind of documents you are likely to translate. For simple communication, personal letters, and short text files (usually compatible with DOC), a Word-like program is still the best CAT tool. What I mean is that creating an abundantly featured translation project when most of your work comes from one-time customers with one-page needs is a good way to go bankrupt pretty soon. Not to mention your competition who will complete such translations before you manage to import the document into your project.

Number 2 in my list would be a decent OCR package. It is absolutely astounding how many 2-MB PDFs with 100 words of text (and nothing more) you will get from ‘business’ customers. Or cell phone images of skewed contracts. Or quite complex financial or accounting documents with a variety of tables in a variety of formatting styles, all in the same document, scanned (with stamps and signatures) or PDFised even when the accounting software has the option to generate standard Office-compatible files.

You will need a real thing, not the ‘engines’ integrated in CATs. Here the choice is pretty simple, so FineReader will certainly save you a lot of work. No, you should not use online services to convert PDFs into text for free. In most cases, you must not. Your customers usually expect a high level of confidentiality, without even referring to it. If you think otherwise, just ask your customer: ‘Will it be ok if I upload your financial reports for the whole world to see? I do not know who will have access to them and what they will do with them, but they will send me a DOC file in a few minutes.’

Number 3. If you reasonably expect to translate documents in a narrow specialised field, with repeatable terminology, with similar text styles, where documents are developed by competent first language users, any CAT package will help you grow. I would start with the cheapest thing available just to get the feel of the work. Daily translation will quickly show your real needs. You can then test the more expensive solutions in terms of their real use in your case.

In terms of translation practice, terminology always comes first before translation memory. I would highly recommend a program that allows you to quickly and efficiently build your own glossaries WHILE you are translating. In this respect, old good Wordfast Classic leaves competition far behind the horizon. And it has the advantage of working on the real Office file, so you can make corrections by hand any time you need in any place of the document.

Number 4. If you hope for very large projects, with numerous documents, or a highly controlled vocabulary, a more sophisticated CAT package may prove its worth. All of them do the same thing. The value of CAT is not (really) in the software, but in the operator. So you will need to learn to use the package. And then use it.

To use CAT effectively, you may consider the appearance of the user interface. How easy (or difficult) it is to do what you want to do? How much time you lose wandering around the screen with a multitude of options, tabs, panels, menu bars, etc? Can you customise fonts and colours? Can you switch off or hide the things that you don’t need? It is all subjective, so the best way is to install a demo and test run it with specific documents representative to your (planned or actual) work.

And now the tricky thing. When working in the given CAT package, how often you have to leave the keyboard? In other words, how easy it is to operate the software without using a mouse or touchpad? It is probably one of the key factors that determine your actual earnings in a unit of time.

CAT software is only the tool, so ideally you configure it once and learn it once. If you need to continuously educate yourself about the program you use, I would say that you need something else. This aspect is also subjective and different people handle different software particulars differently. Just test and find out what suits you best.

Number 5 is Trados. Unquestionably, the brand name of the market. Will you need it? It’s hard to say ahead of the time. Will it be useful? Obviously, just like any other CAT software. Is it the only way to go? Yes, for convenience sake, if you will be working in team projects where sharing documents is the prerequisite. I would risk a statement that no reasonable customer will admit a novice in such situations. You may finally find yourself in the position where you spent (‘invested’) a lot of money with little chances to recover it soon.

The exception is if you intend to go freelance for translation agencies. Many of them require Trados even for simple pieces of work. It is unnecessary burdensome for translators and completely unreasonable in terms of work efficiency. The idea is to rip you off by taking all your know-how for free (in the form of TM files).

Sharing your TM files is a complex thing from the legal point of view, even with your customer. Giving them away for free to third parties complicates it even more. Financially, it means that you are sponsoring a random customer with all your knowledge, with no certainty of repeat business. You can not expect loyalty when you give away complete translation along with the key TM files. Why would anyone come back to you if they can use your TMs?

So, make sure you have the tools appropriate for the tasks. Test all of them and find out how easy it is for you to work in the particular environment. And do the maths to see if expected proceeds justify going loud.
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Oksana Vuorinen
 
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