Tools used to translate documents.

Published 29th December 2011
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The tools behind the translation

This September I started my MA (Translation with Language Technology). This included a module on the use of SDL Trados 2009, MultiTerm and various online translation resources. At first I was quite daunted by the list of instructions.  Menus inside menus inside menus, file formats I had never seen before (.xdl anyone). All the while missing my midnight tortures with a pen in one hand and a dictionary in the other endlessly scribbling just trying to phrase something, just right.

When I translate documents, my favourite kind of texts to work with are literary or academic (as I’m sure my early blog posts demonstrate!). I think this is what made me so defensive about translation software. This trepidation was soon replaced, however, by a growing sense of awe at how much easier translation software makes life for a freelance translator.

To Trados or not to Trados

I found Trados very user friendly. Once you get used to the (initially daunting) interface, it all falls into place fairly quickly… You can build a TM (Translation Memory) which is invaluable. Especially if you translate documents that are very similar as it readily suggests pre-translated segments saving you time and work. You can also import a TM if, for example, the translation company that has asked you to complete the assignment has worked with the client before on previous, similar translations and has sent one to you to make your job easier. This also helps maintain consistency across translations. Something which can be very important when you translate documents for businesses who work in sectors with a very specific lexicon.

MultiTerm is also a Trados programme however with a very different focus. In a word, MultiTerm is about termbases. Essentially, a glossary for you to work alongside with as you translate documents and can be very useful while translating technical, legal, medical documents etc. There are three programmes in the MultiTerm family; Extract, Convert and Desktop. Each does a separate, but important, job.

Convert does just that. It converts files into a format suitable for import into Desktop. So, if you have compiled an excel spreadsheet with terms, definitions, examples etc, Convert will turn this from an .xlsm to .xdt and .xdl which MultiTerm Desktop works with.

Extract does exactly that. You can import a text document into Extract and it will pull out likely terms for you to peruse and select. Far easier than trawling manually through a potentially huge file and saving you time when translating documents that have a tight deadline.

When in doubt, desktop it

Desktop is the main programme and is where you can import your converted file filled with terms that you’ve found with Extract and turn them into a termbase. From here you can import the termbase into Trados for use with a file that you are translating. Or even, through Word, you can print out a professional dictionary format version of the termbase…

Over the last few months I’ve spent a lot of time playing around with these programmes. Learning how to use them, coming around to the idea of a Computer Aided Translation (CAT). They are such a help when it comes to large technical projects. Or even small projects that, with the help of a TM and a termbase will save so much time…

I do believe though, that there are certain types of translation that CAT tools will never be able to satisfactorily complete.

What tools do you use for your translations? Or, if you’re like me and feel better with a pen in one hand and a dictionary in the other, would you ever consider trying them out?

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