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Software Choices

When I say “translation software,” please don’t think of “automatic translation” as you might find on Google, for instance. But just for kicks, I typed a sentence (I would like to have my Maltese’s hair cut short around his face.) into Google translate, and this is the result in German: Ich möchte meine Haare kurz Malteser um sein Gesicht zu schneiden. This again translates back into English as something like: I want my hair short Maltese around his face to cut [or worse yet, I want my hair short Maltese to cut his face]. So, no, please don’t think of this kind of translation software.

I have been very lucky in that my employer for whom I’ve done parttime technical translations for the last 19 years has been really helpful in getting me started on using a translation software. They coaxed me into using it and provided technical assistance when I was ready to tear that “short hair around my face” out!

Having been a Mac user all my life, I initially turned to Wordfast because the more prominently used software didn’t (and still doesn’t) come in a version for the Mac. I was probably a little resistant at first, doubting that a lifeless program could really be useful in translating human thought (see above ;-).

I was surprised at how much easier the job became with a “translation memory” in play. The program is not designed to do the job for you. Instead, it searches through other, similar translations and comes up with matches or near matches from which you can choose, if you so desire. This may not be very helpful if you are translating poetry, but it has its applications in a lot of work these days (think instructions on how to use a computer program, your cell phone, iPad, printer, etc.).

I have since switched to using SDL Trados even though I had to break down and split my Mac in half so as to create a PC platform on it. (I have since actually purchased a PC for the single purpose of using SDL Trados.) This software is much more advanced than my version of Wordfast ever was. Nonetheless, Wordfast helped me ease into the transition. It does work rather similarly. Having “word recognition” is also wonderful if you do translations where the same terms are used over and over. It assures that you use the same word/term, which will make it easier for the consumer to understand what you are saying. I translate users manuals for fitness equipment, so you can imagine that calling a certain mechanical part by the same name throughout the manual will definitely eliminate some confusion when assembling the pieces that come in a box. And rather than having to keep a list of my own and check it when I proof, the software does this for me.

I’d be interested to know what translation software other translators favor and what benefits they see in a particular one. One drawback, as with all software, is that before you get to know all the bells and whistles of your software, a new upgrade comes out. 

While I figure out the latest upgrade could somebody please pick up that Maltese from the groomer’s?


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