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 A computer journal for translation professionals

Issue 16-4-260
(the two hundred sixtieth edition)  
1. Expansion Plans (Premium Edition)
2. Zes!
3. The Tech-Savvy Interpreter: Virtual Meetings: Shaking Up Traditional Interpreting Models
4. Growth Opportunities (Premium Edition)
5. How to Succeed as a Freelance Translator
6. New Password for the Tool Box Archive
The Last Word on the Tool Box

I was at the conference of the American Copy Editor Society a couple of weeks ago, and I heard the greatest of all quotes there.

Let me put this into a bit of context. The "AP Stylebook" is the self-styled "journalist's bible" and truly is a formidable authority, possibly equaled only by the Chicago Manual of Style. The very authoritative representatives from its editorial board held court conducted a session (where it was revealed to a great roar from the audience that from June 1 on "internet" -- excuse me, "Internet" as of now -- will be lower case in their style guide).

Like translators, copy editors -- and especially those gurus who preside over right and wrong for the profession -- revel in precision. With that in mind, I rejoiced in this answer from one of the Stylebook's editors (and to be honest, I've totally forgotten which question he was answering):

"Yes. Sort of. But actually: no."

Precise language at its finest.

Precision, by the way, is exactly what I did not display in the last Journal edition, naming Kilgray's Language Terminal product by everything but its real name. There also was some misinformation about how addons can be created for memoQ -- more on that down below.

Precise language was not needed when I sent out this tweet last week:

Just talked to blind translation student who is looking for other blind translators to exchange experiences. Any contacts anyone?

This was retweeted dozens of times and I was able to send the student a long list of names. Thank you so very much for your love and care. 


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1. Expansion Plans (Premium Edition)

As I mentioned above, I spent a couple of days at the annual meeting of ACES, the American Copy Editor Society, in Portland, Oregon, helping to represent ATA and OSTI (the Oregon Society of Translators and Interpreters). To be really honest, I was not looking forward to the event -- there were plenty of things to do here at home, and while it's only a four-hour trip to Portland, it's, well, a trip that takes four hours.

Long story short, I was wrong to be so skeptical of the event. Not only did it feel very productive to represent translators, but it was a high-octane event (I never thought I'd be mentioning "high octane" and "copy editors" in the same context!) that taught me two really important things: much of what we do (or should be doing) as translators has a lot in common with copy editors, and both professions can learn a lot from each other.

I sat in a number of sessions in which the typical work of copy editors was described and/or questioned, and the more I listened, the more I realized the similarity to what we do when we work on translation. Not only in relation to the target text, but also to the original, in the spirit of the "translator being the closest reader possible of the source text." Unfortunately, some (read: most) of us don't sell this process adequately. We also might not succeed at actually making it a product. Yes, we notice inconsistencies, poor word choices, and the multitude of other errors that fall into the purview of what the copy editor needs to catch, but we might not feel it's part of our job to list those and report it to our client. Now, it's true that some clients don't care, and there are certainly cases where it's completely inappropriate to report those to our clients. Still, there are plenty of cases where it's a welcome additional service that would make us stand out and confirm that there are different types of translators: those who will take anything for any price, and those who know their own value and the value of the product they deliver.

I'm now convicted enough to start keeping a log open for my clients with my copy edits to the source text for every job I do. And since this is a journal about technology, I've begun looking for tools to help me with that. One such tool that I encountered last weekend is the British-based PerfectIt and another is Lingofy.

PerfectIt has since been installed on my computer -- or to be more exact, within MS Word, the only place it presently can exist -- and I'm amazed by the wealth of checks you can do with that tool. I could list the different kinds of checks for the next few pages, but just to give you an idea, the main categories include hyphenation/dashes, spelling consistency (note "consistency" -- it's not a spell-checker), abbreviations, formatting, capitalization, bullets/lists, tables/boxes/figures, and writing style. Under spelling consistency alone, these are the individual checks that are performed: similar words, preferred spelling, spelling variations, accents, numbers in sentences, common typos, phrases to avoid/consider, and contractions. All of these are based on nine different integrated style guides, plus a style guide that you are encouraged to build yourself ("My Style"). At this point, all of the style guides are based on various forms of English, but they are very open to building pre-defined style guides for other languages (or you can build one yourself).

As I said, all of this integrates into MS Word as a ribbon through which you can activate a task bar that then allows you to run the customizable and interactive batch check. Of course, that makes it rather limited, but one of the questions I discussed with the PerfectIt representative was how much it would take to develop something like a Trados Studio plugin that would increase the number of file formats dramatically.

(As a side note: Though I strongly encouraged the rep to pursue that avenue, I also warned him that translators are not really well-known for investing money into new tools. The tool presently costs $99. He was aware of translators' frugality, but it puzzled him because of the relatively high price of translation environment tools that everybody seems to be willing to invest in. Um, yes, I said, that is indeed a very strange phenomenon that has to do with . . . and then I did not explain any further because I don't understand it myself.)

The other tool, Lingofy, is quite different. On the very negative side it took me a whole day to work through its buggy registration process (grrr), but once I got there I found -- on the very positive side -- that it's a tool you can install not only in MS Word but also a number of browsers (Chrome, IE, Firefox, Safari) as well as MS PowerPoint and Outlook.

The underlying style guide of Lingofy is the AP Stylebook, and you can add your own entries to that. Since the entries are all stored in the cloud, at some point there will be the option to share that data (sound familiar?). This could indeed have some interesting results, especially if users of languages other than English were to contribute data. There are some mid-term plans to launch Spanish, German, and a few other language versions; those could be greatly improved with the help of the "crowd," as could languages that are not officially supported.

It's altogether a very "modern" approach -- though the limitation to only 3,000 words per proofing pass or the very few possibilities to adjust the settings are a bit outmoded.

Still, the "modern" theme brings us back nicely to the beginning of this article where I mentioned that copy editors and translators can learn from each other. Guess what the response of (some) copy editors to these tools is. Yes, it's the familiar fear of the "robot copy editor" that will snatch away jobs, leading to the ever-popular "man vs. machine" competitions.

Now, I'm not saying we (as in "we translators") are completely beyond these worries, but at least we have a few more years under our belts and -- dare I say? -- have not only accepted technology but are actually embracing it (as a reader of this Journal, you certainly are!). So how about reaching out to the community of copy editors and helping them fight the demons we've already slain?

I'm sure they'll have good advice in return for what it takes to be a good copy editor -- if that's one of the services you want to add to your service portfolio.  

New on the Memsource blog:
2. Zes!

When I first wrote about Windows 10 in this Journal (edition 252 in the archives), I was pretty positive overall, but one of the annoyances I described was that the Microsoft Keyboard Layout Creator (MSKLC) no longer worked on the new operating system. It was officially also not supported on Windows 7 and 8 though it still worked fine, but not on Windows 10. In its place I found the Keyboard Layout Manager, a program that sort of works but also should be first or second in line for the most user-unfriendly application ever.

But wait, maybe you don't even know what this is all actually good for. So let's start at the beginning.

When I do workshops for translators -- especially for beginning translators -- I sometimes go through the very basic fundamentals of using technology, and the first thing I say is this: Learn to type properly (or to use voice recognition properly) and use your target language keyboard (see here). Though Emma Goldsmith's recent survey on typing among translators seems to indicate that the majority types productively, I often see translators who really struggle with their typing. And if you think about it, no matter how clever your productivity tools are, you might as well not use them at all if you can't type well.

Why use a native keyboard? Because it's a very poor argument to say, "Well, I'm doing quite well with 4-stroke ASCII codes for the special characters of my language" or "I love finger gyrations to reach my special characters." No matter what operating system you use, it's easy to install your native keyboard. And while you might have to retrain yourself a little if you haven't learned to type on that keyboard, you'll be thankful for it in the long run.

There are exceptions, of course. Some characters are famously difficult to enter on some languages' keyboards (especially characters like < and >, |, or [ and ]), and some are simply annoying (like the turned-around z and y on the German QWERTZ vs. the English QWERTY keyboard) or are not accessible at all (like language-specific quotation marks). So the ideal scenario is to use your target language keyboard with some modifications that will make you even more productive.

And that's exactly where MSKLC comes into play to modify an existing keyboard and install that rather than the original one.

Here's what I found out: While it truly is not possible to modify an existing keyboard on Windows 10 with MSKLC, if you already have modified and created one on an earlier version of Windows, you can install it with a little bit of finagling. (Or, alternatively, you can blow the dust off that old Windows 7 laptop, install MSKLC, create the keyboard you want, and then transfer the necessary files to your Windows 10 computer.)

You'll end up with a folder that will have something like this content:  


Next, right-click on the setup file (the .exe might or might not show up depending on your computer's settings) and select Properties and then Compatibility.  

Under Compatibility mode, be sure to select the last officially supported operating system (in this case, Windows Vista), click OK, and the installation should work just fine.

From that point on, your No will be a No and your Zes Yes will be a Zes Yes anytime you want.


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3. The Tech-Savvy Interpreter: Virtual Meetings: Shaking Up Traditional Interpreting Models (Column by Barry Slaughter Olsen)

This month for The Tech-Savvy Interpreter column I'm going to take a break from the tech-and-tools "show and tell" of the last few months. We will definitely get back to previewing new tools and platforms because there is great value in learning about new technologies that are changing where and how interpreters work. But for this month I want to talk about virtual meetings, a growing phenomenon shaking up how simultaneous interpreters have worked for more than 60 years.

By "virtual meetings" I mean, conference calls, videoconferences, webinars, web conferences and the like. In other words, meetings that do not take place face to face in a conference room or other single physical space. When these meetings are conducted in more than one language, they require simultaneous interpretation. To be clear, what I am NOT referring to are meetings where the participants are face to face and the interpreters are brought in remotely. I am also NOT referring to traditional over-the-phone interpretation, which is done exclusively in consecutive and usually for short dialogic interactions lasting less than 10 minutes (e.g. 911 calls, customer service calls, etc.).

It is important to make this distinction because as humans we tend to understand new things by relating them to what we already know. Let me explain. We interpreters have been working in conference, court and examination rooms for decades now. Typically, we have been physically present in the same room where our clients are located. So, it is a natural reaction that when new kinds of meeting or interpreting platforms are discussed, interpreters react negatively and assume that these technologies are seeking to replace or remove them from the places where they currently work. However, that is not always the case.

Virtual meetings are a case in point -- the general web conferencing market is growing at an annual growth rate of almost 10% with some vendors reporting more than 20% growth in usage year over year. This increased demand for a new kind of meeting appears to be expanding the existing simultaneous market as well, not replacing one kind of venue for another. Interpreters are being called upon with increasing frequency to interpret for these meetings using new Internet-based technologies. (I'll be featuring a few of these in upcoming installments of The Tech-Savvy Interpreter.)

It is still difficult to quantify just how many multilingual virtual meetings with simultaneous interpretation are taking place each year, but one virtual meeting platform provider I spoke with recently said they conducted 600 or so such meetings in 2015. Not a huge number overall, but still that's 600 gigs for interpreters. I am working to collect hard data from other multilingual platform providers to get a better idea of just how many multilingual virtual meetings take place each year and what kind of growth rate that represents.

What does this new market look like? For one, virtual meetings bring people together for shorter periods of time, usually anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours. Meeting participants are frequently located in different cities, countries and continents. Unlike when traveling for a business meeting or conference, participants have scheduled time around other commitments to participate during a regular work day in team meetings, sales presentations, trainings, earnings calls or webinars, to name just a few examples. Several platforms have appeared over the last five years to provide simultaneous interpretation for multilingual virtual meetings.

Sounds good, right? In general, yes, but these multilingual virtual meetings are fundamentally disruptive to the traditional mold for interpreting assignments. They require highly-skilled simultaneous interpreters, who are accustomed to a full or half day payment structure, fairly long lead times for assignments, and who often get paid to travel to face-to-face meetings. In contrast, virtual meetings are shorter and usually scheduled with shorter lead times (two weeks to just a couple of days). There is no payment for travel time, and no agreed-upon pricing models yet exist.

Conference calls, web conferences and webinars are not new, but only in the last five years has technology made it possible to "virtualize" the simultaneous interpretation experience of face-to-face meetings for online settings. These interactions are now a source of work for tech-savvy interpreters ready and willing to make the investment in time and resources to get equipped and trained to provide their services in this new way. But, of course, you already know that because you read this column.

Do you have a question about a specific technology? Or would you like to learn more about a specific interpreting platform, interpreter console or supporting technology? Send us an email at


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4. Growth Opportunities (Premium Edition)

In the Premium edition of the last Tool Box Journal, I wrote about the advanced Google Translate and Microsoft Translator plugin for SDL Trados Studio developed by translator and translation tech aficionado Patrick Porter. I also mentioned that he had open-sourced the code for the plugin and was thinking about enhancing the existing product so it would call up not just one but several translations from the Microsoft Bing Translator, which could then be offered as AutoSuggestions in SDL Trados Studio. (If you think that's a long sentence, try reading the famously snake-sentence-loving Thomas Mann in the German original!)

The sad news: That's not going to happen. Patrick just received an employment offer he couldn't refuse, so he won't be able to do this.

The good news: One of you could do this!

You don't think so?

Well, let me tell you the story of Terence Lewis.

Terence is a Dutch-into-English translator. In the 1990s, one of his clients, Siemens Nederland, required a machine translation solution for Dutch into English to enhance communication between Dutch and English speakers within Siemens. So Terence developed a rules-based MT system that was completely based on Word macros. He released it in 1994, and Siemens used the system until it needed a standalone application that could be used anywhere.

So Terence taught himself the programming languages Java and C++ and developed that as well. And again it was successfully used by Siemens and a number of other large multinationals for internal purposes.

Then statistical machine translation became a more feasible option, especially with the availability of the open-source Moses engine in the 2010s. So Terence taught himself how to develop and use that code, took what he had already developed for his rules-based engine, and created a "hybrid engine" where the statistical part of the program suggest lots of phrases and the rules-based part picks some and attempts to combine them correctly.

As with any machine translation system, it creates "RobotSpeak" (original quote by Terry), but of a kind that Siemens likes well enough for its purposes. Again according to Terry, it's overall about as good as Google Translate, and even better when it's applied on Siemens stuff.

Just recently, Terence launched MyDutchPal to the general public with the TrasyCloudBox -- a Java-based tool that allows you to copy Dutch text into one half of the two-paned program and get the English machine translation that was generated on Terry's server on the other half. It may be a little onbeholpen (read: clunky) and not really well integrated into the way translators work, so Terence wasn't particularly dismayed when this didn't become a huge bestseller.

Next week he'll begin offering the pre-translation of TMX and XLIFF files with his MT engine that can then be imported into translation environment tools. My sense (and Terence agreed) is that this also won't be quite what the Dutch-into-English translation community is looking for. So the next integration is already in the pipeline: the integration into memoQ as a plugin and, further down the road, into Trados Studio, perhaps using the open-source code that Patrick left behind. He'll do this in partnership with Jon Olds, who is also the developer of memoQ's newly released Moses plugin.

(And, yes, it is possible to develop plugins for memoQ -- I was wrong in asserting otherwise in my last Tool Box Journal.)

As I chatted with Terence last week, he envisioned all kinds of possibilities to make this into a much more interesting plugin than just one that suggest machine-translated segments. How about getting to all those many different phrases and presenting those to the translator through predictive typing? How about continuous training of the data? And so on and so forth...

I love this story. And not because I'm personally really that interested in Dutch-into-English machine translation, but because of how Terence responded to the possibility that opened up and took hold of that opportunity. He was a translator -- not first and foremost, perhaps, but that's what he was. Seeing a need, however, he taught himself what he needed to know to be able to provide the services that presented themselves to him, and throughout all of that he stayed true to his translator ideals (see "RobotSpeak" above).

Now, let's return to Patrick not continuing his work on the SDL plugin. I don't know whether any of you readers will use this particular opportunity, but that's exactly what it is -- an opportunity where someone else has done much of the leg work to pave the way for you to take it further and maybe even monetize if you choose to.

If you don't seize this one, there will be plenty of others to come -- provided that you (and I) keep our minds open and have the courage to expand our horizons.


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5. How to Succeed as a Freelance Translator

Such is the title of the latest edition of Corinne McKay's must-have book for beginners in our trade and good-to-have for the more experienced among us.

First, I'm a polite kind of guy (you probably have no idea how deeply ironic that must read to my family), so I had never before complained about the covers of the first two editions depicting medieval scribes/translators, even though they slightly pained me. I'm the first to honor our past and traditions (more than you actually might imagine), but I always felt like the success of a freelance translator, in business or otherwise, was only tangentially connected with the 13th century.

So I was ecstatic when Corinne showed me the new cover:

Corinne_s book


Love it!

Corinne is a very experienced, careful, and methodical translator and businesswoman -- as most of you know. Her blog is widely read and much loved, her Twitter feed is one of the largest and most intelligent in the world of translation, she is engaged in many venues of continued education for translators, and as the president-elect of the ATA she is likely to have a long-standing impact on our profession.

Not a bad person to write that book, huh? And as someone who has known Corinne for several years, I love to "hear" her strong voice out of every page of this book.

Here is what I wrote for the last edition (you know, the one with the medieval cover):

"As with the other books I've reviewed, this is a pleasant read. If I were a translation newbie, I'd be plain stupid not to invest in this book. The checklist in the all-new Chapter 3 alone ("Your First Year as a Freelance Translator" [Now chapter 4: "Launching your freelance translation business"]) would make it worthwhile. Corinne includes many more helpful tips, as well: how to write a résumé; advice on contacting translation agencies; and suggestions for building relationships with direct clients (my favorite section). From this last tip you can see that this book is not only for novices -- experienced translators will also profit from its advice. It's good for all of us to be reminded of (or taught) good marketing practices, including the use of social networking (I loved the rather extensive section on LinkedIn and the clever advice on Facebook [now also including Pinterest and Instagram]). It's also helpful to receive advice on seemingly mundane things like obtaining health insurance or raising your rates. (On second thought, why exactly did I call these things "mundane"?) Another very useful tool is the table on page 147 [now pages 174 and 175] that will help you discover the hourly rate you need to charge -- you might be surprised to see that you've been significantly undercharging."

And there are some great additions to the book (aside from a thorough general update). Chapter 2 "Myths and truths about freelance translation" is very educational and enjoyable. (How about this myth: "Most freelance translators are starving artists" -- I leave it up to you what "truth" you think Corinne uses to counter that.) There is also a new chapter about technology, written by yours truly, in which I cover everything from the very basics (like: "learn to type, dude") to sections on translation environment tools and machine translation.

While the book is mostly geared toward translators in the US, Corinne has already sold the Portuguese, French, and Italian translation rights, so there clearly is enough in there to also be attractive to translators in other locales.

Here are some numbers she lists that should serve as a wake-up call for some: How about the fact that you should contact 300-500 potential clients your first year (and not just in the form of mass mailings)? Or how about that even as an experienced freelance translator, you should spend at least 10% of your time on marketing (50% as a newbie)?

Another thing I appreciated about the book is that it is well-balanced. For instance, it does not take a stand on whether you should work for translation agencies or end clients - instead, it lists pros and cons for both. (I did not agree with her notion that there is not much rate negotiation with agencies on page 50 -- I think there can be plenty of room to negotiate if your particular skill is needed.)

And here is a lengthy quote that I really like from the chapter "Giving yourself a promotion":

"After a few years of freelancing, you may want to 'promote yourself' into doing different kinds of work. You might want to start doing more direct client work, or more editing instead of translation, or more work in a different specialization. Promoting yourself can help you stay excited about your job and can motivate you to learn new skills. Don't allow yourself to stagnate as a freelancer -- just as you would be likely to change jobs or be promoted within a company every few years, give yourself a chance to grow professionally by evaluating the scope of your freelance work on a regular basis."

Aww, I definitely couldn't have said it any better. 

6. New Password for the Tool Box Archive

As a subscriber to the Premium version of this journal you have access to an archive of Premium journals going back to 2007.

You can access the archive right here. This month the user name is toolbox and the password is UnvarnishedVersion.

New user names and passwords will be announced in future journals.

The Last Word on the Tool Box Journal

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