An ATA-sponsored translation tools seminar in San Francisco provided information about ways to increase professional productivity. BY RON TISCHLER
Morning instructor Rosalie Wells.The translation tools seminar held on March 14, 2009 at the Westin Market Street in San Francisco was divided into morning and afternoon sessions, plus there were exhibitors, a networking session, and a parade! The parade down Market Street, which seemed to have something to do with the color green, could be watched (until you got too cold) during the lunch break. The morning session, given by Rosalie Wells was titled “Productivity Tools for the Professional Translator.” The afternoon session, given by Dierk Seeburg of IcoText, was titled “Computer-Assisted Translation (CAT) Tools, from Term Extraction to Integrated Translation Environments.” There were about 100 attendees and four exhibitors: Across, Payment Practices, Total Recall (product named Snowball), and Wordfast.

Both sessions were quite animated, with questions (or answers to questions) frequently coming from the audience. Given any task, there are many ways of doing it, and sometimes people don’t agree on which is the best one (surprise!). And the field is still changing very rapidly.

The purpose of the morning session was to present various computer tools that can be applied to many fields, but in particular to translation. The questionnaire at the end asked, “What Do You Want to See at Such Seminars in the Future?” but the fact is that the things you would never have thought of asking about are the ones that you remember the most afterward. Some of the topics covered were:

  • E-mail: Use an application such as Outlook Express on your PC, which you can configure to your liking, or a web-based program, so that you can view your e-mail from other computers as well, or (maybe?) doing both gives you the best of both worlds. Advice about e-mail etiquette: always answer, include the contents of the previous message, put your phone number at the bottom, and so on.
  • FTP: A site that lets you store up to 100 MB for free is
  • Saving money on phone calls: (with a microphone); Magic Jack (connects your PC to a phone, to make calls using the internet); e-fax: Get faxes e-mailed to you, rather than faxed to you, and then the copy quality may be better, and you don’t have to be home to get it.
  • Dealing with PDF files: Acrobat, or other OCR programs, may successfully convert them to text. It can also read them to you aloud, so you don’t need a spouse to help you do proofreading.
  • Less high tech: Exercise and stay healthy, to improve your stamina for work. The best way to improve your productivity? Learn to type faster (well, accuracy also counts).

What was most surprising? At least for me, it was the things you can do at, other than searching. For instance, type in “time in London” and it tells you what time it is in London. Type in “1 year in seconds” and it tells you how many seconds there are in a year. See Google’s Features page.

The orientation of the afternoon session was focused on describing the range of CAT tools that are available and providing advice about which one to buy for your work. Figures quoted were that there were 300,000 translators in the world, of whom only 35,000 used the internet regularly, and of them 15,000 used CAT tools.
Historically, the failure to meet the early aspirations of machine translation gave the phrase a bad name. It was replaced by tools that helped human beings with parts of the job, such as storing previously translated words or sentences for reuse. The field grew after the success of IBM’s TM/2 and of Trados. Trados look-alikes may work for you, with a lower price. Most of the audience used such CAT tools (not a surprise).
A key attribute is whether a tool is designed (like Trados, originally) to work with Microsoft Word, or whether it is more independent of the word processing program. One of the exhibitors, Wordfast, is probably the best known Trados look-alike, and their license now lets you use either or both of two versions, one based on Microsoft Word, one not. Another exhibitor, Across, is apparently one of the few that can be used directly with Quark Xpress. Another attribute is whether the tool segments your source text into sentences, or into sub-sentences, which is a newer trend. The product Snowball features sub-sentence segmentation.
Some other important points were, for instance, that MemoQ allows you to buy just the features you need, rather than a monolithic product. Lingotek can do everything remotely, rather than being installed on your PC. Some resources for learning about products in detail include,, and
I think I can speak for all the attendees that our time was spent well on this day. Whether you came with a specific purpose in mind, such as looking for a job, or just to hear what the speakers had to say, you certainly had plenty of opportunities to learn something new, and to meet others with similar interests. RT

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This article has 2 comments so far!

  1. Tuomas Kostiainen says —

    I just noticed a typo in the following address: should be

  2. Yves says —

    Fixed. From Baker Beach, with WordPress for iPhone…

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