Monday, 31 October 2011

Google Translate with SDL Trados Connection Problems

Firstly, let me say that I hate Google Translate most of the time. For the kind of Technical Chinese to English translations I do, the results are usually hilarious (unintentionally) and not the slightest bit useful. However, on some occasions, it can be handy. For example, if I come across a list of chemical elements, for the heavier elements, all I would normally do is google them and find the Chinese name, there's no way I could memorize the heavier stuff. Google Translate can do that for me, saving the trouble. The problem is that the Google Translate doesn't seem to care about the quality of the source website and does occasionally get it wrong (so I have to double and triple check everything). Anyway, for some jobs it can be handy to use Google Translation, but it has to be used only in rare circumstances.

Thus, there are two important points to take into account. Firstly, the fact is that Goolge Translate has "HORRIBLE" licensing agreements. There has been a lot of writing about this on the web recently, you can see  an example of of critical blog article here. Basically, Google keeps everything you do and can do whatever they want with it. For that reason, virutally no clients allow you to use Google Translate on their projects, but as I said, it can still have its uses in certain circumstances.

For that reason, it was a real problem when google recently started charging from the use of Google Translate (as mentioned on their blog here). This means that you have to register with "Google Checkout" and you will be billed for using Google Translate. You can argue about whether it's a good thing to be charged, but I guess it's up to them. The problem is that this change suddenly caused a problem to Trados Studio 2009.  A quick look around the translation blogs will show that people were furious with SDL about that.

The only solution seemed to offer was to upgrade to Studio 2011 and then to WAIT until they release another service pack. The main rivals to SDL seemed to catch on a lot quicker, for example MemoQ has already updated its code, and so have a couple of the other TM providers.

Thus, a workaround was needed  for SDL translate. Luckily, Translator's Corner came to the rescue. The solution is as follows. Trados Studio sends a call to the Google Translate system. We download some software (Fiddler) that allows us to "catch" the call and modify it. When then modify the call to the settings that work with the new paid version of the Google Translate system. When it comes back we catch the response and send it back to Trados as required.

Go over to Translator's Corner to see exactly how it works and get all the necessary code etc. It's worth using, but don't go using Google Translate unless you really know what you are doing.

Sunday, 16 October 2011


I hate writing invoices. As a freelance Chinese to English translator, I have to write invoices for each individual job I do. This month I've already written more than 10 invoices. I thought about adopting another on-line solution such as Fresh Books, and I did some research into the possibility.

So the first thing I needed to know was, how much time do I spend writing invoices. That was easy enough to determine. I took an average over 10 invoices and discovered that they take "x" minutes each (I don't want to give out the exact number due to client confidentiality agreements).

Next step would to work out the cost of doing the same using a website. I logged onto the website for Fresh Books one of the many online companies with similiar services. Next step was to look through the pricing and try to work out the cost for sending an invoice. With the websites, the initial time would be rather high, but once it was up and running, the main costs would just be fees. Let's call that price "y".

So now comes the easy maths. If x is more than y, then it would be worth my time to move to y. And x was considerably less than y. In fact I did some work and found that in order to justify paying even the just the fees (not taking into account the time and trouble to log on etc). I would need something like 30-50 invoices per month.

My conclusion is that at this point, using a website to do my invoicing would save time, make my life easier, and allow me to focus more on my work, but since the main reason I'm not earning more money is a lack of clients (ideally I'd have work to do for 8 hours every day all year round), rather than a lack of time, it's not worth doing anything like that at this point.

Other translator's I've spoken to usually do their own invoicing as I do. Some use a bookkeeper. I think it depends on the language combination. Germans/French/Spanish/Italian etc seem to get as much work as they can handle, so it might be worth doing it for them. More unusual languages like Chinese will mostly have at least a few hours per week to catch up with their invoicing for free. Link

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Backup Computers

In order to do my Chinese to English technical translation job and ensure that I'm ready for anything, I decided a while ago to keep two identical laptops. I figure that if one laptop goes wrong the other can be used right away. Seems like a good idea? Here's what happened.

Two identical Acer Aspire laptops

The day I purchased my second Acer Aspire 4752 two things happened. Firstly I noticed that the new laptop only had the Intel i3 Core chip while my original one (black in the picture above) had the i5. They cost the same amount and came from the same store (Dixons in Ealing, West London), but I guess I should have checked that beforehand. Other than that they seemed identical so I was happy to let it go. The i3 was to be my backup machine anyway.

While I was turning on the new machine for its first use, I plugged my old computer into my TV to watch a TV show while I was waiting (new series of True Blood - crap by the way). Suddently my computer went BANG and turned off. I waited a couple of days and then turned it back on. It kept dying midway through the bootup.

So now I've got a dead "old" laptop. And a "new" laptop which I've more or less made usable from my external hard drive backup, I lost about a days work in the process. I also had to purchase a new SDL Trados license to use the second machine (I'll write about that in more detail at some point) because it wasn't letting me install it on another machine.

I decided the best thing would be to take out the hard drive of my "old" laptop. Back it up, and then format the machine. So I opened it up and took out the hard drive.

My old laptop opened up with the hard drive showing

Next step was take out the hard drive (which takes a bit of skill) and then plug it into my external case, which is USB powered. The idea being that it then becomes an external drive and I can copy all my data from that. (Although I do keep backups, they are not totally all-inclusive and I wanted to save as much data as possible - a lesson there perhaps).

The hard drive removed and in an external casing

After a bit of messing about I was able to copy all the data from that drive (my old computer) and so I didn't lose any data. I did lose a lot of time with all the messing around and trying to figure out what I'm doing. Now I know you're going to say I'm mad, but I swear I looked and looked, and there were some screws left over after I put the hard drive back in the "old" (broken) laptop.

Screws left over after putting everything back together!

So now the memory from the broken laptop is restored I decided to restore the factory settings. That's what I do and it works for a couple of days before breaking again. Then I tried another factory reset and it kept getting stuck.

Laptop stuck on system restore process

The old laptop was still only a six months old so I phoned Dixon's support. After some messing around I was put through to a company called Know How, the lady on the phone tried to get me to run a system restore, but I kept explaining that it was definately a hardware error. She agreed that they would come and collect the laptop from my home, repair it and then return it.

They took the laptop and agree to return it a week later. Close to the return date, I got a job overseas so I had to go away for 2 weeks. I phoned Know How and told them to delay the delivery until I got back. After that I got 17 calls from them ranging from "Yeah Mr David, I'm outside your house with your new laptop as agreed", to "you missed the agreed delivery today, when will you be available? I'll rearrange for tomorrow".

Eventually I got back home and got the laptop back in working order. A bit of a long story, but I thought it might be interesting. My main lessons from the experience were:

1. Always keep receipts (otherwise returning goods is a nightmare)
2. Backup everything (not just urgent or important, but everything). Also keep disks for ALL programs installed on the computer.
3. I'm not really happy with Acer. Both laptops seem a bit buggy to use, and a laptop shouldn't die within 6 months like that. In future I'll pay a bit more for an IBM or Lenovo which I hear have better keyboards anyway.
4. Keeping the two identical laptops is difficult (have to install everything on two machines/possible license issues/bugs need to be fixed twice). It might be better to think about a network of somekind?

What do you guys do for backups? Can you recommend any good solutions? I hate having to double my effort running installers etc just for the 1% chance that something might go wrong. Is there any other way???

Friday, 19 August 2011

Problems with Sub-languages in Trados Studio

One great blog about using Trados Studio is Tuomas Kostiainen's nice blog My Migration to Trados Studio 2009.

I read his post with great interest about the problem with sublanguages. It's a real problem that has affected me a great deal.

So the problem is basically that if you have say a "Chinese to English (UK)" Translation Memory setup. But now you get sent a US English job. When you try to open your Translation Memory you get told "wrong language" and basically can't.

My work around was always just to have 3 TM's Chinese - English (UK), (US), and (Canada). After working on say the US TM I have to export it and use it to create new Canadian and UK English TM's. If I then work on the English TM, I export it and create a new US and Candian TM and so on. In a week I'll quite often do a few US and a few UK English jobs (with the occassional Canadian one thrown in), so as Thomas says this method is "getting old very fast".

In reality I am quite happy to always work in US English and then do the changes into UK or Candian English in Microsoft Word, so I don't really deserve this hastle! Does anyone really keep separate TM's for UK/US/ and Candian English? Not to mention some of the other sublanguages which are available "Belize/Carribean/Ireland?" Is Irish English spelt or written differently to UK English? A quick look at the Wikipedia page tells us that "Ireland does not have its own spelling rules and British English spelling is used throughout the island."

Actually there really aren't many spelling or grammatical difference in Chinese to English technical translation into UK or US English. One of the terms that comes up quite often which is problematic is "suplher"/"sulfer" (it's not as simple as having the "ph" used in the UK and "f" used in the US though as this Rod's Chemistry Blog points out). Aside from that, and a few other very cosmetic differences (z's for s'z and so on). I don't even think I've got any terms that I would ever mix up if the US and UK TM's were merged.

It's a real problem and impacts quite severely on my use of Trados. A little thing like that can add 20 mins of work to a job, and that totally negates the time saved using a TM in the first place. It's a good reason for looking into something like WordFast, or sticking with Trados 2007 of course!

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Windows 7 SP1

So I've been having a lot of trouble installing Win 7 SP1. I would leave the update running and it got to 50% and then froze. I tried leaving it running over night twice, but on both occasions it didn't go anywhere.

I read all over the net but I couldn't find anyone else who was having a similiar problem. Most people were saying the update took about one hour rather than the 1/2 hour suggested by Microsoft but that it eventually worked fine.

I read round and round, until I came across something that might be interesting to translators. Apparatently, Windows 7 has trouble updating, if you have more than 20 language packs installed. I had a look and found I've got about 35 language packs, all the European languages, plus most of the Asian and quite a few of the African languages. As a translator I figured it was better to have them and not use them, than need them but not have them.

However, I suppose I'm unlikely ever to have to deal with languages like Thai, Hebrew, Turkish and so on, so I selected about 15 languages to remove from the system. Firstly I was amazed that doing that saved a whole 1.6GB of my hard drive memory. Secondly, I'm amazed how slow the process is, with each langauge taking a good 5 minutes.

As a technical translator I'm not all that worried about having less language packs on my computer, but what about for translation PM's? They need to work with potentially hundreds of different languages, so what are they supposed to do about this problem?

Anyway, if you're having a problem with Windows Update, this could be the reason.

Thursday, 24 February 2011

Windows 7 SP1

So SP1 has become available for download on Windows 7. They announced it on their blog:

and it appeared in my "new updates are available" box.

I started downloading it, but it seemed to hang at 25%, and after about 4 hours I gave up and told it to cancel. It hung for about an hour, so I just powered off my laptop.

I tried again twice, but each time, it did a couple of hours work and then seemed to hang. I've just been out for the day, and I left my computer at home running the update, and after at least 8 hours it still hadn't finished. So again, I've had to cancel it.

I've been looking through all the usual blogs, but I seem to be the only person with this problem. I'll run a really careful backup and everything, and then try again overnight. This is the first big problem I've had with Win 7, and it has impacted on my abililty to get my work done.

Very strange, and very annoying problem.

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Keeping Track of E-Mails

When I first started I used a Yahoo email account, but I found it got flooded by spam, so I moved to a dedicated gmail account. This account is only used for translation related e-mails, and I try to make sure my personal e-mails go to my hotmail account (which I keep secret).

I've been using the gmail account now for a couple of years to do all the running for my technical translation company. Over that time, I've refined a system which I use to handle my incoming work. When an email arrives, it gets pushed to my Blackberry, and I always try to read it straight away. If it's a job from an existing client here's what I do:

1. Download the attached job (usually a word file or pdf)
2. Reply to the email giving my deadline etc.
At this point gmail keeps that email at the top of the list of emails in my account which is really handy.
3. When the client confirms I get on with the job and send the completed job as a reply.
Again gmail keeps this email at the top of my list.
4. Then I sort of the invoice and send that as another reply.
5. When I've done that, I'll label the entire job as the name of the client (I've got about 50 or 60 regular clients, and for each client I've got a folder), and move the email conversation into the client's folder.

That's always been the most simple and quickest method I could figure out. But now as I'm growing I'm seeing some areas for improvement in this workflow.

Firstly, I'm now at 20% of my maximum inbox capacity, and at some point, I'm going to have to start going through and archiving or deleting older messages. Secondly, once my invoice is sent, I'm relying on my accounting spreadsheet to remind me that I am waiting on payment, and I'd like to have this function also done in my mail box. Thirdly, I'm frequently getting more than 10 email per day, and it's easy for them to get lost when I'm busy, and my approach always favours the newest emails, and sometimes if 5 or 6 emails arrive in the morning, and then they keep coming throughout the day, it might take a while to get down to the first email that arrived.

I had a thought about what would be PERFECT functionality if it was available.

1. Accepting a job automatically puts an entry into my Google calendar for the correct deadline.
2. Accepting a job automatically puts into into my accounting software.
3. Finishing a job automatically generates an invoice from the accounting software, and sends it to the correct person, making a change onto my calendar.

Short of that, I'm experimenting with Active InBox at the moment, which is a nice free software program designed to integrate with Gmail. So far I'm happy but I'll write up a proper review over the coming weeks. The address for download is it was very well reveiwed on lifehacker,, which is a great little site by the way for people looking for the latest technology.

Sunday, 23 January 2011

SDL Trados Multiterm Upgrade

After writing this original article, I got some feedback. It seems the instructions I refer to are for upgrading from MT 2007 to 2009. They came up on my page when I downloaded the Muliterm upgrade, and I just assumed they were for upgrading to SP3 as opposed to other stuff. It does say things like "This guide provides instructions for installing and configuring SDL MultiTerm 2009 SP3". Anyway bear that in mind when you read this, and read through the comments at the end.

So recently, I upgraded my Trados Studio software up to Service Pack 3.

When I upgrade my other software (like Windows 7 for example), here's what happen. I see a little thing saying "upgrade available" and click "download", or in some cases I open a file (like with Adobe Acrobat), and it gives me a message saying "upgraded".

NOT with Trados Multierm.

First you have to log onto their little website database and download the BIG .exe files.
I can't even bring myself to describe the entire process, but this will give you an idea of the quality of this wonderful 600POUNDS! software.

Then you click to download the "instructions for upgrade"
You then get a .zip file (it's big enough to need zipping you see!) containing the large pdf with all the information on how to upgrade your Trados Multiterm!
The document is "37" pages.
I'll say that again.

The help document that we are supposed to read to learn how to upgrade our Trados Multiterm is 37 pages. Thirty seven! That's more pages than a lot of people translate in a month!.

So this fun and action packed document was obviously skillfully written with the user in mind. You always know that an upgrade instructions document is useful when it contains an index and contents page, and when the "about this guide" section is two pages.

It takes two pages to describe the guide to upgrade the software!

Thanks for the extra work required to learn about how to upgrade the software I purchased expensively. I really appreciate that, because I wasn't busy working for my clients, improving my ability to work as a technical translator, or spending time with friends and family. This upgrade has made my life better.

Thursday, 6 January 2011

Patent Translation Industry

So I've just come across this rather old article

It gives a breakdown of the costs of translating patents, and some of the suggested solutions. It doesn't cover Chinese to English, as it focuses on the big three of English, French and German, but it's interesting.

I've been doing quite a lot of patent work lately, and my experience seems to be that the volume of work is increasing. One of the suggestions for handling the EU problem is machine translation, but that will never work for Chinese to English. (Chinese to English machine translations are hillarious but totally unintelligable for anything technical or formal).

I certainly think that patent costs are totally excessive at the moment, costing up to 20k GBP for a single European patent. That amount would certainly discourage me from paying a patent. But...

Here's where I start to smell a rat. If you look at any area of industry, one of the most understood things is that its efficient to have those who pay more, pay more and those who can't pay more, pay less. That's why we have DVD regions, an Asian consumer might not be able to pay 20GBP for a DVD, while it's only a couple of hours pay in the UK, so the Asian DVDs are sold cheaper, and the regions are put on them to stop the Asian DVD's getting sold in the UK, forcing us to pay the higher amount.

The same principle applies for first class travel. The extra costs of the leg room etc, are really not that great, and the main thing first class does, is to ensure that people who can easily pay 2k for flight to New York do so, leaving the rest of us to pay somewhat less.

So why is there no discussion of this in the patent arena. With large companies (APPLE for example) paying maybe 100k for their patents, which usually bring them hundreds of millions in profits, and smaller and medium companies paying less.

Of course that will never happen because the large companies have too much control over everything. Still... we can but hope

Sunday, 2 January 2011

Updating a TM in Trados Studio

So I've finally had a bit of quiet time over the holiday, and I've used it to go through my TMs (translation memories - used for computer aided translations) with my Trados Studio 2009.

It's straighforward enough, but there are a couple of points worth mentioning. So I thought I'd write a quick description of the process. It's something that a good technical translator will need to do from time to time. I aim to go through most of my TMs at least once or twice per year and tidy them up.

First open Studio and click on Translation Memories shown on the bottom left of the main page.
You should see the Translation Memories Screen.

Open the Translation Memory you want to edit by clicking "Open Translation Memory" On the second row at the top, just under the "File" menu. Select the memory you wish to edit.

Here come the two parts that I found a little counter-intuitive.

The first point to mention is that as I was looking through my TMs I kept thinking "why are all my TMs only 50 rows big". I was starting to think I'd accidently opened them in some strange preview mode or something, and then I noticed the little blue arrows at the top under the "Open Translation Memory" button. Clicking that arrow moves to the next 50 rows, and so on. Once you've moved past the first page, the "back" arrow activates, and you can navigate backwards and forwards through the records that way.

The second little point is that when you modify a record nothing seems to happen at first, but after you make the first edit. The little "save" icon on the top left under the "Open Translation Memory" button activates, and clicking that will save the current modifications.

Finally, a useful features is the Batch Edit feature, up on the top right hand side of the same bar. It allows you to do some things which might be helpful for a Chinese to English technical translator. For instance you can change all the Chinese commas into English commas, or vice versa, which could help ensure the maximum number of 100% matches. You could also put full stops after all the records or anything like that.

Anyway, just some very superficial observations, but they might come in handy if you're trying to learn the new software. Have a wonderful x-mas.