Sunday, 25 November 2012

Trados Studio 2009 Adding Files to Desktop

When I use Trados Studio 2009 for my technical translation work, I find it has a certain "feature". Unless I'm missing something in the settings, I can't see a way around this.

My desktop before I create any files will only contain one single folder plus the recycle bin. I like to keep my desktop clean (unlike my real desktop - it would be better not to see a picture of that). When I get a new job under translation, I create a new folder on my desktop and keep all the files for it in there, that way I can't accidentally forget I've got a job on, because it's right on the desktop all the time, and it's easier to do backups that way as well.

So let's say I decide to create a new project to go in my new folder. We can call it "NEW PROJECT". I will open Trados Studio 2009 and go through the New Project wizard. Eventually I get to the following screen.

 So here, comes the problem. I'll click next to create the new project. I want it to go into my new folder called "NEW TECHNICAL" but before I can select, it gives me the following screen.

What happens here is that the computer will now recreate the folder from the previous project. It doens't give me a chance to click and change and say I want to use my new folder, but just re-creates the old one. I'll have to go in here and manually select my new project folder to move my files into there, but even if I do that, Trados will create my folder from my previous project.

It's okay if I'm still working on the previous project because it doesn't seem to do anything to the folder. But if that project has been finished, and I've archived my folder, it will create it again on my nice clean desktop. 

A quick manual delete seems to be the best solution, but it's not ideal!

Monday, 12 November 2012

Working with Chinese IME in Microsoft 7

In terms of language setup and localization, my computer setup is as follows.

I have English language Windows 7, set to the UK version. When I run Microsoft Office Word it defaults to UK spelling.

When I setup the computer, I added a Chinese Simplified input system which allows me to select Chinese when I want to type Chinese text directly.

For my Trados system, I default everything to US English, and most of my templates are in US English. This is because I've found it easier to work in US English and change to UK English later than go the other way round, especially because I've got a lot of US clients. I've talked before about the problem with sub-languages in Trados wherein I have to copy my US TM's into UK English before working on a UK file which is really annoying. Especially as SDL (who make Trados) seem to spend their time making new versions with pointless features (just my opinion) and higher prices, rather than making the existing programs more workable. Having said that, I think the Windows 8 / Tablet revolution will mean we'll need changes in the way we Translate and I look forward to seeing how the big CAT companies cope with it.

One thing I rarely do is input directly into Traditional Chinese. That's just because I never learned to type using bopomofo and my keyboard doesn't even have the markers. I normally just do it in simplified and then use an on-line converter to turn it into traditional when necessary.

Today, I decided I'd need a pinyin version of Traditional Chinese input (i.e. allowing me to enter traditional Chinese the same way I currently use Simplified Chinese). I came across a great link on Pinyin Joe with all the details. I'll let you go to his page to figure it out if you're planning on doing the same thing.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Tax Returns! Booo!

For those of you in the UK, October 31st is the deadline for paper tax returns (you've got until January for on-line returns). This year, I decided to get it done early and just finished today.

 My first thought was that I'm quite progressive and I don't mind paying my taxes, but it's frustrating to think that at number of my competitors abroad (and even in the UK) may not have to pay the same amount of tax that I do. For example, when I was living in Taiwan, I was paying something like 8% if I remember rightly.

I think the main problem is that the world is globalized, but I still want to live in the UK. That means I have to pay UK taxes, which are higher than some countries (and lower than others). I appreciate the good infrastructure and everything else in the UK, so I'm happy to contribute towards it. What if I was still in Taiwan, paying 8%, and after 10 years, I got sick and came back to the UK for treatment. I would then basically be getting the great quality of health care from the UK but without paying for it.

 My second thought is that I really like the website. The interface is really simple and clean, and I've never had any issues with it. It seems to work fine with Chrome, Firefox and IE. In both Taiwan and mainland China, I used to have to spend a week going backwards and forwards to the relevant offices to pay, and the UK system is great by comparison.

 Finally, I think there's something psychological about filing in a tax return. As a translator I'm getting the money from my clients directly, and I see it in my bank account. It sits there and somehow it's harder to think of it as not belonging to me. Taxes taken out of payment at source seem a lot easier to take.

Anyway, don't forget your tax returns if you're in the UK!

Tuesday, 25 September 2012


I finally got fed up of constant cramps in my thumbs and decided to buy an ergonomic keyboard. I went to my local electronics store and there were precisely 3 keyboards available.

Of the three, the only one that seemed ergonomic at all was the Microsoft Wireless Comfort Desktop 5000. It cost 50GBP, but so far I'm fairly pleased apart from a couple of really amazing problems. It's almost unbelievable that these problems could happen.

The first is that the keyboard came with no install disk. This means the special keys didn't work (the F keys for example). I went to the Microsoft website and clicking through all I could find to download was a manual telling me to go to the same website! I did a search in Google and it took me directly to a page where I could download the driver directly. Having done so the special keys now work but that leads to problem 2. 

Problem 2 is that the F keys are different to the standard UK layout. I key I use a great deal is F2 for rename. When I'm moving files around, I keep cutting and pasting source file names and pasting them into the English names. Much to my amazement on this new "ergonomic!" keyboard F2 instead attempts to delete the file! Or if you've got the internet open it goes back a page. It's got a really handy little calculator button though which allows me to open the calculator at a press. A surprisingly useful little button when I'm doing my invoices.

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Tedious Technical Translation Jobs

Here's the challenge. A large technical job. Technical so only someone with the right expertise can understand it, but not hard enough for experts to need to give it much though. It's probably not the most professional thing to consider, but with those long long dull jobs. What's the best way to stay focused and not lose quality or concentration. As long sentence melds into similar long sentence, with a pressing time line and many hours in front of the computer it can be really hard to stay motivated. My own experience with this has been very much a changing experience. Firstly, back in the days when I first started, I was so excited about the thought that I was finally getting paid to translate, that I basically got through even the most dull jobs with a kind of energy. After a couple of years, those jobs become a stable part of my income and with a reasonable time table I would find myself allocating 2 or 3 hours a day on those jobs in between other more interesting stuff. That's the basis of my current strategy, which is to take frequent breaks and make sure I actually use the breaks to get away from my laptop. Work for an hour, a quick walk to the shop, a walk round the block and back for another hour. Then a tea break and play the guitar for ten minutes. Back to the job. Work until I feel I really want to move around. Go to the gym. Work until I get really hungry. Take twenty minutes to have a quick meal... That's how my days can look when I'm working on a really big job. There are also a couple of other things that help me. One is to play music I don't know very well, so I don't find myself singing along or typing the lyrics. A colleague of mine used to always listen to music in languages she didn't understand for the same reasons. (A good excuse for Sigor Ros, if you ever need one). I tend to avoid radio and just go through a long album. An album length is about the length of one of my sessions so it's about right. Another thing is to keep concentrating. If I find I'm looking out the window/thinking about eating/remembering a concentration, I give myself a mental slap and get back on task. Focus, focus. It's hard to focus, but it makes life a lot better. Another thing is to play tricks on myself. It's only 4% I need to do and then I'll only have another 6% to get to today's target. Just need to reach 4%. Somehow telling myself to focus on things like that seems to help me keep my concentration. Weirdly, I was watching a documentary about the great philosopher Slavoj Zizek, and he said he does the same thing. So great minds kind of think alike. Those are a couple of my tips. I haven't found a magical solution, or really good method, but these do help me. What do you do????

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Backups Again

I've gradually become more and more sophisticated in how I keep my backups. I lost a laptop once and it was enough trouble to more than justify the effort I've made. Currently, I've got 4 systems which I use simultaneously. 1. Backup to an external hard drive. This is easy to do, I bought an external drive and leave it on my desk. Once or twice a week I copy all my work stuff onto it using the Windows 7 backup manager. I've generally found the Windows 7 backup manager to be pretty good, and fairly straightforward. 2. Ongoing jobs backup to flash disk. I keep a little 2.0GB drive in my top drawer and whenever I'm working on a decent sized job I try to backup to it pretty regularly. I do it at the end of a day as well, or after I finish any smaller job. I purchased a "Sandisk Cruser" device but I want to say that I won't be buying another one. It comes with quite heavy software of its own which occasionally makes my windows crash, and which doesn't seem to do anything except keep asking me to upgrade my memory. I like the fact that you can password protect the contents, but then I would probably just do that with a passworded zip file anyway, so it's redundant. If you buy one, make sure you can use it as a regular USB drive and it doens't insist that you use its own software. 3. Running Carbonite backup continuously. This was a bit expensive. Basically Carbonite sits on your laptop and continually watches what you are doing. When you change a file it uploads the new version, so it's constantly running. It can be a little drag on bandwidth and when it starts uploading my laptop's fan usually turns on. It's more than worth the trouble for me though. Even if I get robbed and all my devices are stolen, I should be able to restore anything as soon as I get a new laptop. Peace of mind. I find the software very user friendly, but I tried to do a test restore from my black laptop to my red laptop and it just started thinking I wanted to keep the red laptop backed up, and then when I went to use the black one again, it said I had to reinstall the program as it had been run on another computer. That means it's not a practical thing to use to keep my red (backup) laptop up to date once or twice a week with my main black laptop. 4. I've got two identical laptops. This has proven useful already when I had to send one for repair. It's just a pain to remember to install all my programs twice and make sure both of them are kept up to date. I usually just update all the files on the non-working laptop once or twice a week from my external hard drive. I also do that if I'm taking the black laptop out, so I can get up and running straight away if I lose it. So that's my 4 methods of backing up. I've never had to miss a job due to a computer error, or suddenly lost a lot of work due to a crash or something, but it is very time consuming and might not be right for everyone. As a rough estimate I would say it takes about 2 days of work a month to keep the stuff updated (including all the invoicing and stuff and also the hours I need to work extra to pay for the subscriptions).

Monday, 13 February 2012

Proofreading Versus Translating

Here's a central question, is proofreading any faster or easier than translating from scratch? Recently I've done a couple of proofing jobs and had some discussions about the subject with some clients. It seems there are a few important points to keep in mind. I'm refering only to Chinese to English for these points:

1. Economic disparity.
This lies behind a lot of the reasoning of some translation agencies. Basically for my language combination, Chinese to English, it's much cheaper to get a Chinese native than to get an English native. As a guide a Chinese native might be around 20GBP per day (although they sneakily charge US and UK based companies around double that!), an English native is going to want something like 100-200GBP per day. So the question is, is it worth the extra 80GBP to get a native English speaker. The answer is simple, why not just hire Chinese people to do all your English writing then? Why not have Chinese based writers doing the Cambridge English dictionary? If being a native speaker makes your English better (it does) then if you really want a decent document, you have to get an English native to do it.

This leads to the question of taking the "middle road" and getting a Chinese person to do the original translation, and then hiring a native speaker for "proofreading" to make it sound more English. I would say I get about 3-5 emails a week from clients who run that kind of service. I always refuse to do these jobs because I find it takes me just as long to proofread the translation (which is ususally unspeakable quality) as it would to do it from scratch. In other words, these companies are not producing a "virtually" native translation that just needs a bit of work. They are producing a terrible translation that needs "re-doing" from scratch.

Needless to say, if there was not such an economic disparity for my language pair. I think most of these clients and companies would disapear.

2. Quality of translation

I'm sure it's possible to do a great translation into a foreign language. In fact there is plenty of research showing that it is possible. Here are my questions. Can you translate as quickly into a foreign language? Can you read through the tonnes and tonnes of required information as quickly in the foreign language? Can you keep doing that, all day, everyday for years and years? I would say the answer is no. Even though my Chiense is extremely good. I still prefer reading in English, and I read much faster in English. When I get a job on a difficult subject, I'll always read up on that subject in English first to get an idea of what's happening. If I did the same in Chinese, it would add a few extra minutes or hours here and there, and over weeks and years, I'd be far less profitable.

Thus, I think the idea of "quality" needs to be viewed not in the context of "doing it with unlimited time and resources" but in doing it at a cost of time and effort which is sustainable and reasonable to the translator. So if I was a Chinese native, I would much prefer to work English into Chinese, so I can have all the advantages of using my native language. In other words, I'm claiming that every translator would prefer to work into their own native language if possible.

Combining my two points. I claim that proofreaders don't really have much to gain from proofing non-native translation. I also claim that every translator would prefer to work into their mother tongue, so for both sides, the best thing would be for translators to get into their own mother tongue and for proofreaders to work in the same direction.

3. Agency savings?

I've worked with so many agencies who have come to me with jobs that were translated terribly and are now well overdue and they need me to go back over the document from scratch. This costs them a great deal of extra money, not to mention stress. The attempt to save a bit of money usually ends up costing a lot more than it would have saved in the first place.

The key question is, how good does the target need to be? If the client doens't need a brilliant translation, then of course it's better for everyone for the cheaper direction to work backwards. If the client needs a good quality translation, then that's when it's worth the extra cost. I would aruge that, a lot of Chinese clients don't realize how bad their Chinese to English translations are. They listen to their agencies (we get native's to proofread!) and think the English must be good. The clients don't have the resources to check the translation so they assume it's native English. The results are hilarious!

So personally, I hate proofreading anything done by a non-native translator, but not because I don't think a non-native speaker can't do a good job, more because I think over years and years of work, the non-native speakers will not be keeping such a consistently high quality level. I think clients need to better understand the needs of the end companies, and need to be able to provide what they actually ask for, not what they think the client needs.