CAT tools and PDFs… But what type of PDF?

PDF Download button/iconI don’t know about you, but whatever I translate, I really want to store into one of my translation memories. You never know, what I do today might be very useful tomorrow.

Modern CAT tools like Trados Studio and memoQ deal perfectly well with PDFs. Oh but hang on a minute, that’s “real PDFs”, not scans!

Real PDFs are the result of an electronic conversion from one file format to the Adobe PDF format. That type of file can be very easily processed with the latest CAT tools. Just load it, ask the software to prepare it, and the Editor part of your CAT tool displays a perfect workable version of the file.

However, when the PDF is a scan, things are much harder. If the text is handwritten, forget about it, it’s not going to work. You can pay to have it typed for you, or you can type it if you have the time, otherwise, you have to translate from paper into an editor.

But if the PDF is a scan of a typed text, you can still process it. I use a software package that has good OCR (Optical Character Recognition) and I find it very helpful. Before I run the scan in my software, I tell the software what language we are looking at. The software processes the scan and gives me a Word file. That file is not perfect, so I do a little bit of editing, and save. The resulting Word file I process with my CAT tool.

I really think it’s worth the effort: my translation memories are there to capitalise on everything I translate. They are like mini treasures that I can tap into when my mind goes blank. And believe me, after nearly 35 years doing this job, it does, go blank!

Thank goodness for all my translation memories!

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Do your homework… and feel good about it!

There you go, how about another new year resolution?! January is not yet over, we’re allowed!

books and eyeglassesWhat prompted this post? I hear you ask. Well, I’m revising a text about a piece of electronic equipment I’m not entirely familiar with. I’m not a specialist of RF devices, so before I start revising the text, I cram for it. Hey, no shame in cramming! We’re not supposed to know everything about everything. In less than 30 minutes, I find all the relevant material on the Web, written by specialists (no Wikipedia, real professionals) and when I’m confident enough that I have all the data and all the terminology in the target language, I open the file I’m supposed to revise, and I make a start.

Oh dear. That’s when I realise the translator has not done his/her homework and does not even know what he/she is talking about. Aaaargh!

Not doing our homework? Reflects so badly on us…

Doing our homework is good because…
1 – We are translators/revisors, not technicians or engineers, and that’s fine. Our main skill is translation and linguistics, not engineering.
2 – Human beings are learning machines. We can learn about anything, quickly and efficiently. There is no shame in not knowing exactly what we are translating about. With a bit of research, we can understand the subject, learn about it and translate a text about it competently.
3 – If we really don’t get the subject, we should walk away, admit we are not competent, and leave it to someone who really gets it.

But doing our homework is critical. It is not only about integrity and honesty, it is about fun and the excitement of learning something new, or at least trying to understand something new, and feeling good about ourselves. That ‘Yay! I learnt something new today!’ feeling.

I think life is about learning, and as translators/revisors, we have the perfect job for that, don’t you think?

I hope you’ll learn something fascinating today. Have a great day! 🙂

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CAT resolution!

Happy New Year!

Do you make new year resolutions? I do. I am deploying a new policy: zero tolerance of procrastination!! And it works. I happily tick items off lists, finish early and have more time to play… or blog, depending. Long may it last! 😉

clever catBut I have a very profitable and efficient resolution for you: how about you read a paragraph a day from your favourite CAT tool help? You will be amazed at what you find, discover or rediscover about the fantastic functions of your CAT tool. I find that new help systems are really well written, both in Trados and memoQ, and they are very instructive. Plus, teaching yourself is so rewarding!

So go on, make an appointment with yourself, say, over coffee, and take a look at your CAT tool help.

Happy browsing!


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Translation portals: worth it or not?

A recent thread on LinkedIn prompted me to write about translation portals. I’m a member of ProZ, Translators’ Café, and

I do think being a member of portals is useful, although they are not a guarantee that you will get any work. Let me explain:

Translation portals: get noticed!

Translation portals: get noticed!

If you’re looking for work
– Companies, agencies and sole traders post jobs on the translation portals, and these work mainly like an auction. Many companies choose the cheapest bidder.

I do post, albeit rarely, and I do not choose the cheapest bidder, but the best person for the job. If someone has the credentials and the experience, I’ll give them a chance at the price they ask for. I’ll also hire someone else with the same credentials and experience to revise the translation. With that system, I keep my clients very happy.
– You may also be contacted directly by other members. They check your credentials and specialisms and may offer you jobs directly. Again, you may be offered a job if your quote is ok for the client. 

If you want to test the market
I find portals very useful for testing the market. When I receive a lot of job offers, I know the market is thriving, and I take my marketing down a notch. If I notice the slightest start of a slow down, I crank up the marketing, I network more and I get more work just in case!

If you want to get help
Portals, I find, are full of brilliant people, and they’re so helpful! If you’re struggling on a term or something else business related for example, ask and you will receive. Also, if you want to team up with people on a project that you find too large or too complex for you, that’s a great place to find a colleague. Just for this reason, I really love being a member.

If you want to get noticed
And finally, translation portals are part of your marketing mix. They are a way to get noticed and to put your best foot forward. I thoroughly recommend them to all professional translators who take their business seriously.

Happy translating!

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Internet connection for translators: do as I say, not as I do!

I made a big mistake a year ago. I left my beloved ISP, Zen Internet, to sign up with another provider, Daisy, used by the company that I share my office with. Daisy came highly recommended and offered a phone + broadband bundle. My mistake was to sign for more than one year.

At first, the service was ok. Not great, but good. On the phone side, it was excellent not to be with BT. Much cheaper, and I don’t use the phone that much, so I saved money. On the broadband side, there were some restrictions that could have been a problem, and that’s why you need to check your contract very carefully. But after the first year, the service deteriorated significantly, and despite several phone calls, the provider was not helpful, and I decided to ask for a MAC code and go back to Zen Internet who now also offer a fantastic phone + broadband package. I’m a happy bunny again!

But that story made me think: as translators, what do we need from our ISP, and why is our Internet connection so important?

cropped-network1.jpg1 – Server-based translation memories
If you work for translation agencies, you will notice that more often than not, we are asked to work directly on our client’s server. That can range from total on-line work to working locally, but using a translation memory located on a distant server. Some clients ask you to connect to their server and do all your work there. You cannot even download anything, and if you lose your connection, you cannot work. Simple as. Other clients ask you the same, but you can download all the material on your hard drive, and if you lose your connection, it’s not the end of the world. You just work locally.
However, no connection means you could lose business, because you cannot confidently say to your client that you can work remotely.

Do you translate for the game industry and do you need to test games on-line? Be very careful, because business contracts impose restrictions that prevent you from playing on-line. That’s considered a personal hobby. Some providers do not understand and do not accept that as translators we sometimes need to test our work on-line. That has been a major problem for me, and I’ve had to use someone else’s Internet connection to test games on-line!

3 – The four o’clock droop
Can your provider ensure that your connection will still hold when all the kids in your neighbourhood switch on their Xbox? That is a major problem. I am now back with Zen Internet, and my connection is still fast despite the time of writing, 16:49 on a Wednesday afternoon. With Daisy, things were not too bad, but problems started around 7pm. I called them and explained that I do work late sometimes, and the connection needs to be reliable 24/7. Alas.

4 – Problems? Who pays? And where is the call centre?
a) You call your provider and report a problem with your Internet connection. They test your telephone line, and if they find no fault, they ask you to do all sorts of things your end: change the filter, change the cables, move the router, plug the router in the main connection point if you have an extension, change router, etc. But fair enough, maybe the problem is on your side of things.
b) However, if after all that you still have a dodgy connection, what happens? I my case, I was told that Daisy could send an engineer (BT by the way), but that if the engineer did not find anything wrong with the line, I would have to pay. And they don’t tell you how much you will have to pay. You could end up losing hundreds of pounds in call-outs. So, again, read your contract really carefully, and before you sign, ask what will happen when you report a fault.
Moreover, ask your provider were their call centre is located. You might be very good with accents, I’m not. Zen Internet has its call centre in Britain. I’m a foreigner, and I always understand them perfectly, which I love.

5 – Tied up in long contracts
Finally, I have noticed something about contract length. Zen Internet have a minimum contract period of… 1 month! And that’s how confident they are about their service. Read and re-read your contract, and make sure you are not tied up for long periods of time. If you’re not happy, you want to leave your ISP quickly.

Final thoughts:

  • Your livelihood could depend on your broadband connection! 
  • It might not be the case right now, but perhaps, one day, you will want to take your business further and work increasingly on-line. You will need a very reliable connection then.
  • Our Internet connection should never be a problem.
  •  I am lucky that I have my own engineer, and he’s very good at what he does. It can be a good idea to find a good telco/IT engineer near you and work out a maintenance contract.
  • If you want to compare providers, check if they’re listed on thinkbroadband. Thinkbroadband is an independent comparison website that allows you to give a score to your provider. I find it extremely useful.

Good luck!

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Trados 2007 vs modern CAT tools

As this entry title suggest, I do not consider Trados 2007 to be a ‘modern’ CAT tool, although it is still widely used, and even sorely missed: just the other day, a fellow translator told me “I hate change, and I hate that they changed Trados. I thought it was much easier to use, it was much better before.”

Was it really?

Workbench icon

Workbench icon

Trados 2007 is no longer available when you start buying the Suite from Studio 2014. It was made up of several applications, namely Workbench (translation memory application), Tag Editor (editor for all native applications, but not PDFs), and WinAlign (alignment application) and you could link it to Multiterm (termbase).


Now just two things:

1 – File formats
Of course, file format evolve, and CAT tools evolve accordingly. And every time I train translators or I give a talk, I get this question: can Trados process PDFs? Well, Trados 2007 certainly cannot, and I would strongly urge you to get a modern CAT tool for that. Otherwise, you have to go to great lengths to convert your PDFs and that can take a lot of time and effort.

2 – Quality control
I don’t know about you, but I always check the spelling and the grammar of my translations, not only inside, but also outside my CAT tool. I do not really trust Microsoft checkers, so I have my own grammar and spell checking application (French translators, if you are interested, ping me!).
Now, with Trados 2007, you cannot always easily export your translation into a third party application for quality control. For example, if you receive a TTX (Tag Editor) file from a client that was created with an application that you do not have (In-Design) for example, when you save your target, even if you manage opening the file with Word, it is full of code, and it can be very time-consuming to eliminate that code in order to run your quality control programme. And if the source is an XML, the process can be a bit of a nightmare!

So my point is yes, change happens, and if you embrace it, you will gain in productivity, quality, and efficiency, as modern CAT tools allow you to export your translation directly into Word (or RTF) in one click! Fantastic stuff.

If you have questions, e-mail me (marie @

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Is your CAT tool compatible with Trados Studio?

There are many reasons why you would choose to buy Trados Studio:

  • You do not want to rule out the possibility of working with SDL
  • Your main clients have it and you want to comply
  • You like the interface
  • You want to start working with other Trados Studio users

But Studio might not be your preferred CAT tool, and you might even consider investing in another one, but… will it be compatible?

I don’t mind the new Studio (2014), but as I’ve said before, my favourite CAT tool is Kilgray’s memoQ. I love the interface, simple as. And I love that it’s an all-in-one programme too. But more about that in a later post.

Happy bunny!

Happy bunny!

The great thing with memoQ is that it processes sdlxliff files to perfection. Right now I am working for a client who sent me an sdlxliff file and expects a translated file in the same format. The only problem is, the deadlines are very tight, and the terminology is unusual. So I need an application that allows me to enter terms in a termbase super fast and super efficiently, so that I can work fast and well. I find Multiterm very clumsy.  So…

I create a new project in memoQ, I import my Studio files, I process them with the lovely memoQ interface that integrates a wonderful termbase facility, and I deliver perfect Studio files. I can even deliver a translation memory (TMX format) and a termbase (CSV format). The client is happy, I’m happy, what more would you want from your CAT tool?!

Before you invest in an alternative CAT tool, check out the developer’s website, and make sure it can process Studio files. You never know, that could come in handy.

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