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 A computer journal for translation professionals

Issue 14-3-233
(the two hundred thirty third edition)  


1. Look, It Moves! (Premium Edition)

2. Translation Ecosystems

3. Searching in Windows 7 and 8 (Premium Content)

4. Ukrainian Pearls

5. MultiCorporate

The Last Word on the Tool Box

The Lives of Others

It's very valuable for us to look into other translators' lives as both encouragement and inspiration (and maybe sometimes as a warning). That's why I like to retweet links to interviews with other translators and read (the few available) books that recount the lives of translators.

English-speaking folks with an interest in China will have read books that were translated by the late Yang Xianyi, the male part of the famed Chinese-into-English translation duo that included his British-born wife Gladys. Born into a wealthy family in pre-revolutionary China, Yang lived a privileged life before going abroad to study in Oxford in the 1930s. Returning to a China in the throes of revolution, Yang survived the ins and outs of Communist China all the way through to the Tiananmen massacre in 1989 and the beginning of a slightly more open and modern China in the early 2000s.

Initially sympathetic to the Communists, Yang hoped to continue his work as a translator of classical Chinese texts -- a passion he had discovered in Oxford -- but he soon realized that the most prestigious translation job for Chinese intellectuals was to translate the works of Chairman Mao. However, he refused to come to Beijing to fulfill this calling because, in the finest tradition of the classical Chinese scholar, he had just bought a nice little bungalow, and the "two magnolias in his courtyard were just about to bloom." This and other "crimes" would come back to haunt him during the Cultural Revolution in the late 1960s, when he was sentenced to prison and hard labor.

Even when he was allowed to translate classical Chinese literature, the classical poems deemed acceptable for translation were chosen for their ideological or political content. While translating certain Song and Ming stories, Yang had to go to Beijing Library to make copies from an early edition because the popular Chinese texts had been expurgated. One story, "The Pearl Vest," contained some exquisitely written erotic passages in the original, but Yang's English edition was censored and the "offensive" passages were deleted. Another story from the same collection retold an adventure involving Ming dynasty Japanese pirates, but this reference was deleted because the editors were afraid to antagonize their Japanese allies. A humorous ghost story, translated by Yang's wife Gladys, was also purged because Chairman Mao had just issued his famous dictum not to be afraid of ghosts (meaning foreign imperialists).

Aside from periodic limitations on his preferred work in classical Chinese, Yang was forced to produce translations at a furious pace, churning them out day and night. Naturally this affected the quality of his translations. One popular 125,000-word book, Lu Xun's Brief History of Chinese Fiction, was finished in 10 days. (I actually have that book in my library and its translation is surprisingly good.) Yang later expressed great regret at the slipshod work he was forced to produce at such breakneck speed: "I've always regretted we did not go on to produce a better translation. Such was the fate of the Chinese hack translator in those days!"

And the financial reward? Many literary translators complain about low payments, but few can be as poorly paid as Yang and his wife. Many of their friends abroad assumed that since they were producing millions of words in translation during that period, they would be making piles of money. But they were never paid for any of their translations of the Chinese classics, nor do they hold any of the copyrights, save a single translation of the classic novel, A Dream of Red Mansions.

The part of his story that inspires me? Staring into the face of the all-powerful Party and Chairman Mao and refusing to fall in line "because the magnolias were about to bloom"! I'm not sure I would have that same audacity (or style).

1. Look, It Moves! (Premium Edition)

For those of us who have closely followed Déjà Vu/Atril's development over the years, it was a bit of a shocker that the new version of Déjà Vu X3 actually appeared on its announced release date. It felt almost anti-climactic considering Atril's long-standing reputation of missing its self-imposed deadlines -- but it was a really pleasant surprise. I had seen a preview of the new version of the tool a few weeks prior to its release and wasn't too impressed, but now that I've had some time to play with it I rather like it.

. . . you can find the rest of this article in the premium edition. If you'd like to read more, an annual subscription to the premium edition costs just $25 at Or you can purchase the new edition of the Translator's Tool Box ebook and receive an annual subscription for free.

Lisa Del Papa wrote about the book on Twitter "Am loving your Translators' Toolbox. Have been in IT business for 10+ years and am still learning new things from your book."




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2. Translation Ecosystems

Some of you will have noticed that has been taken down. Well, let me correct myself: I actually know that quite a few of you noticed because I received a bunch of emails asking about the site's whereabouts. We took it down because we felt it was too work-intensive to keep it updated using the model we had chosen. At the same time, we never did find the right kind of business model for it.

Plus, we don't live in Canada!

Non sequitur? Not quite. Translation-intensive Canada offers a plethora of very interesting translator training offerings that often receive helpful support from the government.

One such very impressive place is called Linguistech. Though it took me some time to find my bearings on the site, here's what I discovered. It's a site for translation students who need to familiarize themselves with translation technology without having to invest a great deal into purchasing the different tools or even downloading them. It accomplishes this by offering a virtual desktop with each of the tools covered that you can then use to go through a large number of tutorials. Doesn't sound so bad, huh?

I didn't think so either.

The problem (at this point) is that a good part of the site is open only to Canadian students, but I would like to propose a way to change that (see below.)

There are parts that are open to all of us, including a library of articles and webinars and the helpful Collection of Electronic Resources in Translation Technologies or CERTT for short. Within CERTT you'll find information and tutorials on tools like Acrobat, Antidote, CatsCradle, CmapTools, Diatopix, DiCoInfo, Electronic dictionaries, Google, Le grand dictionnaire terminologique, IATE, Le Migou, LogiTerm, Microsoft Office, MultiTrans, ORBIS, Reverso Promt, SDL Trados, SynchroTerm, TERMIUM Plus, TermoStat Web, TextSTAT, TradooIT, TransSearch, WeBiText, Wiktionary, Windows, WordNet, WordSmith Tools, and YouAlign,

Are you familiar with all those tools? Didn't think so -- I wasn't either. This might partly be because they're very Canadian- and/or EN<>FR-based, and in other cases because they might not represent the latest and best -- but still a very interesting -- resource replete with sample files and training materials right at your fingertips.

If you're a non-French speaker, you might be tripped up because only some of the materials are available in English (and in some cases you might also stumble on dead links), but you'll find plenty of materials that are interesting. To access the virtual desktop, you'll have to pay some extra, even if you are a Canadian student who has access to everything else.

The most interesting thing for those access-blessed students is probably the Translation Ecosystem, which allows you to select where you see yourself and your experience in regard to translation. It then presents you with a workflow chart and many exercises that are relevant to the different steps and your maturity level in the process. It's really quite cool, and it's a shame that more of the tool makers don't have their technology represented. What you will find with the appropriate login -- which I was given to review the site -- is that this part is very lopsided between English and French. The vast majority of lessons are in French only -- which I guess makes sense for Canada -- but even Canadians have to admit that other languages would be great to have as well.

This brings me to my proposal: What if some non-Canadian universities with translation degree programs offered to translate the lessons in the Translation Ecosystem in exchange for their students having access to the site? Sounds like a win-win to me. (If more than only English were involved, it could even be a win-win-win....) I mentioned this to Iulia Mihalache as we were talking about the Ecosystem and she at least seemed open toward the idea. I hope that this will encourage some teachers among you to contact her.

Oh, and my own TranslatorsTraining? I'm still looking for a good place to upload the files again. As I said, they're a little outdated now, but they provided a very clever way to compare different tools on an apples-to-apples kind of basis. If the same proactive teachers think their university would like to host those, let me know.




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3. Searching in Windows 7 and 8 (Premium Content)

Reader Dino Ferrari mentioned an interesting little trick for Windows 7 and 8 users the other day. If you use those versions of Windows, you might have noticed that it's not as easy to search for content within files as it was with earlier versions of Windows -- at least not with the default settings. This can be easily changed.

. . . you can find the rest of this article in the premium edition. If you'd like to read more, an annual subscription to the premium edition costs just $25 at Or you can purchase the new edition of the Translator's Tool Box ebook and receive an annual subscription for free.


4. Ukrainian Pearls

Can you imagine how many versions you could release for a product called "XXX 3000"? (At the same time, imagine how stupid those people feel now who in 1995 named their product the futuristic-sounding "XXX 2000".) Well, I'm not sure whether the Kiev-based AIT will still offer Translation Office 3000 in the year 3000 - and right now, of course, their thoughts are certainly on more immediate and more important aspects of the future in Ukraine -- but they nevertheless just released version 11.

I've never made a secret of my enthusiasm for this tool for freelance translators, and it has become more or less a standard tool in the industry. For me it really is all that I need for my immediate business needs. The tool allows me to record projects in a matter of seconds, write and track invoices for those projects just as quickly, and it all happens extremely seamlessly and pain-free. Whenever I want, I can view reports on any aspect of my business and make decisions on things like whether I want to keep or lose clients based on profitability (and, yes, there are other reasons to keep clients!). I can do all this in a heartbeat as well.

And maybe I'm just not very imaginative, but there really are not that many things I would want from my existing version of Translation Office 3000 that it doesn't already do -- maybe with the exception of automated self-notifications when invoices have not been paid on time or a closer tie-in with common tax accounting software.

And maybe that's also why this new version 11 really does not have many new, truly interesting features. AIT says that it's now Windows 8- and 8.1-compatible -- my old version 10 worked just fine on those OSes - and there are a number of minor fixes (you can find a list right here). But unless I looked really closely, I would not even notice that my present version 11 is different from the previous one. Also (and I'll stop being negative in a second), the update process is anything but convenient. You'll eventually figure out how to update your old data to the new tool, but make sure that you don't try to do it five minutes before you want to go and see your kid play soccer -- you might miss the first half of the game.

So, would I advise you to upgrade if you are already using TO3000 version 10? I cannot think of any good reason unless you do have problems with Windows 8 compatibility. But would I advise you to use Translation Office 3000 if you don't already have an efficient recording, reporting, and invoicing system in place? Absolutely! 



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5. MultiCorporate

Some of you will have read that MultiCorpora, maker of the translation environment and workflow tool MultiTrans, was bought by RR Donnelley, the printing and publishing company and -- according to its own website -- one of the 15 largest linguistic service providers in the world.

The press releases so far have been exceedingly terse, with only one that goes into a bit more detail. I sent a few questions to MultiCorpora's management, and they promised me to "get back to [me] once the transaction is closed." So in the next version of the Tool Box Journal you should expect to find answers to these questions:

  • What is going to happen to the management and development teams? Will they stay intact or will they be replaced with new teams by RR Donnelley?
  • I assume that RR Donnelley's primary uses of your tool will be for its own needs and as a way to get into the door of some of your larger clients. Do you think it will also view your technology as a standalone asset that it will develop and market for its own sake?
  • What are you telling your existing LSP customers about their technology suddenly being owned by a competitor? What about the business intelligence about many LSPs (customers or not) that you have collected over the years? Is that now understood to be RR Donnelley's property as well?
  • And lastly: Why? Was the market too competitive? Had you had an exit strategy in place for a long time?

Stay tuned. 


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