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 A computer journal for translation professionals

Issue 14-4-234
(the two hundred thirty fourth edition)  


1. There's life in the old dog yet!

2. Qualitative Measures (Premium Content)

3. Hogs

4. MultiCorporate, Second and (Maybe Last) Take

The Last Word on the Tool Box

Good News!

In the last year or so -- maybe even a little longer than that -- something happened with translation environment tools that requires more from us than passive usage. Suddenly, we need to become experts. Why? Because the number of features offered by the typical professional translation environment tool has expanded so much that our computers can no longer deal with all of them at the same time. Often they actually get in the way of each other.

Here is a list of features that most TEnTs offer in some way or other during the translation process:

  • Automatic display and insertion of perfect and fuzzy matches from the translation memories
  • Automatic display of matches from the termbases and optional automatic insertion
  • Subsegment searches within the TM that are suggested as part of an auto-completion process or as matches in a separate pane
  • Automatic assembly of matches from the TMs and termbases (and possibly machine translation sources)
  • Automatic correction of TM matches with termbase and MT data
  • Realtime QA checking for formal, non-linguistic errors and inconsistent terminology
  • Realtime spellchecking with a squiggly underline
  • Suggestions from several machine translation engines and other mixed sources like MyMemory
  • Automated suggestions from online dictionaries and translation memories like TDA
  • Voice recognition as a preferred way of entering text

If you compare this to just a few years ago, you will quickly realize that this list has grown considerably. And unless you are working on some kind of miracle computer or with very, very small TM and termbase resources, there is essentially no way to do all of this at the same time without a significant lag time. Now it's true that some of these features might not even collaborate very well -- say, voice recognition with some of the insertion or assembly features -- and it's even more true that not all features are helpful for everyone to start with (that's certainly the case for MT, but also for any of the other features). But my point is this: to use your TEnT as your ultimate productivity tool, you have to understand how to mix and match the available features so they cater optimally to what you need them to be. No more relying on (and praying for) "just" perfect translation memory matches. You have to become better than that. (Well, you don't have to. You also don't have to sleep enough, eat well, or exercise, but you're better for it.)

I think this is really good news! Not only does it force us to look at ourselves and understand how we actually translate (and how we can possibly optimize it), but it also encourages us not to sit on our technology laurels that we earned several years ago. It should force us to stay interested in new developments and maybe even engage with some of the developers (I'm excited to be speaking about that at #digitrans14 in London in July). Plus, employing translation technology adequately for your needs and your clients' needs has now truly become a professional activity, just like the ability to "simply" translate is in the first place.

Finally, the best news? It's Easter. Happy Easter! 

1. There's life in the old dog yet!

Close to four years ago, I wrote an article in this journal about the release of the open-source translation environment tool OpenTM2 (if you have access to the archives you can read the full article in issue 169). Here's part of what I said:

LISA, the [now long-deceased] Localization Industry Standards Association, announced the following this past week:

(...) Teaming up with industry thought leaders, LISA is announcing the OpenTM2 project. Not only does OpenTM2 provide a public and open implementation of translation workbench environment that serves as the reference implementation of existing localization industry standards, such as TMX, it also aims to provide standardized access to globalization process management software. (...)

"There is a recognized and growing need for standards in the localization industry. Despite our best intentions, however, standards themselves can often be vague and open to multiple interpretations. What is needed are reference implementations and reference platforms that serve as concrete and unambiguous models in support of the standard. It is our hope that OpenTM2 can become a reference platform for the TMX standard," acknowledged Bill Sullivan, IBM Globalization Executive. "Freelance translators are the backbone of the localization industry. These translators have longed for free and robust translation tools to increase their productivity. Our hope is that by providing OpenTM2 for free we can enlist the aid of this army of dedicated users to bring OpenTM2 even closer to the TMX standard."

Doesn't sound too bad, huh? A free translation environment tool to support the "freelance translators -- the backbone of the localization industry!"

Many of you know, of course, that IBM's TM/2 was, along with Trados and Transit, among the first translation environment tools. The tool was well liked by many of its users, but in 2002 IBM decided to take it off the market and use it for internal purposes only. There really wasn't too much weeping and gnashing of teeth since Trados had already cornered the market and TM/2 already felt a little outdated. Still, the ones who liked it were naturally frustrated.

Now, eight years later, IBM has decided to throw a pared-down version on the market as an open-source tool. In general that's great, and it has received a lot of attention from various sources on Twitter and blogs. So I spent some time looking at the tool ....

After spending about an hour or two trying to read through some of the documentation and make it work on Windows 7 (it is officially supported only through Windows XP) and really not getting anywhere, I have essentially given up. The only conclusion I can draw is that IBM and LISA have a slightly thwarted idea of the "backbone of our industry" as a highly technical and very geeky (that term again!) person who is interested in dealing with an outdated interface and in translating only text and HTML files. Umm, not the translator I know. . . .

Now I would completely understand if you looked at the heading of this article and the first few paragraphs and assumed that everything has changed, that IBM has released an out-of-the box, fully functional translation environment tool that everyone can download and use. I hate to have to be the one to disappoint you. In fact, as of this writing, the outdated website that hosts the project dates back three or so years. Granted, some things have changed since I wrote that first article, such as the additions of "additional markup" (IBM-geek-speak for file filters) that now allow you to also translate OpenOffice, JAVA properties, XHTML, XLIFF, and generic XML files, but otherwise everything seems to be in a deep slumber.

I was really pleased when I learned from Gerhard Fetz from IBM's globalization team last week that at least within IBM OpenTM2 is far from dormant. In fact, on April 23 IBM will start deploying OpenTM2 company-wide to replace IBM TM/2, the tool that is still used (and cherished) within IBM. Gerhard explained that both tools (IBM TM/2 and OpenTM2) are work horses - they're nothing you'll win a beauty pageant with, but they can seamlessly process 13,000 files consisting of 2.5 GB of data in one go (as he recently did in a project). IBM's original plan to replace the existing technology with something more modern was made virtually impossible by how deeply IBM TM/2 was integrated into existing and well-tested workflows.

So why the switch to the open-source version OpenTM2? For one thing because the "giant pile of code" (or, according to Gerhard, "Riesenhaufen Code") that was IBM TM/2 had all been sorted and ported into C++ for the open-source version, which at its core is extremely modular and still as reliable and automatable as the old pile and ultimately extendable with its new plug-in architecture.

Still, unless you are one of the many translators who actually works for IBM, what does all this have to do with you? Well, I caught some renewed enthusiasm as I talked to Gerhard.

For one thing, I think I misunderstood the idea of the project at first -- or maybe it was just badly communicated -- but it really is not primarily geared toward the individual translator, at least not as the initial user. Instead, it's aimed at relatively tech-savvy translation companies, enterprise companies with translation needs, and developers who can implement and continue to develop this into an internal tool that is truly able to move (data). Yes, there would have to be some work invested into developing file filters (markup tables), implementing it into the current workflow system, and building extensions to any number of things -- including terminology components, machine translation, shared data access, and quality assurance -- but that might not sound so bad in comparison to spending $50,000 a year or so in a support contract or licensing fees for a commercial tool.

According to Gerhard, some of the items that will show up on a newly developed website include a strengthened plug-in system, possibly more "markup tables," a new "OpenTM2Scripter" designed to help build automation scripts, as well as a tracking function in OpenTM2 that allows the precise measurement of the time spent on translated or post-edited segments.

It also might be a good to consider that there are a number of freelance developers who already have a very good handle on this system and can start to work on needed components without any ramp-up time. Since this is an open-source project, everyone is encouraged to contribute personal developments, functional improvements, new plugins, education material, a new user-interface, and new ideas in any way they see fit -- something that can benefit you very much as well, as the example of the translate5 developer in another article here shows.

As far as the translators who would have to support a company's move to OpenTM2, the biggest initial bonus is that the translation interface would be free for them. Interestingly enough, quite a few of the translation environment tools that have been around for a while still support the good old IBM TM/2 format as well, so they could theoretically even use those familiar environments.

I know that there are other open-source tools, including the much-praised OmegaT and the translation management system GlobalSight (which are now actually integrated into each other), but this is one other good resource, a little more independent than GlobalSight and as reliable as the Big Blue itself -- and as modern as you want to make it.




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2. Qualitative Measures (Premium Content)

I have to admit that I feel a little sheepish about not having written about translate5 before. I have the strong feeling that I will be blamed (again) for turning a blind eye to developments in the open-source world, but I can assure you that's not what it is. I simply overlooked it. And that's despite Richard Sikes's excellent article about it in the September 2013 edition of MultiLingual. (Don't have a subscription to the one and only MultiLingual? Just go here and enter the code D913SF for a free digital subscription.)

A couple of weeks ago I took some time to speak to Marc Mittag, the brain behind translate5, and I also took a look at the tool myself.


. . . you can find the rest of this very important article on open-source tools and new approaches to quality metrics 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.



Join us for Kilgray's 6th memoQfest conference
on 7-9 May in Budapest.

More than 150 attendees from all translation industry segments from 20+ countries come together to learn, network and have fun.

Be a part of it this year, book your seat now! 


3. Hogs

Last night we had dinner with a friend who is about to move to Georgia (US), and he just couldn't conceal his excitement about setting out to hunt for feral pigs around his new home. Whatever your feelings about hunting, however, I guarantee you will like hunting for space hogs on your hard drive. You know, those large media files that you downloaded or created years ago, or the reference files your client sent you which are taking up a lot of space that you could very well use in better ways.

here are a lot of programs out there to help you find those large perpetrators, but the one I find very helpful is ancient by today's standards. WinDirStat was originally developed for Linux computers, but it comes in a Windows and Mac version as well, plus it's open source -- ergo free -- and you don't have to take a training class to use it.

It has a no-nonsense approach, runs even on the latest operating system, and once it's done analyzing your computer, which takes just a few minutes, it has all kinds of ways to show you where those bad space invaders can be found, including a very psychedelically colored map.


4. MultiCorporate, Second and (Maybe Last) Take

In the last newsletter I mentioned the sale of MultiCorpora to translation provider RR Donnelley, and that I had asked them a number of questions about the future of MultiCorpora's tool MultiTrans (you can read the exact questions in the newsletter archives).

I had given them plenty of time to respond to the questions, but they promised to "get back to [me] once the transaction is closed."

Well, the transaction has long closed, and instead of getting back to me with answers they now tell me that they are in "integration mode" a me for that reason.

I can't think of much that's more insulting to customers and the translation community at large than that kind of behavior -- save some kind of direct statement that the new owner is really not very interested in maintaining and continuing to develop the tool, but instead views the tool as a great vehicle to sell service to existing large customers. And I'm afraid this might be very close to the truth.

In the past I'd been hesitant to recommend MultiTrans to consulting clients, mostly because of the difficulty of finding translators to support the tool outside of Canada. I also thought that the interface was kind of clunky, but I did like some of the underlying technology. At this point I'm grateful for my hesitance.

Competitors have also taken note. I had a nice talk with Jean-François Richard from Canadian provider Terminotix, who says he's been contacted by a number of scared MutiTrans users, some of whom have already migrated to his products. And (at least last week) SDL was advertising Trados Studio on a Google search for "multicorpora" (and "wordfast" and "memoq").

Things move fast.



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