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 A computer journal for translation professionals

Issue 16-8-264
(the two hundred sixty-fourth edition)  


1. Emulating Kafka: Which Office Do I Need to Enter?

2. Subscription-Based Pricing (Premium Edition)

3. The Tech-Savvy Interpreter: Intrakit -- Terminology and Customizable Glossaries in the Palm of Your Hand

4. The Fix Is In

5. N1w P6m f1r L10n T6g

The Last Word on the Tool Box

Chocolate Mess

No doubt you've heard about Milka's translation fiasco in the United Arab Emirates. And as my friends in the machine translation community would likely want to point out: Yes, chances are that this was an error committed by an actual human translator rather than a machine.

Here is what happened: In the list of ingredients for one particular Milka chocolate product, "chocolate liquor" (pure cocoa mass,كتلة الكاكاو in Arabic) was translated as "chocolate, liquor," a decision that launched predictably negative consequences in a culture that's not particularly tolerant of alcohol. Now one could make a case that Mondelēz, Milka's parent company, clearly didn't use a professional vendor with any sort of translation memory (after all, it happened for only one product), terminology management, or overall quality control (the latter goes without saying).

But I have to say that I feel for the translator. He clearly was not an expert in the specialized field of chocolate processing, but I can see how he tried to grapple with the concepts that needed to be translated here. Not knowing the specialized term "chocolate liquor" for "cocoa mass," he still might have thought that the generic machine translation engine suggestion for "chocolate liquor" as a sweet liqueur with chocolate flavoring seemed a little too unlikely to market to an Arabic-speaking market. It's a stretch, but a pure alcohol for some kind of chemical processing wouldn't seem completely unthinkable. And is there "chocolate" in chocolate? One certainly would think so!

It's not a huge leap in that case to assume that the comma was simply forgotten, and the translator probably even prided himself on rescuing the client from embarrassment.

Well, suffice it to say that didn't work out as planned. But rather than turning up our noses at the poor anonymous chap, we ("I") should probably use this as a good lesson. Be a specialist in what you do, ask questions, use appropriate technology, and have good processes in place. 


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1. Emulating Kafka: Which Office Do I Need to Enter?

In past Tool Box Journals I made it a habit to report in length on new versions of Microsoft Office. But Office 2016 was officially released last September and I haven't even mentioned it. Why? Because there really is so very little that is new and different. (The only thing that makes a difference to me is the easier way of attaching the file I just saved to an email in Outlook -- but that hardly warrants a big article.)

In the past there's been a lack of new features for some other Office releases, but overall this one is more extreme. If you look back at the last few major releases of Office and where they really made a huge difference to translators, it would be the introduction and support of Unicode with Office 2000, the new XML-based "x"-formats with Office 2007, and the free availability of spell (and grammar) checkers in the supported languages in Office 2013.

I can sympathize with the Microsoft developers -- it can't be easy to come up with new features for tools that are fairly mature overall. That's one of the reasons why Microsoft was only too happy to jump on the bandwagon of a subscription-based model where users have to pay annually for "Office 365," which automatically updates you to the latest version, no matter whether it's 2013, 2016, or 2019. And if you utilize the option to have it installed on five computers with one subscription, the $100 or so per year is relatively reasonably priced.

This brings me to the two points that I'd like to make (yes, there is a point to all this rambling!):

  • Subscription-based models
  • Maturity of translation environment tools

Let's start with the latter. While Microsoft Office developers might be pitied for their "enhanced creativity requirements" when it comes to making a mature tool seem more so with every release, the same cannot be said for developers of translation environment tools -- at least not right now.

Ironically, there was a time when it looked different. Take, for instance, Trados 7. When it was released in 2005, its flagship features were better XML support and Indic language support. I remember looking at the press releases and wondering who would even consider upgrading, except for users with those rather specific requirements? Very much like the current version of Office.

That was a time when new ideas had just kind of stopped. Trados was really only competing with SDL's SDLX program (and maybe Wordfast) on the translation side and Idiom (now SDL WorldServer) on the corporate side; the refinement of the technology underlying translation memories had essentially halted; terminology management was just not used very much (at least by Trados users); SDLX had not released its QA module, which would push developments in that area: memoQ was still in its infancy; and the first cloud-based TEnT, Lingotek, hadn't yet been launched. Why bother, right?

Well, things are different today. Very different, in fact, and I'm so thankful for it.

  • Competition has multiplied -- and not just by creating quasi-clones, but with new and creative technologies.
  • Translation memory usage has been completely redefined -- from a database that holds rarely used potential perfect and fuzzy matches to a repository that can be used on a much more granular level for translation, or for single-language authoring, or to train machine translation engines, and so on and so forth.
  • Terminology management has been simplified, resulting in much greater usage (and awareness of its necessity).
  • Machine translation has become an integral part of the translation process in ever more creative and intuitive ways.
  • Quality assurance is a well-established component of virtually all translation environment tools and is expected to be used.
  • Real-time online cooperation within translation teams is supported by most tools, no matter whether they are browser-based or not.
  • And talking about browser-based tools: New tools are almost without exception browser-based, and the "old" tools have started to offer the option of using browser-based interfaces right next to their desktop-based environment.

Cool, huh?

I know I've said this a million times, but it truly is a good and exciting time to be a translator.

On to the second topic, subscription-based pricing.

But let's make that a whole new article...



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2. Subscription-Based Pricing (Premium Edition)

I feel like I'm a little out of my league talking about this, but here it goes anyway.

It has increasingly become the norm to pay for software through subscription-based pricing. With browser- and cloud-based tools, the SaaS (software-as-a-service) model seems to make a lot of sense. 

. . . you can find the rest of this article about the problems with subscription-based pricing for software products and services 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.



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3. The Tech-Savvy Interpreter: Intrakit -- Terminology and Customizable Glossaries in the Palm of Your Hande (Column by Barry Slaughter Olsen)

The Tech-Savvy Interpreter is back from summer vacation! Lest you think I've been lounging on a sandy beach for two months listening to the waves and enjoying fruity drinks with little umbrellas in them, I should explain that I have been busy teaching several workshops about the language professions to graduate students at the Middlebury Language Schools in Vermont. I'm happy to report that there is great interest among university students in the language professions.

Before taking my summer break, I dedicated several columns to reviewing technologies that deliver remote interpreting services in new ways. This month I want to change focus and take a look at a new electronic glossary platform called Intrakit. (Yes, that's a snazzy little play on words. "Intricate" and "intra" and "kit") Built initially with practicing court and medical interpreters in mind, Intrakit is an app that is preloaded with eleven different topical glossaries (legal, medical, business and finance, weapons and ballistics, drugs, forensics, academia, fashion and textiles, government, tech, and industry), which are all fully available and searchable offline.

The idea of electronic glossaries is not new, and electronic reference materials abound. The problem is that few, if any, are designed for use by interpreters and most require Internet access and a laptop computer to use them the way they were designed. This kind of setup works well for conference interpreters who normally work in a booth all day. But what about interpreters working in the courts, hospitals or other settings where they are often moving from one place to another or even standing up while working and where dependable internet access is not a given.

Intrakit, which is currently available for both Android and iOS, was designed specifically to address these kinds of scenarios. The brainchild of Melannie Lopez, a Kentucky-based certified court interpreter and entrepreneur, this app puts thousands of terms in the palm of your hand in bilingual English/Spanish glossaries organized into the broad topics I've mentioned above.  

How It Works

Intrakit is a simple and relatively small app (approx. 50 MB on iOS and 40 MB on Android). The app has an intuitive interface and does not require large amounts of time to learn how to use it. It really is as simple as opening a glossary and using the search bar at the top of the screen to track down the terms you are looking for.  You can search within individual glossaries or use the "Global Search" feature to search across all eleven specialized glossaries at once.

Once you have found a term you need, you can tap on it and mark it as a "favorite," which then includes the term on a personal list of favorites that can be easily accessed from the main menu before or during a job. This feature is extremely practical and helpful for preparing that short but crucial list of high frequency or key terms for individual assignments. The favorites list can then be cleared and repopulated with new terms as you prepare for the next assignment.

You can also build your own glossaries with Intrakit and store them in "My Library" but you must type in terms one by one, which can be a little tedious on a smartphone. I'd love to see a feature in the future where you can easily drop existing glossary items into personal glossaries with just a couple taps of the screen.

One feature that deserves a hat tip is the adjustable font size. My middle-aged eyes are most grateful for the larger fonts. Each glossary has small +/- buttons at the bottom left of the screen to increase or decrease font size.

Room for Improvement

Although well designed and useful, Intrakit is still rough around the edges. After a few interactions with it, I found a few glossary entries with mistakes, mainly spelling errors, but this should not be seen as a deal breaker. The mistakes are the kind that I have seen creep into the personal glossaries of many an interpreter (including my own). If anything, they speak to the authenticity of the source material created by interpreters for interpreters. They will be ferreted out and corrected over time. This is not the fruit of terminologists working in isolation on the latest edition of a Webster's or Oxford dictionary, and that is a good thing because what's in the glossaries, is just what you need while working.

There are also a few bugs that are inevitable with the first iteration of any app. For example, the alphabetized side index does not always take you to the desired location in some glossaries, and there is a slight delay when the glossaries are loading on the iOS versions and when you use your finger to scroll through the list of entries. The folks at Code Switch Media have assured me that they are aware of the bugs that I found and that they are busy working on getting them fixed.

Future Plans

You can download a fully functional copy of Intrakit and try it out for seven days to see if you like it. Code Switch Media's current business model is to sell the app for a flat fee through an in-app purchase after the trial period. This fee includes all future upgrades. However, Melanie told me that in September 2016 they will switch to a monthly subscription model. All apps purchased before the switch will be grandfathered in and will not have to pay the monthly subscription fee.

The reason for the switch to a subscription model has to do with big plans in the works for Intrakit such as synching of glossaries across multiple devices and the ability to share glossaries with other users in the Intrakit community. Currently the app is available only in the English-Spanish combination. However, in the coming months they will release an English-only version with all the terminology of the thematic glossaries that will allow interpreters of other languages to begin building out their own glossaries in the language combination of their choice. I'll take another look at the app in a few months to see how those plans are going.

I applaud Code Switch Media's efforts to put out a useful tool for interpreters to use in their professional practice. Fact is, interpreters should welcome this kind of reality-based innovation by colleagues from within our field. I encourage you to check it out and support it, if it proves valuable for you. Otherwise, these kinds of apps will disappear and there will be little or no incentive for further innovation.

Intrakit is available now in the App Store and Google Play.

Do you have a question about a specific technology? Or would you like to learn more about a specific interpreting platform, interpreter console or supporting technology? Send us an email at



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4. The Fix Is In

I have a really great story to tell. A story that can and should be used as a bright and shining example of how we as a translation community need to approach technology to shape it in the way we'll need it to work efficiently.

It's about the small British company Iceni Technology that specializes in preparing PDFs so they can be edited almost like a normal document in their own Infix PDF Editor. At its core, it's a tool that opens any PDF and lets you format, edit, or add text -- which is displayed in resizable text boxes -- and manipulate and replace graphics within the PDF without performing any conversion to another format.

Theoretically it's possible to also translate within Infix, but since you want to use a translation environment tool for text of any appreciable length, the tool also offered "CAT Export" and "CAT Import" features that allowed you to export the text elements into an XML format that could be processed in any kind of TEnT that supported XML. And translators took note. Kevin Lossner, for instance, wrote reviews on using Infix for translation in 2009 and 2014, and others took it upon themselves to contact the developers at Iceni and teach them what translators really want. And that's really where the story starts. Iceni listened. Infix PDF Editor's version 7, which was just released three or so weeks ago, has made definite and clear inroads toward making this tool an option that translators need to be aware of and possibly use. SDL's Paul Filkin made this very clear in his recent blog post and accompanying video on the tool.

In the newly introduced Translate menu, you now have options like Export as XLIFF and Import translated XLIFF because, as Iceni's Guy Bushnell told me, they only started to realize what translators really wanted after they started talking with them. The XLIFF file will be converted at the site, which is Iceni's cloud-based part of the offering. If you watch Paul's video you can see how things happen simultaneously in the desktop tool and the cloud.

One of the reasons why this is important has to do with its licensing model, and it fits really well with what I mentioned in the other article about subscription-based licensing.

Infix PDF Editor comes with subscription-based licensing. It costs $9.95 a month, or about $100 a year. This might be a good deal if you work with PDFs all the time and have to process dozens a month. But if you're more like me (and my kids would plead with you not to take me up on that), you only run into a PDF file for translation maybe a couple of times a month. Ten bucks for those PDFs seems pretty steep, and the old perpetual licensing that Iceni used to offer for $160 would have been a much better deal (though you wouldn't of course have access to the latest version with its improved XLIFF conversion).

Naturally, the subscription allows you to convert as many PDF files as you want. However, if you deal with a PDF file only every once in a while, you could also use the free trial version of Infix, upload your PDFs to, and then purchase them for 50 cents a page. Then -- and this is where the offer becomes interesting -- you could use the full set of Infix features once it's translated (Infix will recognize the purchased status of the PDF and unlock itself).

Of course, you could also skip using Infix altogether and just convert your PDF file to XLIFF on, translate it in your TEnT, and then convert it back to PDF -- but that doesn't bode well for the success of your project, since the PDF will need some touch-up work before you can send it back to the client.

Now that we've talked about the licensing questions, what about the quality of the actual conversion? It's pretty good. Not fantastic, but you'll need to keep in mind that we are dealing with a pretty darn frustrating format. The files that I ran through as a test were relatively heavily formatted, and though I would have had to spend some time in Infix to fix them in the direct PDF-to-PDF conversion (with the XLIFF interim format in-between), it was certainly better than expected. Much better.

Here are some problems that I encountered and discussed with Guy. (Wouldn't you love to have that name? Every time someone greets you as "Hey, guy!" because he forgot your actual name, you would feel all nice and fuzzy because you can mistakenly think they really paid attention when you first introduced yourself.)

One problem is the PDF-to-PDF conversion. While this sounds great in general, I think it would be very helpful to also have the option to output the file into a word-processing format (RTF or DOCX) so the client can do some editing, proofreading, or whatever with the file as well. Kind of a no-brainer, I think, and Guy has already started to work on it.

The other is that, while Infix does have an embedded optical character recognition (OCR) engine -- by Nicomsoft -- for about 20 Latin and Cyrillic languages, it works (so-so) only on pages that contain only images (so no mixing of some textual elements and images), and as far as the conversion for translation, it does not work at all. So there is some definite room for improvement right there.

By the way, the tool's user interface comes in a number of languages, but unfortunately the documentation comes in English only -- with a Google Translate button at the bottom of each page. Ouch. Not really a way to catapult yourself into the hearts of translators, but maybe I'm just being nit-picky now.

It is awesome that Iceni is planning for a number of integrations into translation environment tools. The development of an SDL Trados plugin will be launched soon, they've done what needed to be done for an integration with memoQ (and are now waiting for Kilgray to do its part), and another yet-to-be-named TEnT will have it fully integrated in its next release.

Guy made an interesting comment about the different ways of integrating into the tool: "It's nice that with SDL we'll actually be able to do it all ourselves and won't have to rely on the release schedules of others!"  



New on the Memsource blog:


5. N1w P6m f1r L10n T6g

Wondering what that means? Well, obviously it's "New Platform for Localization Training"! I can't believe you didn't know that! Isn't it obvious that you just replace the letters between the first and last letter of each word with their corresponding number?

Yes, I'm being a little facetious. I've always had a strong dislike for terms like l10n or i18n, but that did not dissuade me from looking at or Localization Training and liking what I saw.

I've talked about the project with Martin Güttinger, one of the founders (the others are Angelika Zerfass and Gary Lefman, all three of whom are super-experienced l12s -- aka localizers -- as well as two unnamed silent partners), and they have some very interesting plans.

But, first, what is it now? It's a platform (p6m) (okay, I'll stop!) that hosts a number of localization training and informational videos. The informational videos are mostly free (many of them are from Welocalize, describing their translation management system and machine translation efforts), whereas some of the training content has to be paid for.

I went through the training course on the latest version of Passolo, conducted by Martin himself, and I have to say that I was impressed with the high quality of the in-depth training and particularly with the challenging tests at the end of each unit. You actually have to have gone through the coursework to answer the questions rather than simply relying on common sense (as is so often the case in such video-based tutorials).

What does passing the test entitle you for at this point? Nothing, really, except that you can use it on your résumé, I guess, but it should really put you in a good position to work well with the tools or subject covered.

Eventually, and this is where we come to the future plans, there will be official certificates issued by Localization Training (2017), and ultimately there will be a way to become a certified localization professional on the site (2018/2019). The team plans to cooperate with other organizations and programs for this certification.

I asked Martin how much material they hope to have before they offer an encompassing certification, and he figured that there would have to be between 80 and 120 hours of high-quality content.

I admire the kind of long-term vision that Martin, Angelika, and Gary have for this project.

Some of you might remember that I partnered with Italian translation company Intrawelt a number of years ago to build up a site called While the goal was never to offer a certification like Localization Training does, we also offered a large number of video-based tutorials of translation environment and localization tools that were primarily aimed at helping users make a purchasing decision by being able to compare the different tools without investing an extraordinary amount of time. The site ran for about two years and got great reviews from all kinds of people (it was really good!), but we never found a way to monetize it properly. Since we had to invest an obscene amount of time into keeping the site and videos current, we eventually decided to shut it down.

Hats off to Martin et al for having more patience and vision. I hope they will succeed. Be sure to check it out and continue to come back to see what's new. 



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