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 A computer journal for translation professionals

Issue 15-7-250
(the two hundred fiftieth edition)  


1. Driving Innovation (Premium Edition)


3. Starry, Starry Night (Premium Edition)

The Last Word on the Tool Box


250 might not be complimentary in Chinese, but to me it seems like a pretty big number when it comes to published editions of the Tool Box Journal.

(To self:) Well done! (To you:) And thank you so much for your support!


Most of you have probably heard of the changes the Booker Prize Foundation announced this past week. While the vast majority of us are most likely not literary translators, it should still give us a great deal of satisfaction and pride to learn that one of the most prestigious and important literary awards, the Man Booker International Prize (parallel to the Man Booker Prize), will be given to a work that has been translated into English, with the prize money to be shared between the translator and the author.

See Daniel Hahn's wise comments about this right here.


We work for most of our clients because the relationship is profitable and often also friendly and enjoyable. Other clients are really great to work for because our relationships are fun and characterized by trust (and maybe the work is even more profitable as well). And then there is the tiny handful of clients to whom you feel completely committed because of the unique relationship you have with your contact there. You would fight dragons to make things right for them -- just because you love them. My one project manager like that was Adriana Marton, and she died last week after a very short and severe fight with cancer. It goes without saying that she'll live on in my heart -- and I'm sure many others share the same sentiment.

Around eleven years ago, Daniel Benito, the original developer of Déjà Vu, and Scott Smith, another project manager with whom I worked, passed away in short succession. At the time, I wrote this. Let's not remain nameless anymore.

1. Driving Innovation (Premium Edition) 

I was in the interesting position a couple of weeks ago to address InterpretAmerica, the premier interpreting event that aims not only to bring together the different strands of the world of interpretation but also to be a catalyst for new developments in the field, including technology. My position was interesting because I'm not an interpreter, and the truth is that I really know very little about the field. But my interpreting expertise -- or lack thereof -- wasn't the reason why conference organizers Barry Slaughter Olson and Katharine Allen invited me. Instead, they wanted an outside perspective on a separate but related world -- translation -- that would detail some of the successes and failures of translators in their dealings with new developments, especially technology.

Collectively speaking, of course, we have been very slow to accept technology as a positive and productive part of our lives, which in turn had some negative impact on the development of technology. You know what I'm talking about. For the longest time, things like termbase systems were really not built for our needs -- because we neither showed interest as consumers nor were willing to engage in the development process. Other technologies virtually disappeared because we didn't show the interest that was necessary to justify ongoing development (think of Xerox's outstanding work with bilingual terminology extraction or TM-based authoring -- see below).

So I retold some of those and other stories as examples of what happens if you do (or don't) engage with technology.

I also tried to put together a time line from a translator's viewpoint of translation technology development. (Naturally this would look different from the viewpoint of a translation company or academia.)


. . . 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 Once you purchase a subscription you'll also receive access to the archives of Premium Tool Box Journals going all the way back to 2007. 



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Can you believe it? I was called out after the last Tool Box Journal for creating headings that were too cryptic -- and now this?

Of course, I'm talking about how many monitors translators use. And why the mirroring? Because (Unicode and) I can!

Now, not everyone is quite as well-equipped as Rina Ne'eman (note not just the 65 or so monitors but the very hip stand-up desk as well) --  


but I was really interested in how many translators are using more than one monitor. Why? Because if the number turned out to be overwhelmingly in favor of more than one monitor, then this would have a real implication for tool developers that we potentially could all benefit from. Translation environment tools have traditionally suffered from an overload of panes and windows on one screen -- and this is only getting worse with new kinds of resources having to find their place on the screen. If developers can trust that the vast majority of users use several screens, they might be able to apply different screen estate strategies (while still making it possible to work on one screen, of course).

So without further ado, these are the results of my (very unscientific) survey among Twitter followers. Of the 70 translators who responded, 20% never use more than one monitor, 50% always use more than one monitor, and 30% mostly use more than one monitor.

The sample is too small to be completely reliable, and so is the method of choosing survey participants (for instance, you would have to assume that there's a basic interest in technology if someone follows me on Twitter), but these are still interesting numbers that should communicate to developers that developing the user interface of translation environments for two screens is a real possibility. 



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3. Starry, Starry Night  (Premium Edition)

Don McLean's "Vincent" is still one of those songs that makes me cry just a little every time I hear it. I don't think he really had Star AG's many products in mind when he serenaded the "starry, starry night" in the song's refrain -- but we can make it work for the purposes of this article.

An entire team at Star took a couple of hours last week to guide me through several of those products, and some truly are interesting.

We've discussed translation memory-based authoring a good number of times here and elsewhere. From our perspective as translators, it's a no-brainer: If technical authors used translation memories and termbases as they write in the same way translators do, not only would the documentation they produce be more consistent, there would be a much greater number of matches when it comes to the translation phase. After all, many of the authoring choices would be based on matches in existing translation memories, which in turn would turn into matches again when it comes to the new translation pass.

In my very first column in the ATA Chronicle eight years ago, I described a prime opportunity for translators with experience in working with (the challenges of) translation memory and terminology maintenance to act as consultants for technical writers. In this case, we're looking at a scenario where a technology that we as the end users didn't use (almost) disappeared because of us. It was really up to us to make this technology a go -- technical writers are just about as thrilled about it as we were when translation memory was first offered (i.e., "not"), and since we didn't take on these (ahem, very well-paid consulting roles), nothing happened.

SDL scratched its AuthorAssistant last year, and Sajan's Authoring Coach suffered the same fate. As far as I know, only two companies offer TM-based authoring products today: Across with its crossAuthor and -- now I finally come to where I was going the whole time -- Star with its MindReader.

MindReader can be used in Word (which is part of the 1800-euro single-seat package), FrameMaker, and Arbortext (the necessary add-ons for these systems cost extra), as well as Star's own content management system GRIPS. The way it works is simple enough: You work within Word or FrameMaker as you always have, but you also see a second, independent MindReader pane that gives you the matches from the memory that match your current writing. As with translation memory, you can set the fuzziness level, you can take the segment from MindReader over with a keyboard shortcut, or -- and this is where Star's particular way of dealing with translation memory or, as they call it, "reference material," comes into play -- you can open the originating file and copy a lot more than just that one segment.

The source material for the "authoring memory" can be Transit reference materials, Transit projects, XLIFF files (including SDLXLIFF), or even existing source documents (in which case you don't get the benefit from the additional TM leverage).

Terminology work also operates as it does in a translation project. The terms that should be used are automatically confirmed (or you are asked to avoid those that really SHOULD NOT be used), and you can add terms on the fly. The benefit of the latter is that if the project goes into many languages, it's actually the original author who controls what kind of terminology should be sitting in the termbase. While the translators still have to translate the terms, they don't have to worry about selecting which ones to add since that has already been done for them.


Another Star product is called MindReader for Outlook, and it does exactly what you would guess. It creates a database from all your past sent emails and suggests text based on what you are presently entering (the suggested text is displayed in the lower half of the email you are composing). Very clever if you write a lot of repetitive emails (if you're as creative as I am you won't get many matches . . . just kidding -- I've actually bought the program and am having lots of fun with it). True to Star's "memory principle," you can also open the complete previous email and copy more than just a sentence at a time. And the fuzziness level of the automatic searches is also adjustable in a newly added Outlook toolbar.

The price is not much of a detriment to this tool (49 euro). Potentially more problematic is its use of resources (it requires the SQL Server in the background, which is a little resource hungry), but it hasn't been too much of a problem for me to uninstall it again.

Here is what I really like about this tool, though: It took a little bit of creativity for translation tool developers to come up with TM-based authoring for technical authors. But they're part of the same supply chain as translators, so it didn't require a stroke of genius to come up with it. What I think is so cool about a tool like MindReader for Outlook is that its audience really has nothing at all to do with translators. It's everyone. I love it when I see that the technologies I'm using can also directly benefit my mom, my high school friends, and my neighbors. That's thinking outside the box.


It also took some thinking outside the box for the MT implementation that Star is offering.   


. . . 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


The Last Word on the Tool Box Journal

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