A Computer Journal For Translation Professionals
This edition of the Tool Box Journal provided to you by
(the three hundred thirty ninth edition)
Dictionaries and the disconnect of what we do
I'm very pleased to announce that we will once again have a
dictionary exchange at the ATA conference in Los Angeles in October.
Many of you know that this has been my favorite ATA event of the last
few years because it allows us to be ridiculously generous with our own
dictionary treasures while making our spouses or partners happy with
reclaimed bookshelf space. It's also amazing to see a table full of
dictionaries in rather unexpected language combinations (Czech <>
Albanian, anyone?) and the flushed cheeks of translators who have just
grabbed one or two or even more of those gems. All the recipients have
to do in return is . . . oh, that's right: nothing!
I'll talk more in the next couple of newsletters about specifics
(like how to send your old dictionaries if you can't make it yourself,
or an exciting new feature of the exchange this year), but for now you
can rest assured that your old dictionary loves will likely find a new
home come October.
But then I also got to thinking: Could dictionaries -- or an
over-simplified understanding of what dictionaries are and how
translators use them -- be blamed for one of the major misconceptions of
what translators are and do?
I'm sure not a single one of you has escaped the dreaded question
of what this or that word is in whatever language because, after all,
you're an interpreter or a translator. We've all been confronted with
oversimplified views of translation, from translation being essentially a
word-exchange to the consternation of non-translators as to why machine
translation isn't as easy as using a calculator.
The advantage of these misconceptions is that it forces us to think
about what we do and how words actually relate to translation activity.
I realized at some point that -- depending on the text in question --
words are really almost of secondary relevance. Instead, concepts are
most important, and it's often a number of concepts that overlay each
other or are even in conflict with each other as I'm working on a text
to translate. Only once the concepts have been arranged in my mind do
the words become relevant, and while some might still have to be
searched for, most are automatically "provided." I guess that's how
language works in the first place. Maybe that also needs to be the
"hook" when we explain what we do: "Are you talking or writing or
thinking with words or something more conceptual? That's what we do in
translation, only in a super-powered (😉) manner."
WIPO Pearl API
How to stop playing small (Column by Dorothee Racette)
The best 5 places to find interpreting practice speeches (Column by Josh Goldsmith)
The long shadow of translation technology
New password for the Tool Box archive
The last word on the Tool Box Journal
brings the state-of-the-art technologies to the preparation and
processing of parallel texts in order to create bilingual data, such as
translation memory files for professional translation services and
linguistic training data for MT engines. Paralela uses the most advanced
AI models to automatically align translation pairs in any combination
of 110 languages from unstructured and unordered streams of content,
including documents that may be only vaguely related. It magically
captures the linguistic similarities among sentences in different
languages and creates nearly perfect alignment, ranged by similarity
Three years ago, I wrote this:
After meeting Geoff Westgate of WIPO recently, I was once again reminded that its impressive terminology repository WIPO Pearl
might be one of the most underused tools in our arsenal. I imagine it's
relatively widely used by translators specializing in patent
translation (after all, "WIPO" stands for the World Intellectual
Property Organization, and their 170-million-word-a-year translation
efforts are mostly related to patents), but that doesn't mean that the
use of this term gem is limited to those translators. The terminology
covers essentially everything that is covered by patents, is available
in 10 languages (for both its interface and the data it contains):
Arabic, Chinese, English, French, German, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese,
Russian, and Spanish. You can do a regular bilingual or multilingual term search
that will give you access to a number of filters, sophisticated
definitions of the terms in questions, reliability score, sources, links
to Google Images search and patent database, as well as to a "concept
[If you look at edition 303 of the Tool Box Journal
you can find a bit more information on the amazing concept maps.]
When I asked Geoff back then whether the tool would be accessible
via other tools aside from WIPO's website, he said that "we're working
on it" ("it" being an API or "application programming interface").
A statement like this can mean just about everything, but in
Geoff's and WIPO's world it meant exactly as it sounded, and the API is
now available right here
. The next step needs to be different tool vendors implementing an easy access to data via the API!
So, please, Across, CafeTran, Déjà Vu (you're still around?), MateCat, memoQ, Memsource, OmegaT, Smartcat, Star Transit, Text United, Trados (anyone want to develop an app for the RWS AppStore?), Wordfast, and XTM
(plus the many I haven't mentioned): Would you mind? We do! It should
be half a day of work for a developer, but it would give great access to
terminology for many, many more.
It's important to take into account that the API does not provide
access to the same set of resources as the web access. It will give full
"access to WIPO Pearl's 230,000 validated scientific and technical
terms in 10 languages, along with the subject field and subfield
indication for each term, plus an often defining context taken from a
source such as patents, technical journals, and so on." (I'm quoting
Geoff here from a recent conversation.) For other features, including
the concept maps and links to the actual patents or images, you'll need
to use the web interface.
Another very cool thing that WIPO Pearl added in the last couple of
years is an extremely well-researched COVID-19 glossary in 10
languages, downloadable as a PDF or TBX file. I know that we all hoped
this particular kind of glossary would no longer be necessary at this
point, but I'm afraid it is. Here is the link
How to stop playing small (Column by Dorothee Racette)
Five ways to stop playing small
In my conversations with word people who dream of using their
skills to make a (better) living, I hear a lot of stories that go like
this: "I would like to build a more profitable freelance business, but I
don't quite have what other people can offer. Since I lack the same
qualifications, experience, working background, language skills,
international connections, marketing knowledge etc., it is hardly
surprising that things don't work out as well for me." The trouble is
that life in the shadows is rarely profitable or fulfilling. When
thinking small has become a habit, it can prevent you from appearing
confident or taking meaningful action.
If you're tired of watching other people's success from afar, it
may be time to ask yourself whether you are playing in the right league.
In this post, I will share a few manageable options to move out of a
Look at your strengths
We are so used to focusing on our own shortcomings that you will
probably find it easier to list five of your faults than three things
you excel at. Many of us have a hard time acknowledging our skills. I am
not talking about unseemly bragging, but an honest description of the
things you are good at. For example, when you think about the last
project you delivered, you might see plenty of positive aspects -- your
client sent you positive feedback, your team delivered ahead of
schedule, or you researched new terms and found particularly authentic
and well-phrased ways to convey a difficult concept. Assessing what went
well in a project is a good starting point for thinking bigger.
Clearly understand where you need to improve
Many people struggle with the conviction that they must be
"perfect" before they can move on to more lucrative clients and
assignments. The fear of displeasing potential clients can be so
overwhelming that it seems easier to resign yourself to boring, poorly
paid assignments. No one likes to be rejected or criticized, but there
is no way to completely avoid it either. Growing a business invariably
involves making mistakes and learning from them. Instead of telling
yourself that you "don't have what it takes," it may be helpful to seek
honest feedback from a colleague or a client who appreciates your work.
The response will help you understand which of your skill areas may need
improvement and what you can do about it.
Do the asking
People who play too small are often waiting to be approached --
secretly hoping that a client will somehow discover them. The drawback
is that such a passive strategy leads to disappointment and ill-matched
work assignments. Instead of beating around the bush and letting other
people guess what you do, take an active role in going after the work
you want and the people you want to work for. Potential clients may be
looking for your skillset, but you need to get their attention first.
Don't be shy to express your interest in work assignments: "I would like
to be considered for…" -- "My expertise is in …".
Join the conversation
Small players often choose to stay silent in professional
conversations because they falsely believe they have nothing to
contribute. Saying nothing may avoid putting your foot in your mouth,
but it also keeps your abilities in the dark. Telling yourself "That's
not for me" or "I don't have time for lengthy forum discussions"
overlooks a crucial aspect: Direct referrals -- a common occurrence in
the T&I industry - are a lucrative and easy source of business for
those who are active within a given network. Name recognition and a good
reputation among your colleagues will open up interesting new
opportunities you don't want to miss. Make it a point to show up in at
least one place where your clients or colleagues hold conversations.
Make room for important things
Playing small can also be expressed in your time choices. If
everyone and everything is a higher priority than your business, you are
allowing meaningless chores and social chitchat to take up the time you
need to become more serious about your work. Translating and
interpreting tasks are just one aspect of your work. Consistent
outreach, marketing and administrative tasks are equally important to
keep improving the quality of your clients. If you find yourself jumping
from one task to another, it may be helpful to rank your activities by
purpose -- who is served by your efforts?
Thinking big(ger) is the practice of seeing opportunities instead
of limitations. When you perceive the world through the lens of
continuous improvement, the possibilities are endless.
CT has been a full-time freelance GER < > EN translator for over
25 years. She served as ATA President from 2011 to 2013. In 2014, she
established her own coaching business, Take Back My Day, to help
individuals and organizations solve problems related to workflow and
time management. As a certified productivity coach (CPC), she now
divides her time between translating and coaching. Her book Complete What You Started (2020) provides a blueprint for carrying big projects across the finish line. You can read her blog at takebackmyday.com/blog.
"Every conversation with Dorothee leads to insights I can apply right away." -- Gina, June 2022
The Tech-Savvy Interpreter 2.0 - The best 5 places to find interpreting practice speeches (Column by Josh Goldsmith)
In Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell argues that it takes 10,000 hours of intense practice to become an expert.
Becoming an expert isn't about the number of hours you put in. It's how you practice.
And that starts with good practice materials.
Read on to discover my top 5 sources of interpreting practice speeches.
Speechpool: Speeches by students, for students
Ever scoured YouTube for practice materials, only to find they were too fast, dense, or irrelevant?
The best part? They're designed for beginners.
Find the perfect practice speech -- designed by fellow interpreting
students -- with filters including language, topic, and type
(consecutive with or without notes, advanced consecutive, simultaneous,
or advanced simultaneous). Speeches are sorted by difficulty level, as
voted by users. Many speeches also include keywords, user comments, and
links to reference material. Videos of speeches are hosted on YouTube,
so you can also run them through speech recognition software -- one of
the practice techniques I discuss in The Interpreter's Practice Toolkit
You'll find over 100 speeches each in Chinese, English, French,
German, Italian, and Spanish, plus recordings in Arabic, Basque,
Catalan, Greek, Hungarian, Japanese, Lithuanian, Macedonian, Polish,
Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Serbian, Slovak, and Swedish.
Explore high-quality speeches with the European Commission's Speech Repository
Looking for speeches written by professional interpreters for learners of all levels?
The Speech Repository features over 4,500 video speeches, with
1000+ excerpted from public conferences, parliamentary debates, press
conferences, and other real-world settings and 3000+ designed by EU
interpreters for training.
All speeches are searchable by level
(basic, beginner, intermediate, advanced/test-type, very advanced), use
(simultaneous or consecutive), domain, keywords, and language.
Speeches are available in all 24 official EU languages as well as
Albanian, Arabic, Cantonese, Chinese (Mandarin), International Sign,
Macedonian, Russian, Serbian, and Turkish.
includes a short description of the speech, duration, and key terminology.
If you're an interpreting student or trainer at a partner university or an EU-accredited interpreter, My Speech Repository
offers additional bells and whistles. For self-study, save searches,
create a list of favorite speeches, mark a speech as done, download
speeches and view transcripts. Even better, add friends, invite them to
record an interpretation, and request and provide feedback. Use the
SCICRec tool (for Windows, Mac, or Linux) to record your interpretation
and listen back to dual-channel audio. You can even compare your
rendition to the transcript -- another helpful technique I discuss in The Interpreter's Practice Toolkit
The Speech Repository excels due to its breadth of languages and
high-quality training and test-type material. If you're learning an EU
language, check it out!
Listen to authentic UN speeches -- as delivered and interpreted -- with the UN Digital Recording Portal
The UN Digital Recordings Portal is the gold standard for speeches in English, Spanish, French, Russian, Arabic, and Chinese.
It offers thousands of hours of authentic high-level speeches and
recordings of the interpretation as delivered -- the perfect option for
advanced interpreting practice and for hearing UN interpreters at work.
New audio recordings of speeches and simultaneous interpreting at meetings are uploaded every single day.
You can search the materials by date, organization or committee, and
keyword. The repository also includes the speaker's name and time
markers, making it easy to find practice materials in a given
Want to learn more about the Digital Repository, simple recording
and listening tools, and how I used this repository to pass the UN
accreditation exam? Check out my blog post and video on Using the UN Digital Repository for interpreting practice
Discover thousands of speeches curated by interpreting practice groups
Interpreting practice groups are run by professional interpreters, for professional interpreters.
These free groups are the ideal place to add a new language to your
combination, dust off a rusty language, enhance your skills, and meet
new colleagues from across the globe.
And if you're on the hunt for new practice resources, you're in luck!
The groups have posted thousands of speeches on their YouTube channels:
Amerivox -- English, French, Spanish, Portuguese
Interpreters in Brussels Practice Group -- Dutch, English, French, German, Italian, Polish, Spanish
London Interpreters' Practice Group -- English, French, Italian, Polish, Russian, Spanish
Paris Interpreters Practice Sessions -- Arabic, English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish
Red de Prácticas de Interpretación Simultánea -- English, French, German, Italian, Polish, Spanish
Romanian Interpreting Training Sessions -- Romanian
Toronto Interpreters Practice -- Arabic, English, French, German, Italian, Mandarin, Russian, Spanish
WISE Interpreting Workshops -- English, French, German, Italian, Spanish
Poke around in their archives, and you might just stumble across some of my speeches! 😉
Finding interpreting practice speeches on YouTube
YouTube is brimming with recordings of conferences and
parliamentary debates -- perfect for an accreditation test or practicing
a speaker you'll interpret at an upcoming conference.
YouTube speeches can be a lifesaver for less-common languages, too.
Why not ask your tutor or practice partner to search for and vet a few
speeches to make sure the level is appropriate?
How to have the most productive interpreting practice sessions
Once you've found the ideal speeches, you need the right tools and strategies for successful practice sessions.
- Identify a specific goal for each session
- Use practice materials that are suitable for your aims and levels
- Prepare before you interpret
- Keep sessions short and focused
- Record yourself -- ideally with video and dual-track audio
- Give yourself constructive feedback
- Log your progress (You can use our free feedback forms)
- Review your learning plan and progress
- Don't overdo it!
Learning to interpret was the hardest thing I ever did -- harder than graduating from an Ivy League university.
So go easy on yourself, and remember the old adage: Practice makes perfect!
is a UN and EU accredited translator and interpreter working from
Spanish, French, Italian, Portuguese and Catalan into English. A
passionate educator, Josh splits his time between interpreting,
researching and teaching through www.techforword.com, which empowers language professionals to make the most of technology.
Bastien Mensink is a Dutch guy who likes spreadsheets. REALLY likes spreadsheets. He started to work with Lotus 123
and Quattro Pro
in 1994 and then switched to MS Excel
in 1997. One thing he did not like about these applications were
certain limits in functionality -- things that would make a lot of sense
in a certain situation but were accessible only via complex macros. So
he started developing tools that give access to macros which extend the
functionality of Excel many times over. He called this collection of
tools ASAP Utilities
, began marketing it in 1999, and launched a company around it the next year.
Today ASAP Utilities is a very widely used add-on to Excel with
installations in more than 23,000 companies worldwide, localized
versions in 10 languages for virtually all available versions of Excel (in
earlier versions it's displayed as its own menu and in more recent
versions as a ribbon), and surprisingly many helpful tools for
So why, you might say, would I want to have an add-on for Excel if
I use only a handful of Excel features to start with? Good question,
and the answer is yes, you're right, you are only scratching the surface
of Excel, and you will also only scratch the surface of the more than
300 tools in ASAP Utilities. But here's the deal: If only, say, five of
the new tools turn out to be helpful and save you time (and you can
always check how much time you've saved under "ASAP Utilities Options"),
it might be completely worth your investment. Bastien and his employees
are also pretty sure that it's going to be a worthwhile deal, so he's
offering a 90-day trial period.
Here's what the ribbon looks like in recent versions of Excel:
see that the many tools are sorted more or less thematically. Opening
one of those collections -- say, "Text" -- allows you to see not only
the number of available tools but also an in-depth description of what
the tool does if you put your cursor on one you can see.
As translators, you'll immediately see that there are a number of potentially helpful tools in this collection.
Other tools I found helpful include ones to count characters in
individual cells (under "Information"), highlight and delete duplicate
records (under "Range"), and ways to quickly propagate data in cells
(also under "Range") or to list all files in a folder and all subfolders
(under "Import"). I'm almost certain that you will like Bastien's
super-collection of tools.
The long shadow of translation technology
Every once in a while, friends and colleagues send me old manuals
of translation software products. One even mentioned the possibility of
opening a museum of translation technology at some point. (Anyone want
to run with that idea??)
Some of these documents are very educational. For two reasons,
really: to see how far we've come, and to recognize that not much has
changed at all.
Listen to this, for instance:
"Be imaginative, be bold, but have no fear! PC-Translator is
probably somewhat of a miracle, but it holds no mysteries for those, who
take the time to read the manual."
And from the same manual:
"To further enhance the AI [sic!] capacities of PC-Translator we now support multiple Wildcards in a single phrase."
This tool, launched in 1985 and shut down sometime in the late
1990s (the above-quoted documentation was from 1992), essentially used
phrase-based dictionaries and a system of wildcards to exchange words
and phrases between a handful of languages. Not much magic and certainly
no AI there, yet it didn't stop the developers from talking that way.
Here I scanned and uploaded
a product info sheet for a company that's still around, Systran
titled "Your Passport to 1992." Also interesting and a bit more
measured in tone. What I found remarkable about this document on an
early machine translation solution was that the workflow described for
the professional translator included a post-editing step, followed by a
I hope you'll enjoy it as much as I did.
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