A Computer Journal For Translation Professionals
This edition of the Tool Box Journal provided to you by
(the three hundred forty-fourth edition)
I'm a lucky man, in so many ways. But let me just tell you about the ways that made you subscribe to the Tool Box Journal in the first place -- the professional ones.
I'm a lucky man -- in spite of myself. Years ago, I wrote an article
telling about my childhood reading of the German children's book classic Jim Button and Luke the Engine Driver
that made me study Chinese. Even when I wrote that 15 years ago, I knew
it wasn't completely true -- or at least, only partly true. I studied
Chinese because it seemed difficult, and I had the good fortune of
having a teacher who kindled in me a passion for language,
communication, writing, and translation that has been burning to this
I then stumbled into a world that I had barely heard of, let alone
thought I would enter, a world that embraced me and allowed me to grow
up alongside it: the translation sector. What an amazing field! At the
time I entered it, it had become "fully computerized," meaning that
translators had started to use word processing software and typically
received and sent their assignments via e-mail or FTP.
Translation-specific tools, on the other hand, still had a long way to
go before they were widely accepted. And when I say translation-specific
tools, I'm certainly not thinking about machine translation, which at
that point was not in any shape to occupy a place in the toolbox of most
What a great time to explore the existing technology, experiment with it, and share that journey with my colleagues.
I was (and am) a technical translator. That means -- as far as I'm
concerned -- that the texts I translate aren't always spellbinding in
and of themselves. What does enthuse me, however, is selecting the best
possible technology, mixing it with an optimally designed workflow,
continuing to improve methods for terminology research, and ultimately
improving the outcome -- both as far as the quality of the translation
product and the productivity/profitability of each project.
I'm a lucky man. Around the time I turned 50, it hit me on one of
my daily beach walks that I should look at ways to take a next step, to
combine my academic experience with my professional journey and my
Christian faith and dream up something that no one else could -- because
no one had traveled the exact same journey as mine. So I came up with
the idea of a tool that collects insightful Bible translations from
around the world to supply readers with a prism that refracts the
original languages of the Bible into hundreds -- and eventually
thousands -- of strands of color. I knew it was a project too large to
lift on my own, so I looked for a partner who would give me both the
finances and the manpower I needed. It took me a couple of years of
sometimes frustrating doors shutting in my face. But guess what?
I'm a lucky man. And I eventually found a dream partner in United
Bible Societies that I have now been working with for more than five
years, first on a very part-time basis and now almost full-time to build
Translation Insights & Perspectives
a tool that should make every linguist's heart jump -- Christian or
otherwise. Being a curator for this tool is just about as perfect a
match for my experience and abilities as it gets. (I hope this might
serve as an encouragement to you: doing a lot of different things is
valuable; dreaming up crazy ideas is, too; and so is seizing the freedom
and the motivation to forge something new and unique from it.)
I'm a lucky man. And it turns out that you're lucky, too. After
many conversations and much pondering, I decided last year to turn the
steering wheel of the Tool Box Journal
over to someone else. I had a lot of requirements, however: I wanted to
find someone with a primary interest in continuing to speak to you, the
journal's core audience. I also wanted someone who could communicate
effectively with our younger generation of translators. And I wanted
them to be able to write knowledgably not just about one or two kinds of
solutions, but to continue looking at existing and upcoming
technologies and workflows with fresh and unbiased eyes -- like I've
tried to do for the last 19 years.
I wracked my brain for several months and came up with nothing -- until (on a beach walk, of course!) I thought of Slator.
You're likely familiar with Slator, the most consistent source of
news for many stakeholders in the translation world for the last eight
years. I say "many" because so far, they've largely missed out on
connecting effectively with one important stakeholder, from our
perspective the most important stakeholder: translators. Knowing this,
Slator is excited to use the Tool Box Journal
to foster communication with this important constituency. And rather
than integrating it into the rest of its product offering, Slator will
continue to build it as a tool to speak specifically to translators.
Fortunately for all of us, it looks like Dorothee and Josh will remain
as columnists, and I'm sure you'll hear more specifics from them and
from Slator in the next few months.
Anyway, it will be time for me to say goodbye next month -- I
promised Florian at Slator that I would still author one last edition --
but today my heart is full of you, my readers, and you, my sponsors,
and your support over the last nearly 20 years. I feel grateful knowing
that I leave the Tool Box Journal in good hands, and . . .
I'm a lucky man.
Getting out of a business slump (Column by Dorothee Racette)
Cymo Note: Speech recognition meets automated note-taking (Column by Josh Goldsmith)
How do translators actually use MT?
Ronald Arbuthnott Knox
The last word on the Tool Box Journal
To facilitate the life of translators, memoQ has developed the backup wizard
With memoQ's latest feature, you can not only manually select and
back up your memoQ projects, but you can also schedule regular automated
backups -- for example, at the end of each day, so you always have the
latest version on hand if something unexpected happens during work.
Be prepared and make sure that all your precious work is safe.
Learn more about memoQ backup wizard here.
I am certain that many of you feel very much like I do as we read
the never-ending articles, social media posts, and numerous other
publications about ChatGPT, what an incredible impact this "AI thing" is
having on us, and how it will change everything!
Every time I read another article, my inner critic says, "Welcome to the world we translators experienced at the end of 2016."
That, of course, was when Google switched to neural machine
translation, followed shortly after by Microsoft and then DeepL. That
was when we experienced a massive jump in translation quality from those
engines and others that kept popping up like mushrooms on a rainy fall
day. When we quickly realized (well, maybe "quickly" is
over-exaggerated) -- when we realized that these machines didn't know
what they didn't know (i.e., what data they were trained with) but
always confidently "sold" us great-looking suggestions -- which either
dropped the parts that were unfamiliar to the machine or replaced them
with something else entirely.
Sound familiar? Does it also sound familiar when reading those
many, many articles about ChatGPT that say, "It was amazing what the
tool was able to generate in response to my prompts. Amazing! But then
it said something that was completely nonsense!"
I (make that: we) know!
ChatGPT and its competitors use essentially the same kind of neural
network technology that neural machine translation uses. Both the chat
and translation functions are very good and seem smart, but it's
important to remember that neither of them is actually smart. In fact,
"smart" is not even on the radar of these engines.
Any program that uses the current kind of technology has no
understanding of what it's doing. It's mimicking admirably, but it's
just producing sounds -- or letters, as it were -- one in front of
another, and the machine doesn't know what any of it means. It just
responds to prompts.
Uwe Muegge, whom many of you know, asked ChatGPT a few weeks ago for ten publications on terminology management. This is what it produced
Looks amazing, right? You'll recognize some of the authors, all of
whom have written something on terminology at some point. It even puts
them in an order of importance that seems reasonable. But you know
what's not reasonable? None of these publications exist. Not one. The
machine was able to pull out good-looking information snippets, and it
delivered them in exactly the right kind of format. It's just that none
of it was true.
That's neural networks for you.
Really, what we should all be doing right now -- should have been
doing since ChatGPT launched late last year -- is go on speaking tours
to tell educators, writers, and the many other creative professionals
who feel shell-shocked not to worry. The kind of artificial intelligence
we're dealing with is powerful -- too powerful for its own and our good
sometimes, but a potent tool nevertheless. We know, we've been using
its cousin since 2016.
Getting out of a business slump (Column by Dorothee Racette)
Fluctuating income is one of the least enjoyable aspects of
self-employment. When things are going well, you have current projects
and a pipeline of scheduled or anticipated work -- with the associated
payments rolling in. Sometimes that flow simply comes to a halt. After a
day or two of enjoying the freedom of doing whatever you like outside
of your office, fear begins to set in: Will you be able to pay your
bills, have your clients decided that machine translation is now
sufficient for their purposes, have you been outbid? That fear can
intensify when a slump continues for days and even weeks. Here are a few
things you can do when your project pipeline has more open space than
you would like.
- Stop making up stories. Dry spells have nothing to do with the
quality of your work, and the industry has not ceased to exist. It's
good to remember that fluctuations occur in every business. The cheerful
posts you see on social media also don't mean you are the only person
who needs more project work. All freelancers experience business slumps,
and the best way to move out of paralyzing worry is to take action.
- Nudge past clients. Getting in touch with existing clients to let
them know you are available for new projects is one of the most
effective ways to reenergize your freelance business. A friendly message
with a little update about you and your business not only reminds your
clients of your excellent work, but may also save their project managers
valuable time. If necessary, go back to your project data from past
years to look for names and contacts. Don't overthink what to say -- an
upbeat note that mentions your language pair and specialty is enough.
- Analyze your business data. Chances are, you didn't have much time
to really look at your past work when you were busy doing one project
after another. There is no need for a flashy CRM system; you can find
the information in your hard drive or bank account. The data from past
fiscal periods tell interesting stories -- about new special fields,
favorite clients, and lucrative projects. This is a good opportunity to
check whether your online profiles and business materials are still up
to date. Add information about new fields or technology you may be
using, and ask a colleague to give you feedback on your CV.
- Network. Networking doesn't mean sending awkward messages to people
who have never heard of you. (Pro tip: Don't send messages starting with
"Dear Sir" to a female business owner). It simply involves talking to
people you already know, such as T&I colleagues, past coworkers in
other industries, teachers, or classmates. Look them up online, or
invite them for coffee. Posting online (anything that does not sound
desperate) is part of networking as well -- your content reminds people
of your work and can result in more conversation. Although it is harder
to do when work is busy, make sure to keep up the communication in the
Going forward, there is even more you can do to prevent future dry spells.
- Be findable. Amidst all the talk about "marketing," it can be easy
to forget that the whole point of telling other people what you do is to
make sure they can find you when they need your services. Your work as a
linguist solves a problem (needing to understand), and potential
clients will search for you when they have that problem. Your outreach,
online profiles, and connections come down to one thing -- you need to
be easy to contact.
- Don't forget about referrals. Keep in mind that the most interesting
and profitable work projects are never posted on gig websites. They are
referred based on the recommendation of your peers. To be the recipient
of referrals, you need to be part of a group that gets project offers,
and be a fair player within that group. That doesn't happen overnight --
it is part of building a sustainable business. Membership in
professional organizations not only shows your level of professional
commitment, but also gives you access to friendly places for sharing and
Although they are unpleasant and scary, dry spells can provide the
necessary incentive to reenergize your outreach efforts and professional
learning. Business doesn't just happen; it reflects the energy you
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.
In-person T&I conferences are back!
The Tech-Savvy Interpreter 2.0 - Cymo Note: Speech recognition meets automated note-taking (Column by Josh Goldsmith)
Is note-taking the bane of every interpreter's existence? For many
of us, it sure is. What if there were a way to "automate" the whole
Enter Cymo Note
, a tool that combines a running transcription (highlighting key terms and figures) with a virtual notepad.
Speech recognition for interpreters
Many interpreters are adopting tools like Web Captioner
to generate real-time transcriptions during simultaneous interpreting assignments.
While some colleagues find a running transcription to be helpful, others are distracted
by it. The jury is still out on what the ideal CAI (computer-aided interpreting) tool should look like. For example, the Ergonomics of the Artificial Boothmate
project surveyed over 500 interpreters and found a range of preferences
For years, InterpretBank has offered an experimental
speech-recognition tool that extracted key information from a running
transcription, displaying only names, numbers, and key terms from your
glossary, along with their translations. (Check out this video demo of InterpretBank's speech recognition
Some interpreters have also explored a hybrid interpreting model
called SightConsec, where you work primarily from a machine-generated
transcription in a consecutive setting, and may not take notes at all.
(Curious about this technique? Check out this interview with Lilia Pino-Blouin
to learn more.)
Cymo Note takes this one step further, building automated note-taking into a computer-assisted interpreting tool.
How Cymo Note works
Released in late 2022, Cymo Note
aims to bring automatic speech recognition to the full range of
interpreting settings -- including remote, onsite and hybrid meetings --
and modalities -- simultaneous, consecutive, and hybrid approaches.
The tool, which has apps for Windows, Mac, and iPad, is the first
interpreting software to adopt a pay-per-minute pricing system: You
purchase credits and pay different amounts based on which flavor of
speech recognition you use. Available engines include Microsoft ASR
(about $10/hr), Tencent Speech-to-text ($4.50/hr), iFlytek
Speech-to-text ($6/hr), and the proprietary Cymo Speech Engine
($3.50/hr). Alternatively, a flat-rate subscription will give you
unlimited access for $58/month. This pricing model reflects the fact
that running speech recognition engines is not cheap; charging users for
that processing power makes the service sustainable.
Cymo Note also allows you to add names and terms to the glossary
through a feature called "force replace." (These are bolded in the
Building your glossary in Cymo Note
Creating a glossary in Cymo Note is incredibly easy.
First, choose your preferred speech recognition engine and language
combination from the 15+ supported languages (including Arabic,
Cantonese, Dutch, English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean,
Mandarin, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, and Swedish).
Lastly, turn on the transcription, and you're up and running. You
can also switch the transcription language with a single click without
having to interrupt the transcription.
See a term you'd like to add to your glossary? Simply highlight it
in the transcription. A machine translation into your second language
automatically pops up. Star it to add it to your glossary, or click to
edit the translation, then hit Enter to add it to your glossary.
You can also type a term into the search box at the top of the
screen, then follow the same process mentioned above. Cymo Note even
lets you copy and paste an entire glossary. To preserve confidentiality,
only a single glossary is ever stored on your device, but you can
always export a glossary, then import it back into the app, e.g. when
working for repeat clients.
I already mentioned Cymo Note's unique "force replacement" feature.
Whenever a term has been transcribed incorrectly, select it and click
the force transcribe button (an icon including the letters A and B), and
type in the correct transcription. From then on, the correct term will
be highlighted in bold every time it appears in your text -- perfect for
adding in names of speakers, companies, or products and quickly drawing
your eye to them while you're interpreting.
Cymo Note lends itself well to a novel preparation technique. Turn
on the speech recognition engine, and read out a speech on a topic
that's related to your meeting. After dictating for a few minutes, read
through the transcript, highlight potential terms, quickly add
equivalents, and use force replace to correct proper names so they will
display correctly during your assignment.
Using Cymo Note for consecutive interpreting
Cymo Note's most innovative aspect is its consecutive interpreting feature.
Turn on "Consecutive layout," and the screen will automatically be
divided in two, with the transcription on the left and a blank space for
taking notes on the right.
Enable "Drawing mode," and start taking notes. (You'll get the best results when you run Cymo Note on your tablet or touchscreen device
and use a stylus.) You can also adjust the brush size and color, or change the font size (up to 40 pt) with a simple slider.
Turn on "Consec bookmarks" to quickly add a bookmark at the
beginning of a speech (or any place you'd like to jump to), then click
the icon (of the line and arrow in the bottom-right corner) to jump
Screenshot of Cymo Note in consecutive layout with drawing mode on
With "Drawing mode", you can take notes anywhere on the page --
including on the transcribed text. The possibilities are endless: Draw a
line to link notes to a specific term in the text, underline a key
concept, or strike through repetitive sections you want to skip during
your consecutive rendition. Feeling brave? Why not try to forgo notes
entirely and spend your time reading the live transcription, jotting
down potential translations, or making minor handwritten corrections to
the text for a computer-assisted sight translation?
Check out this video to see how to set up Cymo Note's consecutive interpreting features.
Before you dive in
First, Cymo Note requires practice: Make sure to get familiar with the technology before an actual assignment.
As with all web-based applications, confidentiality is also an
issue. The developers address this by not storing your data on their
servers, using speech recognition engines with strong encryption, and
suggesting that your client sign a non-disclosure agreement permitting
you to run the meeting through web-based speech recognition technology.
In any case, always exercise caution and speak to your client before
using web-based speech recognition tools when confidential information
is discussed or likely to come up.
For those unsure about how to properly route audio from an RSI
platform into Cymo Note, the team behind the app have provided extensive
and video tutorials
explaining how to go about it.
To my knowledge, Cymo Note cannot differentiate between a word's
root form and variants (i.e. singular and plural, cases, etc.); it will
only find a term if the exact equivalent is in your glossary.
Finally, although the pricing model makes sense, some colleagues
might find the cost steep. Luckily, Cymo Note offers 20 trial credits,
which gets you up to 60 minutes of testing time (depending on the speech
recognition engine you use).
Is Cymo Note right for you?
Cymo Note offers a truly novel approach to speech recognition for
interpreters, with running live transcription and extensive note-taking
If you find a running transcription during simultaneous
interpreting useful, Cymo Note provides a turbocharged version that
highlights key names, figures and terms.
Where Cymo Note truly shines, however, is in consecutive settings.
It offers unique features that are not currently available in any other
tool, including the ability to:
- annotate a live transcription
- complement the transcript with full or partial notes
- add bookmarks to easily navigate notes
- highlight numbers
- highlight (and correct) proper names, and
- display terms and their equivalents from your glossary in real-time.
It also streamlines glossary creation through a unique approach
combining speech recognition and machine translation, with a human in
the loop to review and approve terms.
I find Cymo Note a welcome and unique addition to the computer-assisted interpreting tools currently on the market.
If you're looking for a speech recognition tool designed for
interpreters, covering 15+ languages, and offering turbocharged live
transcription -- plus unparalleled features for consecutive -- look no
further than Cymo Note!
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.
Interpreters! Are you ready to prepare faster, deliver
higher-quality interpreting and learn new skills to stay competitive in
these rapidly changing times?
Join 20+ experts
and thousands of colleagues and get ready to learn useful skills,
rethink approaches, and (re)discover the human side of interpreting at
the Innovation in Interpreting Summit from March 7-9.
How do translators actually use MT?
How does this sound:
The author conducted an anonymous
online survey between 23 July and 21 October 2022 to gain insight into
the proportion of translators that use machine translation (MT) in their
translation workflow and the various ways they do. The results show
that translators with more experience are less likely to accept MT
post-editing (MTPE) assignments than their less experienced colleagues
but are equally likely to use MT themselves in their translation work.
Translators who deal with lower-resource languages are also less likely
to accept MTPE jobs, but there is no such relationship regarding the use
of MT in their own workflow. When left to their own devices, only
18.57% of the 69.54% of respondents that declared that they use MT while
translating always or usually use it in the way the pioneers of MT
envisaged, i.e., MTPE. Most either usually or always prefer to use MT in
a whole range of other ways, including enabling MT functions in CAT
tools and doing hybrid post-editing; using MT engines as if they were
dictionaries; and using MT for inspiration. The vast majority of
MT-users see MT as just another tool that their clients do not
necessarily need to be informed about.
(By the way, I find this more than "just" interesting. I think the
discussion of how we use machine translation today and tomorrow is
literally the most important discussion we need to have. The results of
this survey give us some important clues.)
There's a good middle name for your next child (and my sense is that Arbuthnott would work for both sons and daughters).
Ronald Knox was a remarkable guy (more about him down below), and I
just found this quote by him from a talk he gave in the early 1950s:
According to a recent paragraph
in the newspapers, translators who are members of the Institute of
Linguists have decided to increase their charges. The present rate for
translating French, German, Italian, and Spanish into English is £1 18s.
a thousand words, and the proposed new rate will be two guineas; and so
on through the gamut of the languages until you reach the translation
of English into Arabic, which will now cost £8 15s. This institute is, I
take it, the trade union of those useful people who compose for us the
directions on medicine-bottles and the regulations at air-ports Their
highest skill is called into play when they act as interpreters at
international conferences, for which they propose to charge anything
between ten and sixteen guineas a day. All honour to them; but alas,
their knell is sounded; a few years now, and they will be redundant. A
process which they would be the first to describe as "automation" will
have provided us with electronic typewriters which translate as they go
along, and head-phones through which we can listen, at first hand, to
the political grievances of the world. Parthians, and Medes, and
Elamites, and dwellers in Libya about Cyrene, we shall hear them speak
in our tongues the wonderful works of Man.
The more things change, the more they stay the same.
Back to Ronald Arbuthnott Knox, a Catholic priest and detective
story writer. Because of that intriguing combination of talents, Knox
was asked in 1936 by the Catholic Church in England and Wales to
translate the Bible. The Douay-Rheims Bible that had been translated in
the 16th century in Catholic exile in France (you guessed it, in Douay
and in Rheims) was badly in need of an overhaul, and who better to do it
than a skilled writer?
Knox finished the New Testament in 1945 and the Old Testament ten
years later, and he didn't disappoint the great hopes put in him. The
problem was that they should have waited just a few more years to ask
him (or someone else). In 1943, the Catholic church changed its policy
and asked for translations only from the original languages rather than
from the Latin translation, which had been the only source permitted to
that point. Unfortunately for Knox, his efforts straddled that time
period, and his finished version, though highly praised, was never
recognized as an official translation because of the policy change. Oh,
I recently stumbled on his translation (again) because his is the
only English translation that maintained most of the Hebrew (I know, the
irony!) acrostics (poems where each line starts with a successive
letter of the alphabet, typically consisting of 22 lines or a multiple
of that -- Hebrew has 22 letters). Here is a crazily long example
along some other languages (including Züritüütsch!) from the longest poem in the Bible; and here is one
where a Spanish translation puts its own stamp of excellence on its translation.
The last word on the Tool Box Journal
If you would like to promote this electronic journal by placing a
link on your website, I will in turn mention your website in a future
edition of the Tool Box Journal. Just paste the code you find here
into the HTML code of your webpage, and the little icon that is
displayed on that page with a link to my website will be displayed.
If you are subscribed to this journal with more than one email
address, it would be great if you could unsubscribe redundant addresses
through the links Constant Contact offers below.
If you are interested in reprinting one of the articles in this
journal for promotional purposes, please contact me for information
© 2023 International Writers' Group