Back to basics How does it feel to translate naked?

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    Sometimes life plays funny tricks, with coincidence and stuff. This week I had to prepare for a brainstorm session with a customer and last week I was asked to do a small translation job. Usually I grab the opportunity to experiment with new CATs or new features. But this time I decided to do it without any translation tool, just using pen and paper… or sort of: only MS-Word. What happened?

    First, I must say I really enjoyed the freedom in my head and all the white on the screen. CATs can be so overwhelming, visually, I mean: boxes, colors, buttons, statuses… It also felt a bit strange to use a dictionary again – I imagine that if I would have to “dial” a number again on an old phone, I would feel the same.

    But after half an hour I started to miss my tools and some simple things like the side-by-side display, the auto propagation, a term list…

    I also had to restrain myself from not using the machine translate feature in Word. Maybe I have become more of a post-editor then a translator, or maybe I’m just lazy… I also realised that the MT in Word is the generic Microsoft Translator and for sure I would have prefered to send my Word doc to Fair Trade Translation (as they select the best engine for each sentence — I submit my source document to one service and I get the best output of 3 services!). But as I started to translate from scratch in Word, I only considered this when too much human work had already been done.

    I also got a bit fed-up with all the extra formatting work I had to do. I suddenly realized I hardly waste time formatting when I use my CAT. I totally forgot about this “little thing”.

    As I cannot use a TM in Word, I could not re-use any of my previous work. Not a big deal as this job was not the type of text I usually work on.  To be honest: if this job would have been close to what I did before, I would not have considered to do this job without my CAT.

    Then I noticed that it was quite hard to check consistency myself and do some automated QA, and I wondered if I should not send my job to a colleague for review.

    So… Even though at first I really liked the back to basics setup of working in Word, my next job I’ll use a good translation tool again. Nostalgia can’t compete with efficiency.

    All in all, an interesting experiment that told me something important about myself…


    (Also read: I should have increased my quote. I can only blame myself I didn’t…)

    Gert Van Assche

    About Gert Van Assche

    Skeptical technology lover, testing a lot of translation tools. Occasionally I translate and develop software myself as well. I help LSPs through Datamundi, translators through Fair Trade Translation.

    2 thoughts on “Back to basics How does it feel to translate naked?

    1. Will all the new tools and developments in the field of translation automation I can’t imagine ever going back to the old school way of working. But maybe it’s just me because I’m crazy about productivity and making the most out of the available technology. 🙂

      1. It’s a thin line between being efficient and being lazy, Dmitry 🙂 There are more and more jobs where it pays off to be “lazy” the right way. All jobs where we use computers, maybe.

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