I don’t mind one CAT tool owning the market… But why the worst one?

Greater than 3 minutes, my friend!

When I was only contemplating to start my translation business, eager to know more about translation software, I downloaded a few renowned CAT tool’s demo version on my computer. I have tried to download, that is. Having a laptop from the dinosaur’s age, still working on Windows Vista, to my dismay I had found that the most widely used one doesn’t even work on it. So I moved on to a few others, and I actually found the one I liked best.

Having a chat with a fellow translator, asking her what this very popular software was like, she assured me that it was the best of the best. So when finally Santa Claus dropped a brand new laptop through my chimney, I couldn’t contain my curiosity, the first thing I did was download its demo version. The very next job I got was a one-pager, so I thought it was the perfect time to put my newly found ‘treasure’ to the test.

Opening the document went just fine. Then I tried to add something to the term base. In any other software I had tried before it was an easy job, just highlight the expressions in both the source and the target column, and in one click it was a done deal. Not in this one. You have to open the TB first. Makes sense, I thought, so I tried to create one. Outta luck. Since then they came up with the option to create one by yourself, but back then it was out of question. I started to Google it, looking at manuals, participated in webinars, and it became more and more obvious to me that it is no easy job.

Anyway, I carried on, and found this software more and more annoying, since it is lacking basic options the other apps already have or makes very mundane things pretty complicated.

I just can’t fathom why exactly this CAT tool is the most popular, much less, why on earth most agencies insist on its use.

As I was also eager to broaden my client-base, I ended up purchasing a starter license, and I have found the mere possession of it more useful than its content. For a while. The agencies loved the fact that I could handle their ‘T’ documents, kept coming back to me, many times with a lot of (awfully) pre-translated and locked segments, many times without the proper source document, and all the time with the requirement to give them a discount for repetitions and yes, fuzzies, too. I know, these problems may come up with any other CAT tool, but to my experience, only the agencies working with this software did this to me. Why? I will never be sure, but I have the slight suspicion that agencies who decide to use this software just either don’t know better, or even worse, they don’t care about what they put their translators through. When somebody pre-converts the source file for you, reads in whatever is in the TM and locks it away, and doesn’t even think of sharing the original with the translator, than I can’t help wondering if this somebody has a translation background at all.

And what strikes me most is the number of agencies that operate this way.

So, on the long run, is owning a license really worth it? Initially, I would say yes. If nothing else, only for getting this experience. But, as I have used the software more and more often and ended up being more and more frustrated, I would say no, it’s not. Fortunately, since then I came across a few agencies that use my favorite CAT tool or have their own system, sparing me much of these headaches. (And they are not so stingy, either:)

Krisztina Janosi

About Krisztina Janosi

2 thoughts on “I don’t mind one CAT tool owning the market… But why the worst one?

  1. Krisztina, what you complain about has to do with how the CAT is used by other players in the “industry” and not with the tool itself. If you use the same tool when working for end-customers, the auto-propagate, the sub-segment matching, the re-use, the MT (if useful for that particular document), the termbase support,… they can be very helpful. If you get jobs from incompetent pre-processors, and the jobs contain bad translations, just reject the jobs. If the jobs are full of machine translated sentences of which the quality is totally unknown, you can submit the job for analysis to FairTradeTranslation.com. (I warn you: we don’t always get it right either, but most translators find it useful.)

    Agencies that I work for do treat translators fairly, but to be honest, for languages they don’t have in-house translators for, they sometimes don’t know the quality of the fuzzy matches either. If you give some examples, any experienced project manager will find a solution that does not screw up his/her budget and that does not squeeze you like a lemon. One of the problems I bumped into a couple of times, and that REALLY pisses me off, is this: some malafide agencies machine translate the job, create a TM out of this and then apply the TM on the job again. They deliver you high fuzzies in the job, but they are all of low or at least random quality. A 100% match may not always be perfect, but it should at least be a good translation for the same sentence in another context. If I notice a 100% match that simply can’t have been translated by a human translator, I bluntly reject the job and demand a refund for the time I already wasted on the job.

    Maybe you should also take a peek at some new CATs like SmartCAT or XTM. I did see some good things there as well. But the same advice applies: reject the jobs that don’t respect you as a professional translator. Spend your time on customers that treat you well.

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    1. Hello Gert,
      Thank you for your comment. I agree, used with the right client, the TM and other features of any CAT tool definitely make our life easier. I was just trying to point out that compared to other software, I find the use of this particular one a little cumbersome, and that there are a lot better ones out there that could be enjoyed by many of us, if the one we were talking about wasn’t so widespread. And exactly because it is so widespread, it gives ample opportunity for the greedy to get TMs from God knows where and turn the translation industry into mass production. Only those agencies are free to use any other software who do not wish to participate in this mass production.
      Again, you are right, I should reject the client that doesn’t respect me as a professional, and trust me, this is my vision, too. Right now I am working on establishing the background allowing me to do just that. And thank God, until now it goes quite well:)

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