Why so many translators love translation technology

June 26, 2014 by

Why translators love translation technologyI recently read the claim that many translators hate translation technology. In my experience, this is simply not true – in fact, many love it. Here are some of the reasons why.

We love tools that enable us to translate more effectively

Translators have always used technology to support the process of translation. We have speedy laptops and desktop computers with plenty of power to run the many software programs that we use.

Many translators have amazing office setups with multiple screens and the latest translation technology applications. We use computer-aided translation (CAT) tools to keep track of terminology, ensure consistency in our work and improve quality control. These tools are not cheap but, as professional translators, we know that they are well worth the investment.

We love tools that help speed up our processes

The technology that we use helps us translate faster and be more productive. CAT tools can speed up the process of translation, especially when used with speech recognition technology. These days, many tech-savvy translators dictate their translations via a headset directly into their translation tool, taking full advantage of the latest technology.

We love tools that help people communicate across language barriers

Most translators are absolutely delighted with the incredible opportunities that are available now to communicate across language barriers. Free online translation has made it much easier for businesses to find possible partners and customers around the world. These businesses are our customers, and we are glad that they are now more able to make connections internationally across cultures and languages. Businesses that use free online translation also quickly see the limitations of machine translation, and understand that human translation is necessary for their key business communications. This is good news for translators working in this segment of the market.

We love meeting our customers’ needs …

Translation technology helps us to provide solutions for our customers and meet their needs. CAT tools enable us to build databases of the texts that we have translated for each of our customers, and we consult these databases each time we work on new translations for them. This means that we can keep track of their specific terminology and ensure that their translated content has a consistent voice.

… And exceeding their expectations

Our technology also helps us deal with fiddly files and tricky file types. If a customer needs a web page edited or InDesign document translated, any translator using a modern CAT tool can do this. We work with a huge variety of file formats, processing them using translation technology rather than the proprietary software applications.

(Although we have been known to moan about our tools occasionally)

Because we are such big users of technology, we complain when translation tools do not work as they should or do not meet our needs. But this does not mean that we hate technology – it means that we want it to be even better.

How about you?

These are just some of the reasons why translators love translation technology, and there are many more besides. What do you think – are translators keen users of translation tools? Let me know in the comments below.

By Jayne Fox BSc MITI, German-English translator. 
For German-English medical translation – and translation of corporate communications.

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About the author: Jayne Fox is a German-English translator specialising in corporate communications for sci-tech and health care. She works with German and Swiss organisations to help them communicate effectively with international audiences.

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  1. Rita Menezes

    They help us assuring consistency.

    • Jayne Fox

      Thanks Rita, they certainly do.

  2. Kevin Lossner (@GermanENTrans)

    You really have to take those puff pieces that Natalie writes with a big grain of salt and understand that they are part of a well-planned strategy to undermine the competence and independence of individual translators and promote instead centralized corporate solutions sold by her VC-hungry employer and other interests. They take full advantage of the ATA's retreat from PR work to tell a story that is very different from the reality of a professional translator's work and life.

    Translators don't hate technology. They hate inefficient technology like the Smartling translation environment, whose miserable ergonomics slow down your work and generally reduce your income. But by "cuteifying" the profession and trying to depict us all as a bunch of semi-pro, wannabe happy housespouse-translators after pocket cash, some vendors with their "buyer focus" try to justify their utter ignorance and disregard of our professional standards by implying that we have none. Nataly Kelly and Smartling, TAUS, the Common Nonsense Advisory and all that lot do not speak for us or any credible professional standards; their goals are to increase their corporate gains by squeezing more blood from us stones too often. It's not always done as a malicious thing; I have noted that they are just as prone to innocent ignorance as any others too distracted by the shiny coins they chase to actually understand the areas of application they claim to transform. A few good ideas does not a technology revolution make, and if someone hopes for us to stop hating *their* technology, then they'll have to get it right finally.

  3. Kasia Beresford

    @Kasiabesfud: @jaynefox Excellent riposte! Original article superficially balanced, but in fact conceited, designed to undermine prof freelancers.
    xl8 t9n

    Thanks for your post Jayne. If no-one replies this sort of insiduous undermining of professional translators takes root and contributes to create negative perceptions. You have countered that brilliantly!

  4. Aurora Humarán

    A necessary article, Jayne!
    We are now devoting more time to the uses of Dragon than to the uses of the "to infinitive." 😉 Not investing time and money in that blessing called technology would be silly... to say the least. And the same applies to our interest in business, of course.Just have a look at any conference for translators and interpreters! Technology and business occupy many (if not most) slots!

  5. Shai

    Great article Jayne, but I agree with Kevin.
    This piece, as well as several other (not only by Ms. Kelly), are not honest opinion pieces in the interest of presenting a professional topic and promoting a constructive discussion. They are created with SEO/PR purposes in mind, and even worse, in an attempt to undermine the translation profession. They attempt to do so by falsely depicting translators as outdated para-professionals with a knee-jerk reaction against anything technology-related that fear their relevancy in light of the “superior” technology, while in the process positioning the technology proponents as authority figures that patron and represent the translation profession.
    Any honest discussion about translation supporting technology - or any other professional topic - should be saved for professional circles. The Huffington Post and other mass media channels are not one of them. They are, however, a more suitable channel for reaching existing and potential translation buyers "over the heads" of the translators and sell them on these ideas. Not only the title presents a false claim as a well-established fact and the content uses demagogic generalization, but there isn't even a basic disclaimer to highlight the obvious conflict of interests considering who the author truly speaks on behalf of.
    We should be more careful about how we respond to these "opinion pieces", because any professional attention actually gives those claims - false and unfounded as they usually are - legitimacy in the eyes of the layman reader.

  6. patenttranslator

    We, translators, love technology, except when some people - such as the authoritarian, predatory type of corporate translation agency - is trying to use the wonderful technology to enslave us.

    That is when we hate technology and refuse to accept the sneaky solutions that the snake oil salesmen and saleswomen want to sell to us.

    We are not nearly as stupid as they think we are.

    We refuse to accept their reasoning because we know that it is false and also because we know that a better world, a world that does not include them, is possible.

    We will keep working toward that end, whether we ultimately prevail, or fail.

  7. Jayne Fox

    Yes, we love our translation technology - the tools that assist us in meeting our customers' needs. Why wouldn't we? To suggest otherwise would just show a lack of understanding and respect for translators and the complex work that we do.

  8. Jayne Fox

    And here are the latest survey results from the UK Institute of Translation and Interpreting. They asked: "Do you use CAT tools on a daily basis when translating?" 243 people responded and the results were:
    • Yes: 64.2%
    • No: 35.8%
    So nearly 2/3 of professional translators who responded use translation technology.

    • Shai

      These results are not surprising at all. All translators use Translation Supporting Technology in one form or another. Translation Environment tools is just one form of technology. Furthermore, as part of our work we deal with technical tasks and issues on a daily basis that the very same people who later try to paint us as outdated, uninformed, and uneducated about technology hire "engineers" to perform. And above all, we are offering a commercial service just like anyone else, and using all sorts of technology to do that, just like anyone else. It has been a while since I last delivered a quote or a translation by way of a carrier pigeon.

      I can go on and on, but it doesn't matter because we - the translators - all know that, and I'm speaking here among my peers and preaching to the choir. The main point to remember is that the original article, on the other hand, is not aimed at translators but at the potential and existing clients of the outfit it was written on behalf of and that has very obvious interest in falsely painting us as hopeless, clueless, outdated bunch that need rescue by a "smart" technology so they could promote their service.
      The mere "accusations" and unfounded false claims that were presented in that propaganda piece only go to show that the ones who are actually misinformed and miseducated about technology is the author and the company she speaks on behalf of.

  9. Nelia

    Thanks for this article, Jayne! As you will probably see, it has spurred debate on my Twitter feed today 😉
    The CAT tool I use (MemoQ) is a great help for me, and that's why I use it. None of my regular clients asks me to use a specific tool, they just want their translation done and that's it. If a translator sees the point of using a CAT tool, they should try several of them and see which one suits *their* needs and abilities best.
    Also, as professionals, we should be ready to invest money in the development of those tools and invest our time & money to get proper training where necessary.

    Outside of CAT tools, there are so many productivity-enhancing tools and tricks that many translators have no idea exist! I informed a great deal of colleagues of the existence of Ctrl + F/Ctrl + H (Search and replace), Shift + F3 (lower/upper case/upper caps) or even F4 (repeat same action). These are a given for me, but not for everyone, apparently.
    Other tools include: professional spellchecker software, speech recognition, corpus indexation/search, time management/tracking software, etc.
    The list is endless.

  10. legalandbusinesstranslator

    As to Kevin Lossner (@GermanENTrans), he sells books about CAT tools, so his opinion is biaised too...

    I repeat my earlier accusation: most translators are stupid, ignorant and dishonest. Here we have another proof... Sorry...

    • Jayne Fox

      Thank you for your comment, Isabelle. I would have published your other, longer comment as well, but could not because of the swearing.

    • Kevin Lossner

      Ah yes, those books about CAT tools 🙂 Merely an attempt to share the results of things learned when supporting colleagues and clients on projects in the hopes of cutting down the many support request calls that tend to eat up the working day. If you think it's a way to get rich in anything but the time saved answering the same questions many times, I'd love to have some of what you're smoking 😉

      "Most translators are stupid, ignorant and dishonest"? Is this what the psychologists call projection? I haven't found this to be the case for any group, professional or otherwise, no matter how badly I might think of the lot. Of course, in certain strata of the translation market one does tend to have certain accumulations which confirm the old plumbing principle about what runs downhill, which is why I'm never comfortable consorting with the HAMPsTr crowd, Across users and other masochists without a clothespin firmly fixed on my nose.

  11. Chris Durban

    Hi Jayne, and thanks for your article. I've been caught up in various projects recently so am late to the party, but I do agree that pieces like N. Kelly's are at best uninformed, at worst manipulative (frightened/ranting translators need her employer Smartling and its cohort to swoop in and "help" them). Or perhaps simply that her comments reflect her freelance career and Smartling's focus on the low-budget low-risk of the market, where (maybe?) such concerns apply.

  12. Chris Durban

    insert : low-budget, low-risk *end* of the market.

    • Jayne Fox

      Thanks for sharing your perspective, Chris - you're right about those views being uninformed. Happily, many of us are busy focusing on our clients and are neither fearful nor in need of rescuing. 🙂

  13. Tarun Poudel

    Technologies have made us more accurate and organized.

  14. novalins

    The only reason why some translators hate translation tools is the fact that they're afraid that one day this tools will take their place in the industry. Which is completely not true as there will never exist a tool that will be able to translate as good as a human does.

  15. Laura Hargreaves - LanguagesbyLaura.com

    I'm really pleased to see this post, Jayne! I personally love how the advances in technology enable us to translate more efficiently and with more consistency. I do come across some animosity towards translation tools from a minority of translators, and as mentioned above I do think this may be rooted in a fear of being 'replaced' by technology. Posts such as yours will go a long way towards raising awareness of the fact that although these tools are invaluable for the future of the profession, human translators will ALWAYS be required: technological innovation, however advanced, does not allow for the subtle nuances of language. Thanks again for sharing! 🙂

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German-to-English translator specialising in medical and technical translation and corporate communications
Welcome to my blog, Between Translations! I'm Jayne Fox, German-English translator specialising in sci-tech, health care & corporate communications.
I work with clients from around the world. From my location in New Zealand, I translate overnight for European customers.
See my websites for more information.
Sci-tech translation and corporate comms: www.foxdocs.biz
Medical translation: www.jfmedicaltranslation.com
Email: jayne(at)foxdocs.biz