CAT round 2 – OmegaT

Earlier this year I discovered OmegaT, an open-source tool for computer-aided translation. I had been working with Similis previously but considered it mediocre (for my requirements) and it wasn’t evolving. OmegaT is a complete set of tools in one package with regular additions and improvements as well as an active user group. It’s what Jost Zetzsche, one of the industry gurus, calls a TenT, a translation environment tool. Such a tool incorporates a number of functions, in particular:

  • a translation memory, allowing you to reuse what you have previously translated
  • a bilingual dictionary, allowing you to look up the definition of words
  • a glossary, allowing access to specific terminology
  • a spell checker
  • a module allowing machine translation
  • file filters for working with different file formats
  • methods for handling tags
  • interoperability with other tools

OmegaT also includes the following less-commonly-found functions:

  • a scripting engine, allowing you to write small programs for automation
  • multiple translations for any segment
  • adding notes for any segment

Before using this tool on real projects, in order to get off on the right foot,  I attended a one-day training session, which was well worth it. I was able to work efficiently almost immediately afterwards and found that I knew the answers to most of the questions asked on the user forum and therefore had a lot less problems. Training sessions are unfortunately not available in all countries; I am lucky in that the program development coordinator for OmegaT lives in Lyon where I attended the workshop.

OmegaT works closely with a number of other open-source tools that allow file format conversion, alignment, quality control, segmentation and more.

So OmegaT is my tool now but the field is rapidly changing (sigh), as are so many other things, so we have to stay on the ball and keep a lookout for new developments. In particular, usable machine translation seems to be getting better, so this may change the playing field for translators in the future.

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CAT – computer-aided translation

These days, probably not a single translator doesn’t use a computer and using this tool efficiently is obviously very important. This includes analysing electronic text, estimating work to be done, sending out quotes and invoices, doing the accounting, organising files, managing a user-friendly translation environment, searching through previously-translated text, doing back-ups, archiving, keeping your PC healthy etc. All this, you could say, is computer-aided translation. It is for the most part not, as I used to think, MT – machine translation – when a text is automatically translated by a computer program. This is still a small but growing part of most translation activities. Once I realised this after reading up a lot on the subject – like most people, I wasn’t impressed by what MT has been capable of so far – I started to have a closer look at the tools available.

There are all sorts of tools out there, specialised tools doing just one part of the process and comprehensive tools that try to do nearly everything, and they range from free to expensive. That last term is relative of course, relative to your budget, your turnover, your expectations.

As I don’t yet have a huge amount of work as a translator (read “not making a lot of money”), I decided I couldn’t yet afford one of the big players in the field, so I went for one of the free packages, also to get an idea of how everything works and fits together. Similis is a free translation software package that includes the basic functions – manages translation memory, glossaries, alignment and works with both word and open-office files – but it wasn’t always free, so I’m assuming that development has probably stopped and support is probably limited. There is however a very detailed user manual.

I’ve used it for a few weeks on small projects, word files from 2 to 20 pages with and without graphics. In order to use all the functions, you need to get a free licence. It has an internal dictionary for several languages which however I didn’t find very useful. Not all terms were available and those that were I found not particularly appropriate, at least in my field (electronics, computing). In files that include images, the translation environment doesn’t show these images, so you need to have the original document open at the same time. However they are correctly included in the final translated document. After doing the translation, it’s possible to have the program perform an automatic alignment, which can (and should) then be manually edited. In this process, phrases and their translated versions are matched up so that they can be used in future translation projects.

I don’t know if it actually helped me translate better or faster – there is always a learning curve associated with these tools – but it did allow me to become familiar with the workflow and the main mechanisms involved. And I’m hoping that the translation memory and terminology files that I was able to export in csv format will be able to be used in the future with other tools. In any case it’s an exciting field and I intend to remain abreast of developments in this area.


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Scrum workshop

Early December I attended a 3-day training workshop introducing and explaining Agile Methods, more specifically Scrum, as applied, mainly, to Software Development. Agile Methods are based on principles and practices. Scrum is one of several agile methodologies and seems to be becoming one of the most popular. I discovered that as a software developer I had already been using some of the principles and methods of agile development over the years, which after all is both logical and reassuring, given that these methods are more or less common-sense solutions to common problems encountered in software projects. These methods apply best to small teams, but what interested me particularly was to find out if the methods could be applied to areas other than software development – the answer is yes – and if you could use it on your own, which is my case at present – the answer is also yes – and in both cases adaptations obviously need to be made, which is entirely coherent with the agile philosophy – adapting and responding to change.

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French or English, Français ou Anglais

If you’re bilingual, and you want to target audiences of both languages, which language to choose for your blog/website ? Not an easy question to answer ! So to gain time and keep things simple initially, the blog will be mainly in English and the other pages will contain both French and English sections. Later on this may be modified/improved.

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