By Jennifer Allen
As a second-year student at the Monterey Institue of International Studies, I was fortunate enough to be offered a class dedicated entirely to the use of computer-assisted translation tools. It was great to know that the Institute had a focus on keeping its graduates on the cutting edge of technology, and it was exciting to learn the ins and outs of the various programs we studied. Several weeks of the semester-long class centered on the use of TRADOS, which at the time was completely unfamiliar to me. I found the software fascinating and immediately recognized its benefits. Each of us in the class invented translation memories, did test-run translations, and had the chance to see a side of the translation industry that we hadn’t seen before.
And then … I graduated. And … and promptly forgot everything I learned in that class.
A second-year graduate student living on some hefty financial aid, I balked at the handsome fee required to make TRADOS my very own. Upon graduating in 2000, I embarked on a career as a freelancer, working without the assistance of CAT tools, and I’ve been doing that ever since. Over the course of the past six years, many are the times I’ve thought to myself, “Hmmmm, I could swear I’ve translated that very sentence before … oh well, I’ll just do it again!”
That was then, this is now. Over the past year or so, it started to become increasingly clear to me that TRADOS is a reality. It began to dawn on me that some translation agencies would contract jobs only to translators who used TRADOS. This may sound naïve, but it was a legitimate realization for me. Sure, I could spend the remaining 35 years of my career translating multiples of the same long, repetitive documents on my own and get really comfortable with the copy/paste feature of my keyboard – but why? A month ago, I made the decision to relearn TRADOS and welcome the program back into the fold of my professional life.
Luckily for me, there was a TRADOS workshop just around the corner. On March 4, I joined about 25 other members of the Northern California translation community in San Francisco to watch earnestly as Tuomas Kostiainen passionately reminded us why TRADOS is such a gem.
To begin with, Tuomas was great. He has been using TRADOS in his professional career as a Finnish/English translator for the past ten years, and it shows: he knows the program like the back of his hand. After resolving the many technical difficulties that are inevitable when you bring 25 laptops into a room together, we started off with the basics. Tuomas gave us an overview of how the program works and the benefits it offers, and then we moved on to the real-world practice run. This, I truly believe, is the best way to learn a new skill. We’ve all been to classes and workshops in the past where the students sit in nice neat rows with their notepads and take careful notes on what the teacher alone is doing on an overhead projector at the front of the room. We then take our notes home and two weeks later, when we finally get around to looking at them again, have no idea how to apply them to the program we want to learn.
Not in this workshop. Each participant came equipped with two sample files that Tuomas had emailed to us the week earlier. These files consisted of a series of phrases designed to illuminate various features of the program, so that we would know how to respond at each and every turn. We followed along with Tuomas, mimicking his actions at the front of the room on the overhead projector, translating each sample file in TRADOS one sentence at a time. When there were problems—why won’t it insert the tag for me?! I already translated that segment; why is it telling me there’s no match?!– Tuomas and his quite capable group of assistants were on the case to help resolve the problem quickly, if not immediately. When it worked, we felt impressed and satisfied.
As if that weren’t enough, there were refreshments!
Obviously, there is no way to learn every single aspect of a program in four short hours. However, the amount of information Tuomas packed into the workshop was impressive; leaving the class, I truly felt empowered to run straight home with my newfound knowledge and retranslate every file I’d ever delivered, just to see how much easier it would have been to translate with TRADOS. Okay, maybe not that empowered. But pretty close.
For me, attending the NCTA TRADOS for Beginners workshop was a step in the right direction, and well worth the modest workshop fee ($45 for NCTA members). I will definitely be glued to the NCTA calendar in hopes of finding an Advanced TRADOS workshop to attend, and I highly recommend that any translator not currently using TRADOS immediately look into its benefits. This workshop is the perfect vehicle to do that.