Business, Translation


A timely and entertaining introduction to the tools of our trade. BY NIELS NIELSEN

On Saturday, October 2, 2010, Jost Zetzsche, perhaps best known to most for his GeekSpeak column in the ATA Chronicle, presented a workshop on CAT tools from 1:00 pm to 5:00 pm at the downtown campus of San Francisco State University. In view of the ongoing changes in the translation industry brought about by technology, the importance of this topic was not lost on anyone.

In starting his talk, Jost spoke for the need for translators reevaluate the perception they have of themselves. As a rule, translators consider themselves to be artisans, communicators, philologists, and the like; in today’s environment they need to embrace being an entrepreneur and computer geek as well. To highlight many of the points he was making, Jost brought along his friend Jerombot, a combination of St. Jerome—the patron saint of translators, famous for his translation of the Bible into Latin—and a robot. In Jost’s view, today’s translator ought to be as passionate about languages as St. Jerome, with the added power of modern technology.

Jost pointed out that he would be thrilled if translators would give him ideas and suggestions with regard to what translators need or would find helpful for their work. He has been invited to give the opening remarks at the conference of the Association of Machine Translation in the Americas (AMTA), which will be held in Denver, Colorado immediately following the ATA conference. If ever there was a chance to tell the machine translation community what they can do to make the life of translators easier and more efficient, this is it.

In his presentation, Jost went through various computer-assisted translation (CAT) tools and functions, which he categorized into various groups depending on their role in the translation process. Saying, “I’m German, so I need to categorize,” he interspersed his comments on new developments in software with sometimes irreverent and always amusing insights of an insider. In addition to sprinkling his talk with witty remarks and humorous asides, Jost went out of his way to solicit questions and to answer questions when they arose.

He noted that all tools that were released this year have a machine translation component, as machine translation is indeed becoming ever more relevant. Even though translators may take a dim view of machine translations, the machine translation community does not care necessarily about quality; rather, they are after usability. Another interesting observation was that some non-language industry software developers are integrating translation tools into their products. Jost underscored the interest of the general public in translation technology by pointing out the popularity ranking of an article in the New York Times concerning Google Translate, which ranked at #4 of the most often e-mailed articles.

Among the trends that Jost discussed was the changing CAT environment. In one to three years, perhaps, the CAT tools will be available online and will work on browsers, which will make issues regarding Windows or Mac environments less important than they are today. In addition, the new xliff file format will also offer amazing potential, because it will permit the exchange of files from all kinds of translation formats. Standardization using the xliff file format will permit translation projects to be continued from one tool to the next. “Xliff is the future,” said Jost. Throughout his talk, Jost also listed websites and products that might be particularly helpful such as, Linguee, ECM-Engineering, Lingotek and Intelliwebsearch.”

MemoQ came in for particular praise from Jost. “I like many people; I love these guys,” Jost said. This program was assembled by young Hungarian linguists, who went around looking at CAT tools, took what they liked, and integrated the best features into their product.

In discussing his own translation method, Jost said that he uses Déjà Vu, because among other things it has a combination TM and term base. Having a readily available and well-maintained terminology database is particularly important for Jost, who said that “terminology is where the real power is.”

Despite there not being much time after the workshop ended, the participants who attended this workshop were able to manage a fair amount of socializing and networking. Jost was also more than helpful in answering questions on various topics. Though Jost himself is from Hamburg, he recently found out that his surname is Sorbian. The Sorbs are a Slavic minority found east of Dresden and one of the three indigenous ethnic minorities inside the borders of present day Germany.

For those who were unable to attend Jost’s presentation in San Francisco, he kindly provided an online overview of his lecture at NN