By Jost Zetzsche © 2008 International Writers’ Group, compiled by Yves Avérous

The Tool Kit is an online newsletter that comes to its subscribers’ mailboxes twice a month. In Translorial, we offer a quarterly digest of Jost’s most helpful tips from the past season.

Imagine 2008

I have already given some of my predictions in the 100th edition of my newsletter, but let me repeat one for its shock value and give another that I have only recently realized: 2007 was the last year in which MS Word still played any significant role in the TEnT (Translation Environment Tools) translation process. With Trados already having moved away from Word as its preferred translation platform, Multitrans and Wordfast on their way to doing the same thing, and Metatexis hoping to do likewise, there really aren’t that many left hanging on to Word.

That was a giveaway, but this prediction may be more interesting: SaaS! SaaS, or Software as a Service, has finally arrived. SaaS is the concept of not having to install the software on your local computer, but instead using it through a web browser, with most if not all of your language data being hosted by a server. To be fair, there have been a number of applications working in that realm for a while, but they should now gain wider acceptance.

When I first heard about server-based computing it sounded too futuristic, and I resented the idea because it seemed to promise less control. However, I’ve come to the conclusion that freedom (from software updates, computer problems, and backup worries) is not a bad thing, and even traditional vendors will find ways to walk that plank (and I think that most of them will find out they are pretty good swimmers).

Intelligent Web Searches

At the end of 2006 I mentioned the site IntelliWebSearch (www.IntelliWebSearch.Com ) as the tool that should be given the “winner of the popularity-vote-by-translators award.” Last year it should be the tool that “is most often mentioned in this newsletter.” Be that as it may, I can’t help mentioning it again because I have just found out that it is also possible to search the EU’s IATE database with IntelliWebSearch, a process that helped me enormously with a project this week (you can find instructions on this at

And for the one remaining reader who doesn’t know what it is: The free IntelliWebSearch copies highlighted text from any Windows application with a number of user-definable shortcut keys, opens your default browser, and sends the copied text to up to 10 customizable search engines or on-line dictionaries. You may need to fiddle a little bit to configure your search engines and dictionaries for your language combinations, but from that point forward there will be only bliss.

On Demand Training

Well, we’re finally there. Most of you know that I’ve been working together with the Italian Intrawelt on a new site called that offers something unique: professionally produced comparative Flash-video-based presentations of the 13 leading TEnTs. These include well-known ones like SDL Trados, Star Transit, and Déjà Vu; open-source tools like OmegaT; and relative newcomers such as Across, Lingotek, and MemoQ. We asked the tool vendors themselves to capture the process of translating a very easy and repetitive Word file according to a very strictly written script. After we received the video files back, we narrated them so you wouldn’t be bored with marketing talk but with objective information on how to process the file. This gives you the greatest possible comparability between the different tools. The areas that we focus on are pre- and post-processing of the file, creating a translation memory and a terminology database, and reusing content from the TM and the terminology database.

Two Clever Office Tricks

If you are in a terrible hurry and you don’t want to wait a long time for complex Word documents to open, you can either open them in Wordpad (accessible under Start>Programs> Accessories), or you can render them in MS Word with a draft font. To do this, select Tools> Options> View>Draft Font (in Word 2007: Office button>Word  Options> Advanced> Show document content> Use draft font in Draft and Outline views). This will not change the document itself, just the way it appears and the speed with which it opens. If you need to look quickly through a lot of large docs, this can be a real timesaver.

Here’s something that most of you know but which bugs me no end, especially in PowerPoint and Excel, but also in Word: the automatic URL hyperlinking feature in Office, i.e., the feature that automatically changes an email address or a URL into an underlined link. To turn this off, select Tools> AutoCorrect Options> AutoFormat As You Type, and uncheck “Internet and network paths with hyperlinks” (Office 2007: Office button> . . . Options>Proofing> AutoCorrect Options).


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The February General Meeting: Different Venue, Same Spirit

By Raffaella Bushiazzo

On February 11th, the NCTA General Meeting was held for the first time at the Mechanic’s Institute Library, where in the past we have traditionally held our workshops. Whether because of the cozy wood-paneled room or the anticipation of meeting new board members, the meeting was well-attended and successful.

NCTA President Tuomas Kostiainen opened the General Meeting with a few announcements of upcoming events.He then gave the final vote counts for the annual board election, and introduced newly elected board members Andrea Wells, Song White, and Stafford Hemmer, and re-elected board members Evan Geisinger and Naomi Baer. A heartfelt thank you went to outgoing Treasurer Barbara Guggemos, Webmaster Brigitte Reich, and Membership Director Tetu Hirai for all the work that they had done for the Association. It was a real pleasure working with people as professional and reliable as they are! Dear Barbara, Brigitte, and Tetu, thank you again from all of us.

Advanced Search

The highlight of the meeting was a panel discussion on advanced Internet search techniques and news gathering strategies, presented by Scott Gatz, Yahoo! Senior Director of Personalization Services, Tom Corbett, and Yves Avérous, NCTA Vice President in charge of Publications and founder of TransMUG, who moderated the panel as well.

Tom Corbett, a Healthcare Information Technology Specialist who is now applying his healthcare industry knowledge to the world of translation and localization, gave us an introduction to advanced search and provided useful tips. He also warned us of multiple dangers on the Internet such as false endorsements, rumors about false news, self-promotion, surveillance, and vandals who modify the information available on normally reliable news sources like Wikipedia.

He also suggested three websites that help translators make better searches:, where one can download a presentation by Chemali & Sommer held at the annual ATA Conference;, a good site for translators’ search tools; and, which allows you to find more detailed information about particular search engines.

Yves Avérous added more advanced search tips specifically for translation professionals. He gave us a few hints for terminology mining: try to guess your source term translation and verify your assumption in websites written in the target language; compare the number of results obtained by different possible translations; enter the source word that you want to translate and look it up in pages that are written in the target language; identify the word context in web pages written in the source language, then translate the context terms and enter their translation in a query made in target language pages.

RSS feeds and blogs

The panel continued with our third presenter, Scott Gatz. Among his many accomplishments, Scott has introduced My Yahoo!, opening the entire Web to millions of homepages. Scott presented the concept of RSS, Really Simple Syndication. This was developed to deal with the huge amount of information on the Web. It is a family of web feed formats used for web syndication, where live information from one section of a website is made available for other sites to incorporate. This allows users to create their own dashboard; a personalized web page like My Yahoo!, where they receive web feeds coming straight from the sites they choose. My Yahoo! was the first portal to provide users with a personalized page for receiving RSS feeds but today other sites offer a similar free service. And then there are the popular newsfeed aggregators like Bloglines, or the standalone newsreader applications for users who wish to keep their updates.

With all these solutions, there is no need to visit the sites containing information that you want to access multiple times a day, because you can automatically receive their content directly on your personalized page or your newsfeed aggregator. Millions of sites are now supporting RSS; their homepages present a little orange RSS icon that you can add to your method of collection. There are already more than 10,000 sites displaying the orange Yahoo! RSS icon. If you click on that icon, the site will be added automatically to your personalized page in My Yahoo!. The RSS concept not only saves time and makes it easy to manage a huge amount of information but also reduces spam because you get updates without providing an email address.

Yves concluded this interesting presentation by explaining the differences between the old and the current perception of blogs. Until not so long ago blogs were limited to personal usage, whereas today a blog is seen as a platform to instantaneously spread articles and information. For instance, under translators can subscribe to several feeds, each on a very specific subject, and receive the content on their personalized page.

Finally, there is the wiki concept. A wiki is a collaborative site, ideal for virtual teams. Someone posts one article and somebody else can complete it. From there, the concept can build eventually to its most famous illustration: the free online, multilingual, encyclopedia Wikipedia.

On a lighter note

At the end of the panel there was a drawing to win two books: Yahoo Hack went to the youngest member in the audience, Ajita Sherer, and Google Hacks went to NCTA member Sjamsir Sjarif.

The official General Meeting ended with refreshments and networking. Tuomas invited everybody to join the board members at a nearby Hunan restaurant to celebrate the Chinese New Year together, sharing delicious dishes. Our afternoon ended watching the long parade on Market Street to welcome the Year of the Dog.

Bidding for Trouble: The Problem With Online Auctions

By Dagmar Dolatschko

Few of us language professionals have managed to escape this new and troubling phenomenon: online bidding for translation work. Why has price become such a major focus? Even the government has changed its bidding requirements from “the lowest qualified bidder” to “the lowest bidder”- the “qualified” part has been dropped lately.

The world is changing at the speed of light. Location doesn’t matter any more and there are well-educated and experienced translators all around the world with widely diverging costs of living. I do not mean to slight colleagues from countries where $0.04 cents per word affords them a good standard of living. They should be deriving the benefits of the globalization of our industry. The problem arises when clients and bid-lines then expect every translator to bid as low, at the risk of being outbid, and put out of business.

The core of the issue is that many clients don’t seem to care about quality, don’t understand what is entailed in translation, and don’t want to understand why a second linguist (and additional cost) is required for editing and proofing.

At my own agency, we had our first wake-up call two years ago when a high-tech client demanded our participation in an “online auction” where the lowest bidder wins. The process was so disheartening that my colleagues and I were speechless as we watched the numbers going down, graphically supported by online charts that showed the bidders and their pricing in comparison to each other.

In the meantime, many outsourcers are using the new online bidding forums such as,, or And then there is GSA Advantage, for those who have worked hard to obtain federal supply schedule vendor status only to have to engage in online bidding and keep losing business to the lowest bidder – qualified or not.

I came across an interesting blog by the founder of, Christian Hansel, stating that he had actually considered introducing minimum prices for postings to stop the price dumping. He, too, hopes that outsourcers and clients will learn from their mistakes and understand that a $0.02-per-word translation is worth just that. He also makes the point that any businessperson in his right mind wouldn’t buy the cheapest legal or medical services available, but would instead value the professional’s experience and reputation.

It must be said, of course, that services in other professions – such as architecture, consulting, and software engineering – may sometimes be purchased at below-market pricing, and one may occasionally get lucky with a talented novice. Still, as Hansel says, the contractors – that is, professional linguists and translation service providers such as ourselves – need to fight the price-dumping battle ourselves and continue to educate our clients.

Low-cost language service providers are able to stay in business (some only for a short time), largely due to their bypassing of the editing and proofreading functions – or using “cheap” edits/proofs carried out by a native English speaker or a multilingual language “wizard,” working both into-English and into-foreign.

What can we do as a professional community to ensure that our line of work is recognized properly, achieving status similar to that of accountants or medical professionals? In my view, there are three key areas:

Client education

Besides using our own communication skills to educate clients about the differences in translation quality and the various quality assurance steps (editing, and then proofreading by additional linguists), we can point them to a professionally presented little booklet called Getting it Right, published by the ATA. This publication is available online at

Translator education

Translators need to understand that there is and should be a pricing difference when working with an agency and when working with a direct client. Mentoring programs should focus not only on the technicalities of translation, but also on the business side, including issues concerning proper pricing. Translators are doing themselves a disservice if they undervalue their work (especially to direct clients), and in turn cause downward price pressure to other professionals.

Agency education

This is a free market economy and I don’t want to propose price fixing. Yet, agencies who feel pressured to make the sale need to be aware of competitive pricing and should know that they often hurt themselves in the process when they “spoil”their clients. The low-margin, fly-by-night, online translation outfit that manages projects by price alone using online bidding portals has its place. But the output will be commensurate with the input.

We have to do our part to educate our clients about why quality matters. We have to educate new translators to ask a fair price and encourage them to negotiate and also educate their clients in turn. And as agency owners, we should show some pride in our profession and stick to our quality commitment. Underbidding by extreme percentages and letting translators “fight it out” in online bids is only creating artificially low pricing that confuses clients and hurts our profession as a whole.

If we can establish personal contact, be it only over the phone, often the transaction can be brought back to a human interaction, where we have a chance to bring the focus back from price to precision.

Caught in the WebPart II: Internet T&I Brokers—The Response

By Stafford Hemmer

In September, NCTA members were invited to participate in a 25-question online survey of their experiences and opinions of translation and interpretation broker sites. Thanks to the contributions of 57 translators and interpreters, and 6 agencies or industry agents, we are now able to offer a member-based assessment of the T&I marketplace on the Web.

Responses to the multiple choice/open comment survey questions cut a broad swath of sentiment, from the favorable (“My experience is quite good. I’ve made contact with many employers through, and several of them have continued to contact me for other projects”) through the web-curious (“I have very little contact with them, but would be interested in finding the useful ones.”) to the quite unflattering (“It does not work. It is definitely not the real world out there.”).

Yet the T&I market continues to be an underused (which isn’t to say untapped) resource for a variety of reasons. Perhaps the most salient indicator is that three-quarters of the respondents have joined at least one T&I website through free membership (suggesting that the resource has indeed been “tapped”), whereas a whopping 68 percent express frustration at having never gotten a job, or found a contractor, from T&I websites (which may explain the “underused”status of the resource).

A few grains of salt regarding the survey: despite generous support from 63 survey participants, many respondents decided to skip one or more questions here and there. Hence, the first 13 questions were short of the full 63 responses by a range of 12-19 responses. The decision to “skip” increased exponentially for the subsequent 10 questions. It is unclear what prompted survey participants to skip questions: unclear wording, too many questions, or some other reason. The consequence is that the percentages discussed in this article reflect the responses of those who replied to a specific question, and not the sentiments of the group as a whole. All percentages have been rounded.

Additionally, the survey allowed for respondents to answer “I do not participate in the bidding process at all” to three different questions, resulting in three different percentages. While these variations are mentioned below, bear in mind they are cited within the context of the respective questions posed in the survey.


The virtual T&I market is familiar terrain to NCTA members. Respondents confessed to having signed on, for free, to at least 1-3 sites (67%) or even as many as 4-6 sites (11%). By contrast, 23% indicated they hold no free memberships. This was perhaps a common choice among those translators who, as one respondent indicated, “ … don’t use T&I websites because I have enough work from reliable sources that I know are reliable and pay what is fair without the extra hassle.” The chances are good that this latter group has opted out of T&I websites altogether: when it comes to taking that extra step and upgrading to fee-based membership, 59% of respondents decided against, while the remaining 41% limited payments to only 1-3 websites. Of those, 26% pay over $100 in combined annual dues. While 16% of respondents believe upgrading is significant to optimizing website exposure, another 18% regarded this as of minor importance, and 18% felt it made no difference at all.

If a T&I broker were to attend an NCTA meeting in the hope of increasing hermember base, she should brace herself for disappointment: exactly 0% of respondents were inspired to upload resumes to a broker’s website on the basis of a conference presentation. Using the survey results as an indicator, the most effective method for a broker to increase its client base is to trawl for prospects through a mass email that includes a start-up free membership offer (33%). Almost as many respondents (30%) were encouraged to sign up by colleague recommendations, while 15% joined websites based on Internet advertising. An equal number said they never join T&I websites.

The bidding process

If resource utilization is proportionate to login activity, then the survey results established that the web-based T&I market is largely ignored by NCTA professionals. The benefits of membership privileges are negligible to the majority of those respondents who said they used broker websites, since 40% indicated they logged in less than once a week, compared with 23% who login 2-4 times per week, and 14% who login every day. Although finding job offers/contractors was rated as one of the most important features of T&I websites, the relative inactivity among NCTA members is further reflected by the 43% of NCTA professionals who, when asked if they would lower rates to win a bid, said they did not participate in the bidding process at all.

“Membership rates should be based on how many jobs you actually get via the website,” suggested one respondent, “I’ve paid $30 but have gotten exactly zero jobs.” This perspective is likely shared by the 68% of translators and interpreters who have never gotten a contract from a website, or the agencies that have not awarded a contract through a website. While nearly 21% reported a successful bidding experience within the last 60 days, only two respondents (less than 5%) reported having any real success within the last seven days. Another respondent complained, “These sites seem to be designed for either extremely specialized, high-end work, or extreme bargain basement prices, with nothing for the rest of us.”


The “bottom feeder” phenomenon to which the above respondent alludes is indeed a common complaint among those who have struggled with website job searches. “The prices are always below what I could afford to charge,” that same survey respondent continued. This disparity in pay rates may be reflected in the 60% who, when asked what percentage of income they attributed exclusively to T&I websites, indicated they do not participate in the bidding process at all. Would it make a difference if an interpreter lowered his rates in order to win a bid? Despite the fact that 24% of respondents said they would never lower their rates, 17% would consider a reduction of 1-10%, and 5 respondents (11%) said they would even consider lowering rates up to 20% in some circumstances. Not an entirely unreasonable proposition if a project is big enough or a client important enough for the service provider to offer entry-level rates.

Still, competition is no picnic for any job seeker. The online T&I marketplace can turn the battle into a feeding frenzy. It is difficult to match the lower rates offered by competitors who can snap up job offers quickly when the net is cast 10 time zones east or west of the Left Coast, where the cost of living may be a fraction of the Bay Area’s. So it should come as no surprise that 40% of NCTA members who were asked to rate the bidding process overall said they never participate, while 34% of respondents rate the bidding process as “an enormously frustrating waste of time,” and a mere 21% use it as “a backup resource when the river’s dry.” Only one respondent felt the bidding process to be an invaluable resource overall. As for results, 25% estimated that less than 10% of their efforts resulted in contracts, and only one individual felt he or she had a greater than 50% success rate in the bidding process.


Show me the money: When it comes to money matters, 37% attribute less than a quarter of their income to T&I websites, while 60% do not use the websites for income-generating purposes. So is it the other website features that inspire language professionals to open up or maintain memberships to these sites?

As mentioned earlier, the top-rated feature among survey respondents was paradoxically “job assignments/hiring contractors.” This was followed by “payment practices/contractor ratings” and “forums and other translator/interpreter/agency contacts.” By contrast, the one feature considered “totally useless” was “teamwork on projects.” Promotions of T&I software, books, and other resources were considered “superfluous, but interesting,” while online glossaries were rated as “interesting and sometimes useful” by a majority of respondents.

Half the respondents said they never submitted a terminology question to a website. This was followed by 34% stating they submitted terminology questions only as a last resort. As for replies, 42% of respondents said they never post replies to terminology questions, whereas 40% post replies only on an occasional, ad hoc basis. Only one respondent said he or she responded frequently. Overall, the terminology assistance was seen as somewhat reliable, but it doesn’t always hit the mark (56%), whereas 22% felt the assistance was not very reliable.

The envelope, please: based on the votes tallied, the award for the best broker website in the virtual world goes to … Interestingly, the site also bears the dubious distinction of being voted the worst website as well. Indeed, it was the single website cited most by name in both categories. Oddly enough, the same phenomenon applies to the websites which tied for second place— and TranslatorsCafe, which were likewise voted both winner and loser in equal measure.

Winners and Losers

This equivocation characterizes the broker survey overall: sites were voted best and worst simultaneously, called useless by default and yet useful by chance, or esteemed as an invaluable resource and a complete waste of money. Harvesting the most from a broker membership ultimately depends on the specific needs of the individual translator, interpreter, or agency. The broker phenomenon is well known to NCTA members, and the reasons for accessing or ignoring the benefits and features of these websites are as diverse as the variety of language groups they serve.


On the negative side

“I am negative on T&I sites since members have no credentials (some exceptions of course exist) and jobs almost always [go] to the lowest bidder which in a global market means working peanuts per word. This is a totally out-of-date system of assigning value and so is the Euro per-page concept. Our clients get a fixed, hourly-rate quote based on deadline (and difficulty).“

On the positive side

“It is mainly important as a marketing tool and to stay on top of the new developments in the business. You can sometimes establish durable client/translator relationships. I noticed that very qualified agencies also bid on these sites.”

And some sage advice

“I bid on jobs only during my dry periods. I only bid on jobs that appear serious. I never alter my standard rates. The ‘serious’ jobs (i.e. rates acceptable for U.S. cost of living, reliable payers, etc.) may only account for 10% of the jobs posted, and I may only be awarded 10% of the jobs I bid on, but that has nonetheless resulted in tens of thousands of dollars in work over the past few years and often a steady, direct relationship with the outsourcer. My advice is, therefore: first sort the wheat (10%) from the chaff (90%), then bid on jobs that suit you and your specialties. Be prepared to lose most bids, but one successful bid, especially if it leads to followup work, can easily justify the annual fee and the time invested with the site.”

Caught in the WebPart I: T&I Brokers on the Internet

By Stafford Hemmer

Translation and interpretation broker sites: love them or hate them, you can no longer ignore them. In this first of two articles, Stafford Hemmer examines the growing phenomenon of the web-based T&I marketplace. In addition, he asks you to relate your own experiences in a survey, which he will analyze and report on in our December issue.

“Dear Translator! Company XYZ invites you to join our database of professional translators, interpreters, and agencies …”

Sound familiar? Merely being listed as an ATA member will land you at least one of these enticing emails. Who are these people?

Who indeed. They are the relatively new kid on the block in the T&I marketplace—a “new” kid that follows the model of other industries in using the Internet to the advantage of all parties in a transaction. They are the broker site. And they raise interesting questions regarding the ways in which translation buyers and sellers can come together. Where ATA and NCTA online referral services offer one set of advantages, those tend to focus on the respective association’s overall purposes, with translator and interpreter referrals an added (albeit crucial) perk. With broker sites, one must wonder about the prudence of investing in T&I services marketed online. What does the plethora of auction sites have to offer the freelancer or agency? How does a freelancer or agency navigate these websites without getting sucked into a vortex of global bidding wars? How does the user know which site is worth the expenditure of time and money, and which site leads to a dead end?

Unlike agencies, which are corporate entities subject to the governing jurisprudence and tax practices of their domiciles, T&I websites are global marketplaces for vendors and clients. Here, translators typically negotiate job terms (timing, format, payment) directly with a client found on the broker sites. As such, caveat emptor applies: eliminating the agency may have its benefit (no third-party fees), but in direct relationships, both sides dispense with the risk protection an agency offers (QA and liability insurance, among other protections).

One of the best known of these organizations is ProZ (or at least best-advertised: “Tradosis a Partner” boasted the back-cover ad of the April 2005 ATA Chronicle). Founded in 1999, the company defines itself as “a directory of translation services by freelance language translators and translation agencies.” The banner for another popular website, “ – reloaded!” extols the power of its new and improved homepage for “the market leader in translation outsourcing … with an ever-expanding network of language specialists and translation customers.” GoTranslators lays claim to a more modest existence as a “world translation directory.” Admittedly, its world is limited to 30 languages. The common thread? Translation & interpretation broker sites are Internet websites that connect T&I buyers with T&I sellers.


Beyond this shared purpose, each site distinguishes itself through a variety of distinctive bells and whistles, intended to add value and create synergy in a collaborative virtual office environment. Among its many useful services, offers a weekly report that informs participants how many times their profile was viewed, and how much that profile was “promoted” by the site. The “Content Hit Parade” on keeps translators abreast of the most popular topics and software among users. To lure its members out of their translation caves and into a real live café for an in-person with neighboring translators, established its “Powwow” service. The re-launched site allows users to create “groups” for team communications and ostensibly project communication management through its “Friends, Teams, and Ignore” lists. For freelancers who risk accepting work from an unknown client, shared information on payment practices is an indispensable resource. The sites also fill the void in client education with concise articulation of business conditions.

To some, online collaboration with fellow language professionals on terminology questions is invaluable. Some websites offer incentive bonuses to participants in such exchanges. For the asker, getting the right term is the obvious bonus, although at times it may be slow in coming—a key drawback when you’re in a time crunch. For the respondent earning “KudoZ” points, for example, the precise answer to a perplexing terminology question will boost credentials in the ProZ marketplace; ostensibly, outsourcers seek out high-scoring translators. I have accumulated exactly zero KudoZ points, because I post my own terminology questions to the GLD (German Language Division) list of ATA. That community provides me with virtually immediate and highly reliable answers, and typically provokes stimulating conversation.

It’s possible, then, that one might see more job offers from ProZ if more time is put into researching and answering other people’s terminology questions. The same holds true for other websites as well: “The more Conges points a TRADUguide member has, the more he/she will move towards the top of the TRADUguide translators’ list.” Not a day goes by without a Conges question in my email box posted by a TRADUguide user in desperation. If I know the answer and have time, I will post an answer and, if lucky (and precise), get the coveted points. But I am astonished at times when assistance is required for terms as basic as eins, zwei, drei.

Membership and bidding

Typically, “membership,” whether free or fee, is offered to any taker. Yes, this means anyone, from the person who has two years of high school French to the most pedigreed Arabic-speaking linguist … and everyone in between. Some websites do make a stated effort to “certify” the qualificationsonline. Sign up for Global Vision’s database, for instance, and each of your three references will be emailed a recommendation request as soon as you hit the “submit” button.

“Free membership” is invariably a lure to the better exposure, greater access (e.g., ProZ’s “Blue Board”) and more work promised by “professional membership upgrades.” While brokers make money from advertisers, endorsements, product sales, and sometimes client fees—occasionallytying membership upgrades to product purchases (“Hello, WordFast 5.0!”)—membership fees are a main source of funds for the websites (the broker needs to pay rent too). Different tiers of membership mean you pay for different levels of exposure. Your faith in upgrading from Economy to Business or First Class membership on Aquarius may ease the turbulence you feel when the work conditions are rough. Both TRADUguide and GoTranslators remind non-paying members that such status relegates them to the job offer notifications 12 hours after paying members. Since time is money in this global market place, such a delay likely means someone else wins the bid.

Still, this “open door policy” invites the harshest criticism of the brokering business. Case in point: take the Spanish>English translator, who, assuming she submits a timely offer, bids on a 10,000-word contract at her rate of US$0.12/word. She loses to another translator who may be a non-native speaker living in a country whose lingua franca may be English, and where the competing offer of $0.03/word supports that standard of living. While the T&I buyer might receive a poor-quality translation, if he ferrets the work for “proofreading and editing” to another professional, at $0.04/word, he nets a translation at almost half the cost offered by the native-speaking (and presumably better) translator. This phenomenon makes it extremely difficult to compete in the global market and begs the question: what’s the point of paying for greater exposure on a website, when in the end, you’d have to cut your rates in half to win a contract?

Other models

There are other portals for translators and clients having different formats than the T&I broker website. A company like Choice Translating describes itself as an agency with in-house translators (covered by its liability insurance) that also hires freelancers to meet excess demand. While a freelancer may apply to become a member of the company’s database, the added “perks” mentioned above are not part of the deal, because the freelancer is working for the agency, not directly for the client. is a similar type of companythat has a particular focus on localization and, although multi-lingual in scope, emphasizes its Spanish-language capabilities. is a small shop that’s thinking big: a website now expanding its scope beyond its German-only environment. At the complete other end of the spectrum, the focus of a language-specific website like Übersetzerportal is on industry issues in the German language, even though it also offers job search facilities.

Weigh in and be heard

What is your own experience with broker sites? In the interest of stimulating a constructive, frank, and comprehensive discussion of the subject, we’d like to hear from you, via a survey at the NCTA website. Here, we invite NCTA interpreters, agencies, and translators to give voice to whatever perspectives you may have: positive, negative, or neutral. Through the data gathered, we hope to be able to publish, in Part Two of this series, an objective assessment of the sites, and, with luck, answer difficult questions that cannot be covered in an overview. To participate in the survey, visit


Aquarius: One of the pioneers, recently remodeled, claiming to be the market leader in translation outsourcing.

Babelport: Informs participants weekly on how many times their profile was viewed, and how much that profile was “promoted” by the site.

Global Vision: Automatically sends a recommendation request to each of the three references you enter when registering.

GoTranslators: Dubs itself as a “world translation directory,” currently limited to 30 languages.

MCable: Boasts a “Content Hit Parade,” keeping translators abreast of the most popular topics and software among users.

ProZ: Home of the “Kudoz,” Monopoly money of sorts. The high-profile website from Virginia has also been the first to attract controversy.

TRADUguide: Here, it’s the “Conges points” that will move a member towards the top of the site’s translators’ list.


The Translorial Tool Kit

By Jost Zetzsche © 2005 International Writers’ Group, compiled by Yves Avérous

The Tool Kit is an online newsletter that comes to its subscribers’ mailboxes bimonthly. In Translorial, we are offering you a quarterly digest of Jost’s most helpful tips of the past season. If you would like to subscribe to The Tool Kit, visit and mention Translorial during subscription; Jost will put your name in a drawing for one free Tool Box book per edition.

Word Views

If you’re editing in MS Word, one way to alleviate the boredom of this task is to change the way that Word displays the document.

A much-touted newbie in Microsoft 2003 was the Reading Layout, and though I’m not a complete devotee of this feature, it does help me every once in a while when I need a “new view on things.” To activate it, you can either click on the book icon in the lower left-hand corner of the Word screen, or you can select Reading Layout from the View menu. The standard toolbars will disappear and your text will appear on quasi-book pages with larger text, shorter lines, and pages that fit on the screen. Also, Microsoft’s ClearType technology produces letter shapes that are less strenuous to read.

Outlook’s Spam Filter

Microsoft has once again released new spam filters for its email program Outlook 2003 (see, the hands-down most-improved program within the Office 2003 suite. This release is far stricter than its predecessors, and many of your responses to the last newsletter and many new subscriptions actually landed in my spam folder. However, I found that this new filter does an acceptable job after I changed my setting to Low under Actions> Junk E-Mail> Junk E-Mail Options. Unfortunately, Russian, Chinese, Japanese, and other languages’ spam mail still makes it through.

Staying in Touch the Cool Way

I wrote about Instant Messenger programs as powerful ways to communicate with members in a workgroup, especially if it’s a virtual workgroup as is the case for most translators. I still use my Miranda Instant Messenger program (see most days because it allows me to connect to users on several of the large instant messaging protocols (ICQ, AOL, MSN, Yahoo, etc.) at the same time.

The one protocol that’s not covered by Miranda is Skype (, and this isn’t too surprising because Skype is something completely different. While Skype also offers text messaging comparable to any of the other providers, it is primarily a VoIP (Voice-over-Internet-Protocol) service that allows you to make completely free calls from computer to computer if the person you are calling also has Skype installed. Even if the other person doesn’t have Skype, you can still make ridiculously cheap calls when the recipient uses a normal telephone (yesterday I talked to my Skype-less brother in Hamburg, Germany, for half an hour for less than fifty cents).

TRADOS Power Tips

Finnish translator and TRADOS guru Tuomas Kostiainen has put together a few helpful tips for TRADOS users at I especially like the first one where he advises using one rather than many different translation memories—my “Big Mama” database and could not agree more.

Here is another TRADOS tip that I rather painfully stumbled on the other day.

When translating HTML files in TagEditor, the user is not able to control the resulting code page of the final translation. If the original files are in a Western code page, for instance, the translation will be output in the code page of the target. This sounds like a good idea, but in reality most multilingual websites are in Unicode. To receive Unicode files, you need to feed in Unicode files to start with. To be able to work with the resulting files, you need to then convert them. You can do this individually with a text editor such as EmEditor (see or you can do what I did. I simply imported the complete website in each of the translated languages into Déjà Vu X, which allows the user to control the resulting output; then I exported it into the same language but with different code in one (or in that case, 12 large batch operations).

Browser, Browser, Browsers

I’ll try not to go into great detail here, but thanks to Firefox there’s some real life in the competition for the hearts and minds of browser users (and at this point that should pretty much be synonymous with computer users). In the last couple of weeks alone:

– Firefox released a security update (see

– A new beta version of the presumably dead Netscape was released (see; this version combines most of the abilities of Firefox with those of Internet Explorer where Firefox fails, such as with the Windows Update site at

– Opera released a new beta version of its browser that I know many readers love (see

– Microsoft announced a whole new version of Internet Explorer for later this year.

So what, you ask? You’re right, all this doesn’t have to be a big deal. However, considering how much time we spend looking at content delivered through browsers, it’s nice to know that there are at least attempts to deliver a better and more secure environment for Web content.

Entering Text Made Easy

I have used a couple of freeware programs to change a number of keys on my keyboard (KeyTweak, see, and the Microsoft Keyboard Layout Developer, see and one little application that allows me to enter all kinds of special characters and create macros to enter often-used expressions (AllChars, see The truth is, though, that I try to limit the changes to my personal keyboard to avoid becoming ineffective on a standard keyboard once my fingers have “learned” the new combinations.

Though many of the tasks that this application does can be done with MS Word or other applications as well, this tool seems to work in almost any Windows application.

Another way of speeding up typing is to use tools that apply the system of AutoComplete (as in MS Excel or in Web addresses in a browser). I mentioned Intellicomplete ( a while back, a tool that comes pre-loaded with a number of Western languag¬es, and I recently stumbled over a freeware cousin: Let Me Type (see collects information as you type and completes words that you have typed before (when you’re on their website, check out the awesome cow collection at…).

Of course, users of the wonderful open source office suite are already familiar with this function, which is integrated into the program itself (under Tools> AutoCorrect/AutoFormat> Word Completion).

More can be found on the subject on Google: Search for or

Screenshot Utilities

I have always resisted the temptation to look into programs that specialize in taking screenshots (pictures of the computer screen). I’ve always taken screenshots the “traditional way” (Alt+PrintScreen for the active dialog or PrintScreen for the complete screen) and then pasted them into a regular graphic application.

When you help someone to solve a computer problem, the easiest way to describe the problem is often to take a screenshot of the error message or whatever dialog you have problems with, paste it into an email, and send it off. But what most people don’t realize is that the images that are pasted into the email are gigantic files in bitmap format. One way around this is to paste the screenshot into Paint Shop, Photoshop, or whatever graphic application you use, save it as a .gif or .jpg file, and send that. But that requires a lot of additional steps…

With a screenshot application like SnagIt (see you can automatically save the image in a file format of your choice (under Output> Properties> Image File) and paste it into your email or elsewhere in that format. And talk about support: SnagIt also offers the capability to record a video of whatever process isn’t going right on your computer. You can then send this off in a commonly used video format if a mere explanation with words and screenshots doesn’t help.

Keeping It Simple

Most of you know that the Windows Explorer and the Internet Explorer are actually the same application. This means that you can access the Web right from the place where you browse through your files, and vice versa. This also means that the “Explorers” share the same Favorites links.

There are several ways of doing this. The easiest way is to simply drag the folders to the Links toolbar (if you can’t see that toolbar, make sure it is selected under View> Toolbars> Links) and a shortcut is automatically created. You can rename the shortcut to your heart’s content by right-clicking on it and selecting Rename. Once you are done with the project, you can delete the shortcut through the right-click menu.

Similarly, many applications offer you the option to change toolbars for common tasks. To create a button for any of the available menu commands, select Tools> Customize and drag the desired command to the toolbar. Of course, this isn’t limited to Word. It can be performed in any application that offers you the option to customize your toolbars.

Keeping Up With Your Clients

Joseph Bayerl recommended ZoneTick: “I recently paid $15 for ZoneTick (see and am pleased with it. It is a tool that puts up to 10 time zone clocks in the system tray in place of the system clock. It saves me the moments I would rather not waste on figuring out (sometimes incorrectly) what time it is in Moscow, Frankfurt, or wherever my current clients may be. It has a clean interface, and uses background colors to indicate the time zones in which it is after business hours.”

Sounds like a fun tool.

Open Sourcer Newsletter

McKay’s newsletter for translators who are interested in open source computing options may be a valuable source of information for some of you.

“Open Source Update is an e-newsletter for language professionals who are interested in free and open source software. The newsletter is geared toward translators who are not (yet!) heavy-duty users of free and open source software, but of course anyone is welcome to subscribe.”

At you can both subscribe and read previous issues.