RE: Translation Issues

Subject: RE: Translation Issues
From: Brent L Jones <brent -dot- jones -at- jadesolutions -dot- com>
To: "'Cheryl Reinertsen'" <cheryl -dot- reinertsen -at- jda -dot- com>, TECHWR-L <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 9 Feb 2000 08:56:57 -0700

I asked this question on TECHWR-L recently, and Andres Heuberger was kind
enough to send me (and post to TECHWR-L) the following excerpt from the
Multilingual Compliance News. So I've taken the liberty of reposting it.


Do any of the following ring true?

* Documentation tends to be repetitive. We wish we could
store terms and sentences as they are translated and then re-
use them later in the documentation.
* Applications are updated regularly. Why can't we identify
changed sections and translate only those?
* Translation takes too long. Wouldn't it be nice to have
multiple translators work on one project simultaneously
without risking inconsistent terminology?

If you find yourself saying "yes, yes, yes", translation
memory technology may be able to help. But there are many
issues you need to be aware of before you get started:

Several companies offer competing technologies. The most
common Windows-based products include:
* Déjà Vu from Atril Software (
* Translator's Workbench from Trados is arguably the most
widely used tool, particularly following Microsoft's
investment in Trados (
* STAR TRANSIT is another favorite (

How do you decide between these different products? Much
depends on personal preference, required functionality,
budget considerations, language needs, and compatibility with
systems used by vendors and overseas offices.

For instance, Swedish company Kommunicera AB is a long-time
user of Trados Workbench. For President Johan Læstadius,
"Translator's Workbench from Trados is the most readily available
translation software package I've tried. As long as you're an
experienced Word user, you should be pretty much up and
running in a day or so... However, the old saying about the
training in the end costing as much per person as the program
still holds. Therefore it's a very worthwhile investment to
pay somebody who's been at it for a while to show you the
more intricate details."

Translation memory (TM) applications are computer-aided
translation tools that use database and code-protection
features to simplify the translation process. They are
designed to improve the quality and efficiency of the human
translation process, not to replace it.

The systems basically consist of a database in which each
source sentence of a translation is stored together with the
target sentence (this is called a translation memory "unit").
Any new source sentences will be searched for in the database
and a match value is calculated.

When the match value is 100%, the translation of the
source sentence from the database is inserted into the text
being translated. If the match value is below 100% and above
a certain user-definable percentage (i.e., "fuzzy match"),
the old translation will be inserted as a translation
proposal for the translator to review and edit. Sentences
with match values below that margin have to be translated
from scratch. New and changed translation proposals will then
be stored in the database for future use.

Depending on the types of document, the consistency of the
source-language writing, and the software applications used,
TM tools can improve productivity levels anywhere from 10%
to 50%.

Companies implementing a TM solution typically do so with an
eye toward accomplishing one of three objectives:
* improving consistency
* minimizing turnaround time
* reducing translation cost

Of the three objectives, the first--improving consistency--is
most readily obtainable. Reductions in turnaround times and
translation costs require careful analysis and planning; TM
technology is not a silver bullet.

TM tools are not appropriate for all operations. Even in
ideal applications, significant hurdles obstruct the way to
reducing turnaround time and/or translation costs:

1. Process
TM tools do not easily fit into existing translation or
localization processes. To take advantage of TM technology,
translation processes must be redesigned, from the ground up.

One example of this is the issue of in-country reviews. Many
companies require translation sign-offs by local staff. Does
this mean that the entire text needs to be approved? If yes,
this deprives the translation manager of a significant
opportunity for cycle-time reduction. If no (i.e., only the
new or changed text needs to be approved), a process must be
designed so that the client, translation vendor, and reviewer
can identify, exchange, and sign-off on text segments without

2. Customization required
Despite what you hear from tool vendors, few people are able
to effectively use any of the translation-memory applications
straight out of the box. Some of the programs use non-
standard menus and dialog boxes. All of them will require the
user to learn new terms and concepts. And none of the filters
to desktop-publishing applications such as FrameMaker or
QuarkXPress work without significant adaptation.

As Kommunicera's Læstadius points out, plan on buying
sufficient training and customization support.

3. Significant investment required
The price of the software typically runs from $1,000 to
$2,500 per user. Your start-up costs will also include the
price of importing your past translations into the TM
database (this processes is called "alignment"), the training
as mentioned above, plus any add-on products such as DTP
filters, terminology tools, etc.).

On-going maintenance does not come cheap either. Plan on
upgrading each user to a Windows PC with a high-end CPU, lots
of memory, and a fast network card. TM databases also require
significant hard disk space. Each user, and--in the case of
centrally managed TMs--the server, will require additional
gigabytes for TM storage.

4. Protect your TM investment
Most of the benefits from your TM investment will be enjoyed
over the long haul. You must take proactive steps to protect
this investment:

* Develop a strategy for maintaining the TM databases, either
at your site or at the translation vendor's site. Issues like
frequency of updates, regular distribution of TMs, as well as
backup and archiving need to be considered.
* Who owns the translation memory? The agreement between you
and your vendor needs to clearly stipulate this.
* How confidential is your TM? Some translation vendors and
individual linguists re-use (or even share) databases.
Depending on the confidentiality of your translation
projects, state your expectations as part of a contract or
nondisclosure agreement.
* Be sure that your TM system supports the new OpenTag format
for exchanging TM data between competing systems. Without
this support, it could be difficult and expensive to switch
translation vendors. (Visit for more

For every company that successfully employs translation-
memory technology, there is one for whom the experiment
has ended in disappointment and lost opportunities.

To make translation memory work, be sure to:
* carefully review and, where necessary, redesign your
translation processes;
* perform a detailed Return on Investment analysis, taking
into account "hidden costs";
* involve all affected parties, including IS, your
translation vendor, and in-country affiliates;
* develop a long-term strategy for maintaining, protecting,
and leveraging your TM assets.

As with many new technologies, translation memory offers the
opportunity for significant time and money savings. Just be
sure not to rush into it blindly.

--- Excerpt from Multilingual Compliance News,

Brent Jones, Documentation Manager
bjones -at- JadeSolutions -dot- com
JADE Solutions
Office: 303 448 1019 x 40
FAX: 303 449 1548

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