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Perhaps a few of my readers are thinking sometimes of trying to do translation, perhaps seriously despite the difficulties. As I read more and more opinions and information about this profession on the various sites, I can see that some people have achieved very high fee levels compared to others. Of course, we have to develop a lot professionally before we can also achieve something comparable, and, in spite of what I wrote in my previous post, translation software does play a role in this nowadays.

As my former Chinese students used always to say, “With the development of modern technology …”, and I can add that we can’t avoid software for long. But we have to be careful which software to buy first. If we get more income, we will surely expand our business towards various other kinds, but the first one is the big risk as far as I can see. So here are my discoveries and ideas about the choice, without mentioning names, which you will have to find out for yourself.

First of all, almost all software ads will state in one form or another that theirs is a market leader, or the best, or most widely used, or most complete or most useful one. Sometimes there is some partial truth in these statements, sometimes a bit less is true.

Most software, as you probably know, is expensive. No wonder, as there’s been a lot of work and know-how invested in creating them. Although sometimes a software can be cracket, this road is not only against the law and thus may prove dangerous, but also of partial use, simply because most software uses internet sources, and if we somehow enter those common sites and resources, we will probably be discovered as hackers. If we don’t use them, the software is of very limited use.

Most software has been made for Windows systems. There is only one for Mac systems, though some people claim to have found some others, but later these have proved otherwise. Mac users have to install some software that allows them to also run Windows, and then they can install anything they want.

And here comes the snag: which are good ones that we can afford? As I haven’t got much capital, I’ve only invested in one. Fortunately, some other programs run in limited  mode as well, with limited TM (translation memory) allowed. Translation memory is one thing that we use while translating, so it is important, but if 500 items are allowed, it will be enough first, to find out how well the program works. Every software saves our solutions as TM while working. If we run out of further possibility to build our TM, we can still use the advantages of accessing internet sources for our translation work. Be aware, however, that most such sources come with paid membership. Even use of GoogleTranslate costs in such cases, which suggests to me that the service I’d get if I paid would be far better than the public source as we know it.

Some software allow us to use various global servers and services, only that most of them cost an additional amount of investment. Sometimes we are offered a free server, but then suddenly we have to discover not only that our program has a few bugs, but also that this free server suddenly disappears, ‘the link is down’, ‘the address cannot be resolved’, and the like. The original provider usually may be willing to help if you have also paid for their support services, apart from the price of the product, of course. If we are fortunate, we may be a member of a translator community where somebody could have an explanation or a solution. Or not.

Another source we can use is our term base that we are supposed to build up using our work. However, that’s something we have to build up, and with a limited edition, that is also limited. With a fully registered software, we may be allowed to pay for use of an on-line term-base. But a bigger surprise is when we realize that an apparently market leader software does not in itself make it possible for us to build our term base. They graciously forget to mention that we would have to buy another – not very cheap – software that does it for us if, also only if, we buy yet another kind which first converts our own file built up for this purpose (for example, as an Excel file) to enable the second software to transfer it to the main translation program. Brilliant. I would already be at twice the original – and quite hefty – investment. Other software may call this term-base a glossary, but not all software allows you to create this either.

Then there is the promise of an auto-suggest dictionary. Only that you need to have a ridiculously large TM that you can convert into such a base, or you need paid membership of an internet source. Costs may keep rising towards the sky. Let’s not forget that some clients would demand a translator to work for $1 per 300 or 500 words. Add to it that we would have to pay tax after that. But the software has already cost us perhaps $800, or more. How many hundreds of pages of documents do you have to translate and how many hours only for this to return? So you’ll have to be careful about what kind of work and terms you accept if you are intent on becoming a good, professional translator.

When you work with software, the problems mentioned in my earlier posts will still come up, but probably less and less frequently if you manage to build up your own resources. Then the only problem that may remain for you is the quality of the source. While most is probably of good quality, sometimes you have to face texts (for examples notes, or minutes of meetings, or translated material from a relatively exotic language) which are hard to understand than normal. You have to be prepared to face the situation and use your most intelligent guess.

At the moment I’m not absolutely sure if complaining is against any ethical rules, or not. But because I enjoy exposing problems, let me quote a few things I’ve encountered. First this one:

“Getting to understand the supplier needs to make profit to run the business.”

This is often a typical ambiguous sentence, and only context can help to understand. If my software gives me this, for example, in Hungarian, “Már ha érted a nyertes ajánlattevőnek kell azért, hogy hasznot futni az üzleti,” well, I’m in dire straights.

Just to pay tribute to software makers, let me quote another glitch here. The original was also not unambiguous, “It’s all about a change of mind-set,” but after reading through a large part of the text, I definitely understood it better than the software, which came up with “Ez az egész a szem előtt tartva.” A nice one. But if I want to add more humour, very few examples beat the translation of this famous fable character, “Little Red Riding Hood”, which happens to become “Kis piros motoros ernyő” in Hungarian. No chance of recognizing the whole for the parts.

Two more examples of sheer bad English:

“600K will we pay longer charge more?” and “They are the people spend the money and sign the invoices.” No comment. However, for the end, I have a more complex example, full with machine translation for fun. The set of text:

“Eight stories have been created with 6 story owners. Depending on which BU identified the story owners were used as a vehicle to communicate. It scrolls down and if the visitor scrolls up the story starts to unfold.”

To my unhampered amusement, this was translated by my software as follows:

“Nyolc történet tulajdonosok hozták létre a 6. Attól függően, hogy melyik BU a történet tulajdonosok használták a járművet. Az Szkrollozzon lefelé görgeti fel és ha a látogató a történet kezd kibontakozni.”

Horror. So be careful with GoogleTranslate – that’s even worse than this!

Good luck to your translations!

by P. S.