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Translation Tools – Win-Win? (Part 1) Article bY Japanese Translation Services

Translation tools, such as Trados and Memsource, are commonly used in the modern translation industry. 

by Japanese Translation Services - Translation Tools

In this two-part article, we shall look at the merits of translation tools and discuss whether it is a win-win situation, or whether there are any disadvantages to their use, firstly from the perspective of the client, and, in the second-part, from the perspective of the translator.

Translation tools typically break up a file into unformatted segments, for ease of translation, which contain tags that enable the English-to-Japanese translated document to be reassembled with the original formatting once the translation is complete. This formatting includes the placement of images, paragraphing, and stylizations, such as bold text or italics.

The merit to the client, however, essentially comes from the use of translation memories. The tool identifies when the contents of two segments are an identical or close match, and automatically repeats text and provides suggestions to the translator based on the translation memory or term base (database of preferred terms) provided in advance. 

This has two main advantages for the client. Firstly, it provides a clear way of differentiating between original text and repetitions within the source file. This allows the client to argue that they should only pay full rate for original text within the file, and that they should not be charged for repetitions, or at least should be charged at a reduced rate.

Secondly, being able to provide term bases within the tool, that can be followed much more easily by the translator than a separate terms list, contributes to more consistent terminology usage within the document and allows the client to impose their preferred terms on the translator.

So, is this completely a win-win for the client? Not quite. For simple documents this works well, but the client often faces issues when reassembling documents with more complex formatting back into their original formats. This problem mainly stems from word order differences between languages. Picture a single sentence containing multiple tags, the first of which indicates that the word that follows it should be in bold type. The Japanese translator will be using the appropriate word order of the target language, so the first word may not relate to the term the original document intended to emphasize in bold.

Thus, extensive re-formatting is often required on the reassembled document to format the document correctly. So, for the client, whereas translation tools have obvious advantages, they are by no means a win-win.  In the second part of this article, we will look at the merits/demerits of translation tools for translators.

About the Author
Simon Way is a contributing author to SAECULII YK, the owner of Translation Services Japan, Tokyo Visit SAECULII for the latest professional case studies, articles and news on Japanese Translation Services

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