Wordfast Anywhere: Some Possible Improvements

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Wordfast Anywhere is a tour de force of free cloud translation technology. It features simple and intuitive uploading and management of translation memory and term base. It has features like Preview Document and Free Alignment (up to 3 files) that sets it apart from other free tools. Furthermore, maneuvering the tool is easy, making it accessible to new and experienced freelancers alike.

Points that Can Be Improved

But there are still areas where Wordfast Anywhere can improve. Below are a few points I noticed as a freelance translator:

  1. Wordfast Anywhere is language-pair restrictive. It only allows one pair per user, and this usually suffices, except for rare cases where we get orders the other way around.
  2. The segments are inflexible. Users can’t move between segments just by clicking. You need to click on the “down” button multiple times until you can edit the desired segment.
  3. Wordfast Anywhere is slow. When there’s a lot of tags, it freezes. And when it freezes, you need to log off and then log in again. This is a big waste of time.
  4. There’s no “confirm” button for segments. Users can’t tell how much they’ve finished. And, users can’t jump to the next unconfirmed segment, either. This is a big problem when proofreading and editing, because you need to click the “up” or “down” button each time until you can get to your desired segment.
  5. The buttons are cluttered. There are too many buttons that aren’t useful for translators, and conversely it’s missing buttons for functions that are often used. For example, there isn’t an Add Term button. There’s a shortcut for it (Ctrl + Alt + T), but why not add it as a button, instead of buttons like Web Search that is rarely used? The Alt + Insert shortcut is also unintuitive, especially for a Mac user who doesn’t have an Insert button.
  6. The Document Pane isn’t appealing. The target segment box size isn’t fixed and it sometimes changes size. The font, size and layout can all be improved. The TM is on the top, and the TB is on the right side, but usually freelancers reference both at once, so having them in two different places is awkward. The spacing of the Wordfast Anywhere layout makes me feel claustrophobic.

The inflexibility in moving between segments, the lack of a confirm button and progress status, and the poor design of the document pane all take away from the appeal of Wordfast Anywhere. Although it’s free and useful, there are still some improvements that can be made.

Review: ABBYY SmartCAT

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Most of us know ABBYY for its free OCR, but now they’ve introduced a free CAT tool combined with OCR features. I thought I’d give it a try, because I’ve received many newsletters from them via email. But ABBYY’s CAT tool, SmartCAT, isn’t just spam. In fact, it’s far from it: My impression is that SmartCAT is one of the better, if not the best, free CAT tools available.

And…You Say this is FREE???

There are several other free cloud CAT tools: Wordfast Anywhere, CafeTran, Memsource Free Edition are just to name a few. But, I think SmartCAT has already reached the top in terms of being “free”. The reason: Unlike the others, it doesn’t have restrictions. Wordfast Anywhere has a language pair restriction—it only allows one language pair per user. Memsource free edition has a one project restriction. If you want to run more than one project at a time, you’d need to subscribe to one of their premium editions. CafeTran has a size restriction to .TMX and .TBX files. But SmartCAT has none, and it even comes with free OCR.

Space for Improvement

But, SmartCAT is still new. It still needs improvement in many aspects. For example, as a Japanese translator, I think its OCR is very poor. Japan-made OCR tools like Panasonic’s Yomitori Kakumei are far superior to ABBYY. On top of that, uploading a PDF with Japanese text resulted in many failure messages before it finally uploaded. This was a big waste of time for me. Not only that, I think SmartCAT may have slower “loading” speed than others, even in respect of uploading term base and translation memory.

There’s also a weird design mistake. Look at the image below:

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On the bottom right of the screen shot, you’ll see credit card logos. But these logos can’t be clicked and are just there for the design. But this freelancer edition is a free tool, so having a credit card image on the bottom makes no sense at all.

Uploading translation memory also had some problems, like shown in the screen shot below. In the end, I just gave up on uploading my own translation memory. SmartCAT also doesn’t handle .TBX yet. If you want to upload a glossary, it has to be in Excel format. These kinds of compatibility problems also need to be fixed.

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Finally, the screen shot below shows another problem I faced, where I wasn’t able to attach a translation memory to my Japanese to English project. As you can see in the image, there isn’t even an option for “Japanese” as a source language; that is, SmartCAT doesn’t handle language pairs from Japanese to other languages. As a Japanese to English translator, this is a critical problem that would eliminate SmartCAT as a realistic option.

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Amazing Usability

Setting the above problems aside, SmartCAT has amazing usability. The user interface can simply be described as “beautiful.” The screen shot below is an example of their workbench. The shortcuts are easy to understand, and the buttons are intuitive. A clean and simple look like this would reduce the burden of multiple hours of continuous translation on the eyes.

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SmartCAT leaves competitors far behind in terms of being a “free” tool. However, in terms of Japanese, it’s OCR, .TMX and .TBX all have problems. Moreover, the time required to upload files can be irritating. But even after taking these negative points into consideration, the fact that ABBYY offers such a beautifully designed tool for free is, I believe, something to be cheered and welcomed by all freelance translators.

Are In-House Translators Worth It?

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In-house vs. Freelance 

Is it more beneficial to hire an in-house translator or a freelancer? I think that, in the past, freelancers had the edge over in-house, based on cost and quality. But, managing freelancers comes with the disadvantage of uncertain schedules and time lag between order and delivery; in-house translators have quicker time to action. Furthermore, the recent rise of translation technology has brought a paradigm shift to this debate.

(1) In-house as Translation Data Manager

Various translation environment tools offer low-cost solutions. For example, Memsource, Wordfast and SmartCat allow users to manage integrated data in the cloud, and Memsource in particular features translation memory sharing, which allows real-time collaboration through translation memory.

Against this backdrop, the role of in-house translator has shifted from merely being a translator to also functioning as translation data manager. In-house translators in the new age will unify terminologies translated by multiple freelancers into a single set of memory maintained according to an internal standard. Thus, in-house translators will also be data managers. Furthermore, even if an in-house quits his/her job, the asset he/she has left in the form of data will be passed down to the successor automatically in the cloud. Loss of human resource will not signify loss of translation memory.

(2) In-house as Proofreader and Quality Controller

In parallel with this new role of in-house as translation data manager are the traditional roles of proofreader and quality controller. Which resource manager do you think will find a better Japanese translator: a resource manager that has no background in Japanese, or a resource manager who is also a Japanese translator? Hiring the right talent is the first step to quality control, and an in-house translator also serving as resource manager will eliminate the guess-work.

Hiring freelance proofreaders can also be costly and time-consuming. Finding a proofreader who will follow in-house guidelines is a big hassle, and it’s an even bigger hassle to retain them. In contrast, an in-house translator, functioning as proofreader and quality controller, can reduce the time to outsource to freelancers, reduce the guess-work involved in talent finding, and eliminate the extra cost of outsourcing proofreading and QA to freelancers. 

(3) In-house as Security Administrator

In addition to the roles of translation data manager, proofreader and quality controller, in-house translators can also take on the task of security administrator. Distributing translation memory or similar data to freelancers could lead to an important data breach. A representative managing access to translation data should ideally be an in-house translator who has access to an internal server. And such a security administrator would distribute glossaries or confidential files to trusted resources through a secure file transfer protocol. He/she should also closely follow up with freelancers to ensure that confidential files are deleted upon completion of the project.

Why Choose In-House

Hiring a single in-house translator can be a big investment, and expenses will involve not only wages but also benefits and other social responsibility. These expenses will be deemed as “risk” from the traditional business point of view. However, the critical importance of in-house translators in light of the growing value of translation data assets, the rise of translation technologies, and the importance of quality control may give them an edge over freelancers. Moreover, an investment in an in-house translator will clearly differentiate one agency from another, in terms of taking greater responsibility for security, data assets and quality control.

Why Freelancers Should Decline Jobs

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Don’t Bite Off More Than You Can Chew

As a freelancer, I’ve experienced many situations where I received more translation requests than I can handle over a certain period. Some freelancers would outsource to a colleague, or push their own limits, so that they don’t miss out on the money that could be made. But, personally, I’ve found the most sustainable habit to be one that’s governed by a capacity—that is, a maximum word limit per day. For example, if I set my limit at 3000 words per day, I would accept no more than that, even if an extra 1000 were to be extra lucrative. This is because quality cannot be maintained under prolonged periods of pressure and stress. And juggling multiple deadlines would only make the situation worse.

Be Who You Want to Be

At the early stage of my freelancing career, I had the debate of whether to accept jobs from my A language into my B language. Now, I must say that I am actually a double native, so technically I wouldn’t have a problem translating into my B language. But, whether I am competent is actually not the question. I’ve found out that the question with accepting translation jobs is not whether the freelancer is qualified or not, but rather if he/she is qualified AND interested. Freelancers should choose their language pair, subject specialization and agencies based on interest, not on need. The important thing is for freelancers to have the imagination of who they want to be, what work they want to be doing, and who they want to be working with. Put another way, they should not be controlled by the jobs that come their way, but rather they should have control over the jobs they choose.

Invest in Your Future

Feast or famine is a phrase commonly used to describe the freelancing trade. In the early stages of a freelancing career, the famine phase may seem a little scary. But this is actually a complete mistake. The truth is that the famine phase is the education phase of a freelancer. It’s the phase to picture who you actually want to become in the future. And it’s the phase to do the learning, networking, or travelling or whatnot to carve out that future. A freelancing career governed only by a feast phase would lack all of those educational opportunities and time to develop into someone greater than who you are now.

Be In Control

In conclusion, freelancers should not be controlled by their jobs, but instead they should have control over their jobs. And the most important lesson is the skill and wisdom to decline jobs. Declining jobs that do not interest you open the opportunity to explore what else can happen instead. And having a solid image of what you want to do, and focusing on that and not on the money that could have been made, would ultimately lead to greater fulfillment.

Common Mistakes When Assigning Japanese Translation Jobs

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Project Managers are usually dealing with dozens of languages, so it’s quite understandable that they aren’t exactly familiar with the particularities of each language. For example, not all languages are counted the same way. Japanese is counted in characters, English is counted in words. The metrics used for one language may not be applicable to another.

As a Japanese to English freelance translator, I’ve often seen the same mistakes repeated, so I’ve listed them below.

Japanese vs Chinese/Korean

The simplest mistake I get is the confusion between Japanese and Chinese or Korean. PMs should be aware of the Japanese hiragana and katakana characters. Hiragana looks like this: ひらがな. And katakana looks like this: カタカナ. These characters are unique to the Japanese language, so if you spot any of these, you can be sure that it’s Japanese.

Rate

I am often asked my per source word rate, but Japanese is counted in characters. If PMs want to charge by words, they can assign jobs on a per target word basis.

Keeping the Original Formatting

I am also often asked to “keep the original formatting.” But PMs should remember that, when translating from Japanese to English, the target document would be longer, because generally 1 Japanese character will turn into about 2 English characters.

Japanese Names

When requesting translations for official documents consisting of Japanese names, PMs should get all the official names directly from the client, preferably before assigning the project. This is because Japanese names can be read in multiple ways, and otherwise the translator would have to guess, and insert a comment saying “Please check with client,” which would be a waste of time.

Fuzzy Matches

Japanese is a very “context-oriented” language. The context of the sentence could alter the meaning of a word or phrase significantly. I believe this is true of Japanese more than other languages. A lot of translators use the 30-60-90 rule for fuzzy match discounts. But for the Japanese language “fuzzy” does not help as much as other languages, so PMs should take this into consideration when requesting for discounts.

How Rapportive Can Benefit Freelance Translators

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Rapportive

Rapportive is an add-on to Gmail. By installing it, you get to see a snippet of your sender’s LinkedIn info, and other social media info too. It allows you to see what they look like, where they are, and what they do. It makes e-mailing more personal.

Easy Download

You can easily download Rapportive by going here and clicking on “Google Chrome Extensions” (see first photo below) and then on “Add to Chrome” (see second photo below). Rapportive is added to your Google account automatically.

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Freelancing Can Be Lonely

Freelancers face the computer screen for long hours, day in and day out. They may not see anyone for an extended period if they are working on a large project. Oftentimes, they only know the people they are working with (project managers, etc.) only by their email addresses.

Know Your Client

Freelancers can use Rapportive to see their client’s face. They no longer have to imagine what a PM looks like. Not all PMs are the same–they have unique skills, roles and experiences. Looking at their past jobs, their current roles, or their interests may give freelancers a better idea of who they are working with.

Make It Personal

Freelancers can use Rapportive to connect with their clients on LinkedIn, follow them on Twitter, or connect through other social media. A quick comment about shared interests–like kayaking, hiking, sky diving, you name it–may forge the relationship that much stronger.

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Prevent Fraud

Freelancers get all sorts of scams in their Inbox. The photo above is an example. Usually, scams are sent out by “BCC”. But sometimes they can be harder to spot. By using Rapportive, freelancers can identify whether the email account is connected to social media, whether the sender is really based where he/she claims to be based, and whether the sender has the job title he/she claims to have.

How Boomerang for Gmail Can Benefit Freelance Translators

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Boomerang

Boomerang for Gmail is an add-on to your Google account. It can set up email reminders, schedule the sending and receiving of emails, manage follow-up emails, and more. Free accounts come with 10 message credits. A Personal account with unlimited credits is available for $4.99 per month.

Easy Download

You can easily download Boomerang by going here and clicking on “Add this to your Gmail.” It will be added to your Google account automatically. A pop-up, like the one below, will appear, and you may choose to be taken on a tour.

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Freelancer Email Management

Freelancers deal with all kinds of emails. We send out many emails every day. And we work with PMs in many time zones. Sending an email at 9:00 a.m. their time may be more professional than, for example, 2:00 a.m. (which might be daytime for you, but not for them).

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Quote

Freelancers can use the Read Receipts function to know if their quote has been received. They can also use the Response Tracking function to keep track of which quotes received a response, and which did not.

Promotion

Freelancers can use the Recurring Messages function to send out a recurring message once every week, month, etc. It’s important to let agencies know that you still exist, and you are available. A simple, un-annoying reminder would be effective.

Payment Reminder

Freelancers can use the Scheduled Messages function to send out a payment reminder. They can, for example, schedule a payment reminder 37 days after sending an invoice that is NET 30 days. If they get a payment before that date, they can simply delete the scheduled message. That way, they can also keep track of which payments are on time, and which are late.