A couple of weeks ago, I tweeted “I wish I had the chance to use #Smartling.” A few moments later, I got a response from Jack Welde, CEO of Smartling, generously offering me to try their translator tool. So, here’s my review.
To introduce, Smartling is a translation technology company that moves the translation workflow into the cloud. It automates the collection of digital content from website and apps and facilitates translation without the need for internationalizing code.
As a freelance translator, what I feel is special about their tool is the “in-context view.” This is the first time I’ve ever seen this technology, and after using it, I’ve fallen in love with it. I feel this is an extremely valuable development in “how translation is done.”
The interface of the translator tool is extremely simple. Unfortunately, there is no way of viewing this in Japanese, so Japanese translators would not be given the option to view it in their native language. There are only three components to the interface: Summary View, Translation View, and Word Count/Analysis View.
List View of Strings
Once I click on the Translations tab, I’m immediately taken to a List View of all the strings that are in progress. It’s quite intuitive, with the option to sort by status (i.e. not translated, translated, strings with unresolved issues) and search specific strings by keyword.
Once I click on the Add Translation button, I’m taken to an in-context view of the website I’m translating, with the translation interface on the bottom half. Here, there’s a button to open a new window for Glossary, Style Guide and TM Search. Personally, this is a bit distracting, because it adds an extra step for closing the window after searching.
When clicking on my name, I get the option to customize my shortcuts. For Save Translation, I try to change it to Command + Return, but unfortunately the interface does not allow me to use Return as one of the shortcut keys. This is quite annoying, given that I use Command + Return to save translations in both Memsource and Wordfast.
When opening the Translation Memory through shortcut, I notice that it offers a suggestion (automated translation), but this worries me because there is no disclosure of which MT is being used. Is my translation being sent to Google without permission?
Lastly, to return to the List View, I need to click on the small “x” button on the upper right corner of the top tab. But it actually took me quite a bit of time to find this button, because the color of it is gray on a gray background, which makes it nearly impossible to spot for the color blind.
Japanese User Experience
As mentioned earlier, there is no Japanese interface to Smartling. There would be great value created for the Japanese translator if an option is given to work in their native language.
Font and Font Size
The font size and appearance both look great in Japanese. Usually, the English text ends up being longer than the Japanese, but this is not the case with Smartling. I’m assuming that Smartling has taken care of this by automatically adjusting the spacing and font size. Overall, the in-context view for Japanese fits neatly into place with no visible conversion problems.
After translating a string, there’s a button on the bottom to save it. Or, you can just create a keyboard shortcut for it. The same applies to all other operations. You can move between strings with a shortcut, as well as reference the translation memory with a shortcut. Everything is neatly packed in a simple interface with a few keyboard shortcuts to maneuver all the operations required by the translator.
In Japanese, it’s quite typical to add line breaks for information that you want to emphasize. For example, in my website there is an English line: “Please RFQ at firstname.lastname@example.org”. In Japanese, I would want it to say: “お見積もりは下記メールアドレスまでお問い合わせください。[Line Break x 2] email@example.com”. The in-context view does not show the two line breaks I want to add, so I’m left guessing whether the final product will have the line breaks as I intend them to look.
I find the concept of “snippets” (or smaller parts of segments that are governed by their formatting) to be less intuitive for the average Japanese user. Let’s take for example the following sentence in my profile: “I am a full-time Japanese translation and localization professional .” In Japanese, this would be translated as “私はフルタイムの翻訳者兼ローカリゼーションプロフェッショナルです。” As you can see here, a simple formatting in the source English, turns into a operation in two places for the Japanese, and in this case I require 5 snippets for the 1 segment, but I am only given 3 available snippets.
Smartling revolutionizes the translation process through its in-context view. It has proven to be smooth, clear and accessible to the average Japanese translation user as exemplified by my experimentation. There are some minor improvements that can be made to the interface, including flexibility of shortcut commands as well as better visibility of the Close (x) button. In addition, the translator tool for the Japanese user proves effective, but also requires some improvements such as the ability to see line breaks in the in-context view as well as making the concept of “snippets” for formatting more intuitive and accessible to the Japanese user.