For a generation of seasoned translators, it seems not too long ago when it all depended solely on them. To translate a text they needed their knowledge, dictionaries, and a writing tool. Very often, it was a hard, tedious process. So, how did we reach a stage from these humble beginnings to being able to use advanced translation tools like Trados?
They would have to check a number of hard-bound dictionaries, reference books, and documents. Of course, a pile of their glossaries they had to compile. Most of those were sorted by the texts they previously translated and not by any general or specific themes. Most arduous of all was that the whole process took time and excruciating effort.
Accessing dictionaries and references online was a relief that seemed like a flash ago. As the online access developed, so did what is now generally called Computer-Assisted Translation (CAT) tools.
Now, there is no efficient translation agency or a freelance translator that can do their job properly and efficiently without CAT in any shape and form. Certainly, one of the most popular translation tool suites is Trados Studio, a tool produced by SDL. The company originated in Stuttgart Germany in the Eighties. Its head office is currently located in the UK, with over 60 offices across the globe. So what is Trados, and how does it work?
In essence, as Write Better points out, Trados Studio is “ is a Computer-Assisted Translation (CAT) tool used by thousands of translation professionals and provides a range of sophisticated features to help you complete projects more quickly and easily.”
Its main features are tied to a central translation memory (TM), a database that stores previously translated content.
Along with the TM, its main features include:
- SDL machine translation engines;
- a large selection of language options;
- SDL Trados GroupShare;
- SDL MultiTerm.
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This post has been updated in August 2021.
Trados – from humble beginnings to becoming a key producer of the translation software
TRADOS (TRAnslation & DOcumentation Software) “was established in Stuttgart, Germany by Jochen Hummel and Iko Knyphausen in 1984. Hummell and Knyphausen initially set up TRADOS as a Language Service Provider (LSP) following their decision to tender for a translation project for IBM.”
As the company notes, “translators were unable to keep up with a number of translation projects being passed on to them from customers, leaving a requirement from technology to help bridge the gap between supply and demand. Hummell and Knyphausen recognized the opportunity for technology and started developing software to solve this issue.”
The first software Trados came up with was MultiTerm (a terminology database, now SDL MultiTerm) back in 1990. The nineties saw a marked increase in development in translation software technology. This meant that CAT tools, in general, were becoming more commonplace.
Still, it took time for both Trados and CAT tools, in general, to develop to become both commonplace and efficient. Anybody who started using Trados in its developing stages can confirm the high learning curve it took the software to become really useful.
In 2005 SDL acquired TRADOS, the first result was SDL Trados 2007 Suite. The goal of the product was, ” to help further increase speed and productivity within the translation process.”
The key step forward was the launch of the Studio family, which, as the company says, “revolutionized the way localization professionals worked. “
From there on, further, more sophisticated versions of Studio confirmed the company’s claim. Write Better (above) lists a figure of 250,000 translation professionals. In the previous decade, Trados updated its versions of Studio regularly, the current version being the one from 2019.
How does translation software work?
To make an easier understanding of how Trados works let us take a look at how translation software works. LiM notes two main differences between translation software. One is Translation Memory Software and the other is basic Translation Software. Trados and its studio belong to the TM category of the more sophisticated translation software.
As LiM, defines, Translation Memory (TM) memorizes human translations and is able to assist translators by speeding up the translation as it can repeat texts in documents. “Software translation is built by using algorithms that draw on a database of words – similar to a dictionary. They use these algorithms to translate the syntax (or rules) of one language to another.”
So how does this look in practice? “When you type in a sentence it uses a rule formula to access certain components of the database and produces a translation that is as accurate as possible in a fraction of a second. This tool allows the translation of simple sentences that are predictable (every time they are the same) like basic phrases, to be done quickly and perfectly.”
Of course, this all works fine when your translation needs to be “word for word”. But when you reach terms that have multiple meanings, idioms or more complex ideas, a translator needs to intervene.
Still, CAT tools can alleviate that process of the translator’s intervention too. As Pieter Beens of Vertaalt.nuexplains, “the translation software breaks a whole text into segments from one sentence.” It then structures the text.
A translation memory (TM) then stores all translated segments. This database contains all translations for a particular document or project. CAT tools can then look up the best possible match in the database for each segment.
Further advantages of CAT tools
Another advantage of CAT tools is that they “save particular terms or word combinations as a term in their translation memories, making it possible to ensure consistency without a terminology database.”
Beens breaks down the advantages of CAT tools, as they:
- structure a document by breaking it up into different sentences;
- improve productivity by looking up sentences that are close to each other;
- enable translators to store their work in a translation memory;
- improve consistency by enabling a terminology database for particular terms.
Yet another advantage is the fact that CAT tools like Trados have the ability to preserve the formatting of the original document. In that manner, the translators are able to deliver the translated document that looks practically the same as the original.
Still, with all the advantages of CAT tools, they require a translator to work along with them to make them deliver a translation that is true to the original meaning. Some other shortcomings, like whether they support certain file formats, seem minuscule in comparison.
The main features of SDL TradosStudio
As Josue Contreras of Write Better (above) notes, the main feature of SDL TradosStudio lies in its translation memory (TM). It works in conjunction with other CAT tools. These include terminology management systems, multilingual dictionaries or machine translation software.
But, it also works complementarily with ‘regular’ word processors like Microsoft Word. For example, while you are working on your translation in TradosStudio, you can always cross-check how your translation looks and is formatted in Word.
The key feature of ant translation memory is that you can re-use the whole or part of previous translations. This not only allows a translator to work faster, but assures consistency in their work across the board. Trados Studio TM is considered as one of currently the best in that respect.
Another key feature of Studio is its “AutoSuggest feature. It works on a similar principle as automatic spellcheckers. But instead of making automatic changes, it presents you with a list of suggestions. This option is much better than automatic changes of most spellcheckers which can often be wrong.
SDL Machine Translation engines include a lot of artificial intelligence advancements. The aim of all of these is to increase the productivity and work volume of translators.
Another distinguishing feature of TradosStudio is the selection of languages and how a translator can pair them. This feature comes in particularly useful if a translator or a translation agency has to work often on multilingual translations. For example, if you want to translate to and from English Trados currently gives you 55 choices.
SDL Trados GroupShare feature is has a goal to facilitate teamwork. It is available in the cloud and makes editing an easier and faster process.
SDL MultiTerm is the Trados terminology management tool. Translators can use it to create terminology databases and glossaries, ensuring the quality of vocabulary and specific terms in translation projects.
Trados is advanced and useful with translators still at the helm
As discussed elsewhere, the translation process is often long and complex. When translators use a tool like Trados to improve overall translation quality and efficiency. Of course, it does not do the whole job by itself.
Trados, like any other CAT tool, as Beens (above) correctly notes, “is not an automatic translation tool or translation engine, but only a tool that helps translators in the translation process. It ensures a real human translation, made possible by professionals.” It also saves time and resources for clients to re-format a translation and speeds up the time for their documents to reach their destination.
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