Fluency and the Mac

We often run into translators that work on a Mac that are having issues finding a CAT tool that they can work with. Then there are the translators that are investigating whether to buy a Mac or PC. Fluency runs on .Net (like most of the main tools out there) which is a Windows based technology, so we want to take this chance to explain how to run Windows software on a Mac. There are a couple ways that you can run Fluency on a Mac, but they don’t come without some additional work. We aren’t opposed to developing a Mac version, but it isn’t exactly a straightforward process. So, until we have a native Mac version, we have to run Windows on a Mac a use Fluency. Currently for prospective users, there are advantages to PCs but Windows based software can be run on a Mac as well – including Fluency.

The easiest option to get Fluency on your Mac is to install Parallels which costs about $80. This will also require a license of Windows. Parallels is one of the most popular methods of running Windows programs on a Mac, so this solution allows you more flexibility beyond just installing Fluency. Boot Camp is another option, which will allow your Mac computer to boot in either the OS X operating system or Windows. Boot Camp is free and you still need a Windows license, but in this case you have to reboot if you want to move back over to your normal interface. VMware is another option which is also free (except for the Windows license) and similar to Parallels, but not integrated in the same way. Once you have one of these options on your Mac, you can install Fluency without any issue.

As far as a general decision between Mac and PCs, everyone has an opinion. There are good reasons to buy either. In our company’s experience in the translation business, PCs natively give you more options for CAT tools and fewer interoperability issues because PCs still have the majority of the market. For many translators, if you don’t want to try one of the Parallels/VMware/Boot Camp options, it might be worth investing in a PC even if you use a Mac normally if only for saving your time avoiding work-around issues between PC/Mac.

This is still in many ways a Microsoft business world (they have the vast majority of the market) so that should be a consideration when looking at computer options. As far as mainstream translation tools go, only online tools and WordFast run natively on Macs (Swordfish, OmegaT, and some others also are Java based, but they aren’t as big). You can, as already documented above, use Boot Camp or Parallels or VMware, but those are just Windows-on-a-Mac options, not true Mac options. And as much as online tools will tell you all the advantages of the “cloud” for interoperability, online software just doesn’t have the resources that desktop software does because it’s in a browser.

If you are interested in running Fluency on your Mac and need help, let us know and we will help you out. Getting any of the Windows alternatives up on a Mac isn’t always easy so we’re here to help. Just contact us and we’ll make it work for you.


Speeding Up

One of the main premises behind translation tools is an increase in speed. The trick with any tool though is that in order for it to make you more productive, you’ve got to learn how to use it. That’s one of the main reasons we offer free training when you purchase. The faster you learn how to use our tool, the faster it will…make you faster. In these training sessions we discuss pretty much anything you want. The sessions are one-on-one with a trainer, in most cases, so we can do that. The problem is that the sessions usually revolve around high level training – here’s the TM, here’s how to use it, etc. Unfortunately, the lower level stuff is often where the real speed increase is. So here are a few of the things you should know.
First, keyboard shortcuts. These are invaluable. This is true both for Fluency and for Windows in general. the Windows key + D minimizes all of your windows at once. Windows key + E opens an explorer window. Windows key + R opens a run window that you can start any program from. In Windows 7, moving a window to the top of the screen will maximize it. Moving it to the left or right will set up a 50% side-by-side view with another window. Shaking the open window will minimize all the other windows. A lot of your probably already knew these. In Fluency, maybe you’re not as familiar with the shortcuts. The whole list of pre-defined shortcuts can be found under Help > Keyboard Shortcuts. You can also assign key combinations to particular characters in the preferences menu. Some pre-defined shortcuts you might useful: CTRL + M will merge the current sentence with the next one. CTRL + # will change the active pane (1 = source text, 2 = target preview, 3 = target text, 4 = glossary). Keying up and down in the glossary pane will initiate the extended glossary search for whatever word is selected, and enter on the selected word with put it in the Target text and let you continue translating. Enter and CTRL + Up or Down will move you from segment to segment. CTRL + W sequentially copies a word from the source for that segment. CTRL + G will initiate a terminology lookup on characters from the last space up to the cursor and let you auto-complete from the list. There are a lot more, so I recommend looking them up and printing them out for quick reference.
Second, Regular Expressions can come in quite handy, not only in Fluency but in dealing with documents in general. Say you get a document that has been converted from a PDF that you import into Fluency and you come to find out that the “columns” that it shows are just fake – they end with new line characters. Which, of course, makes the segmentation very bad. What do you do? Well, open the document in Word and do this find and replace – “^13([a-z])” replace with ” \1″ (Word’s wildcard characters are not your “regular” regular expressions. In any other software, “\n([a-z])” would be your search string). These expressions are often not perfect but do a much better and quicker job than you going through and trying to find problems manually. The “\1” above is a capture group which preserves your original text when you are doing a find and replace. Without it, you would not know what to replace the [a-z] with and the search would be useless. Fluency has capture groups available in its Find/Replace function as well. Regular Expressions give you the flexibility to look for a term that could have any number of morphemes appended to it, so they are available in various other areas in Fluency besides Find/Replace.
Third, a comparison tool lets you see how a document has changed from a previous revision. Fluency has a TM profiling tool that shows you the number of x% matches in a document, but sometimes something with a little more granularity can be helpful. I’m sure most of you are familiar with Word’s Track Changes ability which can be useful for editing but can often get messy. There are many free comparison tools that will show you changes from a revision of a document, but the best that I know of is Beyond Compare. It’s not free, but it only costs 30 dollars and it has a lot of flexibility that other free tools don’t. It can’t do PowerPoint or Excel that I know of though. For comparing those, you can try WinMerge which has a PowerPoint plug-in, I’m told, or DiffDoc which I’ve used myself but that costs $400 dollars.
Lastly (ironically, right?), take a look through the Help manual. You might find a function or two that you really could use and hadn’t thought about, or something you wanted that you didn’t think was available. Often, the documentation/help is a last resort, and we believe to use Fluency, you shouldn’t need to spend an hour reading how, but in order to make use of some of the more advanced/complicated features in any software, a quick glance over the Help file can’t hurt.
As always, if you want something to speed you up in Fluency, let us know! We often add features for translators (usually weekly) that help with their processes and speed them up. And while we continually try to innovate, we can’t help with your specific situation if we don’t know what you need.


In Context

First of all, thank you to all of you for bearing with us last week. We were overwhelmed last week by the amount of interest our ProZ ad generated and have had about 1700 people download our trial! Please, if you have questions or need support, don’t hesitate to contact us.
Last week I was looking around on my alma mater’s website and saw an article about context and translation that had recently been published by an old professor of mine and family acquaintance, Alan Melby. He’s done extensive work in the translation field and is serving on the American Translators Association Board of Directors. Needless to say, I thought it would be worth my time to read the article. It was an interesting read. If you want the full text, it’s available here http://www.trans-int.org/index.php/transint/article/viewFile/87/70
The point of the article is to claim that there are 5 aspects of context: co-text, chron-text, rel-text, bi-text, and non-text. If you want an in-depth explanation of these, I refer to the paper. In short, co-text is the text surrounding the word or phrase. This is the definition that most of us are familiar with. Chron-text is the context of different versions of the document in which the word/phrase is found. Rel-text is the related information available in other resources. Bi-text is the context available from translation memories. Finally, non-text is what Melby refers to as ‘paralinguistic information’. The context of a word/phrase in the language and culture as a whole.
There are many interesting lines of discussion this could generate, but for the sake of brevity, I’ll just pick two. First is machine translation. I said a few posts ago my background is computational linguistics, and as such I’m familiar with the algorithms used in machine translation. Most good MT systems now are largely statistical, with some systems making use of linguistic rules as well with a hybrid approach. In either case, one of the big questions is “what is context?” The problem that Melby’s context definition poses for MT is two-fold. Namely, with the first 4 “-texts,” how far is far enough? What portion of the surrounding text needs to be looked at? And, the last “-text” is currently intractable for MT. MT doesn’t know culture. Given Melby’s definition of context, it’s easy then to see why MT struggles sometimes and why, despite the care given to the sophisticated statistical algorithms, MT will never replace the human – unless they can understand culture and “paralinguistic information”.
Which brings us to the next line of discussion – how do you as a translator cope with the all the variations of context for a translation in the limited time you are given? This is where the TEnT comes in handy. You don’t have the time or the resources without a tool to look at everything you could to inform you on a translation. Even with a tool, you won’t have time. But with a tool, you should be able to quickly figure out what context you most need to reference and do your research. This is where one of the strengths of Fluency is manifest – you have quick easy access to lots of resources. Online resources, integrated terminology, TMs, etc. Online resources allow you access to rel-text and non-text to a degree without wasting your time. All you need to do is highlight the phrase in the source window (or just hover over a particular word) and click on the appropriate tab, and off you go. You also get an intuitive approach to co-text, where each segment is still part of a whole document, not cells in a table, each an island, entire of itself. Not to mention any images and formatting that could give you further “paralinguistic info” on the document.
Anyway, I recommend you look at Melby’s article. It’s an interesting exploration of one of the main challenges that face you as translators.


Marketing, paraphrase, and translation

Déjà Vu released DVX2 recently. I was perusing their feature list earlier today as I try to stay current on what the competition is doing. At the last ATA conference, our booth was stationed next to Atril’s and we were impressed with the friendliness of their representatives to a competitor, so the following is not meant at all to be derogatory to them or their product. But as I read, I was struck that many of the features had a lot in common with things that we released in the last 6-8 months. It’s not that surprising that given the same problems, we came to similar solutions, but it is the case that DVX as one of the big tools out there has the budget for a lot of hype and marketing that we don’t. Sure they polished some of these features up and spun them in new ways, but the real genius is in marketing. Marketing makes these features sound amazing. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m sure some people are going to love and really use these new features, but in the variations of these features that we have had in Fluency for a while, we haven’t really seen much use. We released a term miner with no real response. We have AutoTM and term lookup as you translate for an autosuggest and while our users like the concept, only a small percentage actually use it. But that’s why it’s all about marketing. It’s the flash of a cool coined term for a feature that often sells it more than its usefulness.
That got me thinking about marketing in general. I’m not a marketing guy but in many ways, marketing reminds me of paraphrasing. If I say “Fluency is the first tool that can translate publisher files,” that’s boring. If I say “In an industry first, Fluency allow you to seamlessly translate Microsoft Publisher files,” it says essentially the same thing but sounds more exciting. The thing about marketing is that instead of staying as close to the original meaning as possible, your goal is sound as good as possible without straying too far from the original meaning.
Like I said, marketing doesn’t really interest me. But paraphrase does, as does translation. Paraphrase and translation have even more in common. In both, you need to be as true to the original meaning as possible. Where marketers want to author the paraphrase, translation and linguistic paraphrasing want to be accurate to the original author. While the means are the same, the ends are a world apart. So it would seem that if there is a group of individuals that would shudder at marketing’s ends, it would be translators. But like I said, marketing sells, even in the translation space. So all this is not to say that we here at Western Standard aren’t going to market our product (though it won’t be me). What I’m saying is that on the home front here at Western Standard, we know that when it comes right down to it, the real worth is what’s behind the pretty paraphrase.


CAT got your tongue?

The Fluency Translation Suite is what many people refer to as a CAT tool – a Computer-aided (or assisted) translation tool. In other circles they are referred to as Translation environment tools, or TEnTs (coined I believe by Mr. Jost Zetzsche). The idea behind the technology has been around for over 20 years now: save previous translations and give translators resources when they translate. It began with DOS based tools, with the most familiar one known as TRADOS, a clever derivation from the words “Translate” and “DOS”.  Since then, these tools have evolved substantially into comprehensive translation solutions. There are many competitors for TRADOS now, some of them quite good.
Enter Fluency. About 5 years ago, our parent company–The Western Standard Publishing Company–was awarded a government contract that involved language technology development. This contract included some translation work. Hence the development of a translation division of Western Standard. As we began this translation work, we surveyed the available CAT tools and got the distinct impression that these tools were not geared for what we needed – fast and accurate translations of unique material. So we built our own tool which we named Fluency.
At the end of the government contract, we opted out of pursuing Language Service Provider work in favor of pursuing the technology side of translation. After a few months work on the Fluency tool, we brought the tool to market. In gearing up for marketing, we visited multiple language conferences. One of the banners we brought claimed that Fluency was the world’s smartest translation software. One translator questioned me particularly about this claim in context of the market full of CAT tools that have been around for decades. It was a legitimate question.
The answer is in the question. There’s a tool disconnect. After having been around for decades, tools have language and translation so wrapped in technology that you can’t see the meaning for the words. This standard and that standard, this file format and that file format, this feature and that feature. One of our clients told us after we responded to a technology question that there is an “ever-growing morass of daunting technology faced by translators.” That’s where Fluency is different. We try to strike a balance between cool technology (I’m personally a computational linguist interested in pretty much all things techy that deal with language) and good-ol’ translation. We know that to you, time is money, and because of this we get out of your way and let you translate. We’ll provide TM matches, terminology, and a wealth of other resources,  but in a simpler, more friendly way. Proverbially, we don’t want the CAT to get your tongue.
To us, features need to be motivated not by “coolness” but by actual usefulness in the translation process. Will it speed the translator up or help accuracy? Is it practical? Will it get in the way? If it doesn’t pass these questions, why add it? Features for the sake of features just muddies the water.
So that’s a little about us. We are around to stay, and wouldlove to hear your feedback. Please let us know what you think Fluency needs, or what it does well. We’ll post information about cool technology, but also cool language tid-bits.