This is part 2 of this post. For part 1, please follow this link. In that previous post, I wrote about why it might be important to utilize a translation memory tool and started to look at some of the common arguments against TM. This second post discusses another two common reasons.
“TM tools are expensive”
This is indeed a strong argument if you’re only considering the commercial side of the computer translation software industry. This side includes tools such as Trados, MemoQ, or Wordfast. An average cost of a tool is probably $500. I do agree that this price tag is expensive, especially for an industry where margins have been steadily going down, not up, over the last decade. The most popular program, Trados, costs even more than that and if you want a version that also enables collaboration between at least two translators, you’ll end up paying about €3,000. But with the array of free online and offline translation tools available today, the choice is no longer limited to these commercial programs, making the “too expensive” argument increasingly irrelevant. For instance, we are blessed to have OmegaT, arguably the best free translation program and a strong competitor to commercial tools that renders many price-based objections unreasonable.
Another issue behind the “too expensive” argument is the lack of interoperability between different TM tools, meaning that you may need to own and use several programs instead of just one. Even if you routinely employ, and are very proficient with, a specific tool, an agency client might want you to buy and use something else. You either comply and show the money or abandon the hope of working with this agency altogether. Today, every large translation agency wants their freelancers to use whatever tool it uses. But the pressure agencies put on translators to utilize a specific tool might soon be history as the industry is gradually moving to a common format universally supported by all tools. XLIFF is a great initiative towards this end and will hopefully evolve into a fully interoperable solution. What’s even more exciting about the above-mentioned OmegaT is that this powerful software supports many other translation formats, including Trados TTX, SDLXLIFF, and TXML, already providing a good level of interoperability. So if your main objection for years has been the price, it seems to be the best time in history to start using a translation productivity tool.
Translation agencies, in particular single language vendors, can also make a difference in terms of decreasing the financial burden for translators by sending files for translation in a neutral format rather than something proprietary such as SDLXLIFF. For example, we provide our freelance translators with simple TXT or unformatted DOC files which they can translate in any program of their choice. No need to buy and learn a different tool, no time-consuming conversion, no formatting after translation. All they need to do is deliver a TMX translation memory (another interoperable format), which we then use to revise translation in OmegaT and create final files.
“You need to invest quite some time in learning a TM tool”
Right, but why would that be a problem? You need to do so just as you need to invest time in marketing, accounting, and other activities involved in running your translation business. Taking the time to learn a tool is a prerequisite—a ticket to the field, so to speak. This is more true if your major source of work is translation agencies. If you have direct clients who don’t care whether you use a TM tool or a dusty old typewriter to do the translation, you don’t have to make the investment. But think of all the productivity gains you’re missing out on! Wouldn’t it be great to have all repetitions inserted automatically? Wouldn’t you like to eliminate or minimize manual formatting of translations? Wouldn’t you want to have instant access to all your previous translations across different projects and even clients? In fact, your time investment might easily yield a ROI of several hundred percent just over the next week or month! The best way to improve time management has always been to become better at what you do, and a TM tool provides you a superb opportunity to do just that.
Please let me know what you think about the three valid arguments against translation memory and my reasoning. This post is continued in part 3.