Long live creativity!

Many years ago I worked as a freelance translator for an agency specialized in the automotive industry. The source texts were mainly technical manuals for truck mechanics and to be honest; for me, as a newcomer in this industry, it could just as well have been Chinese.


Therefore I was rather grateful that the agency provided me with a Computer Automated Translation (CAT) tool. Being able to reuse the wisdom of fellow translators collected in a translation memory and terminology lists simply helped me survive and made it possible for me to deliver translations that at least made some kind of sense.


CAT tools usually split up the source texts in smaller units, each unit usually containing one sentence. Unfortunately, as a translator you only see the units that need some form of processing. All units that have a 100% match with units that already have been translated in the past are not visible or they are locked and will be jumped over when clicking your way through the text.

Why would this be a disadvantage, you might wonder? As a translator you can focus entirely on the units that need to be translated without having to spend a second on units that already are available in your language and that you won’t get paid for anyway.

True! But … as a translator you only work with loose ends. There is no easy way to see the bigger picture or get an overall feeling for the style and tone of voice of the source text. You just translate the blanks or adapt units that have a partial match in the TM. At the end of the process the translation agency puts together the newly translated and adapted units with the units that already were available in your language. And that’s that!


In the case of the truck manuals seeing the context and having the complete picture wouldn’t have been of much help, I must admit. Seeing even more incomprehensible mumbo jumbo probably only would have made me more frustrated.

But later, when I started using a CAT tool for translating texts that required some form of copywriting I soon had to admit: CAT tools might be perfect for translating factual texts like manuals, but they are killing for more creative texts! Translating each and every sentence in the same, totally unattractive Excel like format is fatal for inspiration. Trying to find the right style and tone of voice for a particular text is nearly impossible, since you don’t have a clue what the original text as a whole looks, sounds and feels like. And adapting units that have a 60% or 80% match in the TM has more in common with a ‘find the differences´ puzzle than creative translation.


When we started Smile, we had long discussions about the use of a CAT tool. Of course we wanted to offer our clients the advantages of a CAT tool, like consistent terminology and reduced costs. We also wanted to provide our translators with the good things a translation memory and terminology lists can offer to make sure they can focus on the actual translation. But at the same time we did not want to kill their creativity and deliver soulless translations to our clients.


We soon found out that all the ‘big names’ among the CAT tools, and most of the smaller names as well, are pretty much alike, focusing solely on efficiency and cost reduction and transforming translation into uniform mass-production.

But somewhere a bit more in the outskirts of the CAT tool jungle we found one supplier who understands what translation really is about. This supplier has developed a CAT tool that embeds the advantages of computer automated translation and lots of other really helpful features in an inspiring environment that gives room for creativity and invites translators to use their full linguistic potential. And we’d love to share our findings with you. So why not just contact us?