For our feature “Looking at CATs” we get the perspective of a professional translator on their favorite computer-assisted translation tool: The OmegaT Translation Tool features. What are the strengths and weaknesses, and why do they choose it over the other tools on the market?
Karen Rossi is a young professional Italian translator based in the UK, whose main areas of expertise are technical domains (medicine, law, electricity, physics), but also tourism and marketing. Her source languages are English, German and Spanish – focusing mainly on the first two. Her preferred CAT tool is OmegaT. She’s fairly new to working as a freelancer, so we asked her what makes OmegaT a great choice for her.
Why did you choose this tool?
It’s not such a long time since I decided to commit myself to a full-time career as a freelance translator – about 1 year – despite the fact I have been working in this field since 2008. Yeah, I was pretty young at that time, but I had no doubt about the fact I wanted to become a professional.
Actually, my first encounter with OmegaT (version 2.5.5_04) is pretty recent and I was basically forced to begin working with it. Let me explain why. A year ago I didn’t have the need to use a CAT tool because I had been working as an in-house translator for a big pharmaceutical company, but as my contract hadn’t been extended because of the sadly-known economic crisis I had to quickly find out a way to get by, taking advantage of what I am good at: i.e. translating!
So basically I needed a tool which would allow me to effectively carry out my daily translation duties in a not-expensive way. And here comes OmegaT. It was recommended to me by a dear friend and colleague of mine and I must admit she was right!
Indeed, it is an-easy-to-handle tool and very intuitive, so that even for a newbie like me it didn’t take me ages to understand how to properly deliver my translations on time.
What are the 5 best OmegaT Translation Tool features?
1. Well, it could seem obvious but I really appreciate the fact that it is and is going to remain completely free-of-charge. When you are young and don’t have much money to purchase a CAT tool I think it is definitely an advantage.
2. It’s extremely easy to use and you won’t have any difficulties in learning how to properly deal with it. You won’t also need to attend any expensive webinars or purchase any textbooks in order to find out how to take your first steps with this CAT tool.
3. When you download OmegaT, you’ll be provided with an extensive and exhaustive guide which will accompany you hand-in-hand through the exploration of its several functionalities. Also, its main interface is not overcrowded with tiny or too many icons which make it impossible for you to quickly learn how to successfully use OmegaT.
4. You can take advantage of its spell checker functionality: OmegaT has a built-in spell checker based on the spelling checker used in OpenOffice.org, Firefox and Thunderbird. It is consequently able to use the huge range of free spelling dictionaries available for these applications.
5. The fact that it is a free tool doesn’t affect the quality of the target text’s final layout which is reproduced exactly as it was. That’s to say, it doesn’t present issues when exporting your final translation.
What would you improve about the tool if you could?
Speaking personally, regarding the version I currently use I would eliminate the option to import a translation attempt from Google Translate and also from MediaWiki pages. In my opinion, a top and exceptionally reliable CAT tool would absolutely avoid proposing such an option!
Moreover, I would modify how it deals with the tags of the target text: how such a process actually runs is a little bit complicated, especially for a newbie, because there’re too many factors you have to pay attention to.
Also, as I am a creative person, I would better the appearance of the main user interface on OmegaT: it lacks colour, there’s too much grey for my tastes…I mean it’s not dynamic and the colours are really monotonous.
Finally, I would optimise and re-organize the content layout of the Guide: it’s really too long and it’s not so easy to spot the information you are looking for: there are too many categories and the font colour and size don’t help you out much. The first time I had to read it through it took me three hours!!
Do you think the use of the tool improves your productivity/quality? Why or why not?
I definitely believe it was a great choice to adopt OmegaT. It must be said that, if you mainly deal with literary translation, i.e. those texts with a low rate of fuzzy matches, the productivity you gain is only 10-30%. On the other hand, it’s true that in my case this kind of translation represents only a small part of my assignments, as my main workload comes from highly technical source texts (thus, entailing a high percentage of fuzzy match). This means that OmegaT helps me to consistently reduce the time to carry out a translation with a productivity gain as high as 70-80%.
When it comes to quality, there’s no need to admit that even if we are highly-specialised professionals, we are always human. A very technical text often contains a lot of repetitions and it could be virtually impossible to remember exactly every translation choice you have made. But the feature of ‘term repetition’ helps you avoid making careless mistakes. Not to mention the ‘spell checking’, when it is activated, spelling mistakes and typos are recognized and can be corrected during translation. Finally, the consistency and reliability of my translation can be further supported and enhanced by the following additional functionality: the so-called ‘Dictionary feature’, allowing you to obtain access to other useful resources, besides the normal bilingual dictionaries, such as: Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary (1913), Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English, and The Britannica Concise Encyclopedia.
As a translator, do you see a benefit to owning more than one tool?
This is a pretty difficult question to deal with! It really depends on your main work areas and the volume of translation assignments you have to manage but I think that one CAT tool is more than enough, despite the fact nowadays still many translation agencies require Trados to collaborate with them (but I can assure you that you definitely can work without purchasing it. You might need it if you aim to enlarge the number of outsources/agencies you work for).
Instead, I think it could turn out to be more beneficial to own more than one non-CAT tool, such as other essential resources which a professional translator must own: for instance, TO3000 for invoicing, Intelliwebsearch for terminology research – and some other ones, as this article exhaustively sums up.
Previously: Looking at CATs: SDL Trados Studio 2014