Freelancing: Safe or Slave?

The ongoing worldwide recession has brought about a general reduction of remunerations and a consistent underestimation of wages. However, this has not stopped many enthusiasts and entrepreneurs from thriving, especially within the freelancing community. Skilled and talented professionals have found new ways to uphold their previous standard of living.  The number of people working from home has increased in the last few years and this working pattern has proven to be a tested way to generate new cash flows, especially in tough times like these. Here we should consider more carefully the pros and cons of working from home on both full-time and part-time base.

For some people, being stuck in an office chair is more like a nightmare. They simply prefer working at their own time schedule than adjusting to the classic 9-5 work model. Freelancing offers freedom like no office job does; freedom in managing and organising your free time and setting up your working hours according to the deadlines given. For those who are night-owls, freelancing offers the flexibility and convenience they need to work into the early hours. Of course, all professional freelancers should be reachable when needed, since they have to liaise with customers in different time zones. But, what's more important than time management is the comfort one enjoys working in a more personalised environment. You never know when inspiration may strike!

If you are just starting out as a freelancer you might find yourself scampering to meet deadlines and working more hours than before. However, this won’t last long. By the time you get accustomed to the way the freelancing industry operates, you will manage to improve your problem solving skills and sharpen your time management skills. Working alone can be both time consuming and frustrating. Deadlines can be deadly enough to discourage you from taking the plunge into full-time freelancing. In case you manage to survive in this competitive world, you 'll have to face another common problem: the savings buffer. As a new freelancer, your cash flow is everything. That’s why you should not go full-time until you begin to build a decent savings buffer for any financially challenging times ahead. Although working from the comfort of your couch allows you to expand or lighten your daily/monthly workload and to boost or reduce your daily/monthly income, budget estimations cannot be 100% accurate.
Most of the times, freelancers resemble those lonely walkers. They work secluded in their homes, even for weeks. So, think about it! Freelancing is not that easy as it is often thought to be, let alone working full-time. Advantages and disadvantages get always in the way, though it highly depends upon perspective.

Copywriter: Vasiliki Bountri


Wordfast vs. SDL Trados

What is a CAT-Tool

CAT Tools contain no program based on machine translation and no ready-made bilingual dictionary. The “dictionary” is created by the translator with each translation and revision. Looking for a term with a CAT tool means searching through the previously created translation memory. The result of the search is not the equivalent term in the other language, but the text string in which the term occurs. The process is certainly slower and more complicated compared to machine translation, but the result is more interesting in the long run.

First we will dedicate our attention to the most popular tool, Trados. Then we will come to Wordfast, which is number two despite being easier to use and cheaper.


The first thing to do when translating a text with Trados, is to open the Translator´s Workbench even before opening the source text. This “workbench” will remain open during the entire translation process. As the next step, the text to be translated is segmented. This is done automatically and is based on the punctuation marks present, the comma usually being an exception. However, the translator can make the segments longer or shorter, depending on the type of text and the translator’s personal preferences. The advantage of working with shorter segments is that shorter segments are more likely to occur in the text being translated or in future texts.

The blue window on the top contains the first segment of the source text; the translation is to be inserted into the second, yellow bottom window. The segments are delimited by tags, i.e., unchangeable codes, which show the beginning and the end of the unit to be translated and are part of Trados’s language.

It should be pointed out, in this context, that the first advantage of using Trados is that the translator immediately sees which parts of the text are to be translated, which makes it easy to concentrate on the essential. Whoever has attempted to translate a text in electronic format knows how difficult it is, since each time the already translated source text must be deleted. As an alternative, one must work with two texts side-by-side, or open the original text on the screen again and then return to the already translated text. This process is not only annoying, but also often results in careless mistakes and increases the risk of skipping a sentence or a word. The situation becomes even worse if the translation is received as hard copy. If the translator does not have the possibility of converting the text into an electronic format by using optical character recognition (OCR—another tool to make the translator’s life easier), he or she must constantly shift the focus between the paper and the screen. Finding the last translated sentence on the paper and adapting to two or more different type sizes and typefaces adds to the difficulty and the aggravation. With Trados, the translator does not have to look for the sentence to be translated or the point where the translated text to be inserted, since they are both located in the same area of the screen, are marked with different colors, and have the same type size and typeface.

Once the translation has been inserted in the bottom window, the program saves both source and translated segments in the TM (translation memory). Thanks to this process, Trados can automatically suggest, in the bottom window, the saved translation every time this segment occurs in this or a future translation. The translator is then free to accept it unchanged or to modify it.

In some cases, the program can also suggest translations of similar, but not 100% identical segments, depending on the Minimum Match Value set by the translator before starting work. If a 100% match was set, Trados will suggest translations only for identical segments, which has the advantage that the translator can be sure, without checking, that the suggested translation is correct. In this way, however he or she gets no suggestion from the CAT in the case of segments that differ from each other, even if only by a single word. Therefore, most translators set a Minimum Match Value of 60% so they can consider also similar segments (fuzzy matches).

If, during the translation process, a term comes up which the translator knows is stored in the memory, it is marked and a Concordance command is entered, which immediately retrieves all segments in which this term occurs.


In January 2009, Wordfast Pro 6.0 was launched, which is being sold as an alternative to Wordfast Classic. The basic principle of both versions, as well as of Trados, is the combination of two technologies: segmentation and translation memory. Let me briefly describe Wordfast Classic and Pro.

Unlike other CAT tools, Wordfast Classic is not actually a program, but a suite of Microsoft Word macros. This is why it is especially well-suited for those just starting out in the world of CAT tools. Since it is based on Word, it lets the beginner move on well-known terrain without having to deal with a new program and a new window.

Wordfast Classic is certainly an easy-to-use tool, although this ease of use is offset by reduced performance and flexibility. One example is the Glossaries, which, while will not satisfy the terminologist’s requirements, are adequate for the translator’s needs. Also, compared with Trados and other CAT tools, Wordfast Classic handles fewer formats, which makes it easier to use, but does not contribute to the popularity of the product.

In conclusion, although Wordfast Classic has a limited performance range compared to other computer-aided tools, it is an excellent aid for those who wish to enter the world of CAT tools, especially for Word users. And it is clearly a better value compared to other programs.

The greatest innovation of Wordfast Pro is that, unlike the previous versions, it is a standalone program not based on Word. Its graphics is also new. The interface is clear, simple, and intuitive. In addition, the visual appearance of the page and the keyboard shortcuts can be customized. The best innovations include faster Analyze and Clean-up functions, the retrieval of repeating segments, and an expanded range of compatible file formats

Advantages and disadvantages

The most important advantages of CAT tools are based on the above explanations and do not apply only to specific texts: When using these tools, it is immediately clear which parts of the text must be translated; the unchanging portions are transferred accurately and directly; the time savings due to repeating expressions is huge; and expressions are translated consistently. However, there are many other functions that offer the translator a number of other advantages.

Most CAT tools let the translator work with formats other than Word (Excel, PowerPoint, Visual Studio, Java, HTML, XML, etc.) without modifying the format. In files created in a tagged language or which have special page breaks, the CAT tool leaves the layout unchanged, which allows the translator to focus exclusively on the translation.

Another common feature of many CAT tools is the creation of easily and rapidly retrievable terminology cards. Most translators had to work with terminology cards and glossaries, which were often the product of hard work, especially in the case of special and complicated texts. CAT tools allow correct terminology databases to be created, which contain not only the expression in the source and target languages, but the context, examples, and images can also be stored, and the categories provided for describing the expression can be freely customized. Of course, an expression contained in the database can be retrieved during the translation in order immediately to display the appropriate word in the target language.

Of course, CAT tools, like most computer programs, have their shortcomings and sometimes do not function as they should for unknown reasons. While considerable progress has been made regarding trustworthiness, these tools are not yet absolutely reliable, especially in the case of complicated applications. It must be stated that difficulties often result from the user’s insufficient familiarity with the software, and their resolution is often trivial. Learning these programs requires time, especially if the translator wishes to make use of all available resources. Thanks to the abundance of information available on the Web such as user forums which often provide solutions to problems, learning programs provided with the software, and professional associations, which offer courses and specific workshops, it was never so easy for the translator to familiarize him/herself with the different CAT tools.

What conclusions can we draw from this

We have seen that the principle of computer-aided translation software (CAT tools) is based on the segmentation of the text and the creation of a translation memory. While the underlying principles of most tools are very similar, each tool is best suited for a different application and meets different requirements. For example, Wordfast Classic is best suited for those working exclusively with texts in Word format. In contrast, those who work with different and special texts, will prefer Trados.

Do not get discouraged after the first difficulties. When you are ready to spend time, money, and patience to familiarize yourself with the world of CAT tools and to use all available resources, you’ll wonder how you were able to live without them.


Hey Job Applicants, Time to Stop the Social-Media Sabotage!

Think before you post, especially if you’re looking for a job. Seems like common sense, doesn’t it? Yet despite all the advice and warnings to be cautious with social media, job applicants continue to get burned by their online profiles.

Many companies now search candidates’ social-media accounts to get a better feel for their personalities, to see if they have creative flair, and to find out how well they communicate. Done right, your profile can work in your favor. Of 2,184 hiring managers recently surveyed by CareerBuilder, one-fifth said a candidate’s online profile helped them land a position. More often, though, it backfires: 43 percent said they found information that led them not to hire a candidate, up 9 percentage points from last year. That trend means either that more job applicants are behaving badly online or that human resources is getting stricter in sniffing out problems.

The most commonly spotted red flags, according to the survey:

• Racy Photos: The crotch shot needs to die. Half of surveyed managers found provocative or inappropriate photos and info about candidates by reviewing their social-media updates.
• Booze: That album of your reckless Cancun vacation? Make it private. About 48 percent discovered info about the candidate drinking or using drugs on social-media sites.
• Crazy Ranting: That nickname you call your boss should be nowhere to be found on your Twitter feed. One-third found applicants had bad-mouthed a previous employer.
• OMG i h8 inglish: Thirty percent said the candidate had poor communication skills.
• Intolerance: About 28 percent of managers spotted discriminatory comments about race, gender, and religion.
• Lies: Did you really get degrees in Celtic languages and stem cell biology at Harvard? Just under one-fourth discovered candidates had misrepresented their qualifications through their online profiles.

So as long as you want to be employable, it would be wise to restrain your social-media posts so that they’re HR friendly. Most of your friends probably didn’t want to see those racy pics either.


Translation industry at the crossroads

The translation industry is faced with a major opportunity or danger in 2013. It appears to be continuing straight on at the crossroads without fully appreciating what options are to the left and right.

→ To the right are clients trying to work out how to sell to new cultures.

← To the left are the IT developers with all their enthusiasm, gadgets and gizmos.

Clients flirting with machine translation
Clients are flirting with machine translation. They are not translators. They do not appreciate the risks. They do not know how to outline the different translation services they require. They want something more than appears to be on offer. Some human translations provided seem little better than machine translations to them.

MT developers seeking to replace linguists?
Meanwhile, MT developers are enthusiastically trying to replace interpreters and translators. That may not be their intention. It is certainly the risk.
Each new MT development gets top billing in the press. As in the recent Economist article, the drawbacks appear further down in the copy. Corrective copy rarely gets published. It is simply not as compelling.

Danger of a missing generation of linguists?
It must appear that linguists are on the way out to the general public. It must look like there is no future in languages. Why would parents encourage the subject or students pursue an apparent dead-end career? There is a danger that when the limitations of machine translation and interpreting are exposed, there will be a complete generation of missing linguists. The disinformation is already doing damage and machine translation has a lot of linguistic problems to solve yet.
IT developers do not set out to undermine translators and interpreters. The consequences of their research and development are not always quite what they had envisioned. Translation memory tools are designed to assist translators. I can clearly recall translators resisting using them. Some still do. Machine translation (MT) is meeting with the same reaction from most translators today.

Cooperation and boundaries
It would be far better if the translation industry could cooperate with MT developers and establish best practices.  It would be preferable to agree with them which fields MT should focus on and which should be left to human translators. They should cease to compete in the same fields and/or agree on areas where their combined efforts are required, as in post-editing MT.
Human translators should concentrate on the higher end of the market. MT will probably always struggle to deliver here. Translators should specialise in particular fields, so that clients can clearly differentiate a quality divide between human and machine translation in future.
Clients have two distinctly different translation requirements. They need a fast, responsive service which human translators will struggle to meet. They also need high quality, creative marketing copy which MT can’t meet.
At the crossroads, MT developers, linguists and their clients need to meet in the centre and shake hands. They need to agree which directions they are all heading in and the territorial boundaries.


What Is a Braille Translator?

A Braille translator is a computer program used to transform a document into a representation comprised of Braille characters. Text is converted from letters, numbers and punctuation to the Braille format, where those characters are represented by a series of dots within a six dot rectangular cell. Different programs can be used to display the Braille output to a computer screen, create an output file with the translation, or send it directly to a Braille printer.

There are numerous programs available to users looking for a Braille translator. Several online sites offer tools that allow the user to directly input text to be transformed and then display the translation on-screen. Others offer programs that are free to download. Some companies sell software packages or licenses that work with different operating systems and offer special features.

Several factors are important to consider when deciding on a Braille translator to use. Some programs allow for the translation of multiple languages, while others may only handle one or a few. Different programs work with different operating systems, so users will need to find one that is compatible with their computer. Types of file formats that can be created also differ from program to program, so users looking to generate specific types of output files need to ensure the Braille translator they use supports them.

In addition to regular text, some programs can also translate music to Braille. Many of these types of translators can convert instrumental and piano music, songs with lyrics, and even orchestral scores. Some can accept only print music, while others can also transform actual music files.

Typically, one of three types of Braille are used for creating the output. Grade 1 is made up of letters, numbers and punctuation marks, each represented by a single six dot cell. Grade 2 includes contractions of certain words. Computer Braille is simply a direct representation of the computer display. Depending on the Braille translator being used, some or all of these types may be available.

Once a document is translated from text, it can be sent to a Braille printer, or embosser. This is a special type of printer that puts the raised Braille characters onto paper so they can be read by the blind. A Braille translator program and embosser may be used on a very small scale by an individual or on a large scale by publishers printing for a wide audience.