Back in 1996, when I started studying translation, I remember asking a friend whether she thought purchasing a computer is an absolute must.
Well, I’ve come a long way. By now I have my own computer and even legal software, which was not obvious at the beginning, either. Along the way I’ve acquired some new tools and habits, which today, are as obvious for me as having a computer:
Internet. Goes without saying, I know. But not all translators are skilled searchers, so I think it’s worth mentioning. I once heard an interview with someone who was an interpreter for various US presidents (I forget his name, and would be grateful if you leave me a comment if you know who I’m referring to.) He said two of the most important things any translator should have are curiosity and resourcefulness. And internet is heaven if you have both.
Babylon. My language pairs are Hebrew and English. I don’t know about Babylon for other language pairs, but in my language pair it is the one and only computerized dictionary which is this extensive, includes a thesaurus, expressions and user glossaries, and allows you to add languages. The definitions are presented with a click on any word on my screen, so there’s no application/browser window to open, and it’s fast and simple. I use the English<>Hebrew dictionary, and the English<>Italian one too, so with every word search I can improve my Italian a little, Too.
Translation Business Management Tool (Avodat Milim). This is a business management/ accounting tool (Hebrew) I developed together with Yariv Habot, a software engineer, especially for translators. Having been in the business a few years, it was time to realize that the fact I can translate doesn’t mean I can run a business. As the invoices, checks, receipts, and deadlines were piling on my desk, Yariv built a system which is now certified by Israeli tax authorities for accounting. So I finally know exactly how much I make each month, when my next translation is due, who doesn’t pay me on time, and when I have to pay my taxes. In 2007 I think an automated accounting system is a must (In Israel most small businesses still use manually written invoices.).
Google Desktop. I don’t know how I ever worked without this tool. Google desktop indexes my computer (including PDF files, and other important file types) all day long. So not only do I have automatic back-up, but my computer is now a super-dictionary containing all the words I’ve ever translated. You know what it feels like when you remember you stumbled upon something similar last week, but just can’t remember the exact word? that’s what Google Desktop is for. No need to start searching for specific files, or remembering too much information. It’s all there. Google Deskbar is integrated into the desktop, and it’s also a fantastic time-saving tool. It inserts a google search box into my taskbar, so I don’t have to open any new applications when I need to search something (and translators are ALWAYS searching for something).
Trados. Trados is my CAT tool of choice. I’ve been using it for a few years, and recently have also begun enjoying it. It allows me to deliver more accurate and consistent translations, faster, and I love it. My main problem with it is the formatting. Translating into Hebrew, it will change fonts and sizes, bold and unbold words as it wishes, thus creating some formatting work at the end. I wonder whether this happens in other languages as well. Do you need to do a lot of formatting work once you’ve finished translating? If so, what are your language pairs?
In addition to these five there are of course word-counting tools, PDF converters, and more, but these five tools are the ones I really must have to start working. What are yours?