TRADOS for Dummies

A lesser-known fact about software is that when it’s not used, it gathers a sort of virtual dust. The program itself — say, a nifty typesetting program or a backup system guaranteed to save your data — may be installed on the computer, but if it’s not used frequently, piles of this virtual dust will make it seem inaccessible and sometimes forbidding.

Translators note this phenomenon particularly with regard to computer-assisted translation (CAT) tools. We buy them with the best of intentions, install — and then are distracted by life, the clients and everything. Soon enough, another virtual-dust trap has been formed.

A Mysterious Author (who has asked not to be named) rides in to the rescue. As the introduction to his TRADOS for Dummies book states, he wrote it “for users who have bought the program but never used it, as well as for those who have neither the time nor the patience to read the official manual.”

Lack of patience with manuals? Surely he can’t be talking about real translators!

Support for everyone

Mysterious Author tells me that he had been an official TRADOS trainer and provided support for the popular translation memory (TM) package in Spain and Portugal for a period of four years. Between that and being the TM administrator of a 20-member TM-sharing group, he has had the opportunity to see TRADOS training from the inside. During this time, he found that about 20% of the people who bought TRADOS suffered from a bad case of virtual dust.

“The manuals were excellent,” he told me. “But with version 5 they became very difficult to understand, and I realized that there was no easy way to learn TRADOS” — except the trainings — “and that there was no practical manual on the market.”

This is the reason for the underuse of TRADOS by people who have spent the money on the software. It’s a way for them to recover their investment without spending money on official training.

So, what does the book tell us?

TRADOS for Dummies starts right at the point of installation and builds up from there. It covers the practical use of the software and gives a loving description of the various ways of employing it.

The book covers TRADOS in a very process-oriented way: how to get a particular task done. This approach is useful to the translator working under the gun. It answers specific questions in 14 convenient lessons and provides a section with commonly occurring problems, as well as a reference to the TRADOS support forum, which is recommended as an excellent place to find solutions for problems.

The most valuable thing about the TRADOS for Dummies approach is its focus on the freelance translator’s needs. It describes in detail what agencies usually want as deliverables — the translation and a TM — and how to give it to them, and how to export the memory for a project. It covers the questions of what “clean” and “unclean” files are and gives the independently working translator a leg up on working with the terminology used in the marketplace — terminology that has been derived from official TRADOS manuals and training sessions.

The book works along with eight demo files (which are provided with it) and permits readers to work along with the examples in their own languages. This helps keep the examples concrete and consistent and avoids format snafus and other undue excitement.

Its structure is beyond reproach. The reader can almost hear the trainer sitting on his or her shoulder and whispering encouragement. This is in stark contrast to the official manual’s dry technical tone.

What would you change, if you could?

Mysterious Author was asked what single piece of the TRADOS suite is the one that causes the most problems and difficulties to users, trainers and support staff. His answer was unequivocal: “TagEditor spellchecker.”

But barring that, Mysterious Author is very happy with TRADOS. Having read his book, it is clear that his command of the software is such that he is a virtuoso in its use. His book is a form of master class. If you happen to have a copy of TRADOS with virtual dust on it, 50 euros would be well-spent on this product. M

Dena Bugel-Shunra is a freelance translator in Washington state who specializes in working between English and Hebrew. Questions or comments? E-mail