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Cat out of the bag: Better Names

September 21st, 2006 | by mm

Ideas and opinions are what make us think and grow. Following is an editiorial from The Tool Kit by Jost Zetzsche. Which also gives us the opportunity to announce a syndication with The Tool Kit. We will periodically publish articles from this “computer newsletter for translators.” Stay tuned…

Here’s something that I feel strongly about even though some of you might think this is silly. The first part of my argument you will agree with: Words are important. The way we name things has a tremendous impact on how we and the rest of the world think about it.

I happen to think that we have done extremely poorly with naming a number of things in the translation industry. One of my pet peeves is “localization” (or, worse, “l10n”). While I’ve given up on changing that, I would like to change the way we use “CAT” and “translation memory.”

CAT, or computer-assisted translation tools, is a great term for describing the numerous families of software tools that translators use for their work. This includes machine translation tools, project management tools for translation, glossary tools, software localization tools, dictionary tools, and numerous utilities for word counts, invoicing, and many other practical translation tasks (and it really is what this newsletter is about).

Often, the way we use “CAT” (myself included) is synonymous with so-called “translation memory tools,” when the latter really is only a sub-category of the former.

So far so good. But now I would like to get rid of the term “translation memory tool.” I think that this term is not serving us well. “Translation memory” is just one feature that tools like Trados, Heartsome, Déjà Vu, Transit, etc. have — albeit an important one. Terminology management, analysis, code protection, project management, batch processing, spell checking, code page conversion, and many others are also features that these tools have. In fact, some of these features, in particular terminology management, are or should be very central to the way we work with these tools. But by naming this category of tools “translation memory tools,” we focus almost exclusively on this one feature and in turn overuse it disproportionally. At the ATA last week I gave a presentation to about 250 people. Only nine were power users of a terminology component! (And I would guess that more than half used a “translation memory tool”).

Here is what I propose: Let us from now on use the term “translation environment tools.” Though this may sound a little stilted at first, it describes what these tools do or – even better – what they could do.

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