15 October 2009

AutoSuggest: translating in a higher gear

SDL has just released Service Pack 1 for SDL Trados Studio 2009. The update will be welcomed with a sigh of relief by Studio's early adopters, who suffered from some stability issues. I've been testing the service pack's beta, and can only confirm that these issues have now been fixed.

After playing (and, er, working) with Studio for a few months, I can barely conceal my enthusiasm for the innovative AutoSuggest technology. Hmmm, "AutoSuggest" - sounds more like some esotheric method to quit smoking, doesn't it? Anyway, this feature turns out to be a tremendous productivity enhancer for the translator. In fact, this may be the single most useful CAT-feature since the invention of fuzzy matching.

So how does this work? Well, the simplicity is almost too good to be true. While you translate in Studio's editor, tooltip-style suggestions will appear as soon as you type the first character(s) of a word. If the suggested term or phrase is appropriate, you simply press the Enter key to insert it. If you don't like the suggestion, you ignore it and keep typing. No buttons to click, no Alt+Ctrl+whatever. Just Enter.

The best part about AutoSuggest is its intelligence: you won't get hundreds of suggestions, but only those that make sense within the context of the current sentence. This distinguishes Studio's technology from the predictive "dictionary" option for texting on mobile phones. Just have a look at the examples below.

Screenshot of first segment with AutoSuggest in SDL Trados Studio 2009
Figure 1: In this sentence, as soon as I type "r", Trados Studio suggests réchauffement planétaire as a French translation for the source term "global warming".

Screenshot of second segment with AutoSuggest in SDL Trados Studio 2009
Figure 2: In the next sentence, when I type "r" once more, a different suggestion appears. Because of the new source-sentence context, Trados Studio now suggests réduction des émissions (emission reduction).

The secret behind this intelligence is my so-called "AutoSuggest dictionary". Studio allows me to generate such a dictionary from any translation memory or TMX file, provided that it contains at least 25,000 translation units (like the EU's Acquis Communautaire in TMX format). This approach ensures that AutoSuggest will only propose translations that are relevant for my subject field. Additionally, termbase terms and AutoText entries can be inserted in the same way (type the first characters and press Enter).

AutoSuggest is simply the cleverest implementation of sub-segment matching I've seen so far. The translator stays in full control, but benefits from a true time saver and quality enhancer. Want to try this yourself? You can find freely downloadable AutoSuggest dictionaries on TranslationZone and Xenotext.

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Rien said...

Thanks for this very interesting info.

For some reason I'm plagued by continuous trouble in connection with Trados, and if you Google the Word "Trados" in combination with "problem" you can easily see that I'm not the only one. I'm on the verge of switching to Wordfast and now here you are telling me Studio is the best thing since sliced milk.

I've actually bought Studio 2009 (it was only 150 CAD as an upgrade), but for fear of losing a day or two repairing my computer configuration (again) and a few years of my life expectancy because of related fits of anger I haven't installed it yet. Or rather, I did, but the activation did not work, so I gave up there and then to spare me above mentioned consequences. I even tried to get my money back, but that would have required returning the licence, which, as you can probably guess, also did not work, so I gave up on that as well.

I would be pleased to hear whether there were any other problems, especially in connection with the reliability of all functions and the databases. Three times I lost a TM through database corruption simply by using the regular features of Trados. Normally that should be sufficient reason to kiss this piece of **** goodbye, no? But I'm intrigued by the AutoSuggest function, I must admit.

Would appreciate your - or anyone else's - response

Gerrit said...

Thanks for your response, Rien. Activating a Trados license is sometimes a tricky affair, but if you have any trouble in this respect, the Trados helpdesk should help you free of charge.

When you talk about database corruption, you're referring to Trados 2007 or older, right? The new "RevleX" database format is totally different, based on solid third-party database technology. The new translation memories should be more robust... but still, whatever translation memory system you use, backing up data on a regular bases in a safe format (such as TMX) is always a good idea.

We all get frustrated every once in a while about software that doesn't behave properly. Translation projects are complex these days, and typically include several databases and file conversions. Troubleshooting is simply part of the game, just like spellchecking or proofreading...

elbuho said...

As far as I can see this only works when typing, correct? I already achieve a 30-40% productivity increase by using dictation software (Dragon Naturally Speaking) so the thought of having to go back to typing full-time in order to access this feature is not much of a selling point for me. Interesting for people who still type everything though.