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Translator's Workbench at Bowne Global Solutions Denmark A/S

At the localisation company Bowne Global Solutions Denmark A/S, they are very enthusiastic about "Translators Workbench", the translation memory system from TRADOS. "It enables us to maintain our commercial edge in the highly competitive localisation industry", says general manager David S. Miller, "and most of our customers now require us to use it". It is a great time saver too: cutting down the time needed for both translation and proof-reading as well as improving consistency. It allows a translator to work on more than one project at a time and saves on the number of translators needed for a particular project. "It also makes the work easier", says translator Katja Østergaard, who is also responsible for the translation memories at Bowne. It is simple to use and newly employed translators and proof-readers usually begin working with it after 2 or 3 days.

Bowne Global Solutions Denmark A/S began life in 1994 as NorthWord, a small independent localisation company starting with 4 permanent staff. In 1996 they moved to their current premises to accommodate their growing staff. In May 1998, less than a year after being incorporated, they were acquired by Bowne Global Solutions Inc. the world's largest software localisation company with around 20 offices in 16 countries. Bowne Global Solutions Denmark A/S now employ around 20-25 permanent staff as well as a number of freelancers. They are primarily a software localisation company, but they also carry out some localisation of medical technology. They translate mostly from English into Danish (Norwegian, Swedish and Finnish), but also into other languages (Spanish, French, and German) for their Nordic customers. Their customers are generally software publishers or hardware manufacturers.

Why introduce a translation memory system?

At Bowne, translators daily find themselves translating the same or similar passages of text over and over again, either because they are localising updated versions of software and manuals which they have worked on before, or the texts themselves are very repetitive. So it has always made good sense to try and re-use previously translated texts as much as possible. This helps speed up the translation process and ensure consistency within a single document or with previous translations. When faced with such repetitiveness, translators at Bowne used to do a lot of searching and then cutting and pasting of text segments. Even when they could define macros to help them, it was still rather laborious.

A translation memory system such as TRADOS Translator's Workbench is essentially a database storing segments of text plus their translations which can be automatically retrieved by matching them against the text to be translated. The previous translations can then simply be inserted into the new translation. A segment would typically be a sentence or a heading etc. When matching the segments in the text, Translator's Workbench not only finds all segments which match exactly but can also retrieve partial matches, which may be re-usable. Translator's Workbench works in conjunction with Microsoft Word.

Since the introduction of TRADOS Translator's Workbench, the translators at Bowne can first use the "automatic translation" function to retrieve all translations of completely matching segments and insert them into the new translation, before going on to consider segments which matched to 80%. They no longer have to search and replace a text and use cutting and pasting. Around half of Bowne's employees work on translation or proof-reading, and along with the project managers and technical staff who also use the system for analysing projects, around 15 people use TRADOS tools on a daily basis. Localisation at Bowne is carried out almost exclusively using Translator's Workbench, the only exceptions to this rule occur in cases where customers provide their own conversion and translation tools, for instance for menus and interfaces.

Introducing Translator's Workbench at Bowne Global Solutions Denmark

David S. Miller explained that the company had wanted to introduce Translator's Workbench for quite some time, but initially it was rather expensive and not as reliable as it is now. At one time different customers would deliver material in a variety of different formats. Then one of their largest customers (Microsoft) began to require that they produced TRADOS-based translation memories while around the same time the quality of TRADOS products greatly improved. As a subsidiary of Bowne Global Solutions Inc, the company could also acquire licences at a volume discount, thus considerably reducing the expense.

Introduction Strategy

Things went very smoothly during the introduction phase, starting with a simple strategy developed by Bowne's technical team. This initial strategy dealt mostly with the technical and work process aspects of introducing the system. They began by looking at TRADOS's suggested strategies for setting up Translator's Workbench (available at the TRADOS web site: and based their own strategy on that. The system was in use within two weeks after Bowne acquired it. A member of the IT staff gave a short internal course to a few members of staff who began working with it straight away. However, within a few months, all translators and proof-readers had gone over to using Translator's Workbench.

Obviously, the best strategy for introducing such a system depends on the type of organisation and the sort of work processes that organisation would apply. Bowne opted to install TRADOS in client-server mode so that individual translators could access the same translation memory. Miller readily admits that part of the reason why the introduction went so smoothly is that they are a technology-based company and the process was probably easier for them than for, say, a translation agency with less computing expertise. "To initially install TRADOS, especially in client-server mode, you definitely need an IT person or group to take care of this". On the other hand, due to the relatively simple technology involved, the day-to-day maintenance of the databases occurs during translation and proof-reading and: "There is just not enough work in TRADOS support to merit a full-time employee dedicated to support it".

Using TRADOS WinAlign

In order to get full benefit from the system, Bowne obviously wanted to create translation memories from previous translations they had done. So they used the TRADOS tool WinAlign, which segments and aligns source and target texts from a previous translation to produce segments which can be directly loaded into Translator's Workbench. When the system was first introduced, they concentrated on aligning larger projects where they expected to be commissioned to localise updated versions in the future. By now they have aligned millions of words and continue to use WinAlign today either to create translation memories from their own old translations or from translations (produced by other agencies) provided by new customers. Using an alignment tool enables rapid conversion of translations into translation memories. However, WinAlign is not foolproof and the results have to be checked to ensure the alignment is correct. In cases where the original translation was done by another agency they also check and correct the quality of the translation. Nevertheless, they can align in the order of 3-4,000 words per hour including corrections.

Organisation and Good Procedures are essential

Another "must" when introducing such a system is to begin with a solid structure in terms of workflow and then gradually develop this. As more and more Translator's Workbench functions became available and their knowledge of the system's possibilities increased, Bowne's translators and proof-readers took more responsibility for the maintenance of the TM databases, and the different tasks involved in the translation project (including conversion from other file formats) were entrusted to individual translators.

Translation Manager Helle Christensen believes that the key to getting the best out of TRADOS Translator's Workbench is to work in a very structured way. Translation memory databases are organised according to customer, and are project based. Validation of translation memories is also a high priority and before a translation memory is archived for re-use it is thoroughly checked for quality and consistency. During the translation process itself, dedicated proof-readers continually check translations and give feedback to ensure a high level of quality and consistency in the end product. It is because of the relatively simple technology behind Translator's Workbench, that the greater part of the work of maintaining the databases can occur during the actual translation process.

Increased Efficiency and Customer Satisfaction

The company has seen a marked increase in efficiency after going over to Translator's Workbench. When localising updated versions of products, as much as 80% of the material may be re-used and with Translator's Workbench's facilities for searching and "automatic translation" the amount of work is considerably decreased (no more cutting and pasting). Miller estimates that on average the speed of translation has increased by about 50%. However this is not a pure saving since the administration and technical overhead has increased by around 10-15%, since introducing Translator's Workbench. (Indeed this is one of the few disadvantages he identified with introducing the system). So a more realistic figure for efficiency gains would be in the region of 40%. As TRADOS products continue to improve (and customers also update their own versions of Translator's Workbench) he can foresee even greater efficiency gains.

Customers are also very satisfied with the results. Very often what Bowne supplies is not only the localisation of a product itself but also the translation memory which has been created during the localisation process. Miller remarked that more traditional translators sometimes have difficulty in accepting this idea, and may feel that the translation memory somehow "belongs" to them. He feels that this is the wrong attitude at least in the localisation industry, since this is what customers have paid for and in any case they could make their own translation memories by simply aligning their original texts with translated texts supplied by Bowne. Bowne have never had a problem with disputed rights over the contents of translation memories.

The efficiency gains cannot be directly converted into increased profits on individual projects (indeed Bowne had never counted on saving money by introducing Translator's Workbench). Their customers are technologically sophisticated and well aware of the efficiency gains associated with using translation memory tools. They take account of this when calculating the rate they are willing to pay for a localisation project, and on a few rare occasions it has been necessary to remind customers that they need to also take into consideration the extra administrative and technical overheads that using Translator's Workbench entails. The end result is that the company receives less revenue per project, but on the other hand many more projects can be carried out so overall profits are not negatively affected.

In order to maintain their position in the localisation market the company could not have avoided introducing Translator's Workbench which, according to Miller, is the de facto localisation industry standard, largely because it runs on Windows and is accessed through Word.

Some Good Advice

David S. Miller offered some advice to anyone considering introducing a translation memory system. It is absolutely necessary for management to both understand and support the introduction of the tool, especially the technical and translation issues surrounding it. Begin with a clear strategy for the introduction of the tool and ensure that the necessary technical expertise is available for the installation phase. Although the day-to-day maintenance of the databases is relatively simple, it is essential to have a CAT (computer assisted translation) manager who will constantly keep an eye on issues related to refining work processes and new developments and improvements in the tool. Although well thought-out organisation of work processes is essential, procedures must not be static. Flexibility is the key since new projects continually make new demands on the existing working methods.

This article is based on an interview at Bowne Global Solutions Denmark A/S on 18th March 1999 with David S. Miller (General Manager), Helle Christensen (Translation Manager) & Katja Østergaard (Translator and CAT Manager responsible for TRADOS). We would like to thank them very much for their help and co-operation.

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