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Translator's Workbench at Lingtech

Lingtech has always appreciated the importance of using advanced language technology tools in order to obtain efficiency, high quality and consistent translations and indeed one of the aims of Lingtech in the future will be to look for new tools, which can make translations even better and faster.

In 1993 Lingtech introduced automatic machine translation, but after some years a supplement to this tool was desirable, and a translation memory system was chosen. As the director Annelise Bech says, "the translation memory system has enabled us to reuse previously translated texts on a much larger scale. For some text types up to 50% of the text can be translated by reusing old material". So the translator workbench system reduces the time needed for translation and improves consistency as well. "It has increased our capacity and helps us maintain our competitiveness". The translators are also very satisfied with the system "it takes some of the tedious work out of translation" says Annelise Bech.

Lingtech is a translation agency founded in 1993, originally with the purpose of translating patent texts for Hoffman-Bang, Danish patent and trademark attorneys. Since 1993, Lingtech has grown and is now to be found among Denmark's three leading translation agencies specialised in translating complicated texts. Lingtech has a permanent staff of 14 and around 50 freelancers associated. Lingtech now has many clients within the domains of technology, mechanics, and pharmacy, such as the biggest Danish companies and organisations, but also many clients from the rest of Europe, including the European Communities. Besides translating from English, German and French into Danish or vice versa, Lingtech also performs text revision.

Why introduce language technology?

As a consequence of the European patent convention and an agreement about European patents a growing amount of patent applications were foreseen. (A patent is filed in either English, German or French with the EPO (European Patent Office) but needs to be translated into the national language of the designed country before filing with the national authority.) Lingtech was therefore established in order to meet this growing demand for translation of patent texts and from the very beginning it was decided to use the newest and most advanced language technology: automatic machine translation. Lingtech introduced the specially tailored machine translation system, PaTrans, they had developed to translate patent texts from English to Danish, and indeed this tool has turned out to be a very profitable investment. However, as the need to handle other language pairs and text types grew, Lingtech began looking for another tool to meet these demands.

Introducing Translator's Workbench at Lingtech

The director of Lingtech, Annelise Bech, explains that introducing Translator's Workbench fromTRADOS arose from the realization of the reusability potential of texts as well as the fact that terminology control and management had a high priority. The English-Danish terms have so far been coded and stored in the PaTrans system, but for other languages they were stored somewhat haphazardly: in different computer files, on paper and some were just "common knowledge" of the experienced translators. Furthermore, most of the translators work on PC-platforms and therefore the PaTrans terms stored in a Unix-system were only available to very few employees. Lingtech had developed guidelines for the language revisers on how to translate terms, but these guidelines included only sparse terminology lists on paper. Obviously, Lingtech needed a tool to store, maintain and give wider access to terminology.

Storing translated sentences for possible later reuse was another important issue. Often the same or similar passages of text have to be translated over and over again. In order to find the exact translations for previously translated passages the staff at Lingtech would then have to look through document files. A search that could be rather laborious and slow since Lingtech has around 1200-1500 translation jobs per year. Sometimes they found the correct text parts; sometimes they did not find them. In any case the work was time-consuming.

Therefore Translator's Workbench from Trados featuring both an advanced terminology tool and a translation memory was really an easy choice.

Introduction Strategy

Things went very smoothly during the introductory phase, starting with a simple strategy falling into two parts: Initially they populated MultiTerm (the terminology tool in Translator's Workbench) with all the existing PaTrans terminology to make it available to the entire staff. The second part of the strategy fell into several sub-parts: e.g. an analysis of the amount of and kind of repetitions in different text types, and the important issue of finding the best possible way to employ the various functionalities of the system was also given much attention. Annelise Bech stresses that flexibility was a very important element of their strategy. Each step of the strategy was carefully evaluated before the next step was taken: "By evaluating our progress regularly we were able to adjust our strategy and in that way we never came to a dead end".

One person was responsible for implementing the strategy, but by involving at least one employee from each department, all future users had the opportunity to provide input and comment on the results, hence all different points of view could be taken into consideration.

Lingtech implemented the translation memory system in autumn 1998, and in March 1999 only few loose ends still remain. Lingtech encountered very few problems during the introductory phase and these have mainly been related to formulas and footnotes. However, the Scandinavian distributor of TRADOS products has been very helpful.

Using TRADOS WinAlign

In order to benefit from the system as soon as possible Lingtech created a translation memory from previous translations. They used the TRADOS tool WinAlign that segments and aligns source and target texts from previous translations making it possible to load these directly into Translator's Workbench. Lingtech started by aligning around 2,500 - 3,000 pages, and only few aligned and stored translations have been adjusted since. Annelise Bech says "patent texts are very suitable for alignment as one sentence in the source text always corresponds to one sentence in the target text".

Annelise Bech tells that the greatest advantage of having a translation memory is that the staff no longer spends time looking for the exact translations of previously translated sentences or paragraphs. She explains that when using a machine translation system as e.g. PaTrans some types of sentences or paragraphs are translated incorrectly, and during the language revision phase necessary changes have to be made. However, these kinds of changes can only be made in the document, they cannot be stored in PaTrans for use in future translations. So the next time the same sentences appear the same changes have to be made again. Therefore, integration of PaTrans and Translator's Workbench is useful.

Impact of introducing language technology

Annelise Bech says that "Lingtech began benefiting from the translator workbench system after approx. 3 months, and we expect to get full benefit after 6 months. For texts within the domain of mechanics the reusability was 15-20% in November 1998, from December 1998 till February 1999 it grew to 50 %". Furthermore the control and management of terminology has been improved considerably since all terms used in the company are stored in one place and are now available to all employees.

The staff at Lingtech does not waste time anymore on translations they have seen over and over again. In that way the tedious work is taken out of translation and the employees also have more time to develop their professional skills. Annelise Bech says: "By using a translation memory the translations have become even more consistent than before, the capacity of Lingtech has grown and the company has become even more competitive".

Some good advice

Annelise Bech offers some good advice to companies considering the introduction of a language technology tool: "The keywords are a well-structured work flow, flexibility and the willingness to invest the necessary time to get acquainted with the system and draw up sound implementation plans". And she speaks from experience: When Lingtech introduced the PaTrans system the method was often "trial and error", and this method was both laborious and time-consuming. Yet at the time being, there was nowhere to look for "recipes".

Annelise Bech concludes: "Lingtech has always appreciated the importance of using advanced language technology tools and indeed one of the aims of Lingtech in the future will be to look for more new tools, which can make translations even better and faster. Maybe in a traditional way, maybe in an untraditional way".

This article is based on an interview given by the director of Lingtech A/S Annelise Bech on March 9th 1999. We would like to thank her very much for her help and co-operation.

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