Ahead of last week’s ATA conference, I asked readers what you would like to tell your translation tool vendor. And with 27 comments (although some of those were me!), the post generated a lot of activity and excellent feedback. I then compiled those comments into a three-page document and presented the results at an informal lunch that the ATA Translators and Computers committee held for the software companies who were exhibiting at the conference. After giving the vendors your comments to peruse, I asked them three questions:
- Do you really not offer these features that people are asking for, or do people not realize what you offer, or both?
- What are your thoughts on training? (i.e. many translators commenting “I pay for the software, then I have to pay to learn to use it too”)
- Over to you: what do you want to tell the freelancers who buy and use your software?
So first, let me say that the software company reps who attended this lunch were incredibly, incredibly forthcoming and constructive. Part of the problem is that when we freelancers rant and curse about translation software issues while we’re alone in our offices, the software companies cannot hear us. They cannot hear us unless we tell them what is wrong. So I think that this discussion was a good step in that direction. Second, let me say that in my opinion, the software companies get it. They do not think “Well, we’ve got your money, now leave us alone.” They realize that it is not good for business if people can’t learn to use their programs. And they had lots of good feedback for us. Here it is in a nutshell, from the software vendors’ point of view.
- There are lots of training materials out there, and most freelancers don’t use them. The SDL rep commented that even when people purchase (yes, pay in advance for) an SDL premium pack that includes training, only about 10% of them follow through with the training.
- There are training videos out there, and most people don’t watch them. The SDL Trados YouTube channel has over 100 free training videos on it. Wordfast has a YouTube channel also, and memoQ has tons of free training materials on their website. The companies are frustrated that more of their customers don’t make use of what’s already there. A couple of the reps estimated that their marketing teams spend almost half of their time developing training, and that training goes largely unused even if it’s free.
- People want something that’s cheap, feature-rich and requires no training to learn, and that’s hard to produce. One attendee gave the example that most professional photographers and graphic designers accept that they cannot work without Photoshop and/or InDesign. The list price of those programs is about $700 each and they aren’t programs that you master in 10 minutes. Translation environment tools are the same: if you want all of those features, the software is going to be expensive and it’s going to take time to learn to use.
- When the software companies try to attract freelancers to in-person training events such as road shows, very few people attend even if the training sessions are free, and most comment that they can’t afford to take the time off work.
- Interestingly, many of the tools vendors commented that translation agencies put too much of the technological burden on freelancers. They feel that agencies are sending out unprepared files, then expecting the translator to return a TM (sometimes in several different formats), a clean file and bilingual Word files, and generally “expect things that translators shouldn’t have to know how to do; if the agency is earning half the money on the job, it needs to take on some of these tasks.” Interesting!
- Some tools (like Wordfast Pro) already offer a version that can run natively on Mac. But don’t hold your breath for many of the other big guys to produce a Mac version. They don’t have plans to do this because “the large user base isn’t there and it wouldn’t be profitable.”
- Many attendees felt that freelancers should consider the option of hiring a “personal trainer” to help them learn the software. For the record, this is what I (Corinne) did when I bought Trados Studio 2011, and I felt it was a great investment. The vendors feel that it’s important to know your own capabilities and limitations; know whether you are someone who learns best from a manual, or from another person.
- As far as interoperability, the software companies feel that they could use more “real-world perspective,” for example having some translators on the XLIFF committee, because apparently there are none right now.
So there you have it. I found this discussion to be incredibly educational and productive. Feel free to comment further, and hopefully we can find a way to keep the discussion going! Thanks to everyone who commented on my original post as well.