As a 50-something translator who started translating back in the 80s, I’m a relative latecomer to technology. I started my translating career by dictating into a Dictaphone, for transcription by the office typing pool. It was probably just as well really, as I’d never properly mastered the art of touch typing; my university essays and exams were all hand-written, and although my final year dissertation was typed on my mum’s old manual typewriter, it was definitely a labour of love with a fair sprinkling of Tippex… I had attempted to attend typing classes at night school at the tender age of 15, but been hauled out by my prim and proper (and, it turns out, totally misguided) deputy headmistress, on the grounds that “clever girls don’t need to type”. Well, it seems that all girls (and boys) not only need to type these days, they also need to be pretty clued up about technology in general!
My first introduction to the computer came in the form of the IBM Displaywrite word processor when I was still working in-house. Despite our initial horror, I soon mastered the arcane arts of the keyboard (albeit with two fast fingers!), but of course had the IT department to call on if anything should happen to go wrong – as it often did. When I left work on maternity leave in late 1988, I bought my first home computer, an Amstrad, complete with daisy-wheel printer, and thought I was the bees-knees! But then I had my husband on hand to sort out any technological glitches… We acquired an answering machine, then a fax, moved to Scotland and in the mid-90s purchased our first multi-media machine, a Compaq; we had to drive all the way over to Edinburgh from the West Coast to get it, it probably cost as much as a small car (!) and my young children thought it was amazing – it’s a wonder I got a look in! I can still remember the joys of connecting to clients and transferring files via modem – and the glossary that took a whole day and night to download. A courier would doubtless have been cheaper, but my client did, thankfully, agree to pay the telephone bill! When my husband walked out in 2003, my elder son, then not quite 15, took over the mantle of in-house computer guru – today’s children seem to have no fear of technology, having been brought up with it from the year dot, and are much more willing (or less scared?) to experiment until they get it right.
Anyway, many years down the line, I’m divorced, my computer whizz sons have left home and I find myself surrounded by more technology than ever before, what with ultra-powerful computers, two CAT tools, SKY box, iPads, iPhones, Kindles, wireless routers, printers that double (or should that be quadruple?) as scanners, photocopiers and fax machines… and yet, amazingly, I find myself able to cope.
I’ve had a series of episodes over recent months where things have gone wrong, and yes, I’ve wasted a morning here or there, and of course it’s frustrating, but I have been able to sort things out in the end. I’ve had to search online for help, certainly, BUT I’ve known where to look, who to ask and what to try first – and it’s worked! I certainly would not have said, just a few years ago, that I was in any way technologically-minded, but our profession has moved in such a way as to make a certain amount of technology invaluable – not essential, certainly, but I wouldn’t like to do without it. I can’t imagine not using a computer, for example, with or without voice recognition software. I started using CAT tools, via Wordfast, then Trados Studio, 7 or 8 years ago, not without some trepidation, and yet they’ve become such an integral part of my workflow now that it’s incredible to conceive of translating without them: in terms of productivity, consistency, glossary retrieval and management and pure job satisfaction.
I know many colleagues are wary of new technology and change, and of course it’s disruptive and worrying when things go wrong and you haven’t a clue what the problem is. I came to translate a document for a long-standing Wordfast client the other day, only to find that my translation memory was completely empty: panic! But then common sense kicked in, I checked online and remembered that Wordfast automatically saves back-up files in the same folder under a different file extension (bak); by renaming the bak file to the usual txt extension, I was able to proceed as normal. Huge sigh of relief all round – no idea why it had happened, but all was well, thank goodness.
I had a similar problem with Trados Studio the other day when I opened the program, only to find that all my settings had disappeared and my project list with it. That did take somewhat longer to resolve, but my default avenues of assistance came good in the end, and I’m very grateful to those who proffered advice and suggestions, and in particular Paul Filkin from Trados who finally resolved the problem via a Skype call. Twitter, ProZ forums, the Yahoo technical groups, Watercooler Technical and the Facebook Trados and Studio Support forum are all invaluable sources of aid in such cases, and as long as you remain calm(ish) and logical, it should be possible to sort it out. In my particular case, restoring the default settings (see SDL Knowledgebase article) did the trick. Again, no idea what had caused the problem in the first place, but it was solvable and I didn’t lose any work as a result – just time…. Every time this kind of thing happens (not often – that was the first time in 4 years that I’ve had a major problem with Trados and I found the support network immensely helpful, contrary to what you sometimes hear…), you store up possible ways of dealing with similar issues and can try them yourself the next time you hit an issue.
My default troubleshooting solution is always to switch the computer off and on again – it’s amazing how often that clears whatever logic loop has become stuck in the bowels of your PC! I’ve had a few cases of printer problems in recent weeks too, and the first was resolved (after I called the manufacturer for help), not just by switching the printer and the PC off, but by switching off my wireless router too and rebooting them all in order – who would have thought such a simple solution would work? Physically unplugging things often helps too – don’t ask me why, but it’s certainly worth a go! Clearing your browser cache, or the entire browsing history, running a program like CC Cleaner or performing a virus scan can also help – and cleaning up dead wood from your computer is never a bad thing. My latest printer issue (refusing to print either wirelessly or via the USB cable) turned out to be due to an automatic Windows update (grrr), so checking recent updates can bear fruit. Again, although I had phoned the manufacturer about this, I had managed to resolve the problem myself by searching online – whilst waiting in the phone queue – and clearing the (blocked) print queue manually – I was quite proud of myself!
All of which goes to show that, from very unpromising beginnings, it’s amazing just how much it is possible to learn about technology over the years when you sit down and think about it. I use two CAT tools without too many problems and am quite capable of sorting out minor teething problems myself and teaching myself new features as I progress – aided and abetted by the support of my colleagues and the various online sources I mentioned above. Colleagues have been a huge help and I hope my colleagues in turn know they can always ask me for advice on the off-chance that I can help. As the saying goes, a problem shared is a problem halved… Attending courses, webinars and events like the SDL Trados Roadshow help too, introducing features you didn’t know existed or explaining quick fixes for common problems like translation memory or concordance search windows disappearing – simply Reset Window Layout under View! Or check that you’re in the right tab…
I’ve also taught myself to use Dragon speech recognition software – very straightforward! – and a couple of pdf conversion packages, Abbyy and Solid – again, these aren’t complicated, but the more you use different programs, the easier it becomes to experiment and progress beyond the basic functions. Surprisingly satisfying too! As someone who used to literally “cut and paste” captions from the hard copy source document to the hard copy target text using scissors and glue, I can vividly remember my delight when it became possible to cut diagrams from pdf files and paste them into the target file by computer magic, adding a typed legend underneath; unfortunately, my computer memory was rarely large enough in those days to allow me to do very many of these magic tricks per file, but it was eminently pleasing when it worked! Now, of course, we can convert the files, add legends by text boxes if necessary and do all sorts of amazing jiggery-pokery I wouldn’t have dreamed of in the early days.
Maybe I’m becoming a closet computer geek (!), but I genuinely find it very satisfying to produce a beautifully formatted piece of work making the most of my technological and CAT tool armoury. On the odd occasion I’ve had to deal with a tricky file format, or different software, I may have moaned at the time, but it’s ultimately extremely rewarding to work through the problems and achieve an excellent result – or is that just me?! Very occasionally we are bound to come up against stumbling blocks like unfathomable computer or software glitches, but the key is not to panic and to address the problem logically, calmly and systematically. Technologically-challenged? – You may think so, but I couldn’t possibly comment….