Last Thursday I attended the first of the new-style training seminars organised by SDL Trados in London to take the place of their enjoyable and successful roadshow events. I’d attended the last two roadshows in spring and autumn last year and been very favourably impressed. You can check out my previous articles on the SDL Roadshow in London – A Grand Day Out and my guest post for SDL following the event in Autumn 2015 to see just how useful these were.
This time though, it was a new format and freelancers were automatically guided to register just for the afternoon session, which started at 1.30pm. Initial disappointment: no lunch! In fact, the reception area was rather like the Marie Céleste, all the morning attendees (LSPs/corporate teams) having gone for their sit-down lunch! Having had to leave home at 11.40 to catch my train up to London and half-expected the generous buffet lunch we’ve been offered on previous occasions, it was a bit of a let-down to say the least. Cue a quick dash up the road to Prêt-à-Manger to buy half a sandwich and some apple juice – hardly the ideal way to start the session!
On my return, there was barely any time to catch up with colleagues old and new before we were ushered into the afternoon’s session, presented as before by the engaging and immensely informative Lydia Simplicio. We were soon plunged straight into a fast and furious whistlestop tour of Studio 2015’s most useful features, covering a huge range of material from beginner-level basics to quite complicated advanced tasks. Questions were initially permitted, but threatened, understandably, to put the session off track, so were soon discontinued to let Lydia run through her spiel at a rate of knots.
Did I learn a lot? Yes – definitely, as ever! Never having experienced any hands-on Trados training other than a couple of webinars and a Trados 2011 > Trados 2014 conversion course, plus lots of remote help from clients, it amazes me to find that there are even basic features I’ve been unaware of! The filter function, for example, had completely passed me by. For anyone else similarly challenged, the filter can be accessed either by clicking on the funnel icon in the word count statistics in the bottom right-hand corner of the Trados Editor page or from the Review ribbon.
By clicking the filter icon you have access to a drop-down list which enables you to choose from a vast array of search options: repetitions, locked segments, segments containing certain terms…. What I didn’t realise, until I experimented when I got home, was that to search for segments containing a certain term, you have to enter the term, choose whether you want to search in source or target, then press ENTER or it won’t work – obvious when you know, not if you don’t! By opening all files in a project at once, this means it is possible to search for instances of a term or repetition across files and edit them all together – a huge boon! I can see I’ll find that extremely useful – and can’t imagine how I didn’t know before! The problem with being self-taught, I suppose, but it does emphasize the importance of attending training sessions such as this, especially if offered free of charge!
I also picked up tiny tips like pressing Crtl+G to Go to a numbered segment or pressing Ctrl+T after highlighting a formatted segment in the source column and the text you want to transfer the formatting to in the target – et voilà, formatting carried seamlessly across.
What else? Did you know that under File > Options > File types, when setting up a document, you can opt not to translate tracked changes/hyperlinks, etc (see under Common in Word files for example). I like the fact that Studio 2015 shows the formatting but not the tags as a matter of course, but were you aware that you can also opt to display the tags OR the tags plus formatting if you’d rather? Again, see File > Options > Editor > Formatting Display Style.
One of my favourite features in Studio 2015 is the improved Autosuggest feature, especially Autosuggest from concordance searches in open translation memories, but did you know you could change the order in which Autosuggest matches are suggested to you? Again, click on File > Options > Autosuggest and you can move the options up or down to suit your priorities.
Verification options were also considered in depth – something I’ve rarely fiddled with, but you can ask Trados to verify quality against all sorts of parameters. This is becoming a common theme, but access via File > Options > Verification and you can fine-tune when Studio flags up errors: you can ask it to check for double spaces, check end punctuation, ignore formatting tags – the world is your oyster. By all means go with the default settings, but you might be surprised just what level of quality checking you can apply if you experiment!
An amazing proportion of the audience claimed not to use Multiterm at all (!), so Lydia also gave a quick run-down of adding terms to termbases via Multiterm, adding definitions, showing whether terms are approved or not approved should you have several different translations for the same term. She also explained that there is a new App called TermExcelerator, available free from the SDL AppStore. This allows you to add an Excel glossary directly to Studio and is even simpler than using Glossary Converter to convert an existing Excel glossary to a termbase. Once you’ve added it, it acts just like a standard termbase, but is only for one target language and doesn’t offer as much information as a termbase proper. To all intents and purposes, though, it’s a very quick way of adding a glossary if you don’t want any faff!
Another point that cropped up in the questions from the audience related to Studio’s processing of pdf files. Although the program now does a good job of converting pdf files (some colleagues said they preferred it to Abbyy!), there is still the problem of the inevitable hard returns and the impossibility of merging segments containing hard returns. A member of the audience ventured the suggestion that it is possible, using the Edit source function, to copy the offending text and paste it into the previous segment. Leaving an empty segment doesn’t seem to affect exporting the final translation to target either. Emma Goldsmith, who writes the very useful Signs and Symptoms of Translation Blog which often covers Studio issues, had mentioned this recently and I’ve been using it successfully – or so I thought. I’m now wondering whether using this workaround leads to the failure of the word count statistics to update, something I’ve been experiencing quite a lot recently. I’ve logged a support case on this issue, so we’ll see – use with caution!
These are just my takeaways from the seminar, of course – I find that you tend to pick on features that will be useful to you, or you know you’ve needed in the past, but didn’t know how to do. Others may well have learned completely different things. I missed a chunk of the presentation in the middle as I’d had to wait to speak to the SDL experts in the support room after the all-too-brief coffee break about an issue I’ve been experiencing.
Which brings me on to my final round-up of lessons learned from the day. Yes, I learnt a lot, as I’ve explained, but I didn’t enjoy the experience anywhere near as much as previous events. Cramming it all into an afternoon (especially without lunch!) felt very rushed and the fact that all levels, from beginners to advanced users, were addressed in one big session made for an unnecessary jam-packed information overload. I suspect beginners or relative newbies would have felt completely overwhelmed! Time flew, which is testament to Lydia’s presentation skills, but I felt the information could have been targeted better at specific user groups. The brief coffee break (what, no biscuits or cake, SDL? Standards are really slipping!) was all too short and there was little time for seeking out the experts (of which there were too few – only two technical support team members, leading to queues for those wanting their advice).
More than anything else, however, I really missed the opportunity to network/socialise with colleagues and clients. We had a very brief chance to chat before we started, but in the past these events have allowed us to get to know fellow translators and meet PMs or agency staff we may only have encountered online or on the ‘phone before. Whilst I know the primary aim of the training isn’t to facilitate networking, killing several birds with one stone is never a bad thing! Allowing clients, both agencies and corporate firms, to mingle with freelancers promotes collaboration with the tool across the board and must surely be beneficial all round.A couple of freelance colleagues did say they’d attended the morning sessions (and hence lunch!) and found them interesting in terms of future trends. Of course, many of us do outsource to some extent too, or may hope to do so in the future, but I certainly didn’t have the impression beforehand that the morning session was open to all. I did manage to meet one client, but only because I deliberately sought her out!
The social activity at the end of the day was also sadly missed – cocktail making or chocolate tasting have been on offer previously, but no such luck this time round. A cost-cutting exercise on the part of SDL? I couldn’t possibly say, but I certainly didn’t go away with the warm and fuzzy feeling I’ve had after past events – which all contributes to brand and product loyalty in the long run, of course. Some lessons there for SDL too, perhaps?
Ah well, I took myself off to meet my son in a nearby tapas bar instead for a much-needed gin & tonic and extracurricular debrief. A worthwhile trip, all in all, but one that could definitely be improved upon.