First things first, apologies for the deathly silence over the past five weeks. As some of you may know, my younger son got married at the end of July, so I’ve been rather busy since my last post – first with the wedding preparations (including making the cake!), then the wedding itself, then recovering afterwards and catching up on my workload after that. Quite a summer!
That wasn’t what I wanted to write about, though – this was a huge event in all our lives and so enjoyable for all concerned: close family and friends here in the UK, other friends from Europe, and the many friends and family who travelled over from the States, where Lauren is from. Sometimes, though, it’s the little things that make the difference, not these huge life-changing events or major decisions on work, family, health or personal matters, lovely and vital though they are.
As freelancers, we make the big decision to become self-employed, investing in all the kit, office equipment, membership of professional associations and CPD, but often tiny tweaks to our lifestyle or working practices can make our lives so much easier. I’m thinking of the little tricks and treats that smooth our lives in relatively small ways, but with a disproportionately high impact. Having someone to come in and clean the house for example – for a fairly modest outlay, you can relieve yourself of an onerous chore, freeing up time to do the work you love instead, earning more money in the process and having an immaculate house to boot. What’s not to like? I’m feeling this particularly deeply at the moment, as my cleaner has been away for the whole of August and I’ve really missed the freedom from household chores…. I’ll be very glad to see her back next week!
Along the same lines, paying someone to come in and clean the oven is another boon. It’s one of those jobs I absolutely hate (on a par with defrosting the freezer, although frost-free freezers are supposed to have done away with that chore) and I’m very happy to pay someone to come in and restore my oven to its shining glory while I tap away on my computer upstairs.
In the office itself, simple things like Sticky Notes (from Microsoft) have revolutionised the way I work. I used to have old-fashioned post-it notes and lists dotted around my desk, but this computerised equivalent acts the same way, but appears on your computer desktop as you work. I always have them open on a corner of my main monitor, one with a list of outstanding translation jobs, word count and delivery date for easy reference, and the other as a to-do list for work and non-work matters. So much neater than paper notes and always on view when you’re working. I have a register of ongoing translations of course too, and various filing systems, but this is literally in my face – no chance of forgetting a last-minute job that comes in at close of play on a Friday just as you’re switching off for the weekend. If you enter it on a sticky note straightaway, the reminder will be there to jog your memory the minute you switch on again on Monday morning.
And what about our smartphones? How many neat uses do they have that we’d never have imagined just a few years ago? From Skype and What’s App for staying in touch with colleagues and clients even when the ‘phone system is down (or there’s no reception if you live out in the sticks as I do), or you’re out of the office, to using the ‘phone camera to copy receipts and instructions for later use, or to send them over to other people – we used to need scanners and fax machines to achieve the very same result! I know these benefits are all second nature to digital natives, but to those of us who can remember the pre-computer, pre-internet days, they can still seem quite magical when you stop to think about it. And think of something like the Shift F3 shortcut in Word (also works in Trados) – how invaluable is that when you’ve inadvertently left the Caps lock on….
CAT tools themselves are a huge boon, although hardly a minor item when you consider the initial outlay and considerable investment in time and effort to get them up and running. Assuming you’re in that happy position, however, there are any number of tips and tricks to lighten the load, often completely free of charge via apps or just neat solutions hidden in the depths of the program. I’ve written a great deal about Trados tips and tricks in the past, but here are a couple I haven’t mentioned before, mainly because I have only recently found out about them.
Adding new terms to termbases: occasionally, when you try to add a new term using Quick Add New Term (I think this was introduced from Studio 2015 onwards) by highlighting the source and the target term, and right-clicking, you don’t get the option to press Quick Add New Term, just a shorter menu with the option to Add to Dictionary, which is something entirely different. I’ve never worked out why this happens, but discovered quite by chance one day that if you highlight the terms again the other way round (i.e. target term first and then source term), the Quick Add New Term option is there when you right-click. A tiny trick, as I said, but it works and that’s the main thing!
Getting a target word count is another bugbear of mine, or was until Paul Filkin kindly pointed out the Target Word Count app on the SDL appstore. This can be downloaded free of charge and then used as a batch task to count the number of target words (or lines) in your translation. You can even add in your rates and get it work out the total for you. I still have a number of clients who prefer me to charge on a target word basis for German, where the target count can be 20 to 25% higher than the source count, and this is an easy way of working out the final number of target words, either because it’s a complicated Excel or PowerPoint file, or because the client has sent you the xliff file and you can’t convert it back to the original file for whatever reason (MemoQ/Trados incompatibility, for example). I’ve found this so useful – and yet it’s such an easy extra to add!
Still on word counts, recalculating the translation word count after the computer or Trados has crashed is another issue that used to drive me mad. If you go back into a document after a crash, Trados always offers you the option to use the autosaved file, which is great, and then any missing segments are filled in from your translation memory, assuming you’ve confirmed them as you work. (I can never understand why you wouldn’t! For me, that’s one of the huge, unsung benefits of a CAT tool, that you never need to worry about losing work again, because even if there’s a power cut, or the file is corrupted, everything you’ve translated is always in your memory! Rant over.) However, when you start working from this point, you may notice that your translation count statistics aren’t as they should be, or that you end up with a minus figure at the end. Again, just go into Batch tasks on the Home ribbon and press Translation count – order should be restored with minimal effort.
I could go on, but I shall quit while I’m ahead and you’re (hopefully!) still awake. I can’t be the only one to relish the little things that make a huge difference in easing our daily working path. I’d love to hear about your favourites too. And in the meantime, another of my favourite shots from the Anglo-American wedding of the year (the one in May was merely a rehearsal for ours 😉 ). The traditional London buses were only a small part of the wedding planning, but they were a huge hit with the guests, especially the Americans! The devil really is in the detail…