With the recent advancements in the sphere of computer technologies and the advent of ICT translation productivity tools, translation can be regarded as not only craft, but also a rapidly growing industry. Whereas the translations are paid by the word count, the translator’s productivity is defined as the greatest number of words translated at the lowest price and within the minimal time period.
Translation memory (TM) is a software program aimed at enhancing the productivity of individual translators and translators’ groups through storing the segments of the translated texts in the computerized databases and retrieving hits during the following translations.
It allows not only not to translate the same or similar units twice, but also to achieve consistency in terminology within different projects or different translators. Wordfast as one of the world-known budget TMs has its strengths and weaknesses which will be reviewed in this report.
The main strengths of Wordfast
The budget price, the available demo version and understandable manual are recognized by most translators using it as the main advantages of Wordfast.
The 350 Euros as the price for downloading this CAT tool directly from Wordfast corporate website is significantly lower compared to its much more expensive analogues, such as Trados and Déjà vu, for example.
Another significant strength of Wordfast is the availability of not only a demo version which can be downloaded for free, but also the unlimited trial period which allows using this demo version for training purposes as long as the translator needs. Actually, it is possible even to use it in work because the request to pay for the software appears only after the program exceeds the limit of 500 translation units.
Thus, even after the TM is full, the translator can create a new one and continue working with a demo version. Moreover, a very large translation memory (VLTM) for Wordfast have created recently and can be downloaded for free so that to overcome the above-mentioned limitation. The learning curve is one of the most important advantages of Wordfast. Its manual is relatively brief, straightforward and easy to follow.
Regarding the technical characteristics, the TM editor, sentence-based segments, project management strength and the standards compliance can be regarded as the main strengths of Wordfast.
As to the TM editor criterion, it can be stated that working in Word documents as the accustomed environment allows the translator to reduce the time required for learning the main features offered by Wordfast. Moreover, this tool can also be used for working with Excel and Power Point documents.
The sentence based units used in Wordfast are more convenient as compared to the translational suites working with the whole texts. The compliance with the main standards allows sharing the TMs even with those who use other types of CAT software.
A set of tools called PlusTools included into Wordfast is another advantage of this software which allows simplifying the procedures of aligning the source and target texts before starting work on a particular project.
Opening the PlusTools and clicking on the Align button, the translator can process the source and target texts which will appear either in the table format in one document or in the two documents placed side by side on the screen.
The search engine of Wordfast allows finding not only exact, but also fuzzy matches with certain extent of deviation between the source and target units. The match rate indicating the degree of correspondence appears between the two segments and allows the translator to estimate the appropriateness of using certain matches in the context of a particular project.
It is also possible to use the * wildcard instead of the end of the term in case if various endings are possible. This feature is intended to make the search process more effective. It is possible to perform searches on both regular and background TMs so that to define whether a particular term is appropriate for the concrete text.
Wordfast not only allows accelerating the translation process, enhancing the translator’s productivity by economizing time and resources, but also allows preserving the consistency of terminology among the various projects which is usually appreciated by the customers.
Moreover, it is much easier to work with the colored text fields as compared to working with glancing back and forth between the white screen of the two documents with the source and target texts.
The sentence-based segmentation encourages a translator to concentrate efforts on only one sentence at a time which is les tiresome for the translator’s eyes. It means that working with Wordfast would enhance the productivity even if there are no many repetitions in the document.
The main weaknesses of Wordfast
Recognizing the variety of benefits of using Wordfast in the translation process, it should be noted that the use of this ACT program can have a number of unintended negative implications for the quality of the target text and the translation process in general.
One of the most significant disadvantages of working with Wordfast is the concentration on only one segment at a time which can become a hurdle for the high quality translation. Though this feature has been mentioned above as one of the advantages of this software it actually can cut both ways. Thus, concentrating on only one sentence, the translator fails to consider the whole context.
Moreover, in most cases the segment-by-segment approach would not allow creating cohesive texts in terms of their style and tone.
The problem is that changing the sentence and especially the paragraph structure will result in creating non-existing matches, whereas the TM tool is unable to indicate the changes which were performed for the purpose of improving the style and automatically matches the segments in the source and target documents.
Thus, the Wordfast interface is inappropriate for proofreading the target documents, and the translators to look for the ways out so that not to distort the created match units which can cause the errors in following translations.
The automatic application of a given translation found in TM within the whole text can result in error propagation. For example, when a customer provides the TMs before the beginning of the translators’ work on the project, the provided files can contain translation mistakes which would complicate the translation processes instead of optimizing it.
On the other hand, committing a mistake and incorporating it into the customer’s TM will result in further error propagation because this TM can be sent to other translators working with the customer in future. In general, the translators can never fully rely on TMs.
Regarding the use of the * wildcard at the end of the term while working with the search engine, it should be noted that it can be placed only after four characters from the beginning of the entry. However, there are lots of cases when the wildcard has to be placed earlier for enhancing the effectiveness of search. Thus, this feature is a bit incomplete and requires further consideration from developers.
Regardless of the fact that the initial version of Wordfast was developed for Windows and Macintosh, currently, most of the links to the software compatible with Macintosh are dead. Thus, the Macintosh version can hardly be found online.
The psychological aspect of depending upon Wordfast which can be developed after getting accustomed to working with the tool can be regarded as another drawback of using this software.
In general, most of Wordfast features cut both ways and can result in both positive and negative implications for the translation process, not only allowing individual translators and translators’ teams to enhance their productivity and preserve the terminology consistency within the projects, but also requiring translators’ advanced professionalism and concentration for preventing the error propagation.
Wordfast as one of the world-known TM software is appreciated for its budget price, unlimited trial period, the wide range of features and straightforward and easy to follow guidelines as compared to its analogues.
However, apart from all its strengths allowing the translators to enhance the productivity and convenience of the translation process, Wordfast has a number of features which can result in unintended negative implications and deserve the developers’ consideration.
In that regard, the interface of the program does not allow proofreading the target documents for style and tone and the automatic application of the translation match to the whole document can result in error propagation.