August 1 2018

Why We Create Termsoup?

Someone once asked me, "There are many computer assisted translation software available on the market already, why do you still develop Termsoup?" I was slightly taken aback when I first heard the question, lost for words in that instant as it was not my approach to considering problems.

The Duplication of Efforts of Individual Translator

Ever since I got into translation, I have spent most of my time translating books, and only one year translating subtitles, so I have never been exposed to the so-called “translation assisting software”. In terms of the “translation + software” combination, I was only aware of those fully automated translation software similar to Google machine translation.

Later on, I kept running into repeated technical terms during translation and had to constantly switch between Word, Google, and the Excel sheet I had compiled myself to key in data or submit queries. It was extremely tiring and even my hand muscles were injured because I had to incessantly repeat the "copy and paste" action. As a result, I thought about using technology to fix the repetitive and tedious parts of the translation process. In other words, I wish to solve the problem of duplicating efforts translators experience during translation.

Before I decided to develop Termsoup, I had searched the internet to see if there were relevant software available that could solve my problem. It was then that I realized this type of software was called the computer assisted translation software. However, after spending time studying the existing software on the market, I found that not only were they too complicated and their interface too difficult to understand, but none of them could solve my problem. It was then that I decided to develop the software myself.

The Duplication of Efforts Among Translators

Moreover, there was a particular translation experience that prompted me to develop the software. Once, while I was translating an article related to car racing, I came across a word: marble. I knew the word "marble" could not possibly mean "marble stone" in this context, so I continued searching for it on Google.

In the end, I was "fortunate" as I only had to spend an hour before I found the answer: marble was referring to the rubber debris thrown from the racing cars tyres (if I had not made a mistake in my search). I heaved a sigh of relief when I found the answer, I thought in my head that I could finally continue to translate. On the other hand, I felt incredibly sad (yes, "sad" was exactly how I felt), because I had no idea how many more English to Chinese translators there were in the world that would encounter the word marble in the field of car racing, and how much time they would spend looking it up.

At that moment, I felt strongly that if there was a community that could be tightly integrated with the translation process, how wonderful would that be! The truth is communities for translators are never in short supply. For instance, there are a wide variety of relevant fan pages and groups on Facebook. However, at the moment resources of these communities cannot be integrated with the working process of translation. Therefore, the support offered to translators when problems are occurring during translation is limited. I thought realizing the idea would be unlikely, unless I develop the software myself.

Sharing the Knowledge

Moreover, if I could work with the open source communities involved in translation activities, the idea would be realized earlier. This is why we have cooperated with Wikipedia's Wikipedia Library. The other co-founder, Vince, and I hold great enthusiasm for making the sharing, access and application of knowledge more effective. They are the philosophy and goals behind us creating Termsoup.


Joanne Chou

Joanne is an English/Chinese translator and UI/UX designer and co-founder of Termsoup.