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 think of developing Termsoup.

The repetitive work of individual translator

Ever since I got into translation, I have spent most of my time translating books, and one year translating subtitles, so I have never been exposed to the so-called "computer-assisted translation" thing. Regarding the "translation + software" combination, I knew only the fully automated translation software at the time, which often equates to Google Translate.

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 repeat the "copy and paste" action incessantly.

As a result, I started thinking 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 often experience when doing their jobs.

Before I decided to develop Termsoup, I did plenty of reasearch online 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 (CAT).

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.

I mean, as a translator who never heard of "translation memory" and certainly do not have any of them, or have a very limited amount of data in my "term base" (often it is just an Excel file), I found no CAT software on the market can help me with my job. It was then that I decided to develop the software myself. I want to deal with my tedious and repetitive work in translation.

The repetitive work among translators

Moreover, there was a particular translation experience that also prompted me to develop Tersmoup. 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 car's tyres. I heaved a sigh of relief when I found the answer, and 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 in looking it up. What if I can share what I found with them in an efficient way so that no English translators would have to look it up again? 

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 that communities for translators are never in short supply. For instance, there are a wide variety of relevant fan pages and groups on Facebook. However, resources in these communities can hardly 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 knowledge

Another reason why I develop Termsoup is that I want to make knowledge sharing easier. I want to build a mechanism for translators who are willing to share their knowledge and assets, e.g., bilingual terms, with other translators. If we can do this in a productive way, then every translator is standing on the shoulders of a growing giant.

This is wht we have cooperated with Wikipedia’s Wikipedia Library. We think that working with the open source communities can help this idea to be realized faster. The other co-founder of Termsoup, Vincent, 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.

software translation


Joanne Chou

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