August 8 2018

Why It Is Bad to Translate with Word?

The advantage of using Word to translate is that it is ubiquitous: Word is installed on virtually every single computer. You can launch it and begin translating straightaway without so much as a learning curve. But that's where the benefits of using Word ends. For everything else having to do with translations, Word isn't much help at all.

Word was originally designed for writing and not translating, so it cannot provide any assistance with the tasks that translators have to deal with when translating. No wonder a senior translator, who is also a project manager at a big translation agency, said that "Using Word to translate is like treating your computer like an electric typewriter. You simply use it to input translations, but not leverage its computing capacity at all."

Some of the tasks we encouter when translating include:

Looking up the source text

To ensure proper terminology and translations, one of the things that translator do the most is looking up the source text. When translating in Word, the translator must enter the source text into Google, press the enter key, then browse the results one-by-one to determine the most suitable translation before copy-pasting it into Word.

This tedious process is repeated over and over again, especially for documents that are filled with technical jargon. The translator must frequently alternate between Word and Google, and repeatedly copy-paste. This is not only inconvenient but can lead to wrist injuries as well (true story!).

Keeping terminology consistent

After looking up the source text, the term translations need to be saved so it can be pulled up when the same source term comes up again. However, to save these terms, you must fire up another program (mostly Excel), so the next time you translate, you are switching between Word, Excel, and Google. And when you are switching between three windows, you are bound the miss something.

Moreover, when multiple translators are working on the same project, the above method makes it even harder to keep the terms consistent. This is why we often see different translations for the same terms in books and articles from the same publisher or magazine. The inconsistency of terms can cause confusion for the readers and can affect their perception of the translation quality.

Keeping translations consistent

Aside from keeping terminology consistent, sentence translations often need to be kept consistent as well, especially when translating contracts, instruction manuals, tool books, or set phrases (such as video openings). In such cases, if you are using Word, you need to use the search function to locate past translations. If the past translation is in a different file, you'll need to open that files to find the translation. This is extremely cumbersome, not to mention the increased likelihood for inconsistency.

Preventing missed translations

The translation needs to stay true to the source text. No words or sentences should be left untranslated. However, when using Word to translate, the source text is often in a different file or on paper, which means the translator is constantly shifting their gaze between the source text and Word. If the source sentence or paragraph is long, then a missed translation or misread is bound to happen at one point or another.

It's these tasks and details that determine the speed and accuracy of your translation. Termsoup was specifically designed to tackle those problems to allow the translator to complete their translation in the easiest, fastest way possible while improving the quality of the translation.


Joanne Chou

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