Why It Is Not a Good Idea to Translate With Microsoft Word?

The advantage of using Microsoft Word to translate is that it is ubiquitous: It is installed on almost every computer. You can launch it and begin translating straightaway without a learning curve (well, that's because you have learned it). 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 but not translating, so it cannot provide any assistance with the tasks that translators have to deal with when translating. All text in Word is unstructured word chunks that cannot be organized or easily reused.

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 as an electric typewriter. You use it to input translations, but not leverage its computing capacity at all.

Using Word to translate is like treating your computer as an electric typewriter.
Here are some tasks that we encounter when translating:

Looking up terms

To ensure proper terminology and translations, one of the things that translator do the most is constantly looking up terms. When translating in Word, the translator must input the term into Google search bar, and press the Enter key, then browse the results one-by-one, page-by-page to determine the most suitable translation for the term. After that, they copy-paste the translation into Word.

This tedious process is repeated over and over again during the translation, especially for documents that are filled with 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 term, the translation of the term needs to be saved properly so it can be pulled up when the same term comes up again in the source text.
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 to 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 omitting 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 an omitting 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. Using a CAT (computer-assisted translation) tool can help you better perform these tasks. And if you are looking for a CAT tool that is not only easy-to-use but also clean and neat, you can give Termsoup a try. We promise that you won’t be disappointed.



Joanne Chou

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