Impressions from Translating and the Computer 38

The 38th ‚Translating and the Computer‘ conference in London has just finished, and, as always, I take home a lot of inspiration. Here are my personal highlights:

  • Sketch Engine, a language corpus management and query system, offers loads of useful functions for conference preparation, like web-based (actually Bing-based) corpus-building, term extraction (the extraction results come with links to the corresponding text, the lists are exportable to common, reusable formats) and thesaurus-building. The one thing l liked most was the fact that if, for example, your clients have their websites in several languages, you can enter the urls of the different language versions and SketchEngine will download them, so that you can then use the texts a corpus. You might hear more about SketchEngine from me soon …
  • XTM, a translation memory system, offers parallel text alignment (like many others do) with the option of exporting the aligned texts into xls. This finally makes them reusable for those many interpreting colleagues who, for obvious reasons, do not have any translation memory system. And the best thing is, you can even re-export an amended version of this file back into the translation memory system for your translator colleagues to use. So if you interpret a meeting where a written agreement is being discussed in several language versions, you can provide the translators first hand with the amendments made in the meeting.
  • SDL Trados now offers an API and has an App Store. New hope for an interpreter-friendly user interface!

All in all, my theory that you just have to wait long enough for the language technology companies to develop something that suits conference interpreters‘ needs seems to materialise eventually. Also scientists and software providers alike were keen to stress that they really want to work with translators and interpreters in order to find out what they really need. The difficulty with conference interpreters seems to be that we are a very heterogeneous community with very different needs and preferences.

And then I had the honour to run a workshop on interpreters workflows and fees in the digital era (for some background information you may refer to The future of Interpreting & Translating – Professional Precariat or Digital Elite?). The idea was to go beyond the usual „digitalisation spoils prices and hampers continuous working relations“ but rather find ways to use digitalisation to our benefit and to boost good working relationships, quality and profitability. I was very happy to get some valuable input from practicioners as well as from several organisations‘ language services and scientists. What I took away were two main ideas: interface-building and quality rating.

Interface-building: By cooperating with the translation or documentation department of companies and organisations, quality and efficiency could be improved on both sides (translators providing extremely valuable and well-structured input for conference preparation and interpreters reporting back „from the field“). Which brings me back to the aforementioned positive outlook on the sofware side.

Quality rating: I noticed a contradiction which has never been so clear to me before. While we interpreters go on about the client having to value our high level of service provided and wanting to be paid well for quality, quality rating and evaluation still is a subject that is largely being avoided and that many of us feel uncomfortable with. On the other hand, some kind of quality rating is something clients sometimes are forced to rely on in order to justify paying for that (supposedly) expensive interpreter. I have no perfect solution for this, but I think it is worth some further thinking.

In general, there was a certain agreement that formalising interpreters‘ preparation work has its limitations. It is always about filling the very personal knowledge gaps of the individual (for a very particular conference setting), but that technologies can still be used to improve quality and keep up with the rapidly growing knowledge landscape around us.


About the author:
Anja Rütten is a freelance conference interpreter for German (A), Spanish (B), English (C) and French (C) based in Düsseldorf, Germany. She has specialised in knowledge management since the mid-1990s.


Hello from the other side – Chinese and Terminology Tools. A guest article by Felix Brender 王哲謙

As Mandarin Chinese interpreters, we understand that we are somewhat rare beings. After all, we work with a language which, despite being a UN language, is not one you’d encounter regularly. We wouldn’t expect colleagues working with other, more frequently used languages to know about the peculiarities of Mandarin.

This applies not least to terminology tools. Many of the tools available to interpreters do now support Chinese-script entries. And indeed: Interpreting from English into Chinese, terminology software works as well for Chinese as it would for any other language – next to good old Excel, I myself have used InterPlex, Interpret Bank and flashterm. It’s rather when working from Chinese into English that things get tricky – and that’s not necessarily a software issue.

Until recently, many interpreters were convinced and rather adamant that simultaneous interpreting with Chinese is downright impossible, and I am sometimes tempted to agree. Compared to English – left alone German – Chinese is incredibly dense. Many words consist of only one syllable, and only very few of more than two. Owing to the way Chinese works grammatically, the very same idea can be expressed a lot more concisely in Chinese than English. To make matters worse, we replace modern Mandarin expressions with written, Classical Chinese equivalents in formal Mandarin. As a rule of thumb, the more formal the Chinese used, the more succinct it will be as well – rather different from English or German. This also is the case with proper names and terminology, which will usually have abbreviated forms that are a lot shorter syllable-wise than their English equivalents.

Adding to that, Chinese natives are incredibly fond of their language and make ample use of its full range of options: Using rare and at times byzantine expressions and words is appreciated and applauded as a sign of good education; it is never perceived as pedantic or conceited. This includes idioms (chengyu 成語), which usually refer to a story from the Chinese Classics in a highly condensed fashion: They generally contain a mere four syllables and usually function as adjectives, in contrast to English or German. In English, we will need at least a full sentence to explain what is being said, even if the same or a similar idiom exists. Chinese also frequently uses xiehouyu 歇後語: proverbs consisting of two parts, the first presenting a scenario, the second outlining the rationale of the story. Usually, the second part will be left out because Chinese natives will be able to deduce it from the first – similar to speak of the devil (and he will appear) in English. Needless to say, there hardly ever is an English equivalent, and seeing that we are operating in entirely different cultural contexts, ironing out cultural differences when explaining xiehouyu will take additional time.

It will be no surprise to hear that Chinese discursive and grammatical peculiarities make it a difficult language to interpret from: relative clauses tend to be lengthy – and are always placed in front of the noun they describe; Chinese doesn’t mark tenses as such but rather uses particles to outline how different events and actions relate to each other, in contrast to linear notions of time and tenses in European languages, so we are often left guessing; he and she are homonyms in Mandarin; to name but three examples.

Considering all of this, we see that more often than not, simultaneous interpreting from Chinese is a race against the clock and an exercise in humility – and there isn’t much time to look up words in the first place.

In Modern Mandarin, there are only around 1,200 possible syllables, with each syllable being a morpheme, i.e. a component bearing meaning; in English, we have a far greater range of possible syllables, and they only make sense in context, as not every syllable carries meaning: /mea/ and /ning/ do not mean anything per se, but meaning does. For Chinese, this implies that homophones are a common occurrence. And while we aim for perfect clarity and lucidity in English, Chinese rather daoistically indulges in ambivalence. Clever plays on words, being illusive and vague and giving listeners space to interpret what you might actually mean: not bad style, but an art to be honed. Apart from having to spend more capacity and time on identifying terms and words used in the original, this adds another layer of difficulty with regards to looking up terminology in the booth: The fastest way to type Chinese characters is by using pinyin romanisation, but owing to the huge number of homonyms, any syllable in romanized transliteration will give you a huge range of options. This means that we would have to spend at least another second or so simply to select the correct character from a drop-down list – and we will not enjoy the pleasure of word prediction that works for other languages.

In practice, this means that besides very intensive preparation before the event, we rely on what might be the oldest terminology tool in the world: our booth buddy. They are particularly important because in Chinese, we obviously don’t have any cognates – something than might get us off the hook working with European languages. We also heavily rely on our colleagues sitting next to us for figures: Chinese has ten thousand (萬) and one hundred million (億) as units in their own right, so rather than talking about one million and one billion, the Chinese will talk about a hundred times ten thousand and ten times one hundred million, respectively. This means we will have to be calculating while interpreting: a feat hard to accomplish if you are out there on your own.

While I started out thinking that not being able to use terminology software to the same extent I would use it for German-English would be quite a nuisance, I have found that this is rather an instance of the old man living at the border whose horse runs away1, as you’d say in Chinese. Interpreting is teamwork after all, and working with Chinese, we are acutely aware that we rely on our booth buddy as much as they rely on us and that we can only provide the excellent service we do with somebody else in the booth. With that in mind, professional Chinese interpreters always make for great partners in crime in the booth.

About the author:

Felix Brender 王哲謙 is a freelance conference interpreter for English, Chinese and German based in Düsseldorf/Germany. He also teaches DE>EN at the University of Heidelberg, and ZH>EN interpreting as a guest lecturer in Leeds, UK, and Taipei, Taiwan.

1 (which, as the story goes, then returns, bringing a fine stallion with it, which is then ridden by his son, who falls of the horse and breaks his leg, which is why he is not drafted and sent to war, ultimately saving his life; meaning that any setback may indeed be a blessing in disguise, similar but not entirely identical to every cloud has a silver lining. One of the most frequently used Chinese sayings, eight syllables of which the latter four are generally left out: 塞翁失馬,焉知非福, which literally translates as ‘When the old man from the frontier lost his horse, how could one have known that it would not be fortuitous?’. I rest my case.)

Datensicherung für Mutter und Kinder | family-friendly data backup

+++ for English, see below +++

Was ich selbst in über 20 Jahren nicht fertiggebracht habe, schafft mein Kind schon vor dem Erreichen der digitalen Volljährigkeit (gleich Inhaberschaft eines eigenen Whatsapp-Kontos) – den totalen Datenverlust. Zwar in diesem Fall nur in Form aller kostbaren Fotos auf meinem ausrangierten Handy, aber immerhin. So langsam wird klar: Ein umfassendes Datensicherungskonzept muss her.

Im Vorteil ist, wer in seinem Bekanntenkreis ausreichend Testberichtleser hat, so konnte ich glücklicherweise jüngst bei einem Gin Tonic im Hause meiner lieben Freundin Julia eine Empfehlung entgegennehmen, die alles vereint, was ich mir vone einem Backupsystem wünsche: idrive. Es gibt ja viele unterschiedliche Datensicherungssysteme, deshalb hier in Kürze, was mir an diesem System gefällt:

Es funktioniert für alle gängigen Betriebssysteme von Rechnern (Mac, Windows, Linux) und mobilen Geräten (Android, iOS, Windows), bis zu sechs Geräte und 1TB können in der Private-Version über ein Konto laufen, für regulär 69.50 $ (wobei es immer Angebote gibt – nachdem ich mit einem kostenlosen Basis-Konto die App installiert hatte, wurde mir die Private-Version prompt für 15 $ im ersten Jahr angeboten). Man kann über dieses Konto kreuz und quer auf die Daten-Backups aller Geräte zugreifen – was mir zunächst etwas unheimlich war, aber man kann den Zugriff an jedem Endgerät mit einem Passwortschutz belegen. Über das browserbasierte Dashboard kann man dann bspw. die Daten (etwa Fotos) aus dem Handy-Backup direkt auf den Rechner kopieren.

Das Synchronisieren erfolgt entweder in Echtzeit, nach festgelegtem Zeitplan oder auf Knopfdruck. Es rödelt also nicht ständig im Hintergrund, wenn man das nicht möchte, man wird regelmäßig an die Datensicherung erinnert, wenn man das will. Wenn man einmal den kompletten Datenbestand hochgeladen hat, geschieht die Aktualisierung nur noch inkrementell, sprich nur noch Dateien, die auf dem lokalen Rechner geändert wurden, werden im Online-Backup auf den neusten Stand gebracht.

Auf dem Handy kann man auswählen aus der Sicherung von Kontakten, Anruflisten, Kalender, Dateien, Apps, SMS, Fotos (auch die von Whatapp), Videos und Musik. Entweder permanent, zu bestimmten Zeitpunkten oder auf Knopfdruck. Schön für Reisen.

Gelöschte Dateien werden im Online-Backup nur auf Knopfdruck gelöscht („Archive Cleanup„). Solange man diesen Knopf nicht drückt, sind alle auf dem lokalen Rechner – womöglich versehentlich – gelöschten Dateien im Online-Backup noch da. Und wenn man umgekehrt nicht tausende von Privatfotos auf dem Handy herumschleppen möchte, kann man sie dort löschen und im Cloud-Backup aufbewahren.

In der idrive-Business-Version (aktuell 74,62 $ im Jahr) kann man sogar Unterkonten anlegen, so dass man die Datensicherung von Kollegen, Mitarbeitern oder Kindern als Administrator zentral im Griff hat (ohne dass diese auf die eigenen Daten zugreifen).  Ich habe für den Anfang eine preisgünstigere Lösung gewählt und meinen Kindern jeweils separate Konten (Basis-Konto kostenlos bis 5 GB) eingerichtet. (Letztendlich habe ich selbst für mein eigenes Handy nun ein anderes Konto als für meinen PC, um nicht in ständiger Sorge zu leben, dass sich doch einmal jemand über mein Handy Zugang zu meinem gesamten PC-Backup verschafft). Wenn ich die auf meinem Rechner gespeicherte Musik meinen Kindern auf dem Handy zur Verfügung stellen möchte, teile ich mit ihnen den entsprechenden Ordner aus dem PC-Online-Backup, wenn ich deren Handyfotos sichern möchte, teilen sie den entsprechenden Online-Backup-Ordner über idrive mit mir. Etwas gewöhnungsbedürftig ist, dass man dieses Verwalten und Teilen nur über das browserbasierte Dashboard erledigen kann, während die Backups über eine App oder Desktop-Software erfolgen.

Wenn man nicht den Nerv hat, seine gesamte Datensammlung durch die Telefonleitung zu quetschen, kann man sich auch einen physischen Datenträger schicken lassen und per Post die Daten einmalig nach Kalifornien schicken, wo sie in die Cloud befördert werden. Aktuell befinde ich mich noch in der Versuchsphase, 103 GB über die Leitung in die Cloud zu befördern (nach zwei Tagen bin ich bei 25 %) Wenn man mit der Bandbreitendrosselung ein bisschen spielt und nachts nicht vergisst, den Standby-Modus des Computers zu deaktivieren, könnte es was werden.

Die Daten sind bei der Übertragung und Speicherung mittels 256-bit-AES-Verschlüsselung gesichert, wobei der Schlüssel entweder vom System oder vom Nutzer selbst vorgegeben wird.

Wenn man zusätzlich noch ein lokales Backup auf einem externen Datenträger haben möchte, bietet idrive zusätzlich für 99,99 $ einen lokalen, über WLAN verbundenen Datenträger an (Network attached storage device NAS, „wifi device“), der ebenfalls über die idrive-Software verwaltet wird.

Alles in allem wirklich ein Rundum-Datensicherungskonzept. Aber wie immer bin ich natürlich auch neugierig zu erfahren, wie Ihr Eure Daten sichert!

Über die Autorin:
Dr. Anja Rütten ist freiberufliche Konferenzdolmetscherin für Deutsch (A), Spanisch (B), Englisch (C) und Französisch (C) in Düsseldorf und Mitglied von VKD, BDÜ NRW und AIIC. Sie widmet sich seit Mitte der 1990er dem Wissensmanagement.

+++ English version +++

It is hard to believe that a child, before becoming digitally full of age (i.e. having a proper WhatsApp account), provokes the disaster I have managed to avoid for over 20 years: total loss of data. Luckily, it was „only“ a bunch of photos taken with my old smartphone, but still: all of a sudden it became crystal clear to me that my family and I are in desperate need of a comprehensive data backup plan.

I am lucky enough to know some passionate test report readers, and so it happened that when I was at my dear friend Julia’s house, over some Gin & Tonics I was recommended exactly what I was looking for: idrive, the one online backup package that offers everything I had been looking for.

It runs on all the usual operating systems for desktop and laptop computers (Mac, Windows, Linux) and mobile devices (Android, iOS, Windows), up to six devices and 1 TB can be backed up under one „Private“ account for – theoretically – $ 69.50 per year (watch out for special offers – after I had installed the app on my smartphone using the free basic version, I was offered the upgrade to the „Private“ plan for as little as $ 15). And you can access the online data backups of any of them from any of them. I found this a bit spooky at the beginning, but there is optional password protection when opening the idrive software/app. The browser-based idrive dashboard can then be used, for example, to save the pictures taken with your smartphone to your desktop computer.

Backups can be run continuously, scheduled or ad hoc by clicking a button, so your computer does not necessarily have to be rattling through synchronising data in the background all the time. But the system will still remind you of your regular backup task if you ask it to. Once all your data is uploaded, files will only be updated incrementally, i.e. only those archives which have been changed locally will be uploaded to your online backup.

On your mobile phone, you can choose from saving your contacts, call logs, calendar, files, apps, SMS, photos (also from WhatsApp), videos and audio files, be it continuously, according to a schedule or ad hoc by clicking the button. Very nice for frequent travelers.

Files deleted from your PC will not be deleted automatically from your online backup version. Unless you „clean up“ your backup (by clicking the button), it will keep all your files – which you may have deleted accidentally from your local hard disk- virtually forever. And if, the other way around, you don’t want to carry around tons of private photos on your mobile device, you can delete them from your mobile harddisk once you have uploaded them to idrive.

The idrive Business Version (currently $ 74.62) even lets you create sub-accounts in order to manage data backups centrally for colleagues, staff or children (without them getting access to your personal data). My personal solution for the moment is to create separate accounts for each child’s mobile device (basic account, free of charge for up to 5 GB) and make excessive use of the share functions. For example, I simply share the online backup file of my local mp3 collection via idrive and they access them using their accounts. Equally they share their online photo backup files with me if they want me to save their photos on my PC. All this sharing back and forth must be done using the browser dashboard, whereas the backup functions work via programs/apps that need to be installed locally.

If you don’t feel like squeezing your 100 GB of data through the landline, idrive even offers to send you a hard drive by ordinary mail so that you can ship your data to California and let them take care of the uploading. My personal 100-GB-upload experiment is still running (I am at 25 % after two days), but when you play around with the bandwidth throttle a bit and don’t forget to deactivate the standby mode overnight, chances are that you will finally get there.

Your data is encrypted during transfer and storage using 256 bitAES encryption, either on the basis of a default key or using your private one.

If you wish to have an additional local backup on an external hard disk, idrive offers a so called „wifi device“ (Network attached storage device, NAS, $ 99.99), which is also managed by the idrive software.

Bottom line is that this is an allround hybrid backup system I am quite happy with, although as always, I would love to know how you handle your data backups!


About the author:
Anja Rütten is a freelance conference interpreter for German (A), Spanish (B), English (C) and French (C) based in Düsseldorf, Germany. She has specialised in knowledge management since the mid-1990s.

Booth-friendly terminology management:

Believe it or not, only a few weeks ago I came across just another booth-friendly terminology management program (or rather it was kindly brought to my attention by a student when I talked about the subject at Heidelberg University). It has been around since 2008 and completely escaped my attention. So I am all the happier to present today yet another player on the scene of interpreter-friendly terminology management tools:

Glossarmanager by Glossarmanager GbR/Frank Brempel (Bonn, Germany)

As the name suggests, in Glossarmanager terms are organised in different glossaries, each glossary including the data fields language 1 („Sprache 1“), language 2 („Sprache 2“), synonym, antonym, picture and comment. The number of working languages in each glossary is limited to two (or three if you decide to use the synonyms column for a third language). Each glossary can also be subdivided into chapters („Kapitel“).

Glossarmanager GlossarEdit

You may import and export rtf, csv and txt files, so basically anything that formerly was a text or table/spreadsheet document, and the import function is very user-friendly (it lets you insert the new data into an existing glossary and checks new entries against existing ones, or create a new glossary).

The vocab training module requires typing in and is very unforgiving, so each typo or other deviation from what is written in the database counts as a mistake. But if you are not put off by the nasty comments („That was rubbish“, „Please concentrate!“) or the even nastier learning record, you may well use this trainer as a mental memorising tool without typing the required terms.

The search module comes as a small window which, if you want it to, always stays in the foreground. Entering search terms is intuitive and mouse-free and the results can be filtered by language pairs, glossaries and authors. Ignoring of special characters like ü, è, ß etc. and case-sensitive search can be activated. Right under the hit list, Glossarmanager provides (customisable) links to online resources for further searching.

Glossarmanager Suche

Available for Windows

Cost: Free of charge (download here and use the free licence key)


About the author:
Anja Rütten is a freelance conference interpreter for German (A), Spanish (B), English (C) and French (C) based in Düsseldorf, Germany. She has specialised in knowledge management since the mid-1990s.


Operation leerer Briefkasten

Während es zum Thema Reinhaltung des elektronischen Postfachs nicht nur Spamfilter, sondern bei seriösen Newslettern auch eine (vorgeschriebene) Abmeldefunktion gibt, ist es mit der Abwehr unnötiger Papierpost deutlich komplizierter. Komischerweise höre ich auch seltener jemanden über die Flut unnötiger Papiermengen im realen Briefkasten als über die Spam-Flut jammern, obwohl das Ausfiltern und Löschen von E-Mails viel weniger Arbeit verursacht als das Entsorgen von realer Post (einschließlich Folie von Papierprospekt separieren). Ich jedenfalls finde Berge von Post auf dem Schreibtisch nach ein paar Tagen Abwesenheit lästig – weshalb ich vor einigen Monaten meine Operation „Leerer Briefkasten“ gestartet habe. Nachahmern eindeutig empfohlen:

Schritt 1: Schild an den Briefkasten kleben. Wenn am Briefkasten steht „Keine Werbung einwerfen“, bekommt man keine unadressierte (!) Werbung mehr. Warum gibt es das eigentlich nicht für das E-Mail-Postfach?

Schritt 2: Weiterhin bekommt man jedoch persönlich adressierte Post. Also jeden Katalog und jedes Mailing telefonisch, per Mail oder Fax abbestellen – geht eigentlich ganz schnell und die Hotlines sind immer darauf vorbereitet. Bei den Versandhäusern meines Vorzugs habe ich statt Katalogen die Newsletter abonniert, sie fliegen per Filterregel in einen separaten Ordner, damit sie mir nicht mitten am Arbeitstag auf die Nerven gehen. Und wenn ich mal mitten am Arbeitstag in Kataloge blättern möchte, habe ich sie selbst in der Kabine dabei. Manchmal stellt man ja gerade dann fest, dass man dringend ein neues Kleid braucht.

Schritt 3: Neben den Katalogen und Mailings, von denen ich weiß, weshalb ich sie bekomme – nämlich weil ich bei dem Unternehmen Kundin bin und mir dessen Angebot auch nicht völlig unsympathisch ist – gibt es auch unaufgeforderte Post mit Angeboten von Firmen, mit denen ich noch nie etwas zu tun hatte. Wenn man genau hinsieht, enthalten solche Schreiben aber normalerweise einen Hinweis auf die Möglichkeit, der Nutzung der personenbezogenen Daten zu Werbezwecken zu widersprechen, häufig unter Verweis auf eine Adressdatenvermittlungsfirma. Dieser muss man oft tatsächlich per Post schreiben, da es häufig auf den Firmenwebseiten keine entsprechende Funktion und auch keine E-Mail-Adresse oder Faxnummer für diesen Zweck gibt. Dies ist mit Abstand der nervendste Teil der Operation „Leerer Briefkasten“. Daher kommt Schritt 4 ins Spiel:

Schritt 4: Der Eintrag in eine Robinsonliste. Für Deutschland gibt es derer zwei: Robinsonliste I.D.I. Interessenverband Deutsches Internet e.V. ( und DDV Deutscher Dialogmarketing Verband e. V. ( Mittlerweile ein äußerst unkompliziertes Unterfangen … und hoffentlich mit der entsprechenden Wirkung – die sich nur dann entfaltet, wenn sich die adressverwaltenden Firmen auch daran halten, die eingetragenen Personen bei ihren Postwerbeaktionen auszusparen.

Mit und mit komme ich meinem Ziel jedenfalls deutlich näher, im Briefkasten nur noch Versicherungsunterlagen, Bußgeldbescheide und stimmungsaufhellende Geburtstags- und Weihnachtskarten vorzufinden.

Über die Autorin:
Dr. Anja Rütten ist freiberufliche Konferenzdolmetscherin für Deutsch (A), Spanisch (B), Englisch (C) und Französisch (C) in Düsseldorf und Mitglied von VKD, BDÜ NRW und AIIC. Sie widmet sich seit Mitte der 1990er dem Wissensmanagement.

Why not listen to football commentary in several languages? | Fußballspiele mehrsprachig verfolgen

+++ for English, see below +++ para español, aún más abajo +++

Ich weiß nicht, wie es Euch ergeht, aber wenn ich im Fernsehen ein Fußballspiel verfolge, frage ich mich mitunter, was jetzt wohl der Kommentator der anderen Mannschaft bzw. Nationalität dazu gerade sagt. Die Idee, (alternative) Fußballkommentare über das Internet zu streamen, hat sich zumindest im deutschsprachigen Raum bislang noch nicht so recht durchgesetzt, hat den Dienst zumindest wieder eingestellt. In Spanien ist man da mit Tiempo de Juego besser dran, und dann gibt es noch, was ich noch nicht ausprobiert habe. Aber eine andere durchaus praktikable Alternative, um simultan neben der eigentlichen TV-Übertragung andere Kommentare aus nahezu aller Herren Länder zu hören, bietet ja das Smartphone (wer auch sonst) mit einer entsprechenden Radio-App (mein Favorit für Android ist So habe ich dann kürzlich beim EM-Gruppenspiel Schweden gegen Belgien einfach über den Kopfhörer parallel zur deutschen TV-Übertragung im belgischen Radio mitgehört – und das war durchaus amüsant! Zeitweise war ich mir nicht sicher, ob der deutsche und der belgische Kommentator das gleiche Spiel sahen, aber die Hintergrundgeräusche aus dem Stadion (im Radio immer minimal verzögert) waren beruhigenderweise identisch. Also eine echte Empfehlung nicht nur für die, die sich nicht entscheiden können, zu welcher Mannschaft sie halten sollen. Und nun hoffe ich natürlich umso mehr auf ein Viertelfinale Deutschland – Spanien!

+++ English version +++

I don’t know about you, but when I watch football on TV, I often wonder what the other team’s/country’s commentator might be saying right now. If you want to listen to Spanish commentary in parallel, you are lucky, as there is Tiempo de Juego streaming football commentary via browser, Android and iOS app. There is in English, which I have not tried yet. In Germany, however, the idea of streaming (alternative) football commentary over the internet has not quite made it so far ( have given up apparently), but another way of listening in to other commentaries of almost any country in the world is (guess what!) the good old smartphone, with those many radio streaming apps available. My favourite one for Android is, and I have just lately tuned into the Belgian radio while watching the European Championship match Sweden vs. Belgium on German TV. It was both fun and interesting, really. Sometimes I was not sure whether they were talking about the same match, but the background noise from the stadium (slightly delayed over the radio) told me they were indeed. So it is really worth a try, especially for those who cannot decide which team to support. And I’m now hoping all the more for a quarter final between Germany and Spain!

+++ versión española +++

No sé ustedes, pero yo, cuando veo un partido de fútbol en la tele, a veces me pregunto qué estará diciendo el comentarista del otro bando en ese momento. Esta idea de facilitar comentarios audio por medio de internet, casi no se usa en Alemania (en ya dejaron de ofrecerlo). En España, ya van bastante mejor, con Tiempo de Juego se pueden escuchar los comentarios a través del navegador o usando una app (Android y iOS). En inglés existe, todavía me falta probarlo. Pero también existe otra posibilidad muy práctica para escuchar comentarios de fútbol de casi todas partes del mundo y es (adivinen qué) el smartphone que con sus tantas apps transmite por internet un sinfín de radioemisoras del mundo entero (mi app favorita es De este modo, hace poco, viendo el partido de la Eurocopa entre Suecia y Bélgica en la televisión, por medio de mi celular y los auriculares escuché en paralelo a los comentaristas de una radioemisora belga y me resultó súper divertido. A veces me surgían dudas de si realmente los comentaristas belgas y alemanes estaban viendo el mismo partido, pero el ruido del estadio era idéntico (con un pequeño desfase en la transmisión por radio), así que… todo bien. Realmente lo recomiendo, no sólo para aquellos que no saben a qué selección apoyar. ¡Y por ahora espero aún más los cuartos de final entre España y Alemania!

The Future of Interpreting & Translating – Professional Precariat or Digital Elite?

Interpreters being paid by the minute (or hour) nowadays does not seem as inconceivable as it used to be. Technically speaking, small worktime and payment units have become easier to handle, thus more probable to be applied. The question arises if working and being paid on a micro or macro level, as the two extremes, bring about any special advantages or disadvantages for interpreters/translators and their customers – a question I would like to share some thoughts with you about, paying special attention to the information and knowledge aspect.

Knowledge work

Interpreters and translators are knowledge workers constantly moving back and forth between different linguistic and technical knowledge systems. In order to do so, they rely on their own knowledge base being complemented by external information sources. This consultation of external sources is what I call “secondary knowledge work”, it is performed in order to properly perform the actual, primary knowledge work, i.e. the interpreting assignment or translation at hand. Interpreters do so mainly during preparation and, to a limited extent, on the job when doing ad hoc research and after the job while a translator’s secondary knowledge work tends to be more intermittent and less clearly distinguishable from the primary task of translating.

primary and secondary knowledge work in interpreting

Macro knowledge work

What interpreters need to know in order to interpret a certain speech goes far beyond the text itself both technically, linguistically and pragmatically. In a macro knowledge work scenario, they have indeed acquired this knowledge. Ideally (but not necessarily) they are all-round language service providers to companies and organisations – cooperating if need be with a team of freelance colleagues – taking care of anything ranging from translations (documentation, website, brochures, meeting documents, even short emails) and terminology to interpretation of meetings, sales events, negotiations and short phone calls. Micro work elements like interpreting (or making) the said phone call, answering spontaneous terminological questions or translating single sentences smoothly integrate into the macro level of long-term, relatively large-volume language service provision. There is no need for extensive secondary knowledge work in order to familiarise with the respective industry, company products, background and intentions of the persons involved and the company terminology and typical jargon, the background knowledge as a decisive production factor having been acquired (and financed) in the course of the long-term cooperation. Primary and secondary knowledge work go hand in hand. In this scenario, a company may well draw from the extensive insight the interpreter or translator has and rely on their professional judgement and advice.

Micro knowledge work

Sometimes the cost and effort of recruiting a proper specialist would by far exceed the benefit. This is the case when no context knowledge is required to fulfil the task or when quality simply does not pay off. If the customer lives off selling very cheap products and needs multilingual categorising or key word finding for tons of products just to feed the search engines, then less quality for less money is a business case. A company may give thousands of words to a dozen translators and have them translated in no time, saving time and money by not investing in the meaningful translation of a text that, after all, has a very life-expectancy.

When confidential matters are interpreted, like in medical or legal interpreting, the customer would rather see the insight gained by the interpreter disappear without traces from the interpreter’s memory, just like current assets in a factory, rather than make use of it.

Under certain circumstances context knowledge may even be a caveat when, for example, unbiased and unprejudiced views are required and, in the opinion of the customer, an informed interpreter might be prejudiced and render a pre-filtered version of what is being said on the basis of what he or she considers important or unimportant.

In all these cases, no secondary knowledge work is required, and everyone is just fine with the interpreter mentally operating within a confined space of information. However, in most interpreting settings the task becomes extremely difficult without a wider view on the technical, linguistic and pragmatic background.

Macro payment

When remuneration is based on larger units – like in the case of employees’ monthly or annual salaries – the long-term benefit provided to the company or organisation by the employee based on their experience, training, soft skills etc. positively influences the amount being paid (macro payment). The largest usual payment unit for freelance interpreters is a day and for translators an hour (if not paid by the word or line). Without an in-depth survey it is hard to tell whether the knowledge acquired in the long run by the interpreter, as well as the time required for the secondary knowledge work dedicated to a special assignment, are factored in when these fees are calculated. Conference interpreters tend to argue that their daily fees include preparation. However, when analysing the typical cost structures, this often turns out not to be true (see AIIC Blog article about this subject).

Generally speaking, the larger the work volume the smaller will be the proportion of secondary knowledge work in relation to the primary task. This is due to a certain scale effect when working on a macro level, for the effort of familiarisation/knowledge acquisition can be allocated to a larger amount of work. This may be a long and/or repeated assignment or the sum of translation plus interpreting plus any other minor linguistic support like phone calls and emails, provided that these tasks are in a way interrelated. For example,  interpreters being present at a meeting have translated the documentation beforehand or translate the minutes afterwards and also interpret the occasional phone call between the meeting participants. As they are familiar both with the subject matter and with the people involved, they will not have to prepare as much as someone unfamiliar and, more importantly, be able to compensate the loss of visual and contextual information on the phone and read (or hear) between the lines more easily.

Larger work volumes tend to be remunerated in larger payment units. Let’s say a two-day interpreting assignment will hardly be paid by the hour, whereas this might be the case for a two-hour job and a customer might tend to pay a fifty-minute job by the minute. However, if a small one-off project involving a small amount of micro working units (minutes) is not embedded in a long term, macro-type of cooperation but “informed” interpreting is still required then macro payment will be more appropriate in order to account for the secondary knowledge work required. It does not necessarily have to be in big payment units as long as the preparation effort is factored in. However, this may be easier to factor into bigger payment units.

Micro payment

In translation, payment in small units like words or lines (i.e. characters) has been common practice for a long time. In interpreting, it is becoming increasingly popular at least from the customer side what with Voice over IP and remote interpreting techniques. Crowd sourcing platforms offer a superb technical environment for assigning micro jobs and will be happy to inform crowd workers about their excessive pricing (without knowing their cost base) simply based on a comparison of prices indicated by their competitors. With smaller payment units, the focus may be reduced to mere primary knowledge work with the secondary knowledge work being lost out of sight and thus not being factored in both time-wise and financially (micropayment). This may be a sensible thing to do for the reasons mentioned above – basically if the job at hand requires low qualification. It may, however, happen accidentally – i.e. when “informed” macro knowledge work is required and the additional effort of macro knowledge work is not assigned to the small payment units. The idea of working and paying on a macro level while using small payment units may sound contradictory at first. But it works perfectly well for many translators provided they don’t calculate their fees on the basis of some words being typed away. The same goes for interpreting, which might even be charged by the minute as long as the scope of the calculation is not limited to the mere physical presence of the interpreting person. It may, however, be difficult to calculate if the amount of minutes needed is unknown beforehand. If, for example, a price per minute were to be fixed for “over the phone” interpreting, this would have to vary in the extreme according to the number of minutes bought. If the interpreter prepares three hours and charges 80 EUR/hours worked then the price per minute will have to be 240 EUR for one minute interpreted, 48 EUR/minute for five minutes interpreted (not counting the actual minutes of interpretation so far) and 5.50 EUR/minute for 60 minutes interpreted. The principle (and difficulty) of calculating volume discounts becomes quite clear here.

The role of software

Crowd sourcing and job platforms first and foremost facilitate the search for and selection of interpreters and translators for both large and small jobs. In translation business, translation memory systems (if possible cloud-based) may then help in having many different people work on one text simultaneously. On the other hand, those systems also offer positive solutions for long term cooperation with reliable data bases growing over time –a perfect support for efficient macro knowledge work with benefits for both sides. In interpreting, so far no similarly beneficial technical development can be reported, at least not to my knowledge. If there is something I have missed out on, please let me know in the comments!


About the author:
Anja Rütten is a freelance conference interpreter for German (A), Spanish (B), English (C) and French (C) based in Düsseldorf, Germany. She has specialised in knowledge management since the mid-1990s.

Research topics in interpretation research | Ideen für Forschungsarbeiten in der Dolmetschwissenschaft

„Das wäre doch eine Superidee für eine Masterarbeit, oder gar ein Forschungsprojekt“, schießt es mir mitunter durch den Kopf. Aber man kann sich ja nicht um alles selbst kümmern … Und wenn ich dann Tage oder Wochen später nach einer Idee für eine Masterarbeit gefragt werde, fällt mir meist nichts ein. Deshalb werde ich fortan alle Ideen in diesem Blogbeitrag sammeln und lade Euch herzlich ein, es mir in den Kommentaren gleichzutun, und natürlich den Beitrag gerne an forschungswütige Studies weiterzuleiten. Hier also einige Fragestellungen, die ich persönlich interessant finde:

  • Notieren in der Luft: Als ich einmal in der Kabine kein Blatt Papier zur Hand hatte, habe ich, als mir der Redner seine Zahlen um die Ohren haute, diese unsichtbar in der Luft mitnotiert – das hat prima geholfen. Fragt sich also: Reicht schon die Schreibbewegung der Hand anstelle des graphischen Bildes, um die Zahl vor meinem inneren Auge zu evozieren bzw. mein Gedächtnis zu unterstützen? (Oder alles nur Einbildung?)
  • Passend dazu: Wie wichtig ist die Gestik für das Dolmetschen? Was bedeutet unterdrückte Gestik für die Dolmetschleistung? Ich finde es fast unmöglich, ohne Hände zu dolmetschen.
  • Kabinenzettel auswerten: Die Frage nach der effizientesten Konferenzvorbereitung ließe sich vielleicht auch vom Ende her betrachten. Was haben Dolmetscher im Laufe einer Sitzung notiert? In großen Konferenzen mit vielen Dolmetschern könnte man die Kabinenzettel aller Kollegen vergleichen und Gemeinsamkeiten/Unterschiede/Muster finden.
  • Sind Dolmetscher Supertasker/Multitasker? Es gibt ja Forschungsarbeiten, die darauf hinweisen, dass es echtes Multitasking nur sehr selten gibt.
  • Verlernen Dolmetscher Monotasking, so wie die so genannten Heavy Multimedia Users?

Ich bin gespannt auf weitere Vorschläge in den Kommentaren. Und übrigens schmökere ich auch gerne in spannenden Abschlussarbeiten, auch da freue ich mich über Empfehlungen!


Über die Autorin:
Anja Rütten ist freiberufliche Konferenzdolmetscherin für Deutsch (A), Spanisch (B), Englisch (C) und Französisch (C) in Düsseldorf. Sie widmet sich seit Mitte der 1990er dem Wissensmanagement.

+++ English version +++

„That would be a great subject to write a master’s thesis about, or to study in a research project“ – this thought sometimes crosses my mind, but then I cannot take care of each and every interesting subject I come across, and don’t seem to remember any of them when being asked for an interesting subject days or weeks later. So I decided to create this blog article in order to collect all the ideas that I find interesting for all those students who would like to write their thesis about a subject they know at least one person would be interested in. I invite all of you to do the same and post your ideas or recommend this article to those in need. Here are some of my ideas:

  • Taking notes in the air: The other day I was interpreting in the booth and I happened to have a pen, but no paper at hand. When the speaker started to throw numbers at me, I simply started to scribble them invisibly in the air – and this served perfectly well as an aide-memoire. So I wonder if the mere movement of my hand, rather than a graphical image, is enough to evoke the picture of the numbers before my inner eye and help my memory? (Or was that just my imagination?)
  • Related subject – gestures: How important are gestures when interpreting? (I find it almost impossible to interpret without moving my hands) What does suppressing gestures mean for interpreting performance?
  • Evaluation of booth notes: The question about efficient conference preparation could be analysed beginning from the end: What is it that interpreters have written down during the conference day (i.e. what was it they really needed)? In big conferences with many interpreters, the notes of all of them could be compared in order to identify similarities/differences/patterns.
  • Are interpreters supertaskers/multitaskers? Recent research suggests that real multitasking hardly ever happens.
  • Do interpreters lose their monotasking skills, just like so called heavy multimedia users?

Those are some of my ideas, I will be happy to hear about yours. And by the way, I have nothing against an interesting thesis as bedtime reading, so feel free to post your recommendations.


About the author:
Anja Rütten is a freelance conference interpreter for German (A), Spanish (B), English (C) and French (C) based in Düsseldorf, Germany. She has specialised in knowledge management since the mid-1990s. – a great replacement for Google Sheets | tolle Alternative zu Google Sheets

+++ for English see below +++

Mit der Terminologieverwaltung meiner Träume muss man alles können: Daten teilen, auf allen Geräten nutzen und online wie offline darauf zugreifen (wie mit Interpreters’ Help/Boothmate für Mac oder auch Google Sheets), möglichst unbedenklich Firmenterminologie und Hintergrundinfos des Kunden dort speichern (wie bei Interpreters’ Help), sortieren und filtern (wie in MS Access, MS Excel, Lookup, InterpretBank, Termbase und anderen), individuelle Voreinstellungen wie Abfragen und Standardwerte festlegen (wie in MS Access) und, ganz wichtig: den Terminologiebestand so durchsuchen, dass es kaum Aufmerksamkeit kostet, also blind tippend und ohne Maus, eine inkrementelle Suche, die sich nicht darum schert, ob ich “rinon” oder “riñón” eingebe, und mir so oder so sagt, dass das Ding auf Deutsch Niere heißt, möglichst in Form einer gut lesbaren Trefferliste (wie Interplex und InterpretBank es tun).

Airtable, eine gelungene Mischung aus Tabellenkalkulation und Datenbank, kommt der Sache ziemlich nah. Es ist sehr intuitiv in der Handhabung und sieht einfach gut aus. Das Sortieren und Filtern geht sehr leicht von der Hand, man kann jedem Datensatz Bilder, Dateianhänge und Links hinzufügen und unterschiedliche Abfragen (“Views”)  von Teilbeständen der Terminologie (etwa für einen bestimmten Kunden, ein Thema, eine bestimmte Veranstaltungsart oder eine Kombination aus allem) definieren und auch Standartwerte für bestimmte Felder festlegen, damit man z. B. den Kundennamen, die Konferenzbezeichnung und das Thema nicht jedesmal neu eingeben muss. Die Detailansicht, die aufpoppt, wenn man auf eine Zeile klickt, ist auch super.  Eigene Tabellen lassen sich in Nullkommanix per Drag & Drop einfügen oder importieren. Und im Übrigen gibt es eine Menge nützlicher Tastenkombinationen.

Teamglossare (oder was auch immer) können von verschiedenen Personen über die iPad-, iPhone- oder Android-(beta)-App oder die Browseroberflächer bearbeitet werden. Allerdings können bei Zugriff über den Browser die Daten nicht offline bearbeitet und später online synchronisiert werden. Das funktioniert nur über die mobile App. Die Daten werden bei der Übermittlung und Speicherung verschlüsselt.

Nur eine Sache vermisse ich bei Airtable schmerzlich, nämlich die oben beschriebene intuitive, akzent-ignorierende Suchfunktion, die ihre Fundstücke in einer Trefferliste präsentiert, statt mich von Suchergebnis zu Suchergebnis hüpfen zu lassen. Ansonsten aber eine wahrhaft schnuckeliges Datenbankanwendung, nicht nur für Terminologie!

Airtable ist kostenlos, solange jede Tabelle nicht mehr als 1500 Zeilen umfasst. Für bis zu 5000 Zeilen bezahlt man 12 $ monatlich und für bis zu 50 000 Zeilen 24 $.

Übrigens: Eine Übersicht von am Markt verfügbaren Terminologieverwaltungsprogrammen für Dolmetscher findet sich hier.


Über die Autorin:
Anja Rütten ist freiberufliche Konferenzdolmetscherin für Deutsch (A), Spanisch (B), Englisch (C) und Französisch (C) in Düsseldorf. Sie widmet sich seit Mitte der 1990er dem Wissensmanagement.

+++ English version +++

My perfect terminology database must be shareable, portable and accessible both on and off line (like Interpreters’ Help/Boothmate for Mac and also Google Sheets) but at the same time trustworthy to the point that companies feel comfortable having their terminology stored there (like Interpreters’ Help), sortable and filterable (like MS Access, MS Excel, Lookup, InterpretBank, Termbase and others), customisable with pre-defined views and default values (like in MS Access) and, very importantly, searchable in a way that requires almost no attention – meaning a mouse-free, incremental search function that does not care whether I type “rinon” or “riñón” and tells me that it is kidney in English either way (like Interplex and InterpretBank do), if possible in an easy-to-read hit list.

Airtable, a mix of spreadsheet and database, seems to get very close to it. It is very intuitive to handle and, even more so, it looks just nice and friendly. It has very comfortable sorting and filtering, you can add pictures, links and files, define different views of subsets of your data (like for a specific customer, particular subject area, type of conference or a combination thereof) and set default values so that, while working at a given conference, you don’t need to type the conference name, customer and subject area time and again when entering new terms. And the detailed view of each data set popping up at one click or tap is just lovely. You can import or drag and drop your tables in no time. And Airtable has loads of useful keyboard shortcuts, by the way.

Team glossaries (or anything else) can be worked on by several people and accessed via an iPad, iPhone and Android (beta) app or the browser-based interface, although, when using the browser interface, there is no way to edit your data offline and update the online version later. This works on the mobile apps only. Data being transferred back and forth as well as stored data are encrypted.

The one thing I miss most on Airtable is an intuitive, accent-ignoring search function as described above, which displays hit lists instead of jumping from one search hit to the next. But apart from that, Airtable is just great for data management, not only in terms of „terms“.

It is free of charge as long as your tables don’t have more than 1500 lines, costs 12 $ per month for up to 5000 lines per database and 24 $ for up to 50 000 lines per database.

If you need an overview of available terminology management tools for conference interpreters, click here.


About the author:
Anja Rütten is a freelance conference interpreter for German (A), Spanish (B), English (C) and French (C) based in Düsseldorf, Germany. She has specialised in knowledge management since the mid-1990s.


Dictation Software instead of Term Extraction? | Diktiersoftware als Termextraktion für Dolmetscher?

+++ for English see below +++

Als neulich mein Arzt bei unserem Beratungsgespräch munter seine Gedanken dem Computer diktierte, anstatt zu tippen, kam mir die Frage in den Sinn: „Warum mache ich das eigentlich nicht?“ Es folgte eine kurze Fachsimpelei zum Thema Diktierprogramme, und kaum zu Hause, musste ich das natürlich auch gleich ausprobieren. Das High-End-Produkt Dragon Naturally Speaking, von dem mein Arzt schwärmte, wollte ich mir dann aber doch nicht gleich gönnen.  Das muss doch auch mit Windows gehen und mit dem im Notebook eingebauten Raummikrofon, dachte ich mir (haha) … Eingerichtet war auch alles in Nullkommanix (unter Windows 10 Auf Start klicken, den Menüpunkt „Erleichterte Bedienung“ suchen, “ Windowsspracherkennung“ auswählen) und los ging’s. Beim ersten Start durchläuft man zunächst ein kurzes Lernprogramm, das die Stimme kennenlernt.

Und dann konnte es auch schon losgehen mit dem eingebauten Diktiergerät, zunächst testhalber in Microsoft Word. Von den ersten zwei Spracheingaben war ich auch noch einigermaßen beeindruckt, aber schon bei „Desoxyribonukleinsäure“ zerplatzten alle meine Träume. Hier meine ersten Diktierproben mit ein paar gängigen Ausdrücken aus dem Dolmetschalltag:

– 12345
– Automobilzulieferer
– Besserungszeremonien Kline sollte es auch viel wie Wohnen Nucleinsäuren für das (Desoxyribonukleinsäure)
– Beste Rock Siri Wohnung Klee ihnen sollte noch in Welle (Desoxyribonukleinsäure)
– Verlustvortrag
– Rechnungsabgrenzungsposten
– Vorrats Datenspeicherung
– Noch Händewellenlänge (Nockenwelle)
– Keilriemen
– Brennstoffzellen Fahrzeuge

Gar nicht schlecht. Aber so ganz das Spracherkennungswunder war das nun noch nicht. In meiner Phantasie hatte ich mich nämlich in der Dolmetschvorbereitung Texte und Präsentationen entspannt lesen und dabei alle Termini und Zusammenhänge, die ich im Nachgang recherchieren wollte, in eine hübsche Tabelle diktieren sehen.  Aber dazu musste dann wohl etwas „Richtiges“ her, wahrscheinlich zunächst einmal ein gescheites Mikrofon.

Also setzte ich mich dann doch mit der allseits gepriesenen Diktiersoftware Dragon Naturally Speaking auseinander, chattete mit dem Support und prüfte alle Optionen. Für 99 EUR unterstützt die Home-Edition nur die gewählte Sprache. Die Premium-Version für 169 EUR unterstützt die gewählte Sprache und auch Englisch. Ist die gewählte Sprache Englisch, gibt es nur Englisch. Möchte ich mit Deutsch, Spanisch, Englisch und womöglich noch meiner zweiten C-Sprache Französisch arbeiten, wird es also erstens kompliziert und zweitens teuer. Also verwarf ich das ganze Thema erst einmal, bis wenige Tage später in einem völlig anderen Zusammenhang unsere liebe Kollegin Fee Engemann erwähnte, dass sie mit Dragon arbeite. Da wurde ich natürlich hellhörig und habe es mir dann doch nicht nehmen lassen, sie für mich und Euch ein bisschen nach ihrer Erfahrung mit Spracherkennungssoftware auszuhorchen:

Fee Engemann im Interview am 19. Februar 2016

Wie ist die Qualität der Spracherkennung bei Dragon Naturally Speaking?

Erstaunlich gut. Das Programm lernt die Stimme und Sprechweise kennen und man kann ihm auch neue Wörter „beibringen“, oder es liest über sein „Lerncenter“ ganze Dateien aus. Man kann auch Wörter buchstabieren, wenn das System gar nichts mehr versteht.

Wozu benutzt Du Dragon?

Ich benutze es manchmal als OCR-Ersatz, wenn eine Übersetzungsvorlage nicht maschinenlesbar ist. Das hat den Vorteil, dass man gleich den Text einmal komplett gelesen hat.

In der Dolmetschvorbereitung diktiere ich meine Terminologie in eine Liste, die ich dann nachher durch die Begriffe in der anderen Sprache ergänze. Das funktioniert in Word und auch in Excel. Falls es Schwierigkeiten gibt, liegt das evtl. daran, dass sich die Kompatibilitätsmodule für ein bestimmtes Programm deaktiviert haben. Ein Besuch auf der Website des technischen Supports schafft hier Abhilfe. Für Zeilenumbrüche und viele andere Befehle gibt es entsprechende Sprachkommandos. Wenn man das Programm per Post bestellt und nicht als Download, ist sogar eine Übersicht mit den wichtigsten Befehlen dabei – so wie auch ein Headset, das für meine Zwecke völlig ausreichend ist. Die Hotline ist im Übrigen auch super.

Gibt es Nachteile?

Wenn ich einen Tag lang gedolmetscht habe, habe ich danach manchmal keine Lust mehr, mit meinem Computer auch noch zu sprechen. Dann arbeite ich auf herkömmliche Art.

Wenn man in unterschiedlichen Sprachen arbeitet, muss man für jede Sprache ein neues Profil anlegen und zwischen diesen Profilen wechseln. Je nach Sprachenvielfalt in der Kombination könnte das lästig werden.

Mein Fazit: Das hört sich alles wirklich sehr vielversprechend an. Das größte Problem für uns Dolmetscher scheint – ähnlich wie bei der Generierung von Audiodateien, also dem umgekehrten Weg – das Hin und Her zwischen den Sprachen zu sein. Wenn jemand von Euch dazu Tipps und Erfahrungen hat, freue ich mich sehr über Kommentare – vielleicht wird es ja doch noch was mit der Terminologieextraktion per Stimme!

Über die Autorin:
Anja Rütten ist freiberufliche Konferenzdolmetscherin für Deutsch (A), Spanisch (B), Englisch (C) und Französisch (C) in Düsseldorf. Sie widmet sich seit Mitte der 1990er dem Wissensmanagement.

+++ English version +++

The other day, when I was talking to my GP and saw him dictate his thoughts to his computer instead of typing them in, I suddenly wondered why I was not using such a tool myself when preparing for an interpreting assignment? So I asked him about the system and, back home, went to try it myself straight away. Although what I was planning to do was not to buy the high-end dictation program Dragon Naturally Speaking I had been recommended, but instead to go for the built-in Windows speech recognition function and the equally built-in microphone of my laptop computer (bad idea) … The speech recognition module under Windows 10 was activated in no time (got to the Start menu, select „Ease of Access > Speech Recognition„) and off I went.

When the voice recognition function is first started, it takes you through a short learning routine in order to familiarise itself with your voice. After that, my Windows built-in dictation device was ready. For a start, I tried it in Microsoft Word. I found the first results rather impressive, but when it came to „Desoxyribonukleinsäure“ (deoxyribonucleic acid), I was completely disillusioned. See for yourselves the results of my first voice recognition test with some of the usual expressions from the daily life of any conference interpreter:

– 12345
– Automobilzulieferer
– Besserungszeremonien Kline sollte es auch viel wie Wohnen Nucleinsäuren für das (Desoxyribonukleinsäure)
– Beste Rock Siri Wohnung Klee ihnen sollte noch in Welle (Desoxyribonukleinsäure)
– Verlustvortrag
– Rechnungsabgrenzungsposten
– Vorrats Datenspeicherung
– Noch Händewellenlänge (Nockenwelle)
– Keilriemen
– Brennstoffzellen Fahrzeuge

Not bad for a start – but not quite the miracle of voice recognition I would need in order to live this dream of dictating terminology into a list on my computer while reading documents to prepare for an interpreting assignment. Something decent was what I needed, probably a decent microphone, for a start.

So I enquired about the famous dictation software Dragon Naturally Speaking, chatted with one of the support people and checked the options. For 99 EUR, Dragon’s Home Edition only supports one language. The Premium Edition for 169 EUR supports one selected language plus English (If you choose English when buying the software, it is English-only.)  If I want German, Spanish, English and possibly also my second C-language, French, it gets both complicated and expensive. So I discarded the whole idea until, only a few days later, our dear colleague Fee Engemann happened to mention to me – in a completely different context – that she actually worked with Dragon! I was all ears and spontaneously asked her if she would like to share some of her experience with us in an interview. Luckily, she accepted!

Interview with Fee Engemann February 19th, 2016

What is the voice recognition quality of Dragon Naturally Speaking like?

Surprisingly good. The program familiarises itself with your voice and speech patterns, and you can also „teach“ it new words, or let it read loads of new words from entire files. You can also spell words in case the system does not understand you at all.

What do you use Dragon for?

I use it as an OCR substitute when I get a text to translate which is not machine-readable. The big advantage is that once you have done that, you know the entire text.

When preparing for an interpreting assignment, I dictate my terminology into a list and add the equivalent terms in the other language once I have finished reading the texts. That works in MS-Word and MS-Excel. If there are problems, this may be due to the compatibility module for a certain program being deactivated. The technical support website can help in this case. There are special commands for line breaks and the like. And if you order the software on a CD (instead of simply downloading it), your parcel will not only include a list with the most important commands, but also a headset, which is absolutely sufficient for my purpose. And by the way … the hotline is great, too.

Are there any downsides?

After a whole day of interpreting, I sometimes don’t feel like talking to my computer. In this case, I simply work the traditional way.

When working with several languages, you must create one profile per language and switch between them when switching languages. This may be quite cumbersome if you work with many different languages.

My personal conclusion is that this all sounds very promising. As always, our problem as conference interpreters with these technologies (just like when creating multilingual audio files, i.e. the other way around) seems to be the constant changing back and forth between languages. If any of my readers has experience or good advice to share, I will be happy to read about it in the comments – maybe voice-based term extraction is not that far away after all!


About the author:
Anja Rütten is a freelance conference interpreter for German (A), Spanish (B), English (C) and French (C) based in Düsseldorf, Germany. She has specialised in knowledge management since the mid-1990s.