Termsoup (online translation tool for literary/book translators)


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Termsoup has been around since 2016, and its market so far has been Asia, with a predominant focus on Taiwan. That's important because of the kind of translators the tool is built for.

In the last three years, Taiwan has seen about 40,000 new book titles published annually, with about a quarter of those, 10,000 books a year, translated out of other languages into Chinese (source). Needless to say that's significant, and it's also significant that this is a market predominantly handled by the publishers themselves who contract with translators and typically do not ask those translators to use any kind of technology. (Compare this with translation agencies who generally do ask translators to use some kind of translation environment, in the case of Taiwan typically Trados Studio.)

Joanne was among those book translators, in her case non-fiction, looking for a solution to make her work easier. Since tools like Trados and memoQ felt like overkill, and MS Word was definitely not the ideal translation environment, she asked her partner Vincent to help her code a new tool. This collaboration led to Termsoup, a very minimalistic browser- and cloud-based translation environment tool. If you ask me it's a bit too minimalistic, but I also work in technical translation for different kinds of output.

The name of the tool reveals that the emphasis is not on translation memory or machine translation but on terminology. You can access third-party terminology and add terminology as you translate -- not automatically, mind you, but by highlighting a source term or phrase. I prefer that terminology be displayed automatically -- as in other translation environments -- and they promised to look into it. I also suggested a less mouse-heavy approach (anytime you have to move your fingers from the keyboard to your pointing device, you lose time and it's a break in your workflow), which also was well received.

So what then does the tool do? Termsoup...

— uses MateCat's filters to convert a very large range of file formats behind the scene into XLIFF, which is then presented in a bilingual format (either vertical or horizontal) and which will be re-exported back into the original file format once the translation is done.
does not slavishly carry out segmentation on a sentence level (as you can see in the image below).
— automatically accesses third-party, language-specific dictionaries and other resources that display results if you select a word or a phrase (which can then be entered into your own preferred glossary).
— allows you to connect to an MT engine (right now Google Translate through Termsoup's own API or "application programming interface"), which is paid as part of the monthly fee for the tool.
— hosts its data on Amazon's AWS servers in Japan (and allows you to save backups to your Google Drive if you choose to).
allows several users to work on a text simultaneously.

You can see is what it looks like in any of the supported browsers (Chrome, Firefox, Safari) in the attachment.

You can see the sparse interface with its focus on the text and the term search on the right, activated by the highlighting of a term in the source column.

According to Joanne and Vince, the by far biggest user request is to relax segmentation even more so the text is shown strictly in paragraphs (but, if possible, still saved as traditional sentence-based translation units in the TM). The plan is to do just that in the near future.

Here's what I find so interesting about this tool: for not being on most translators' radar, Termsoup is a remarkably successful tool with its approximately 500 paid users who have translated about 300 books within its environment. It caters to a specific kind of user group -- translators of long, often narrative texts -- in a very different market from the traditional model of translation buyer → agency → translator with a relatively established technology infrastructure. Termsoup is widely taught in translation classes in Taiwan and Hong Kong (side-by-side with SDL Trados), often due to students requesting its inclusion in the curriculum.

I think we (maybe I should say: I) tend to have a really good idea of how things should be and how the industry works, but this is one of those cases where once again we (I) discover how diverse the world of translation is and how much room there is for great variances in the technological solutions needed for it.

Joanne and Vincent are planning to market Termsoup beyond the Asian market (which, by the way, virtually excludes China due to payment problems between China and Taiwan) and will add customer service resources in the time zones that would then be needed.

— Jost Zetzsche, The 307th Tool Box Journal
« Last Edit: 07 Jan, 2020, 11:01:32 by spiros »


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