Other tools

Using Microsoft Excel as a glossary-conversion tool

As translators, we get glossaries in all sorts of formats: XML, HTML, tab-delimited text, comma-separated value (CSV), …

A good example is the Microsoft terminology glossary: a monstrous CSV file of terminology used for localizing Microsoft user interafaces.

We often need to convert these glossaries into other formats, especially to get them into a terminology management program. Microsoft Excel is actually a great tool for doing this. It can open all the formats listed above, and more. Using Felix, you could then import the glossary directly, or if you’re using some other tool, you could save the glossary in many popular formats, such as tab-delimited text or csv; chances are your terminology manager will support one of them.

Another cool trick with Excel is loading glossaries from the Internet. When Excel is installed, the context menu in Internet Explorer gets an “Export to Microsoft Excel” command; so when you have a glossary in a table on a website, you can simply right click on it, export it to Excel, and from there put it into any of a number of formats.

Export to Microsoft Excel menu selection

Of course, there are limitations to using Excel as an intermediary for glossary conversion. The main one is when terminology managers use special formats, which Excel can’t interpret in a meaningful way. In this case, you can often get around it by using one of the generic “save as” file options of your terminology manager.

translation memory

Productivity gains from translation memory

There’s no doubt that under the right circumstances, translation memory can give you huge productivity gains. To give one example, I’ve had many users report that with the right text, a Felix license can pay for itself in a day or two.

So what is the “right” kind of text? To get the greatest productivity gain from translation memory, the text should:

  1. Be repetitive, and
  2. Have sentences that are relatively independent of context


The text should be repetitive so that you can recycle lots of translated segments — this is the big productivity win of translation memory. An example would be translating a product manual, then the manual for a new model of the same product the next year, with very little of the text changed.

Independent of context

If the same word or sentence needs to be translated differently in in Englisdifferent contexts, it’s going to slow you down. For example, the Japanese word マイコン (maikon) can be variously translated as “microcontroller,” “microprocessor,” or “microcomputer” in English. The need to determine which translation to use each time is more time consuming than when the term or sentence can generally take the same translation. And taking more time to complete the translation means lower productivity.

What if the text isn’t repetitive?

If the text isn’t repetitive or is highly context dependent, then you can still benefit from translation memory. Translation memory can improve consistency through terminology and concordance features. It can also help you avoid missing whole phrases or sentences in your translation, because you’re generally overwriting the original, and can refer to it as you do your translation.

But in my experience, translation memory isn’t going to help you translate much faster in this case. As the developer of a CAT tool, you might think it would behoove me to claim otherwise. But not only would that not be true, as a translator I believe it’s actually counterproductive. Some unscrupulous vendors of CAT tools make unrealistic claims of improved productivity (and hence reduced costs) to translation purchasers, who then turn around and place unrealistic expectations on us translators.

Avoid getting burned

I’ve heard a few stories of translators getting started with TM, providing a steep discount on their first job, and later finding that the tool didn’t help their productivity at all, or actually slowed them down. So they were now out the $1,000 or more that they paid for the tool, as well as the huge discount they provided to the client.

So while translation memory can give tremendous productivity benefits, it’s important to be realistic about how much they can do. If you’re new to translation memory or are considering moving to a new tool, I highly recommend trying out the trial version of your tool of choice and verifying for yourself just what kinds of gains TM can give you.

Other tools

Word tip: copying text formatting

Often when working with MS Word, you’ll need to apply some common text formatting in several parts of your document. This can be a hassle if you’ve got to select a bunch of different terms, then click on bold, italic, etc. each time.

You can make this easier by “cloning” the formatting for a given segment of text. Just select the text in question, and press Ctrl+D. The Word Font dialog box appears:

Word Font dialog box

Click OK to dismiss the dialog. Now select some other text, and press the F4 key — the selected text is given the same formatting. You can continue to do this, selecting more text and pressing F4.

You can also do this with the Paragraph dialog box (Alt + O, P) and the other dialogs that affect appearance.


New tutorial added (PowerPoint)

With Felix, you can translate documents directly from Microsoft® PowerPoint. Many users have told me that this is their favorite feature of Felix.

I’ve now added a quick-start tutorial for using Felix from PowerPoint.

Click here to see the tutorial.

This tutorial should get you up and running translating documents from PowerPoint. I recommend it if you’re new to Felix, or haven’t tried it from PowerPoint yet.


New Felix resource added: TM and glossary of legal terms (J-E)

I’ve converted the “Standard Bilingual Dictionary” into a Felix translation memory (TM) and glossary, and posted them to the Felix website:

Felix TM and glossary of Japanese-English legal terms

These should be of use to anyone who has to translate Japanese laws into English.

About the Standard Bilingual Dictionary

The Standard Bilingual Dictionary is a glossary of official translations of terms from Japanese law. It’s part of a major effort by the Japanese government to translate its laws into English.