How OmegaT Has Changed My Life As a Translator

If you were a carpenter, wouldn’t you want to use a hammer to drive in the nails, instead of some random rock that you found lying on the ground?


My interest in translation started out when I was a teenager, hanging around in the family business. We would have these big machines shipped in from Japan for the production of goods, but the manuals were only in Japanese and English but not in our native language. That was a real problem when the machines would have to be repaired, upgraded or reconfigured, but I had an interest in technology and the machines, so I would dive into the manuals and translate into our native language, Danish. This turned out to be a great way to save money instead of flying in a mechanic from Japan to Europe, and I realized that there were money to be made doing translations.

Later I became interested in open source software, which has always been translated into multiple languages due to the nature of this type of software. Everybody is allowed to modify what they want, and that includes the language version. I spent a lot of time translating the Ubuntu operating system and the applications included. This was done via a homepage, and I believe it’s called cloud translation, or crowd translation. Many different people translating the same operating system or application.

When I was translating the manuals from Japan, I was working with a “dead” source text, i.e. pieces of paper with printed text. It was even before we started using a word processor on a computer.

When I later began translating other things, for example something from the Internet, I would use a word processor on a PC, with two files open next to each other, the source file to the left, and the target file to the right. If there was a word that I didn’t know too well I would scroll up to the top of the target document to find it again, and scroll back down. If there were similar sentences throughout the document, I would do the same, scroll up and down until my fingers were tired.

Translating unfamiliar words in the cloud or crowd environment would have me changing web pages again and again to look up the words again on the Internet.

As I began looking at translation as a way to make money, I was already on an open source platform, and I realized that of course there had to be open source software tools for translators too, without knowing what they would look like.

This is were the OmegaT program showed up in my search results – and what a relief. OmegaT is a CAT tool (Computer-Assisted Translation), that helps you remember what translations you made previously, but this was just the beginning, as it turns out that there are many CAT tools out there, both free versions and versions that you’ll have to pay for. A CAT tool helps me:

  • Remember how I translated a particular word or sentence previously
  • Have fast access to machine translations inside the program
  • Work faster
  • Be more consistent throughout the document
  • Build an asset of translation memories over time

OmegaT opened my eyes to the world of CAT tools, although I still use OmegaT today for translation jobs.

Now the scrolling up and down through documents is limited. I’m more consisted throughout a target document, and I’m building my own translation memory and terminologies for future use. It basically means that I’m more efficient when translating, and working is more fun now as things flow in a smoother way. On top of that I’m always excited when new CAT tool features are announced, that could help me make more money.

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