I was at a loose end on Sunday so I decided to investigate the MemoQ translation memory program (CAT tool). I didn’t get very far, so despite the fact that I attended a Webinar (bizarre word) today at ProZ, the following remarks may not be well-informed. The program looks very good, I must say.

My situation: I’ve been a happy user of STAR Transit since 1998, even though I’m a legal translator, and I’ve often heard other legal translators say TM is no use to them. I like it for terminology (all the terms I’ve recorded are shown highlighted on screen), for quality control (automatic checking of numbers and, if I want, of term consistency), and sometimes for its usual purpose: if I get two almost identical contracts at the same time, it’s much easier to process them this way, because every single deviation of one from the other is shown in colour. I never supply clients with a TM (except for just one project, for which I had to use Trados Workbench but fortunately was able to import it into Transit).

Many buyers of these programs are translation companies or translation managers in companies, who use it to coordinate the work of many translators. At the moment Kilgray, the developers of MemoQ, are obviously trying to build up market share, so there are special offers around and lots of help (they may be just as helpful in future – I’m probably just suspicious, as usual). There was some emphasis on their server version today that wasn’t relevant to me. I didn’t listen very hard either. I think I missed something about using the Server for working from your laptop when you’re away.

Although I intend to stick with Transit, I have long thought it would be a good idea to have a comparison and to know what would happen if STAR stopped selling it – I suppose they won’t, but they don’t always seem to make it as easy to buy and use as one would hope. In addition, their free version, Satellite, is unpopular with translators – in fact, handling Transit projects is one of MemoQ’s selling lines. I never got round to investigating Déjà Vu, but that was very much aimed at freelances. Anyway, you can download a full version of MemoQ and try it out for 45 days, I think.

I was disappointed to read recently that, hardly had I learnt to pronounce MemoQ memmock, stress on first syllable, before attenders of a conference in Budapest persuaded Kilgray to change the pronunciation to memmockcue (stress on first syllable).


1. It seems easy to understand (although it’s easier for those who already know a TM system). The Getting Started Guide is short (about 38 pages, half of them relating to the Server) but there’s more in the help.

2. Projects are stripped of their format (Word, PPT, HTML etc.) and exported back to it at the end.

3. I haven’t yet worked out what to do about spaces. I have spaces showing in Word and Transit. Here, it seems the program inserts a space after each full stop, but if you already have one, you end up with two. There’s probably a way around this.

4. Bold and italic can be seen as such. Other format features (footnotes, for example) appear as tags – numbers in curly brackets – in the source text, and I gather they have to be copied over. Didn’t see this. I’m used to seeing tags in Transit (but Transit has views without tags too).

5. Segmentation was good (so was alignment).
But how do you add segmentation rules? Apparently you use some regex characters – I haven’t tried it.
(When I import a text into Transit, I am asked to identify abbreviations. GmbH I would not mention, because if it has a full stop after it, that’s always the end of a sentence, so it can be segmented, whereas in running text it has no full stop. But Art., Rdnr., ff. and so on could be added to the rules).

6. We were told that you can even export bilingual documents. As far as I can tell, this means you export a document to MS Word in the typical Trados style, which is not interesting. I may have overlooked another possibility.

7. I imported, slightly processed and exported an XML file, to make sure everything worked. I was impressed to see not only the DE and EN columns, but also another window showing the XML text with tags, just as you would see it in an html program. What I didn’t notice until the Webinar was that this text was a real-time preview – it changed into English as I processed it. The window showing the original format of various text types is obviously something you get with other programs now, but the real-time preview probably not (although I must say, just seeing the German XML in its original format is the most important thing for me).

8. I was most interested in the subsegmentation search in the concordance. I didn’t create a big TM, so I didn’t have a very detailed impression of it, but I saw how phrases can be marked automatically and you can look them up in the concordance if you want. This is something I’d like to do with contracts – scarcely ever are whole segments identical, but phrases often are. It’s been pointed out to me that I can do something similar if I reduce the percentage by which the fuzzy index has to match the new text down to 20% or 10%. I will try that out. Transit NXT also apparently can be set to automatically search through the concordance in this way if no fuzzy-match sentences appear.

9. MemoQ has not only subsegment search, but also fragment search. I did not understand that till the Webinar: it means that a complete segment, such as the heading ‘Gründe’ (‘Grounds’) – however many words in length – is treated rather like terminology and a translation is offered when it crops up as part of a later sentence.

10. One of the nice things about Transit is that instead of keeping one or more TMs, you keep sets of files. A pair of files ending in DEU and ENG are available to be used in the same way as a memory. This means that I might have a folder labelled Contracts, full of pairs of files, and another folder labelled Websites, and so on, but I can mix and match the folders and use as many or as few as I want. With MemoQ, you can have as many TMs as you like (and as many term bases) as far as I can see, but when you create a project you have to decide which TM it is to feed into, whereas in Transit you don’t need to make a decision. I also think a TM can take up more room on the drive, but I’m not sure about that.

11. I am used to the appearance of Transit. But I’m sure I could get used to MemoQ. One thing I find odd is that in Transit, parts of a segment that don’t match the fuzzy match (TM example) are coloured, whereas in MemoQ, it’s the matching subsegments and fragments that are coloured. I am used to seeing the new marked, but then I don’t know how Transit NXT handles that (I plan to try it out shortly) – obviously it must have some way of marking concordance subsegment matches too, and that needs to fit in without conflicting with its other uses of colour/highlighting.
Here’s an example from the Webinar:
Old sentence: Mit Bildschirm-Regler MBI und Beleuchtungs-something or other
New sentence: Mit Bildschirm-Regler MBI, ohne Beleuchtungs-something or other

I would expect the new word ohne to be emphasized, whereas MemoQ emphasizes the compound nouns, I seem to remember.

12. When numbers in source and target segments don’t match, a red exclamation mark appears in a small column to the right. In Transit, checking numbers is a separate operation at the end. I quite like the immediate indication. Numbers often don’t match, for instance where German tends to use figures over 20 or over 12, and English tends to use words up to ninety-nine.

13. Obviously there are lots of general settings, which I haven’t tried out yet. I found that every time I started a project, I had to select the source and target languages from a scroll-down list. There is probably a way to avoid that if you always use the same language pair.

14. (Added later) The terminology module in Transit – Termstar – is more complex than the MemoQ one. As far as I can tell, the latter permits a number of equivalents and has separate tabe for usage, grammar and definition. But I haven’t really inspected it yet. I presume I could easily import CSV-delimited files with EN and DE terms and could place all my miscellaneous notes in the Definition field – I sometimes save discussions about the translation of legal terms, which can be tricky.

15. It was a good idea to have a webinar. A big problem with these programs is that they tend to be very complex and if you attend a seminar, you may find the trainer doesn’t know much about translation but is more interested in software development. So the more opportunities to hear a different speaker, the better.

I think that’s all I have to say for the time being. I need to try out Transit NXT, which involves a lot of learning, I’m sure, and see if different fuzzy index match percentages help me use my old contract translations.

LATER NOTE: ProZ Webinar for MemoQ here (not live, of course).

E-LEARNING (free) for Transit NXT here – I’ll probably write up Transit NXT eventually, as I’m about to try it out.

Palantyping and Stenography

I’ve mentioned Stenography before. Today Jack Schofield shows there is also Palantyping, in answer to this question:

I attended a gathering in Richmond Theatre, at which the then mayor and members of the Greater London Authority were available for public questioning. It was very impressive that their words almost immediately appeared on a screen courtesy of a voice recognition system. How is it done?