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SDL Trados training – total crock or benefit? September 23, 2008

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Tools, Translation Sites.

If you are an ATA member you probably got an e-mail from SDL Trados today pushing its SDL Trados training at the ATA Conference in Orlando. Having conducted several independent (i.e., non-Trados-funded) training sessions for NOTA and ATA members and having taught the grad students at Kent State how to use WinAlign and Trados Workbench for several years, I certainly have a strong opinion on this. I am curious to hear what others think about these courses as well as “the SDL Trados Certification Program.”

I personally think it’s a total crock. You buy the software for an exorbitant price and then have to shell out $195 for the “Getting Started course” and $295 for the “Intermediate course.” Or you can book all 3 courses for the low, low price of $395! If you ask me, they should be training us how to use the software for free – or creating software that is intuitive and doesn’t require additional training in order to be proficient. I only know one person who is “SDL certified” – and she attended NOTA’s first training session before signing up for the first wave of SDL certification. She feels she benefited from it, so I didn’t have the heart to tell her what I truly thought about it. Until now…


1. Ryan Ginstrom - September 24, 2008

“…or creating software that is intuitive and doesn’t require additional training in order to be proficient.”

I think that hits the nail on the head. Selling hard-to-use software, then training to learn to use it, seems like a wee conflict of interest, doesn’t it? 🙂

2. Maxim - September 24, 2008

Why “have to shell out”? I think most translators don’t need such training: the Trados documentation is well-written, and there are numerous discussion groups where one can ask for help.

Well, if a person doesn’t want to read the manual and prefers to pay to be taught simple things… it’s his own choice.

3. jillsommer - September 24, 2008

Hi Maxim – The problem with Trados is that it can sometimes be very complicated. Some translators I know simply aren’t intuitive enough to read the manual and become proficient. I myself didn’t use Trados for many years because it was too frustrating. Once someone showed me how to use it effectively I really loved it and learned all I could about it.

There are error messages for all kinds of things that aren’t covered in the manual. Just yesterday there were two discussions on the ATA German Language Division listserv about a “run time error” and Trados screwing up the formatting and having to reformat the document by hand afterward. Also, we shouldn’t have to run to a discussion group to ask for help – the product should be easier to use and not necessitate having to ask for help.

As for “have to shell out” – Trados is quite expensive (the 2007 Freelance version is $995 according to the Web site) and then agencies turn around and expect us to offer them discounts when we use it. Sure, it can make us faster and more accurate if we have a good memory, but if the memory isn’t all that good or there are lots of 60 or 70 percent matches the translation process can be very frustrating for not much money in the long run. I am lucky and only work with a couple agencies who insist on my using it. I cherish those who don’t.

4. jillsommer - September 24, 2008

And Riccardo at About Translation made some good points on his blog back in August about “matches” that aren’t matches at all.

See http://aboutranslation.blogspot.com/2008/08/yet-again-trados-fuzzy-match-woes.html and http://aboutranslation.blogspot.com/2008/08/yet-again-trados-fuzzy-match-woes-part.html.

5. Maxim - September 24, 2008

>we shouldn’t have to run to a discussion group to ask for help – the product should be easier to use

Microsoft Office is _very_ complicated. An average user uses not more than 15% of all its features. However, I don’t know anyone who has passed a Microsoft Word Training Course. Probably SDL is just somewhat more market-aggressive and tries to sell us something we don’t really need?

>then agencies turn around and expect us to offer them discounts when we use it.

Well, they don’t require that you complete the training course. I agree the software is expensive, but there are ways to get a discount. On the Proz.com Conference in Kharkiv they will be offering Trados Freelance for 255 Euros.

>there are lots of 60 or 70 percent matches

Oh, these are not really matches. Everything less than 75% should be paid as new words.

6. MT - September 24, 2008

I actually took a Trados training seminar in the early 1990s because the Internet hadn’t taken off just yet and you couldn’t get information online as easily. It was helpful at the time because I was inexperienced.

Now, however, I go out of my way to dissuade translators from giving ANY money to SDL/Trados if they can possibly avoid it. Trados is a buggy product, way too expensive for a freelancer (and 255 euros is still $375!!!), and if you think about it Trados is used mainly to shift money from the freelancer’s pocket to an agency’s pocket (or to the client’s pocket). A lot of agencies don’t pass on TM discounts to their end clients, incidentally. So it’s a huge suck on cash flow.

MOREOVER, Trados does not work properly with Office 2007 because Visual Basic is way too sluggish, so using Trados or other VB-based CAT tools isn’t really feasible with Office 2007.

I recommend that all new translators pick up a much-cheaper competitor of Trados that support the TMX and Trados formats (e.g. WordFast, MetaTexis, etc.), and get training informally from another translator or mentor–or just by using the documentation to figure things out on their own.

Whatever they do, beginning translators should not fork out money for Trados training sessions.

7. Mago - September 24, 2008

What Ryan said.

I chose Atril’s Déjà Vu some 6 years ago because of its clear superiority over what was then Trados, based on the testimony of many users. It’s still working well for me, and I haven’t had to make any additional investment since. All evidence (e.g. Riccardo’s comments referenced by Jill) shows that Déjà Vu is still superior.

What’s more, from what I’ve read, in the meantime other tools have come on the market that share some of Déjà Vu’s virtues and lack some of SDL-Trados’s most egregious shortcomings.

So why spend so much to train when other programs can do it better anyway?

8. jillsommer - September 24, 2008

Maxim – I just reread the original post and see what you mean by “have to shell out.” Poor choice of words on my part. I didn’t mean it as “it is obligatory to pay.” I meant that in order to use it effectively one would have to pay a lot of money for training.

And I agree with MT, although I don’t know about agencies not passing the discounts on to their clients. I think SDL markets their products so that clients ask for the discounts and don’t understand all the background behind it. I know plenty of translators who refuse to give discounts – period. I don’t give a discount for anything under 85%. I was just using the 60 to 70% match point as an example, because I have heard from agencies that use graduated rates of 5 to 6 levels and a 60-70% match is included in that.

9. RamaLama - September 24, 2008

I took a Trados training seminar sometime in the 90s and found it both helpful and irritating. It was helpful because the training materials they gave us were much more helpful than the materials that came with the software. Which was also irritating. Grrr. That’s like saying, “for just a few hundred dollars extra, we’ll give you a user manual that is actually helpful.”

It was also irritating because even though it took practically all day there were several fairly basic things they didn’t get to, which they wanted us to sign up (and pay for and spend a day attending) for a second course for. And as a beginning translator, time and money were two things that were in short supply.

It was also irritating because they would only let us practice with one language (Italian? I don’t remember now). And I’m not the dumbest person, but I was having a hard time focusing on how what I was looking at in Italian was going to help me translate German into English. That seems like a dumb complaint, but honestly if I pay that much for a training seminar (which only had 3 or 4 people there), I expect the course to be tailored slightly more to my needs.

10. jillsommer - September 24, 2008

Thanks for sharing, RamaLama (by the way your e-mail address made my day! I needed a good chuckle.). You are right. There is no reason they couldn’t tailor their training for your language pair. When we did our training we had the students/translators translate from English into their chosen language pair, even if they normally translated into English. It was easier for us to prepare texts and for them to translate using their language keyboards.

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