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Trados ad = tempest in a teapot November 25, 2009

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in ATA, Business practices, Random musings.

Tempest in a teapot (in American English) or storm in a teacup (in British English) is an idiom meaning a small event that has been exaggerated out of proportion.

One of my friends forwarded me the following ad last night with the comment “Marian’s making the rest of us look bad. 😉 Would love to know how she pulled that off!” I read the ad, but did not give it much mind. Little did I know it would blow up overnight as I slept.

34,501 words. 10 hours. One translator.
Sound impossible?

“I just completed a 34,501 word project in 10 hours thanks to AutoSuggest, Context Match and the other nifty time-saving features within SDL Trados Studio 2009 SP1. That’s without having much of anything in the pre-existing TM!”
Marian Greenfield, Translator and Trainer

I tweeted that I wondered how she managed to pull it off and went to bed. I woke up this morning to find that the ad has generated a lively discussion on Twitter and on ProZ.com.

I know Marian personally and know that she is an extremely capable and talented translator. She is also very generous with her time and advice, presenting on growing your business and earning a six-figure salary at recent ATA conferences. I never doubted for a minute that she achieved this feat and was proud of her accomplishment, as I’m sure she was. Trados cites her as being a translator and trainer, but everyone in the industry knows that she is also a former ATA President (and did a fine job).

One comment in the ProZ.com discussion really gave me pause. The author took offense that an ATA executive or former ATA president was using their clout to advertise for a translation environment tool. I can understand taking pause and wondering if she was compensated. However, Paul Filkin, the SDL Trados representative, responded to this by saying “It is comments like this that I find extremely insulting and completely unwarranted. I can assure you that this translator received no compensation whatsoever for providing this quote.” It seems as if people are making assumptions and jumping to conclusions without talking to those involved.

I don’t know about you all, but I have better things to do with my day today than get all up in arms about a person who volunteered several years of their time to serve on the ATA Board and travel extensively for two years as President of ATA – for no compensation whatsoever.

Everyone talks about the ATA Board as if it is “us against them.” That isn’t the case. Everyone on the ATA Board is just like you and me – and no one gets compensated for taking time out of their undoubtedly busy days to respond to a tempest in a teapot like this one or just to make decisions for the good of the members. ATA Board members are all volunteers and could be you in a few years!

Sure, it was tacky of SDL Trados to advertise using a claim that most translators could never dream of achieving. There isn’t a whole lot of repetition in most of the texts I translate (but I do enjoy it when there is!). Marian, on the other hand, translates financial documents, and the file in question was an Excel file with lots of repetition throughout the text. However, we translators should investigate more instead of getting all hot under the collar and jumping on the outrage bandwagon. I for one am glad I found the ProZ.com discussion and read Paul’s explanations. Everyone should just simmer down and enjoy the long holiday weekend!



1. Terena - November 25, 2009

Yes, no one should ever jump Marian’s back. When she was president she also did a great deal to keep relations between the ALC and the ATA running smoothly. She can endorse whatever she wants for all I care! (Doesn’t mean I have to buy it!)

2. ebodeux - November 25, 2009

Mmmmm…I think people have too much time on their hands (time better spent marketing their services and earning more money?). 😉


3. Bernie Bierman - November 25, 2009

Ach! Mein Hertz schwimt in Blut! I see, Terena, that because Ms. Greenfield was such a “good” (ATA) President, she is beyond criticism. Oh, woman, give me a break. Marian Greenfield is among other things a highly ambitious woman who has shamelessly promoted herself for many years. Her volunteerism is not exactly constituted of 100% pure altruism. And that is an undeniable and verifiable FACT. However, there is nothing inherently wrong in promoting oneself and one’s business agenda. After all, all is fair in love, war and translation. What I personally find objectionable to Ms. Greenfield’s statement made on behalf of SDL Trados (for whom she acts – ostensibly for a consideration – as a trainer and hence spokeswoman) is that she was capable of TRANSLATING and actually TRANSLATED ca. 34,500 words, when in fact she did nothing of the sort as clearly attested to by her nominal boss, Paul Filkin of SDL Trados. Her statement is clearly deceptive, false and phony and was deliberately made to promote herself and her patron. As to her ever-continuing connection to and close involvement with the ATA, that is another and separate issue. With respect to “Ebodeux” statement, and speaking solely for myself, I don’t want and have no desire to spend my time marketing my services and earning more money. I did that for many years and reaped some handsome material rewards, a mere half of which I hope my colleagues can attain. Besides that, I like watching Mr. Greenfield run like a scared rabbit from any and all criticism, mild or pointed, although I have noted that she can dish it out like a mountain lion with rabies.

4. Kevin Lossner - November 25, 2009

If you read the ProZ thread you’ll find that users of other software find the numbers quite credible based on features found in other tools. Depending on the file structure I could see doing something similar with DVX or MemoQ, though regardless of the tool I might be concerned about proper checking. It’s a case of close your eyes, say a prayer and trust the software I guess.

I think the real issue underlying all this is the unrepentant arrogance and lying tactics of SDL’s marketing crew. This claim just looks so over the top to most people that it has ripped the lid of a long-simmering pot of resentment. And the arrogance of the SDL rep, Paul Filkin (who apparently never learned proper capitalization), in commenting “I would also expect a Professional to look at the software and not the advertising before making a decision” is rather amazing. Last time I checked there were no fully working demos available for capitalized Professionals to base their decisions on, just a lot of hot air with ROI calculators making irrelevant comparisons, etc.

It’s also amusing that Mr. Filkin apparently expects the ProZ thread to be closed. It may happen yet, given that other threads unfavorable to SDL are said to have disappeared into the sea off Argentina.

Paul Filkin - November 26, 2009

I think I would like to just add my personal view to this because this seems more of a dig at me than anything else.

[i]And the arrogance of the SDL rep, Paul Filkin (who apparently never learned proper capitalization), in commenting “I would also expect a Professional to look at the software and not the advertising before making a decision” is rather amazing.[/i]

I really fail to see my arrogance in this. This statement is about Professionals purchasing a product on the face value of an advert. After all, this is what all the fuss is about. What Professional would do this? Sure the advert sparks interest, and debate, but a Professional Translator would surely try to find out as much as possible before laying out their hard earned capital on a new software application. There are webinars, testimonials from other users, road shows, opportunities to ask on ProZ and other forums, and an online demo that provides an opportunity to see at your own leisure how the software can be used. If this is not enough then simply don’t buy it.

On my grammar, I have never suggested I am an expert, but I do think I’m free to use a capital ‘P’ in this way. Perhaps when I am referring to you in future I will use lower case. After all, there are so many new ways to express yourself today I am amazed to see anyone correcting my grammar on an internet forum. AFAIAC KL PROB HAS A ACORN.. probably acceptable language today but it wasn’t anything I learned at school.

[i]It’s also amusing that Mr. Filkin apparently expects the ProZ thread to be closed. It may happen yet, given that other threads unfavorable to SDL are said to have disappeared into the sea off Argentina.[/i]

I don’t think I expected it. But I am surprised it has not been. The only value it seems to provide is to bring humour to the people posting. What is amusing is that you think unfavourable threads to SDL are removed. I think I could write a
book on the unfavourable threads that are still there today. There are rules in place on every forum to ensure that the forum can be of good value to the people searching it and when the moderators feel the rules are being abused they close or remove the thread. In this case I can only assume they believe this particular thread has good amusement value. In many ways I can share that view after reading all the posts, but I still fail to see where the entire thread contributes anything to the mission statement of the ProZ Forum other than to “have more fun”; and this is debatable.

5. Bernie Bierman - November 25, 2009

And I might add to Mr. Lossner’s observation about ProZ that there is a great deal of truth about ProZ propensity for censoring what it considers “controversial”. One does not fool with King Henry. But then again, ProZ and Marian Greenfield are in that respect quite comfortable with each other. She proved herself to be a great fan of the art of censoring when she was ATA president, and she hasn’t changed too much in her capacity of past-President.

jillsommer - November 25, 2009

I agree about ProZ’s propensity for censoring, but can you offer a couple concrete incidents when Marian censored anyone? I for one am not aware of any.

6. Dondu. N. Raghavan - November 25, 2009

Mahatma Gandhi used to say, “it is not enough that one is honest, one should also appear to be honest”

Neither the translator in question nor the Trados spokesman appear to be honest, period.

Dondu N. Raghavan

7. Bernie Bierman - November 26, 2009

This is in response to Jill Sommer’s posting of 11-25-2009. Marian Greenfield is not the angel you believe her to be. She is a person like all of us with certain strengths and certain weaknesses (I happen to believe it’s more of the latter than the former). In all of the many years I’ve known her, she has never been one to run TO a debate; on the contrary, her behavior is more characterized by running FROM a debate. That characteristic has led her to have a very long “rap sheet” with respect to censoring and quashing (as an ATA official and person deeply involved in numerous aspects of ATA operations) articles and statements with which she disagreed. One of Ms. Greenfield’s more notorious acts of promoting censorship within the ATA came in June 2007, when as a (very involved and pro-active) past-President of ATA she recommended the censoring of an article entitled “Navigating in a new era: Translators in the age of image and speech” by one Eileen B. Hennessy, a highly-respected and most uncontroversial translator and writer (and adjunct professor of translation studies at New York University, among numerous other things). Ms. Greenfield’s propensity for censorship (and “desire to spank”, to paraphrase Mr. Blaine of the Café Americain of “Casablanca”) was instrumental in the firing (“canning” or “caning” would be more appropriate) of Rosene Zaros, editor of the New York Circle of Translator’s (an ATA chaper) publication, the “Gotham Translator” in November 2008. I could go on with all sorts and manner of examples of Ms. Greenfield’s belief in the Soviet style of journalism or her beliefs in old-style Paraguayan electoral processes, but I don’t believe it would serve any useful purpose. Most translators and especially ATA members wouldn’t give a damn, and Ms. Greenfield would not change even if they did give a damn. However, I would add one more “minor point” (if I may use the words of my dear friend, the late Captain Butler of Charleston, SC): The quashing of Mr. Hennessy’s article (which can be found at “Translation Journal”) had let us say links to ATA’s relationship with … ah, you guessed it: SDL Trados.

Bernie Bierman

P.S. Here’s Ms. Greenfield’s response to most of my articles: “Rants and diatribes”.

jillsommer - November 26, 2009

I don’t believe I ever wrote anywhere that she is an angel. I don’t think anyone is – or if so they are very rare indeed. I wrote that she is a capable translator and I have no doubt that she did in fact translate 34,000+ words. Marian was successful on Wall Street, and to do that you have to have a special kind of personality. I know I could never handle working there. I find it interesting that someone would get this worked up over someone else. Life is too short to spend this much time upset with someone. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

8. Kevin Lossner - November 26, 2009

Paul, as I pointed out in the ProZ thread, I find your expectation that a “professional” investigate the SDL Trados software before buying it and not rely on advertising rather disingenuous. As you appear to have admitted, there is no way for a potential customer to get actual experience on which to base a purchase decision. Instead, s/he must rely on canned propaganda (your road shows and online demos, which we all know are tailored to show the best side of any product), which is hardly better than the silly ad under discussion here. Given all the BS I see from SDL marketing I expect to get e-mail one of these days claiming that the product cures cancer 😉

A Professional Company would give Professionals the opportunity to test the product in real Professional Circumstances instead of insulting their intelligence with deceptive advertising or trying to play on feelings of uncertainty or inferiority. Be properly proud of your product and make a functional trial available just like more capable companies (such as Atril, Kilgray or Wordfast) do. If your technology is really better – and perhaps it is – then let the world experience this with personal, hands-on, side-by-side comparisons. I see a lot of value in older versions of Trados as an auxiliary tool, though as a production environment for translation it has always been rather inefficient in my experience, and although the beta for Studio 2009 was a disaster on my system, perhaps it’s been cleaned up in the meantime. I’m willing to waste a few hours to find out if this is the case, but I’m only willing to make a bank transfer if I see experience real value in my own tests like I can do with any reasonable CAT/TEnT tool.

Paul Filkin - November 26, 2009

Kevin, if I put aside the interpretation you have placed onto my comment, because it was intended to be more general than this, then of course I can see the benefit of a trial version of the product. I would be a fool to try and argue otherwise, and it is only low cost software that I would ever risk without a trial first. I think the good upgrade offers and the maintenance contract for many users who have one has ensured most users already have the software whether they use it already or not. I believe, rightly or wrongly, much of the arguments on the forums on this subject are more academic, but for new users and late upgraders the situation is certainly different and I am sure SDL will take appropriate measures to help all users adequately investigate the software in the future.
The best place to show support for this is not the forums, it really is ideas.sdl.com, whether you think I’m being silly or not..!

Kevin Lossner - November 26, 2009

Paul, if the idea of a software trial is really so new and unusual that it needs to be entered on your “ideas” web site, then you or anyone else hereby have my permission to “steal” the idea and type it in there. It’s clear that this lack of a demo is deliberate SDL policy, though it’s pointless to speculate what’s behind it. Whether the intent is wicked or not, it is clearly harmful to the interests of translators.
So you’re sure SDL will take “appropriate measures”? What specific measures might these be? Will they include an actual functioning trial version, and if so by which date and at what URL? Let’s cut the marketing hype and put some clothes on the emperor, please.

9. Bernie Bierman - November 26, 2009

C’mon, Ms. Sommer, let’s get real. Marian’s comment made on behalf of Trados clearly stated that she TRANSLATED 34,501 words in 10 hours. THOSE WERE HER WORDS. As a translator, I would think you would understand those very simple words. But the fact of the matter is that she did NOT TRANSLATE 34,501 words, as verified by Paul Filkin, a spokesman for Marian’s very own patron, Trados. It was a computer program that translated (or perhaps more appropriately, “translated”) the bulk of those words. Like most people who work with CAT tools, Marian performed “translation baby-sitting chores”, and then took full credit for the entire kibbush. As to getting “worked up”, I trust that you will allow me the freedom of choosing what I consider to be significant. And Marian Greeenfield’s behavior and conduct in the premises is something that I consider significant enough to comment on..strongly. You are free to choose your subjects or causes, so please, Madame, don’t lecture me on what I should eat and drink and what I should not eat and drink.

Bernie Bierman

P.S. Ms. Greenfield was successful on Wall Street????? I was unaware that she was an investment banker in addition to being an employee-translator of an investment banking house. Thanks for bringing that “fact” to my knowledge.

10. Kevin Lossner - November 26, 2009

The spam goes on… I think I got 4 copies of this SDL mailer yesterday and today another 4 showed up (within the last hour). The company is really playing this deception for all it’s worth. Discounts offered up to 30%, but still no opportunity to try the software before buying it. This pig in the poke needs a bath.

11. Bernie Bierman - November 26, 2009

Paul Filkin of SDL Trados, which, correct me if I am mistaken, folks, is a company that provides TRANSLATION software to the TRANSLATION business, says that he is no expert in (English) grammar, and therefore feels at liberty to use upper case letters and lower case letters where and whenever he wants. Absolutely, Mr. Filkin, You Can Use capital LETTERS at the Beginning of a Word or even in the MiddLe of a word, if that pleases you You even have my permission and blessings to write the pronoun (you surely know what a pronoun is) “I” with a lower case “i” (as many modern TransLaters do) . I for one would certainly not want to deprive you of your linguistic Pleasures.

However, as a long-Time TransLator, I do find it somewhat strange that People Who aRe in the writing business (and translation once upon a time was about writing) not only have difficulty writing but readily admit that they are not experts in language. Ah, but alas and alack, my dinosauric brain is dictating my dinosauric thoughts, for after all, in this new world of automated and quasi-automated translation, who needs to bother learning those annoying and boring grammatical, orthographical, etc., etc. points about language. The program taKes Care OF ALl that so that you can be free to Watch youR crickeT Game. Jolly good, you know. jolly Good. Good Show.

Bernie Bierman T.U.U.D.
(Trados Unlicensed & Uncertified Dinosaur)

12. Kevin Lossner - November 27, 2009

Oh dear Bernie, I didn’t intend to start a holy war against Paul by teasing him about his capitalization. It’s one of my pet peeves that people seem to think that anything “important” should be capitalized, and living in a country where nouns get capitalized in the local language (German) I see far too much abuse of what passes for English here. But let’s try to leave off the personal stuff. Paul does a damned good job providing help to individuals in various forums and seems to be a decent fellow. He just has the bad luck to be stuck with defending the indefensible here: SDL marketing policy. But like that old song about the teenage enema nurse says, “it’s not a pretty job, but someone’s got to do it”. Can you imagine what it must be like having to work for a bunch of idiots who regularly produce such insulting marketing drivel? And with the current US economy I don’t think it’s fair to suggest looking for a better job, because not even McDonald’s is hiring from what I hear.
I’m all for putting the company SDL in our gun sights for its deceptions and calling its representatives firmly to task for absurd statements, but let’s try to remember that these are mostly decent people like you’ll find anywhere else and treat their persons with respect while we put their words in the shredder. To the extent that my statements here or elsewhere seem to imply another way, I offer a sincere apology to those affected.

13. Bernie Bierman - November 27, 2009

Your point is indeed well-taken, Kevin, and my instinct would be to follow your lead or philosophy, if you will. Unfortunately, I live in a nation that appears to have invented deceptive advertising and gleefully exported it to the entire world. I live in a nation in which lies-in-advertising is expected and those who look to expose those lies and deceptions are the “bad guys”. And yes, the people who engage in those deceptions and perpetrate those lies are all “decent folk”; many help little old ladies to cross the road, contribute money to the Boy Scouts and eat their porridge. Clearly, many of those good, upstanding citizens were involved in the kind of advertising and marketing that led to the biggest economic collapse since the Great Depression of 1929-1941. Yes, Kevin, I would like to follow your path of benevolence, but I do hope that you will forgive me if I am unable to do so. Actually, my H2SO4 is directed not so much towards Filkin (who is doing his job and “following orders”, and who probably really does help little old ladies to cross the street), but rather to “Die Wanze”, who has a lies and deception “rap sheet” as long as my arm.

But let us not forget that this will very soon all blow over and few if any will remember it or even give it a second thought. I’ve seen similar events occur in my many years in this unruly business. They come in with the fury of a Florida summer thunderstorm and disappear as quickly. And that is the way the cookie crumbles in the translation industry. Keep the faith, ol’ buddy, keep the faith.


14. Bernie Bierman - November 28, 2009

Kevin – I am a bit dense when it comes to the ways of the “modern” world of translation, so perhaps you (or any others who wish to volunteer) can help me out.

First, allow me to cite one of Trados’ more well-known advertising blurbs: “You’ll never have to translate the same phrase ever again”. Please correct me if I am mistaken, but does that mean that if I were working with Trados and saw the phrase “Unser Vader, der Du bist in Himmel…” and translated it into English as “Hey Daddy, youse up there in the big sky…”, I would never have to translate it (manually and/or cerebrally) ever again? Now, could you enlighten me on this: If my English translation of that phrase contained as it does in fact contain nine (9) words, and I translated those 9 words in one (1) minute, and the phrase is repeated 27 times in the SL document, could I say that I translated 243 words in one (1) minute? Next question, which admittedly might be irrelevant: When I submit my invoice to the client, do I, in accordance with the new pricing protocols that have been wrought in the wake of CAT tools, bill my client for nine (9) words or two hundred forty-three (243). OK, in line with the foregoing, allow me to quote the precise words of SDL’s august and learned spokesman, Paul Filkin (who helps little old ladies cross the road, donates to the Boy Scouts and eats his porridge):

“This quote is based upon the translator working on a large Excel file that contained many repetitive segments. A large percentage of these segments became Context Matches in the Translation Memory as the translation progressed and because of the additional checks that Studio makes to ensure the accuracy for these types of matches the translator was able to accept them without question as they were automatically confirmed as a result of Auto-Propogation. This means that only a smaller number required attention and as it was possible to add terms to the Termbase on the fly, that were also repetitive, the AutoSuggest feature was able to use these in addition to other strings offered in this way and reduce the amount of typing and as a result complete the work faster”.

Does this mean that with all dem dere repetitions (“You’ll never have to translate the same phrase ever again”), the translator still gets “credit” for translating every single one of ’em, or gets “credit” for those which he or she actually converted from the SL into the TL?

“.the translator was able to accept them (the repeated translations) WITHOUT QUESTION as they were automatically confirmed as a result of Auto-Propogation…”? Does this mean that even though the translator doesn’t have to get off his or her tush to translate or even look at the TL product just to make absolutely certain that all is cricket, he or she can take full “credit” for translating every single word?

Finally, and here again I would ask you to correct me if I am mistaken, if there were 30,501 actual words in the subject SL document, and 50% were repeated words and therefore automatically translated and TYPED by the Trados program, as clearly stated by the august and learned Mr. Filkin, can the translator claim (and perish the thought, invoice for) 30,501 wordees or only15,250.5 wordees? And suppose the repetitive percentage was 75%, or 85%, or even 90%.

Now then, I am troubling you with these earth-shattering questions because the august and learned Mr. Filkin does not appear disposed to engage in discourse with a boor like me, and Ms. Greenfield (former ATA president and certified Trados trainer) is well-known never to discuss nuttin’ with nobody.

Bernie Bierman
Registered Translation Dinosaur and Boor.

15. Kevin Lossner - November 29, 2009

Well, Bernie, I suppose you’ve seen the more recent revelations of 50,000 words translated with Dévà Vu during a toilet break and 200,000 translated with MemoQ in someone’s dreams. So 34,501 words of repetition and near-repetition with SDL Trados Studio 2009 is small potatoes 😉

I don’t know Ms. Greenfield nor have I had any occasion to follow ATA politics much, so I’ll have to defer to you, Jill and others on that one. I certainly don’t think Mr. Filkin should be let off the hook professionally for trying to defend this ridiculous advert from SDL, but it really is just one in a long series of insults from SDL. I personally thought the “amnesty” campaign was the worst of all; the implication that I was a criminal for waiting to upgrade my Trados licenses does not dispose me kindly to that bunch. I tend to think of SDL’s upgrade policies as a form of criminal extortion anyway and feel thoroughly screwed over my MultiTerm Extract and Passolo licenses (total value over 5,000 euros) which cannot be upgraded now.
However, AFAIK Mr. Filkin was not involved in any of those actions, but he has been involved in clearing up other SDL messes both publicly and privately. Let’s hang, draw and quarter him where appropriate in a sober, factual manner but keep comments like “…Paulie, your soiled underwear is showing” out of it if we can. Direct quotes from the official records of the ATA revealing the attempt of SDL to buy influence would be far more interesting to this old curmudgeon and less personally petty. Of course, I’m a fine one to talk given some of the pet names I reserve for certain ProZ censors 🙂 But hey, what’s business without a healthy dose of hypocrisy?

16. Bernie Bierman - November 29, 2009

Some good points, Kevin, bloody good points. I shall endeavor (or endeavour) to demonstrate more “gentlemanly” behavior (or behaviour) in the future, i.e., omitting references to one’s undergarments (clean or dirty).

I’ll try to track down that influence-peddling event in the ATA. It’s right there in the minutes of one of the meetings of the ATA Board. However, I make no promises as regards undertaking such labor (or labour), since anything that has to do with ATA doesn’t engender too much inspiration in me.

Finally, confession time: I am a 100% pure dinosaur. There is not a single CAT tool within 10,000 kilometers of me. This of course means that my destiny in the translation business will doubtless replicate that of my four-legged “ancestors” as depicted in one of the segments of Walt Disney’s (original) “Fantasia”, i.e., the segment set to the music of Igor Stravinsky’s “Le Sacre du Printemps”. However, as Edith Piaf said and sang, “I don’t regret nuthin'”, for I can wish those currently laboring (or labouring) in our unruly industry just ONE-HALF of the material and intellectual success that I have achieved, knowing full well that they would be most happy to have that 1/2 share. Oh, yes, one more wee comment. I have been called upon on several occasions in the past couple of years to review, et le cas échéant, edit translations produced with CAT tools. Since I promised you that I would refrain from making any comments about undergarments needing laundering, I shall merely say to you in respect of the aforementioned CAT-produced translations that were placed before my eyes, “Para bom entendedor meia palavra basta”. Keep the faith, ol’ buddy, keep the faith.

Bernie Bierman
Certified & Registered & Beatified Translation Dinosaur

17. AnOtherTranslator - December 1, 2009

[SHUDDER] … and THIS is why I stay as far away from Proz as possible…

18. Bernie Bierman - December 1, 2009

Pray tell, Mr. or Ms. or Miss or Mrs. or Dr. or Prof. AnOtherTranslator, to what does the word “THIS” refer to?


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