Comtexxt is a web application in progress. Read the text below for the full functionality. We are still looking for one or more programmers, so send us an email if the concept appeals to you.
Translation Memories and the need for Comtexxt
Translation memories (TM) have been around since the eighties. They all work more or less the same: While translating, the app stores your source and target sentences and checks if the current sentence is already in your database. If it is, you don’t need to translate it again. This is the functionality of TMs in a nutshell.
TMs have proven their value with texts that contain a lot of repetition. For any other text, their use is considered to be limited. That’s a shame, because repetition occurs in almost any text, including literature. After having been a translator for more than 30 years, I can attest to the value of having all your past translations at your fingertips.
You would think that searching the TM for any combination of words would be the main feature. Sadly, it’s not. Searching the database is possible, but needlessly time-consuming, and the results are less than satisfactory. As a translator with a need that the current apps did not fulfill, I saw only one option: develop my own. I spend many years developing a plugin for Microsoft Word with the help of Visual Basic for Applications. But apart from the fact that VBA projects are unmarketable, you can also use them in only one app, and Microsoft Word is not the best application for any kind of writing … in my opinion.
Comtexxt in a Nutshell
In its first incarnation, Comtexxt will do three things:
- Align a source and target text and store the result in a database.
- Import sentences, terms and other information from a CSV file.
- Allow you to search all or your past translations in multiple ways.
In a later stadium, we may add the possibility to translate directly in the app. This will not be like a full-fledged word processor but rather like a text editor. In other words, you will not work in rich text but in markdown.
One Database to Cover All
A translation memory can hold much more information than just source and target sentences:
- Synonyms: Any translation could be regarded as a number of synonyms. In other words, translating is searching for synonyms in another language. Personally, I’m searching for synonyms all the time. Since the books and apps for my target language (Dutch) fall short, I developed my own, which I keep adding to as I go along.
- Collocations: You can find word combinations in any good dictionary, but a dedicated collocation finder works much faster and may hold combinations you won’t find in a dictionary.
- Terms: There’s no reason you’d need a separate app for terminology. Terms can fit very well within the same database as all the other information.
- Style: After having worked as a translator for a few years, you may not have a lot of questions regarding style. Store the ones you keep finding yourself looking up in your personal style guide and you can always find them quickly.
- Context: Language is continuously changing. Store snippets that you want to remember in your database and add keywords and translations for when you need to look up new terms.
- Notes: Any kind of notes. Add keywords to find them quickly.
- And any kind of other reference information you find useful.
The sky is the limit. You can store pretty much anything you want in a TM. That makes it a potentially valuable tools for writers, editors, proofreaders, and language learners as well. To differentiate between the different kinds of information, you can use tags.
See the mockups below for an impression of searching and aligning in Comtexxt.