[This is a guest post by Kari Koonin]
I love technology. I’ve been using CAT tools since they came as a pile of floppy discs, and I’ve been dictating my translations ever since I can remember – first into a dictaphone for a typist, then using voice recognition.
So when I heard a talk by a fellow translator at a conference, some years back, about how he used text-to-speech to check his work, I was instantly curious – and then hooked.
Ever since then, I have had my translations read out by Charles, a British, natural-sounding male voice with a cheery disposition, while I follow the source text, and the quality of my work is all the better for it.
You see, a different part of your brain comes into play when you listen to words rather than read them, especially words you wrote yourself in the first place. It gives you a completely different perspective on the text you’ve just translated.
You spot grammatical errors your eyes may otherwise have skimmed over. You hear clumsy phrases that don’t sound natural in your target language. You pick up on awkward sentence and paragraph transitions or places where you’ve left the source text shining through.
The tool I use (TalkBack) is one that dates back to before the millennium and is now no longer produced, sadly. But it still works fine – even with Windows 10, as I discovered recently. It has different voices and even different dispositions. I use ‘enthusiastic’ – cheery Charles brightens up even the dullest contract!
Another more recent TTS application I’ve tried out is NaturalReader [www.naturalreaders.com]. The free version works well, but it will stop mid-sentence every so often and display an ad. With the paid version, which only costs around $49, you get a bigger choice of voices and speeds – well worth the investment.
So here’s my workflow.
First I highlight and copy the text I want to check to the clipboard (Ctrl+C). It might be an entire 20-page document, tables and all, or just a couple of sentences. In memoQ, which I use for virtually all my work, I copy the target text from the View pane, which is right there on the screen below my translation. In more complex documents with no meaningful View, I export the bilingual file as RTF, quickly eliminate any tags with a macro (otherwise my TTS reads them out – left curly bracket, forward slash, right curly bracket…. yawn) and copy the target side to the clipboard, ready for checking in memoQ.
Then with the voice set to a nice steady andante speed – you soon find out what works for you – I press Play and listen to the text being read out on my headphones while following the source text. If I want to edit or correct something, I pause the TTS tool, edit the translation and continue when I’m ready.
Working with headphones means I don’t miss out on nuances of pronunciation or mistakes which may have slipped in while I was dictating my translation (safe/save, managers/manages, or/all etc.).
Tips for working with TTS
- Choose one with a small floating toolbar which you can position anywhere on your screen. I keep mine quite close to the active segment in my CAT tool so I can pause the voice quickly when I need to.
- Find a TTS tool that reads text from the clipboard and, importantly, remembers where you got to when you pause it to edit your text.
- Use a slower speed for your first check and a slightly faster speed for your final polish. Even varying the talking speed can give you a different perspective on your translation.
Apart from the benefits I’ve already mentioned, there are more:
- You don’t lose your place or skip numbers or sentences.
- Numbers are read out in full (‘twenty thousand nine hundred and ninety five’, telephone numbers as ‘area code zero two zero, nine three five …’ and prices as ‘three thousand euros and twenty five cents’) – much more accurate than a visual check.
- You hear instantly if your sentences need breaking up, joining, more punctuation and so on.
- You save on printer ink and paper – I don’t usually print my translations out, unless the formatting is very complex or the document style is particularly demanding.
- You’re mobile – you can check your work anywhere without the of a printer or space to spread out papers.
Kari Koonin is a freelance translator working from German, Dutch and Afrikaans into English. She specializes in agriculture/horticulture and food as well as general marketing and website translations. Alongside her translation business, which she has been running with her husband for 23 years, Kari has also taught German translation to MA students at the University of Westminster, London, and is currently Chair of the ITI Professional Development Committee.