6 Essential Tools Every Swahili Translator Must Acquire

“You’re only as good as the tools you use”

So the old age adage says. This ancient saying highlights the importance of having the correct tool and utilizing it to the maximum. That being so, a translator is only as good as the tool he or she uses.

Precisely what do I mean by tools? Cat tools, Online, and offline dictionaries, Quality assurance tools, Microsoft Office tools, Invoicing tools, Resources, applications – anything that is used during a translation assignment.

The biggest challenge out there is finding the right tool to help you translate effectively and efficiently. Out of hundreds of tools being promoted and sold by companies, a Swahili translator will only need just a couple. These are tools I have personally used for the last 5+ years; I had the opportunity of trying them out first before I committed to buying some of them.

A translator is not only bilingual or multilingual but also an expert in the area of specialization that he or she is comfortable with. In all my 5+ years of translation, there is not a single project that didn’t require I do extensive research, subject familiarization and application of the right tools.

Fortunately, digital disruption has triggered the inception of fantastic tools, software, resources and applications that help ease the translation process. Below is a list of translation tools that I would recommend to not only to a Swahili translator but to any other language translator.

Cat Tools

“A tool is only as good as its user”

1.SDL Trados (: Probably the mother of Cat tools:)- Arguably the biggest of all the big players in the translation industry. It’s complete fully featured and fully functional for most translation projects you might have. Trados features TM, terminology management, LQA, machine translation, and software localization.
Pricing: Quite pricey, if you’re starting as a translator and you have a modest budget, I wouldn’t recommend Trados.
Demo: Yes, fully functional 30-day trial.
2.Wordbee (: The master online cat tool:)- I have personally used this tool for 4 years, one of my long term clients only use this tool so every translator must get acquainted with it. Its quite awesome once you get used to it and it has some really good features especially not worrying about saving your work, the inclusion of every translation you have ever done on the TM, communication among translators through comments, notes. Its huge downside is that you must be connected to the internet all the time. It also has a steep learning curve for new users.
Pricing: Quite pricey, considering they have a subscription-based platform that is renewed annually, this might be utterly expensive in the long run. If you add your monthly internet costs, then Wordbee won’t be as ideal.
Demo: Yes, 15 days of which they do not state whether it’s fully functional or not. If your client has a business subscription, then you are lucky since you won’t spend a coin.
3.Wordfast Pro: (Most affordable cat tool available)- It’s a standalone, multi-platform and multilingual TM that runs natively on Windows, Mac, and Linux. One of the coolest features is that it allows you to filter segment based on any attribute you might want. It also allows you to configure a multilingual translation package on any language; there are no limitations. One of the most useful features is that it supports multiple file formats, even from another cat tool. That is pretty awesome, right?. They also have ‘Wordfast anywhere which is free and fully featured, but it only works when connected to the internet.
Pricing: Very affordable, besides low prices, Wordfast also offers a massive 50% discount for translators living in developing countries. Every African country qualifies.
Demo: Yes, 30-day trial. Take advantage of the many documentations, webinars and community page to get you started.
4.OmegaT: (: Most popular free cat tool:)- Its an open-source translation tool that offers a full range of features and works on Windows, Mac, and Linux. It supports many file formats (30) and is compatible with other translation applications. Besides translation, a translator can integrate plugins to the tool which come in handy when doing language check errors, fuzzy matches, and glossary hits, etc. You can also use their many utilities to do an alignment, TMX merging and cleaning, converting translation memories, etc.
Pricing: Free, “some birds aren’t meant to be caged” so why should you?. They have user manuals, tutorials, external documentation, training videos, books and blogs to make sure you get the gist and flow of OmegaT.
5.MemoQ: (: Could be the father of cat tools:)- One of the most straightforward, fully functional, and user-friendly tools I have used. Because it accepts Trados and other cat tool packages a user can work with various agencies who demand a translator to work on a specific cat tool. Ability to support many languages and dialects, live preview, live docs, and LQA are some of the many features I love MemoQ.
Pricing: Mid-Pricey, compared to Wordfast, it’s expensive although it’s cheaper than Trados.
Demo: Comes with the 30-day long trial. Many resources on their website to assist newbies and translators looking for a different tool.

Dictionary

Offline Swahili Dictionaries

1.TUKI English – Swahili dictionary;
‘is the most up to date dictionary of current English’. It also has a Swahili-English version which has fewer words but its most useful too. I use this dictionary almost every time I have a translation project. It’s comprehensive, resourceful and full of precise Swahili meanings. Some websites have an online version that is free for any user and its complete just like the hard-copy.
Pricing: Locally, its somewhat affordable with a price range of, Ksh 2,000 and above. Online stores have crazy prices ranging from $132-616!
2. English – Swahili assorted dictionary – If you specialize in specific domains like I do then this is your go-to dictionary. It has subject specializations categorized by particular fields. If you aspire to acquire a mastery of the area you usually translate into, then this is the dictionary for you.
Pricing: Cheap, the authors are K.w.Wamitila and Florence M Kyallo. Online stores have the usual crazy prices.
3. Kamusi ya Kiswahili Sanifu & Kamusi Sanifu ya Msingi – Such dictionaries come in handy whenever you have to confirm some wordings, or you are working on a back-translation of Swahili – English. Both are very useful, and the authors have integrated some interactive materials and segregated sayings, idioms, and proverbs.
Pricing: Very affordable and mostly sold locally.
4.Editable Swahili-English Dictionary – Cobbled together by Bob Beretta, RPCV, TZ, 2004-2005. The good news is you can download a pdf version and you can also add more words to it using the .rtf version available on the site too.
Pricing: Free.
5.Swahili-English Pocket Dictionary – Available at local online stores at an affordable price. Authors, Joseph Safari and Hamis Akida.
6. Also check out: Nicholas Awde; Swahili Dictionary and Phrasebook, Ohly Rajmund; Swahili-English slang Pocket Dictionary_, D.V.Perrot; Concise Swahili and English Dictionary, and Jan Knappert; Dictionary of Literary Swahili.

Online Swahili Dictionaries

1.Oxford Swahili Living Dictionaries– This online platform is one of my favorite ‘checker/verification’ of just about any Swahili word. It shows the correct meaning of a word, related words, synonyms, nouns, verb and adverb of that word you are searching for. It also shows the multiple meaning of a word.
Pricing: Free, its a gift to Swahili speakers or anyone willing to learn or perfect their Swahili, this is the oxford site.
2. Glosbe-the multilingual online dictionary– According to their site “We provide free dictionaries for almost every existing language and translation memory with 1,013,284,995 sentences included”. It’s incredibly resourceful and contains just about any specialization with the support of many languages and dialects. What I love about this free dictionary are the multiple sentences that pop up once you type a single word. Such a feature gives you more options and confidence in what you are translating.
Pricing: Free for all. Millions of phrases and expressions are awaiting you here.
3.Changamano -Swahili-English Dictionary – An online site that has thousands of Swahili to English terms classified alphabetically. It also has an Italian to Swahili dictionary so that it could be useful to a multilingual translator. You can find it here.
4.Lexilogos-Words and wonders of the world– According to their website “Lexilogos is a comprehensive set of resources for the study of the languages of the world”. Lexilogos is a massively resourceful site full of many dictionaries, texts, literature, phrases which are most useful for any Swahili translator. Have a look at it an evaluate it fully here.
5.Wikamusi-Kamusi huru– Its sort of an equivalent to Wikipedia’s wiktionary. You can search for both Swahili and English words. It also comes with definitions of the word searched, synonyms and pictures (this feature is quite impressive). You can explore its 14,000 terms here.

Linguistic Quality Assurance (QA)

Translation quality assurance tools assist in identifying common mistakes found in translated texts. QA must be run by the translator, reviewer/proofreader and if necessary by the Project Manager.

A QA will most likely work only with bilingual files created using cat tools. A QA tool should analyze the source and target text of a particular segment and give a report of the whole document with indications of where to make corrections.

Most prominent cat tools have internal QA functions that only need a configuration by the translator or PM. When configured, a translator should quickly run a QA check for:

> Spelling mistakes.
> Untranslated segments or non-segmented texts.
> Differences in punctuation marks, upper/lower case letters, or formatting tags.
> To check for double spaces, spaces before punctuation marks, in some instances trailing spaces, etc.
> Check if measurement units, numbers, decimal separators, date match.
> Check whether the abbreviations match.

Most of these errors are noticeable typos which anybody can make mainly due to lack of thorough attention. If a translator had to look for such mistakes manually, it would be a time-consuming task. In the end, when you run a QA check will assist in reducing negative feedback from clients and managers.

A translator can also use premium QA tools. Some have short trial versions, and some do not offer any. Most of these paid tools work with bilingual tools and in most common formats.

However, they are also designed to provide different performance and functionality. Some of the tools include; Xbench, Verifika, Linguistic toolbox (free), ErrorSpy, TQAuditor (free and paid).
When buying a cat tool, make sure it has the QA function, I mean why should you spend money on a cat tool that can’t help check the quality of your translation work.

Application tools

Quality translation involves extensive research and keen usage of a word in the right context. Some of the applications below will assist you in your word search.

1 Bab.la – is a free online language portal which supports 44 dictionaries for 28 languages. After Oxford University press acquired it, I can attest that their translation has greatly improved.
2 Google Translate – The infamous ‘gurgle’ translator, I don’t like it much as it doesn’t have consistency with Swahili translations. But, you can always refer to it once in a while.
3 Microsoft Translator – Much similar to Google translate, although they do claim to work with Translators without borders for their Swahili translations.
4 Yandex Translate – Offers machine translation but with a better and more pronounced search. It offers synonyms, antonyms, and related words that you can click and instantly get a translated Swahili word.
5 Google Translator Toolkit – This is the ultimate machine translation tool. From the Google site, they claim “Google Translator Toolkit allows human translators to work faster and more accurately, aided by technologies like Google Translate.”. I am anti-machine translations because of how their creators tend to think they can replace human translations.
6 GT4T– This is a machine translation application that you can download and install on your laptop. After installing it all you need to do is copy a text or paragraph, and some translations will pop up.

Invoicing

Most of my clients have systems in place that auto generates invoices, so I do not have to it manually. Other clients have online invoicing systems that allow you to create invoices for jobs done and send them directly to them. Those are my favorite kinds of people because I don’t have to spend any money subscribing to an invoicing service.

If you’re not as lucky as I, then you either have to use a subscription service, buy an invoice software or use some of the free templates I have mentioned below.

1.Excel Invoicer – Their website promises, “If you look for a simple and straight-forward invoicing tool. Try Excel Invoicer. It’s an excel file embedded with VBA. You simply need to fill the ‘clients’ tab with clients’ information, and then the clients drop-down is shown in the ‘jobs’ tab.”
2.Paypal Invoicing – It’s free for all Paypal members. You can create invoices and estimates free of charge, send them to your clients and receive your money directly to your account.
3.Microsoft Invoice Templates– Tons of beautiful, customizable templates are available for you to download.

Offline Document Review

For revision, proofing, commenting and tracking changes, you need two tools that I have used many times.

Microsoft Word Review Tab – Accessible freely on the review tab on your Office software. It has fantastic features like spelling and grammar, adding and deleting comments, tracking changes, accepting and rejecting changes, etc.

PDF Review Tab – Works similarly with the Word review, but obviously, you have to use a PDF document to review it. My favorite PDF software is PDF Xchange and Foxit PDF Editor.

Word of Caution

Being bilingual or multilingual does not in any way mean that you can translate. Translation is an art that requires hard work, extensive research and dedication.

Utamu wa lugha ya Kiswahili ni Kutukuzwa!

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