Translation Environment Tools (TEnTs)
Hearing that you need to be able to use a TEnT to do translation work intimidates some people, but it’s a fact of life and not as hard as it seems.
Many folks begin their journey into freelance translation work under a number of bad assumptions. One of the biggest assumptions made is that translation is work you can do without a lot of special tools. Many aspiring language translation professionals imagine themselves sitting at a Parisian café sipping coffee while lazily tapping a laptop with one hand – and needing very little else aside from their huge, brilliant brains.
It’s a tempting fantasy, and there might have been a time when it was true, or nearly. But in the modern world you simply can’t work as a professional translator without incorporating several very powerful tools especially tools known in the business as Translation Environment Tools (TEnTs). TEnTs are pretty standard these days, and while they are typically based on the familiar interactions of a Word Processor, they are complex and complicated tools that require a lot of familiarity. You can’t just jump on and start working, and you can’t get any jobs if you can’t work with a TEnT.
Almost all of the modern translation work you’ll get, as a freelancer or in an office, will be heavily designed and very complicated. Most projects involve anywhere from dozens to thousands of documents that are very highly formatted, extensively tagged in some form of markup language, and otherwise challenging from both a organisational point of view and from a translation point of view. In other words, you’re not going to get simple Word documents you can load up and start working on.
With a TEnT, you get all the tools you need to jump in and work with these documents whiles maintaining connections between them and the formatting and style that is associated with them. It also pulls in all the usual word processing tools like spelling and grammar checks in multiple languages, change tracking, commenting and discussion, and others. In short, a TEnT is a one-stop solution for translation work that makes your work easier – once you master the environment.
TEnTs and Word Processing
At their core, a TEnT is a powerful word processor with various translation tools added on. In fact, in the beginning most of these TEnTs were designed to be add-ons or plug-ins for leading word processing programs such as Microsoft Word or Wordperfect.
However, most translators found that the advantage of having these tools embedded in a familiar word processor they already knew how to use was wiped out by the buggy behaviour they often displayed because they were relying on third-party software, and the incredibly crowded screens and complex user interfaces they created. Today most TEnTs are standalone tools – and thank goodness.
Don’t worry; if you’re looking to break into the translation industry it’s very easy to become familiar with the most popular TEnTs and be ready for your first big job, and smaller jobs you can cut your teeth on still can be done without such tools. It’s a learning process above all else.