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What do you do when the add says "TRADOS required" and you don't have it? The correct answer of course is "Pass". The mostly correct answer. But for some, ignorance is bliss and knowledge is just an impediment: in short, I raised my hand and I did get the job. The total eventually amounted to 46000 (forty six thousand) words, which I did translate using CAT tools. The only problem Dorothy and I eventually ended up with was that the name of the tool I was using was not TRADOS, it was DejaVu: I used DejaVu demo version, (full functionality for a month at no cost, it is a beauty by the way).
I hit the reality check wall when pretty far down the project road Dorothy asked for an uncleaned version of RTF files. I had absolutely no knowledge about TRADOS, about its input and output files, about the contents of the bilingual RTF file.
So I had to come clean with Dorothy: I told her, I have been using DejaVu. What followed, were two three weeks of pure translational terror: I kept sending all kinds of TXT output files DejaVu formatted for TRADOS use. However, they just did not seem to cut it. I can provide details, but they may be deemed offensive to minors and general public.
Eventually it got so bad Dorothy in desperation went ballistic, i.e. Jeanne d'Arc, and tried to fix the whole situation using Word. Of course, it did not work. Looking back, I have a strong suspicion (which, by the way, is a polite way of saying I am pretty sure), Dorothy did not have TRADOS either, at least not at that time. This "TRADOS? Yes or No" dilema must be an egg-and-a-hen question for agency startups like hers as well, not just for budding free lancers like me. In any case, we have not gotten any further and one day the line between us just went dead.
I still have a faint hope, Dorothy got out of this situation unscathed – but I have not checked, the subject is kind of off-limits for us. I do hope to meet the lady some day, bring her flowers, have a nice dinner and then let her tell me the story from her perspective. For me anyhow it was a complete write-off.
If you are saying "served you right", you are absolutely right: I felt like this then and I feel it like this this very moment. But, what could I do in that situation?
I could pass on the order. But then I would not pay and get several thousand dollars of experience in translation business. Which is, I admit, a rather screwy argument, but on the other hand I did pay my dues and I did get my very precious lessons out of it.
I could buy TRADOS and have it up and running within 24 hours. The job, if pushed through the final few marathon yards, would pay for it and leave me with a neat pile of money too. It is just a question, if I would learn in these first 24 hours as much as I know now. It does take time to amass experience. It would make sense though – seen however from the position of a typical Monday morning quarterback.
I could look around for some friends in need, who would help me out. Unfortunately, I was not that far yet then. Today, it is a different story: on ProZ I am sure I would have a dozen helpers within 24 hours, half of them probably telling me, how to do it with DejaVu (by now I am sure there's a way to do that), and the other half suggesting other alternatives – some of them also screwy and some of them downright wrong, but, hey, we're just trying to help, OK?
There's a proverb saying: "A mule you can get on ice only once". This is stupid: stay on ice and learn skating and if you persist – you are a mule, aren't you? - you will eventually dance on the ice. So I picked myself up, did not leave the scene. I bought TRADOS and started using it. I got orders and my clients have been happy with the work done.
The bungled job, it still smarts. But, the orders come and go ("talking about Michelangelo" – oops, keep T.S.Elliot out of it) and, what's important, Dorothy still churns them out for me.
She's my second biggest agency. Now, about that dinner idea …