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34 - Last word on Wordfast

"This author, who has perhaps injured psychoanalysis as much as he has benefited it, produced a large number of novel symbolic translations, to which no credence was given at first, but most of which were later confirmed and had to be accepted"1.

With Wordfast you can also work starting from an Acrobat PDF file. PDF files are used for the most part for publications because, unlike Word files, they maintain the setup concerning layout even if the file is transferred from one computer to another.

For this reason, PDF files are used in the publishing industry to prepare the paginated proof of a book and send it to the printer who can use it directly for the final printed form. They are also often used in the internet to publish articles made available to network users' in a form that assures that the original text cannot be edited or manipulated.

How Wordfast works with PDF files. To import a PDF file in Word through Wordfast, just do as follows:

  • open the PDF file and leave it open;
  • open Word, start the Wordfast application clicking on the icon appearing in the toolbar;
  • in the empty Word document, click on the "Next Segment" icon, as if to give the command to translate the first text segment (with no file opened yet);
  • a window appears with the message: "Acrobat reader found: proceed to detect file?"
  • Click on "OK". A few instants pass while the document is imported. At the end, the message "check your document" appears.


Of course, this kind of importation converts only the text portion into the .doc format , not the images that may be present.

Near the end of each line of text in the .pdf file, in the Word file paragraph marks appear. For this reason, to reconstruct the original file paragraphs, you have to substitute some end of paragraph marks with spaces. To do so, just do as follows:

  • choose "Replace" from the Edit menu;
  • in the frame for the string to be searched, insert "^p";
  • in the frame for the string to be substituted, insert a space;
  • click on "Find Next";
  • every time, click on "change" if it is the end of a line, and click on "find next" if it is the end of a paragraph.


To preserve the same fonts in the .pdf file, insert in the "Pandora's Box" option the "KeepPDFFonts" command.

I have devoted many units of this fifth part of the course to the use of Wordfast because I think that translation memories are a very important tool that all young translators, or would-be translators, must be familiar with, and I preferred Wordfast as compared to other similar applications because it is cost free, so devoting so much space to one of the others would have meant a form of indirect (and incorrect) publicity.

Wordfast is one of the resources that the Logos group freely offers the world wide public of the internet, so, in my opinion, it is a resource to be appreciated and spread. In the www.wordfast.org site you can find instructions for Wordfast in many languages, but I preferred to give my contribution to simplify the technical knowledge contained in those instructions to make it accessible also to people not familiar with computers and information science. I tried, in a word, to translate such know-how from the technical to the common language, keeping in mind the problems of a merely linguistic translation, then proceeding to a cultural translation.

Probably, the engineers accustomed to their own language would quake if they read what I wrote, because I always preferred the common word to the term, the explicative periphrasis to the direct (and obscure) expression, I digressed on elements that engineers take for granted but to the uninitiated are not always as they see them, and so on.

I applied, therefore, total translation principles also to the instructions for use of Wordfast. The blind spot of technical communication is often the technical staff's self-consciousness. The lack of a broader consciousness, on the part of the engineer, of what is part of his own culture and what is part of the others' culture (the communication receiver, in this case), can cause him to have unclear ideas about what is to be explained and how the explanation must be expressed.

A technical writer sometimes takes for granted that which is a given for him and is not at all for his model of reader. What is implicit for him, sometimes, needs to be explicated to the reader. In other cases, it is the reader who has to make the effort to explicate for herself, which is sometimes impossible, because she lacks the necessary technical know-how. For this reason it is very useful for the technical writer to be firstly, a communication expert. A communicator who learns to use a technical tool describes it to the audience can be better than an engineer explaining the use of the tool with his own words to the audience. In the latter case the fundamental passage of cultural translation is missing.

The translation market, above all the market of the translation for publishers, is saturated with translators. There is a too great difference between the demand (very low) and the offer (in excess). Consequently, the future of those who want to work in this field is particularly hard, and linked to the ability to guarantee the best possible performance.

The use of translation memories is, from this point of view, essential, and should make the difference above all in the fields where success is, for the time being, lower: translation for publishers.

The main disadvantages in the use of translation memories when translating for publishers, for the translator, are essentially in the fact that before starting working you need to transfer the text from paper to electronic format. In most cases, in fact, the publisher is not ready to give the translator the file containing the text. Such operation requires a few hour. With a good scanner, in half a day you can scan and recognize as much as 400 text pages. Such time spent is, however, abundantly counterbalanced by the following advantages: the four hours hypothetically spent for this initial operation have good results toward shortening total completion time and producing better quality of translation:

  • saves time necessary to find the sentence to be translated on the printed page;
  • no risk of skipping passages;
  • saves time of search on glossaries and dictionaries;
  • reduces vision fatigue;
  • saves time to search multiple occurrences of terms and words;
  • time to produce a lexically homogeneous text.

The translator wishing to thrive in this ever more competitive market cannot do without such a tool.


Bibliographical references

FREUD SIGMUND, L'interpretazione dei sogni, in Opere, vol. 3, Torino, Boringhieri, a cura di C. L. Musatti, 1966.

FREUD SIGMUND, The Interpretation Of Dreams, translated by A. A. Brill, London, G. Allen & Company, 1913.

CHAMPOLLION YVES Wordfast, available in the world wide web at the address www.wordfast.org, consulted 23 May 2004.

1 Freud 1900: 309.