Samuel Murray, Translator - English into Afrikaans | Article index


This short article was written for a special Muratho issue on CAT/MAT, although in the end the promised article about Trados (not by me) was never published. The original article was written in Afrikaans, and this translation was done by the editor of the Muratho.

If you haven't yet emptied your wallet to buy Trados of Déjà Vu yet, why not try the macroprogram WordFast. WordFast is an affordable macro that runs within MS Word and it undertakes a series of convenient machine-assisted translation functions. WordFast was until recently available free of charge, but now costs EUR 170.

The best way to find out whether WordFast will meet your needs is to install an unregistered copy and to do a few test translations. Let's have a look at how to download and install WordFast and with a minimum of effort set it up for a test run.


The WordFast macro and user's guide can both be downloaded from The macro is called and the guide wordfast.doc. Make sure that MS Word's macro security is set to "low". Now open the macro file in Word and follow the instructions. In my version all I had to do was press Ctrl+F2 and it installed itself. Once WordFast has been installed, you can set your macro security back to "high".


WordFast currently costs EUR 170, but the unregistered version can translate up to 256 sentences at a time - definitely enough for a test run or two. When you register, the macro automatically generates a serial code, which you have to fill in on the web site. The author then mails you a registration code, which you have to type in next to the serial code.

To register, click on the blue, black and green WordFast button to open the WordFast toolbar. The last button on this toolbar looks like an "f". Click on it and then on the little question mark on the far right. That is where you'll find your serial code. Go back to the WordFast web site, click on the "Registration" link and complete the form. The registration code will be mailed to you in a day or two.


The first thing to do is to create a translation memory (TM). A TM is basically a special word list consisting of source and target text phrases.

Make sure the WordFast toolbar is open. Click on the "f" button to start the configuration. The configuration box has five main tabs - "Translation Memory", "Tools", "Quality Check", "Setup" and "?" (question mark). On the "Translation Memory" main tab are five subtabs, the first of which is "Files". On the "Files" tab are three options -"Open TM", "New TM" and "Export TM". Click on "New TM" to create a new TM. WordFast will ask you for a source language and a target language. Typical languages are EN-UK (British English) and AF-01 (Afrikaans). Thereafter you save the TM as an ordinary text file. You can give it any name, e.g. "test.txt".


It is important to translate with "hidden text" turned on. WordFast generates hidden text to indicate segments and you must be able to see them sot that you do not overwrite them by accident. The instructions for Word 2000 are as follows: Click on the "Tools" menu and select "Options". Click the "View" tab, and mark "Hidden text".


You can do a test with a short text. Open the text in MS Word and place your prompt at the top of the page. Click on the WordFast button on the far left, which looks like a downward arrow. WordFast will now segment the document and create a copy on which to work.

WordFast translates over your original document (and you'd better make a back-up copy yourself). The untranslated source text segment appears as a blue box and the target text segment directly underneath in a grey, yellow or green box. The first box will be grey, because there are no corresponding results from the TM (the test TM is brand new and therefore completely empty). Between the two boxes is a number, in this case "nil", which indicates what percentage of the proposed translation corresponds with the current source text segment. Where this correspondence is more than about 75% the target text box will not be grey, but yellow, and for correspondences of around 100% the target text box will be green.

Type your translation into the target text box and press Alt+[downward arrow] (hold down Alt and press the downward arrow once and then release Alt). WordFast will then accept the translation, add the translation to the TM and go on to the next segment. The program will also search the TM for any previous translations to suggest. If there is more than one possible translation, you can scroll through the various options using Alt+[left arrow] or Alt+[right arrow].

Always be very careful when deleting text that you do not delete the hidden markers. The WordFast guide tells you what to do if you do this by accident (usually all you have to do is copy a similar marker and paste it in the right place).

When you come to a source text segment that will be exactly the same in the target language, press Alt+Insert. The source text segment will now be copied to the target text box. You can then immediately accept the translation by pressing Alt+[downward arrow], or make adjustments before you accept it.

The text now consists of pieces of source language text and pieces of target language text. Before you send it to a client, you must first clean it of all hidden codes and the source language text. In actual fact one can go through various stages of text editing and proofreading before it is time for the final clean-up, but those tasks will be discussed in a future article. One can clean the text up quickly by clicking the "Quick clean" button second from the right on the WordFast toolbar. That removes all the codes and the source language text.


Let us have a quick look at the other things one can do in WordFast.

A typical lemma in a TM looks like this: 20021005~103238 SM 3 EN-UK This is a computer AF-01 Hierdie is 'n rekenaar. The "SM" is the code for the lemma's author, and the "3" is the usage counter. Every time that a translation is re-used, the usage counter increases by one. In this example the clause "This is a computer" has thus already been re-used three times (either in full or with changes). When a TM becomes too large, WordFast can delete all lemmas with a usage count of, for example, 0 (i.e. all translated phrases that have not been re-used).

In WordFast one can combine different TMs, do smart find-and-replaces and selectively delete large numbers of lemmas, and also change the TM's direction in order to translate the other way round. WordFast can store TMs in different formats, among others the LISA industry standard of TMX and the Trados industry standard of TMW format.

WordFast can allocate a penalty score to certain TM lemmas on the basis of various factors, among others on the basis of the author of the lemma. Thus, if a number of translators are collaborating on a project and one of more of the translators' work is not completely up to standard, the lemmas they create can be "penalised" so that other, more reliable lemmas are given preference. The opposite can be done for the lemmas of a translator whose work is particularly well regarded.

One can compare new documents with existing TMs in order to establish how must of the work has "already been done" and how much is new work. This can help in establishing how long it should take to do the translation. WordFast can also pre-translate documents automatically using segment that correspond 100% with those in the TM.

WordFast has a quality control system that can try to establish whether the translators have used terminology in a consistent manner. The quality control includes a black list of words or structures that the client concerned wishes to avoid.

These are some of the things one can set in WordFast:


An additional suite of functions called PlusTools is also available on the WordFast web site. PlusTools can be used with or without WordFast. PlusTools is currently still free. The following are some of PlusTools' functions:


I have never worked with Trados, but I assume that all the above functions (and more) are also available in Trados and other machine-assisted translation programs.

Can one use WordFast in the place of Trados? A translator who has both WordFast and Trados wrote a year ago in the Accurapid translation journal that for a year she did all her "Trados" work in WordFast without the agencies noticing any difference. Trades can, however, be expected to become more advanced in the future, and no one can say how much longer such cross-pollination will be possible.