Back at the time when IBM punched cards and magnetic tapes started giving way to floppies, Russian software developers used to joke about the most typical signs of a Russian software program. Typically, it refused to run if the programmer was not around.
Those days are long gone. If failing to run at that time could mean eliminating any computer security problems from the very start, things have certainly changed now. Kaspersky Lab, a Russian multi-national software giant seems to have found a less radical, but far more profitable way to deal with security issues.
Since Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced his New Year’s resolution to take a free coding class in 2012, everyone has been speaking about programming. But Russia, I believe, belongs to those countries to which the leading American corporations have been outsourcing their software development projects since years, along with other offshores like India, Bulgaria or Moldavia (where programmers probably also speak Russian among themselves).
Recently, I was experimenting with terminology management tools like Interplex (a must-have for conference interpreters with iPads) and QA programs like the new Beta version of ApSIC Xbench (I think Verifika is also worth a try, at least for its support of MemoQ 6 format). So it came in handy to learn and test a software program from Russia called MultiQA, “a complete web-based terminology management and quality assurance solution for localization and translation projects”, as the website claims. I don’t know if the system admin somewhere in Moscow is always around, but this program does run smoothly indeed, no worries about that.
MultiQA was developed by the Moscow-based translation company ITI Ltd. first for its own needs, but now it is underway to be used by and offered (as SaaS) to many other language service providers.
MultiQA is an online terminology management tool with quality assurance functions. It can be used to compile bilingual or multilingual glossaries or import an existing term base (as an Excel file, i.e. XLS, XLSX, Excel 2003 XML, CSV or TBX, it is also possible to export MultiQA glossaries in Excel-based, TBX and MultiTerm XML formats).
According to a recent survey by Joanna Gough from the University of Surrey (“From translator’s black box to translator’s tool box: Tools and Resources for Translation Professionals”, November 2012), the most frequently used terminology management tools are SDL Multiterm (14,7%), ApSIC Xbench (4,5%) and TermStar (3,8% of some 600 respondents). MultiQA is probably the least known software for online glossaries and terminology management (it wasn’t included in the survey), but it certainly doesn’t deserve to remain obscure. It doesn’t only run smoothly, but has a well-thought-out, clear GUI and immaculate documentation (user guide, FAQ, workflows and use cases etc.) in English.
My idea was to test its features and functions within my own workflow, e.g. try to use MultiQA with an existing term base generated with MemoQ. I found out that a CSV format with a limited number of fields (source, target and status as default fields) works best for importing a term base in MultiQA. The question is why I should do it? What are the advantages of leaving a comprehensive translation environment like MemoQ with term management and QA functions for a standalone web-based tool?
In my opinion, MultiQA has at least two specific features which make it stand apart from other functionally similar language tools and justify its use on its own merits. The first feature is a set of assignable attributes to define a term status:
Considering that available user-generated glossaries are becoming increasingly “overcrowded” and ever more “clouded”, a certain restrictiveness might be a benefit. It helps to sort out the mess which you occasionally find when looking up a term in e.g. Multitran.ru (currently the most popular web English-Russian and German-Russian dictionary) or dict.cc. There are simply too many options. They cannot help but produce the feeling of Qual der Wahl (agony of choice, like the Germans say).
On the other hand, the possibility to selectively approve or prohibit use of certain terms in the target language provides a consistent, client-oriented approach.
May we call it censorship, in the extreme case? Paired with a hierarchical user administration, the assignment of term status (as well as some other functions like “glossary freeze”) makes MultiQA especially suitable for project managers who have to supervise external translator teams. Project-wise, especially when dealing with large projects (technical or software documentation with repetitive phrases and words), it may be well justified to impose rigid rules and restrictions on the terminology used. So the answer is “it depends”.
The second specific, if not downright unique, feature is called “parsing”. This picture from Grammarly.com may give an idea of what “parsing” is about:
Words in languages like Russian, other Slavic and Baltic languages, have a plethora of forms and vary according to the language-specific morphological rules. In German, you have several forms for the definite article only, but in Russian you have declinable forms for most words (at least you don’t have any articles, if it may serve as a consolation).
According to Anton Soldatov from ITI Ltd., a specialist in Norwegian and the architect of MultiQA software project, the “parsing” is a truly unique feature of this terminology management tool. MultiQA automatically generates the correct morphological forms based on language-specific rules and helps to eliminate false positives (“noise”), inevitable with other quality assurance (QA) tools.
For those who are curious about the linguistic basis of “parsing”, I suggest you contact Anton Soldatov, head of IT department, or Yulia Akhulkova from ITI Ltd. (the lovely lady from the photo above, in case you were also curious, is head of localization department at ITI Ltd.). Anton and Yulia will be happy to help with everything related to MultiQA.
I found the software quite nice and usable. Certain things are going to be improved or changed. TermCheck, the key quality assurance feature, as the user guide claims, clearly belongs to such things (currently, TermCheck works like a black box that automatically generates and sends a QA report per email).
For many potential users of MultiQA, it will be necessary to deal with security concerns and data confidentiality issues, especially in view of a potential conflict of interest. Storing proprietary terminology databases on a server controlled by a Moscow-based translation agency can turn out to be a much more grave issue than usability and the technical stuff.
For ITI, it means more work to get done. But “success comes before work only in the dictionary”, as the late Vidal Sassoon said. The Russian developers of MultiQA are ambitious to make their “dictionary” a success. I wish them luck.