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Phrase TMS: The Translator's Dilemma of Control vs. Convenience

We have seen that CAT tools have been developed with different objectives in mind, leading to a difference in the use of the program by translators. Today, we will discover another type of CAT, through a model entirely controlled by the company/licence holder the translator works for.

Phrase TMS (formerly Memsource) is a tool that is free for the translator, exclusively limited to translating projects sent to them by a project manager or PM. To quote Phrase : “Linguists [i.e. translators, proofreaders and quality assurance linguists] only get access to projects assigned to them by project managers. Only TMs and TBs assigned to these projects will be available. Linguists cannot make any changes to a project's settings (...) [or] attach their own private translation memories, term bases or machine translation engines. Linguists can only edit or perform LQA assessments on Accepted jobs.”

Since February 1st, Phrase has integrated the different translation and localisation platforms they offer (TMS and strings, AI models) into a suite and allows freelancers to work on their own projects across 5 of these platforms, for a fee. This is currently based on a subscription of $324/year (the website indicates a monthly rate, but month-to-month subscriptions aren’t available).

The focus of the tool is on optimising integrations and workflows for the client, rather than offering flexibility for the translator. Where translator-owned (expensive) tools allow translators to work with their own translation memories and termbases they can manage and add to projects as needed, Phrase, much like Across, doesn’t allow the freelance translator any flexibility regarding the way they want to work. Their desktop editor is a carbon copy of the browser editor, but faster to work with. The browser-based editor tends to lag more. 

On the other hand, the AI integrated into the suite will rank translators for a client according to their relevancy, i.e. “the better the match is with the language pair and project metadata, the higher the relevancy score automatically calculated for each provider. Most relevant providers will be suggested first upon job creation, as they most likely have translated similar content in previous assignments.” This can be a double-edged sword, though.

Completely cloud-based, Phrase can be a pain for those of us who don’t have the luxury of a perfectly stable internet connection. When a lorry or tractor goes past my house and the internet goes out for about five to ten minutes, I lose access to the translation memory and terminology for my project. Now picture that happening twenty times a day when you’re working on a large project. That’s right, it’s exhausting.

On the other hand, if you are a business owner with multiple websites and apps in many languages that need continuous updates and translations, Phrase allows you a seamless interface between your content creators and the different customer interfaces, allowing translations, once approved, to be automatically uploaded to the right place.

Does anyone subscribe to Phrase here? Why?

What are your personal pros and cons?

What do you think of this “free if you work for our client” model? 

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