The Interpreter's Toolkit: Interpreters’ Help – a one-stop shop in the making?

Interpreters’ Help offers dynamic, platform-independent glossary management tools, including online and offline search and a host of other features for interpreters.


When Céline Corsini started working as a conference interpreter, she asked her brother, Benoît Werner, to develop a tool to search glossaries while on assignment. He teamed up with fellow programmer Yann Plancqueel, and in 2014, Interpreters' Help was born.

Interpreters’ Help aims to be a “comprehensive solution for interpreters – from preparation to the booth.” The web-based service offers terminology management, rapid online and offline search, robust collaboration tools, a wealth of public glossaries, and one of the cleanest, most user-friendly interfaces on the market.

It also sets its sights high, striving to be both a social network and the world’s “greatest database of glossaries” for interpreters. Although the tool is not yet a one-stop shop, its developers are constantly rolling out new features – from term extraction to vocabulary training and assignment management to file storage. Interpreters’ Help also provides numerous features for the community, including a crowd-sourced calendar of industry events, assorted resources, and a directory of professionals. Some of these are still a bit underdeveloped or suffer from lack of critical mass. Nevertheless, Interpreters’ Help is one of the most dynamic, robust tools on the market, and one of my go-to options for managing my terminology – day in and day out.

The nuts and bolts

Interpreters’ Help is a cloud-based glossary management tool. Since it runs in your browser, it works with nearly every device under the sun, including desktops, laptops, tablets and smartphones. It also offers “BoothMate” – a free, standalone companion application for Mac, Windows, and iPad – allowing you to search your glossaries offline.

With Interpreters’ Help, I frequently create glossaries using the desktop in my office and search and fine-tune them from my laptop, tablet or smartphone while on the road or on the job. Since Interpreters’ Help is cloud-based, it syncs automatically – and instantaneously – across devices. As a result, pulling up glossaries from any device is a piece of cake.

Interpreters’ Help adopts a two-tier subscription system. Free users have unlimited public glossaries, one private glossary, and can upload 100 MB of files. Professional users get unlimited public and private glossaries and can upload 2 GB of files.

At 20€/month or 215€/year, the subscription-based service is among the pricier options on the market. However, given its wealth of features and excellent customer support via email, it’s worth every penny. It also offers free educational subscriptions for both students and teachers, as well as a 50% discount for recent graduates in their first year on the job.

The Glossary Page: A quick overview

When you create a glossary on Interpreters’ Help, you can give it a name, add a description and tags, and decide if you want to make it public or private. Afterwards, customize your glossary by adding columns for languages, acronyms, comments, categories, or other custom fields.

Interpreters' Help is intuitive, visually appealing, and easy to use – actions such as adding, saving or editing a line, reorganizing columns, or alphabetizing entries by column can be completed in a single click.

Editing a line on the Interpreters’ Help Glossary Page


You can search and edit your glossaries using keyboard shortcuts, saving you time and effort while in the booth.

Shortcuts


Advanced users will enjoy the ability to add notes, a list of sources, and public and private tags, which make it easy to search across related glossaries. You can also upload and attach files to a glossary, keeping all assignment-related documents in one centralized place.

Public glossaries are capped at 500 terms, while private glossaries max out at 3000, as per Interpreters’ Help’s best practices.

Creating and importing glossaries

Creating a glossary on Interpreters’ Help is fast and easy. Build a new glossary using the online interface – adding terms manually or with the term extraction feature – or import a glossary from .docx, .xls, .xlsx, .ods, or .csv files.

I put the import feature through its paces, and found that most file formats were processed quickly and flawlessly. However, I did come across errors importing .csv files that used delimiters other than commas and with very long cells in .ods files. I also found that .docx files took nearly three times longer than spreadsheet files to upload (0.11 seconds/word vs. 0.04 seconds/word).

Interpreters’ Help attempts to detect languages in imported glossaries using the headers in your source document. Regardless of whether I labeled them with language names, ISO language codes, or custom text, the tool regularly failed to identify column headers. A few minor programming tweaks could probably streamline this process even further.

Validating glossary languages after uploading


Interpreters’ Help also allows you to revert to a previous import or import terms from multiple files into one glossary – a convenient way of merging glossaries. However, I’d appreciate the ability to merge glossaries online, rather than uploading external files individually. The ability to automatically remove duplicate terms would also be a useful addition, as would automatic detection of duplicates during the import phase.

Downloading, copying and printing glossaries

Glossaries can be downloaded in Excel or PDF format in just two clicks. When downloading a PDF or printing your glossary, the output mirrors the table you see on the screen. Since it’s easy to move columns around and alphabetize by column, various output formats can be generated quickly.

If you’d like to safely modify a glossary (for example, slimming down a large glossary for a targeted assignment), you can easily make a copy of your glossary, then delete any extraneous terms.

A printed glossary


One minor addition I’d like to see is the ability to download or print a subset of a glossary – for example, to only print a few columns (just two languages; one language and acronyms, etc.). Also on my wish list: the ability to star certain lines in glossaries, view or download only starred terms, or delete multiple terms at once.

Searching glossaries

Search is incremental: as you type each letter, the program searches across all entries and columns in your glossary and whittles down the list of matching results. With clever glossary design, this can be especially useful: type in an acronym or date, and pull up the full name of a product or international agreement in no time flat.

Incremental search


Interpreters’ Help is case- and accent-insensitive: there’s no need to write accents like é, since e returns the same results. You can also save time with substitutions, like oe for œ or ss for ß. (As far as I know, Interpreters’ Help does not allow custom substitutions.)

Search within a single glossary, across a subset of glossaries (by using tags or manually selecting glossaries to search), or across all of your glossaries.

Searching across a subset of glossaries


Pro tip: When searching across multiple glossaries, you can select the columns you’d like to search in or view. You can even add a new line to a specific glossary from the multi-glossary search page.

BoothMate and offline search

Every tech-savvy interpreter’s nightmare is an “internet desert” – a venue where the Wi-Fi and your cellular connection are slow or non-existent.

How does a cloud-based glossary work in low-connectivity settings like these? Simply download BoothMatethe free, standalone companion app for Mac, Windows, and iPad – log in, and your glossaries will automatically sync to your device whenever you’re online.

The Mac and Windows version offer basic search features. Just like the online version, search is incremental and case- and accent-insensitive. You can also select the languages you’d like to search across and display and easily resize and rearrange columns.

BoothMate for Mac


BoothMate for iPad includes all these features, plus the ability to create, edit and delete lines from the app or password protect your glossaries. Any changes you make while offline are automatically merged into your glossaries when you go online. Another great feature lets you see each line’s history, helping you keep track of edits you made while on the job.

Incremental search in BoothMate for iPad


Although BoothMate for iPad works with the new multitasking features in iOS 11.0 – allowing you to pull up glossaries and reference documents side-by-side – the glossary columns don’t resize, which is a bit of a design flaw.

BoothMate for iPad also has an “On-The-Go” glossary, allowing you to create a new glossary or jot down terms while offline. Once you get back online, you can copy these terms into a new glossary from the web interface.

Generally speaking, I appreciate the auto-sync feature and ability to edit glossaries from my iPad while on assignment. However, I feel the iPad interface is less intuitive and user-friendly than the web-based version: many actions, like adding a line, seem unnecessarily cumbersome. It also offers far fewer keyboard shortcuts: for example, Tab and Enter don’t work when editing lines.

Although I applaud the developers for offering fast offline search on various platforms, I’d like to see BoothMate be as feature-packed and user-friendly as Interpreters’ Help.

Editing a line in BoothMate for iPad


Term extraction

One of my favorite new features of Interpreters’ Help is terminology extraction. Paste in the parallel texts (original and translation), highlight the term you’d like to add to your glossary and its equivalent, and hit Enter. (A dictionary look-up also exists, although Google Translate appears to be the only dictionary available at the moment.) Once you’ve read through a text, click “merge lines into glossary.” It’s that simple.

This is yet another user-friendly tool for quickly improving your glossary. However, tools designed specifically for this purpose, like Intragloss, offer far more features. I’d like to see Interpreters’ Help significantly expand terminology extraction so users can upload various file formats, remove extraneous punctuation, adjust unnecessary capitalization, synchronize scrolling, access dictionaries, search for terminology in customized term banks using shortcuts, and detect terms that are already in glossaries. I’d also like to see the term extraction feature made available on tablets and mobile devices.

Term extraction in Interpreters’ Help

Vocabulary training

Another new Interpreters’ Help feature is the “glossary learning mode,” which quickly turns your glossaries into flashcards so you can practice terms before an assignment. This aims to mirror the features in popular spaced repetition tools like Anki, Duolingo, Memrise and Quizlet.

Each “deck” of flashcards is based on two columns in your glossary; you can create multiple decks for larger glossaries. You can also email yourself a practice link, and easily practice a deck from your mobile device when you have a bit of down time – a very convenient feature!

In a deck, the entry from one column appears on the “front” side of the flashcard. Click “reveal” to see the equivalent entry from another column, then rate your knowledge of the term (“again,” “difficult,” “good” or “perfect”). As you practice, the Interpreters’ Help algorithm feeds you terms you’re less comfortable with.

As someone who’s used many vocabulary trainers over the years, I again find that the Interpreters’ Help version pales in comparison to its competitors. I doubt whether pressing “reveal” and rating how well you know a term stimulates active recall. Indeed, in order to determine how well you’ve “learned” a term, other programs include various interactive exercises, assessing whether responses are correct and how long it took to answer. I’d also encourage the developers to think about how vocabulary trainers might differ in multilingual contexts – like showing two columns (i.e. two passive languages) on the front of a flashcard and the target term on the back or allowing for multilingual flashcards. (In a digital world, why not?)

Glossary learning mode


Collaboration

Interpreters’ Help promotes collaboration better than any other glossary tool I know.  

First, you can share private glossaries with colleagues, granting them viewing or editing rights. Colleagues love the search features described above, which let them quickly pull up terms while interpreting. Unfortunately, only paying members can edit private glossaries, which can hinder collaboration between boothmates while on confidential assignments. Perhaps the developers could consider alternative approaches, like time-limited editing rights.

Sharing permissions


The Glossary Farm lets you search for glossaries, view and like a user’s glossaries, search across public glossaries, and even embed glossaries onto a website. You can also modify a glossary by making a public or private copy of it, which is especially useful when you want to add another language to a glossary you like.

A Creative Commons license and link to the source glossary help respect intellectual property rights.

On a message board associated with each glossary, users can create “issues” to discuss terms or suggest potential changes.

As Benoît Werner explains:

We would like to build a reliable source of terminology for interpreters…The best source on a specific topic one day can be outdated a few years later. Terminology evolves over time, and our platform can help glossaries evolve and be improved."

An evolving database of reliable public glossaries could revolutionize the way interpreters approach terminology, and the shared Glossary Farm is a solid step in that direction.

The Glossary Farm


Social networking

Interpreters’ Help is designed as a professional social network. Set up your profile, adding your city, language combination, website, biography, education, and more. Search for and add colleagues, follow people whose public glossaries you like, get notifications about their new glossaries, and interact with other members by messaging or following them.

A notifications tab shows you any issues that have been edited and any jobs you’ve been added to. Of course, myriad options let you customize web and email notifications.

Interpreters’ Directory

The “Interpreters’ Directory” aims to be a “worldwide network of interpreters.” It’s free and offers a handful of ways to raise your visibility: in addition to the information above, you can add a tagline, professional domicile, professional memberships, list of services, and contact information, including a phone number. Signed-in members can also see a list of a user’s public glossaries, and the Directory is indexed by search engines.

Like the rest of Interpreters’ Help, the Directory is visually appealing and customizable. However, the interpreter search seems limited to your location; other features, such as active and passive languages, would be needed to make this a versatile search tool.

I support the idea of a free directory of interpreters working in all branches of interpreting. However, without more widespread uptake and better search features, the Directory is unlikely to be particularly useful.

Job calendar

Interpreters’ Help also has a built-in calendar for keeping track of assignments. Once you create a job, you can add details like date, time, client, languages, speakers, attendees, equipment, special requirements, contacts, notes, venue name and address, and more.

For interpreters looking for a way to conveniently organize information about their assignments, the Interpreters’ Help job calendar fits the bill. It’s packed with useful features, like the ability to attach glossaries and upload files to an assignment, create a database of clients, view a job location on the map from your smartphone, and see your job history, including by client.

Again, collaboration is what sets the Interpreters’ Help calendar apart. After the team leader adds members to a team, they can view the job page and details, as well as all attached glossaries and files. The job page also includes a discussion space. For those who regularly coordinate teams of interpreters, this suite of features could allow for fast, easy communication and document sharing with and among team members.

Assignment details and discussion space


Community pages

Finally, Interpreters’ Help features a “Community” section with a hodge-podge of different materials that are, in my view, a bit hit-and-miss.

The “interviews of interpreters” blog aims to publicize our profession by publishing one interview per month. For the moment, it seems to be relatively dormant, with only three interviews published last year.

The list of “resources for interpreters” includes a map of interpreting schools, a map of professional associations, and lists of training resources, books, podcasts, terminology websites, speech databases, and blogs. It includes some good recommendations, and I especially like the interactive maps. The Resources page – though a bit paltry at the moment – appears to be a work in progress, and could eventually become a useful place to find interpreting resources.

In my view, the most interesting – and innovative – community resource is the calendar of events in the interpreting world. It’s a crowd-sourced, interactive, easy-to-update calendar for consulting upcoming interpreting events in various ways – by type of event, location, a map of events near you, and more. You can also export the calendar to Apple or Google, making it easy to see the list of interpreting events every time you open your calendar.

To my knowledge, the interpreting community lacks a comprehensive, centralized place to learn about professional development opportunities, interesting conferences, webinars, and meet-ups. This calendar could fill that gap, and I’d encourage colleagues to adopt it. If this calendar reaches critical mass, it could be a powerful resource for our community. 

Calendar of public interpreting events


Conclusion

Although Interpreters’ Help is a relative newcomer on the glossary-management scene, it has quickly become a market leader, with over 1000 registered users. In my view, this is because it ticks most of the boxes on my wish list for terminology tools: it is fast, visually appealing, easy to use, cloud-based and platform-independent, and its search tools are incremental, accent-insensitive, and lightning fast – plus they work offline.

What really sets Interpreters’ Help aside are its excellent collaboration tools. Very few terminology management programs truly foster collaboration, yet according to terminology expert Anja Rütten, collaborative glossaries are revolutionizing the way interpreters approach terminology and preparation.

In addition to nailing its core business – terminology management – Interpreters’ Help is making inroads toward becoming a one-stop shop for interpreters. The assignment management features offer useful tools for organizing jobs and sharing reference materials, information and glossaries with teams of interpreters. The vocabulary training and term extraction features are still in beta, but the initial functions are promising. Meanwhile, the calendar of events and Interpreters’ Directory could prove particularly useful if they reach critical mass.

And if Interpreters’ Help lives up to its goal of being the world’s largest source of reliable, up-to-date, sharable glossaries, it will have made a major contribution to the interpreting community.

Even without a paid subscription, Interpreters’ Help offers a range of powerful features for creating, sharing and searching glossaries. So what are you waiting for – why not take it for a spin today?


REFERENCES

Drechsel, A. (2016, May 18) Interpreters’ Help helps interpreters with terminology [Audio podcast]. Retrieved from https://www.adrechsel.de/langf...

Drechsel, A., D’Hayer, D., Rütten, A., Goldsmith, J., Feder, M., and Olsen, B. (2017, November 29). Live at TC39: New Frontiers in Interpreting Technology [Audio podcast]. Retrieved from https://www.spreaker.com/user/...

Llewelyn Smith, S. (2016, November 14). Interview. Speechpool roundup 41: sharing glossaries, Julian Assange, and permission to upload, 41.


Josh Goldsmith is a UN- and EU-accredited interpreter and AIIC pre-candidate working from Spanish, French, Italian and Catalan into English. A lover of all things tech, he frequently shares his experience using technology for interpreting at conferences and courses, as well as on Twitter as @Goldsmith_Josh. 



Recommended citation format:
Josh Goldsmith. "The Interpreter's Toolkit: Interpreters’ Help – a one-stop shop in the making?". aiic.net February 12, 2018. Accessed May 26, 2018. <http://aiic.net/p/8499>.



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