Bad PDF Converter: ABBYY 14

Anyone thrilled with ABBYY 12 for converting pdf documents to Word processor format may wonder why Amazon does not sell version 14. Version 12 is all sold out, and you have to go to the company website to even order 14. For specific information be prepared to paw through some inelegantly translated descriptions.  It turns out that ABBYY 14 is to ABBYY 12 as Windows Vista is to Windows 2000. See for yourself.

Here is how a chunk of Brazilian legalese converted with ABBYY 12 loads into memoQ (a standard translation-assistant tool):

Here is how that same section imports after conversion with ABBYY 14:

The reason I converted again with ver. 12 was that it would take ten times longer to unmangle the ver. 14 output document and make it translatable. The mess of formatting codes you see was left over after I polished up the fonts for consistency, leaving no font stretching, shrinkage or mixing of sorts. ABBYY 14 produces conversions that are absolutely useless for translation and nearly impossible to clean up using the current version of Winword. Small wonder nobody but ABBYY wants to sell it! But there is hope.

While I was struggling to find a way to buy the program (after exhausting all possibilities of purchasing another ABBYY 12) I asked about the possibility of converting without MS Office installed. Nobody at ABBYY had a clue whether their new product would work with Apache Open Office. Omega-T, a free, open-source translation tool, works fine with Microsoft’s competitors. As soon as I installed ABBYY 14 on a clean machine, I tested it with Apache Open Office and no MS Office installed. The conversion worked! The resulting word processor file looked presentable, needing only the usual touch-ups

Once I get caught up I’ll reopen the ABBYY 14 file and save it using the Apache open source program to see if it makes any improvement. Some pdf converters litter the output with “text boxes” that move unpredictably and mess up translations. Opening and saving the resulting Word file with Microsoft’s simple Wordpad gets rid of those, and the resulting file is often salvageable for translation with professional warez. Stay tuned. In the meantime, Caveat Emptor! One sweet solution could be for ABBYY to rename ver. 12 as ver. 14 and forget all about the hideous v.14 miscarriage–kind of the way Microsoft did after releasing Windows Vista.

UPDATE: ABBYY techs suggested using the formatted text option to export converted files. That “solved” the most distressing problem. The interface, however remains user-hostile and even with that work-around all progress is much slower than in ver. 12


Orwellian quality translations

If in need of translations involving oil, dams, power plants or contracts, look us up.
Visit the immigration-related blog too…

My book on the Crash and Depression is out in Portuguese and English on

Houston Translator Association Irregularities

The Houston Translators and Interpreters Association has in recent years been a model of competence in the industry. Yet the current bylaws amendment ballot looks more like a model of practices to avoid. The online bylaws dated April 14, 2010, define members as follows:

Article III – Membership…

Section B – Classes and Qualifications

The Association has three (3) membership classes: individual, corporate and institutional.

  • Individual: An individual who is engaged in translating, interpreting or related work (and may include students)

  • Corporate: A business with an interest in translation or interpretation

  • Institutional: An institution with an interest in translation or interpretation.

Directors elected in single-candidate elections now propose to change those member classes by creating a special class of students who at this time would not be allowed to vote to elect their teacher nor be listed in the online members directory (where the public expects to find professional linguists). To propose the change, voters were told that “new text is indicated by underlining, deleted text by strikeout.” But for the ballot proposal sent to members to change the bylaws, the board of directors approved the following:

Section B – Classes and Qualifications

The Association has four (4) membership classes: individual, corporate, institutional and student.

The above introductory sentence (followed by four, not three bullet items) appeared with no underlining for the new text nor strikeouts for deleted language. It gives the incorrect impression–instructions elsewhere to the contrary notwithstanding–that the student category already exists whether one likes it or not, and that there is mere quibbling to be decided on some trifling point of verbiage in the last of four preexisting bullet points.

In an association of quilt-makers, brewers, basket-weavers or kickboxers, the omission might be brushed aside as simple incompetence, the result voided and new ballots produced. Indeed, one such error in ballot translation into Spanish for the Texas State government had precisely that outcome and cost taxpayers about $100,000 to reprint.

The bad ballot language at issue, however, is presented as approved by the very people immigrants depend on for legal defense of their individual rights in courts that order execution by letal injection. Credible fear reviews can shield dissenters or whistleblowers from extrajudicial execution or torture by junta-style dictatorships, and HITA hosted a presentation on those. Professionals educated abroad want their syllabi competently translated with all legalities accurate so they may exercise a profession despite entrenched lobbyists erecting barriers to entry.  Our newsletter and web tips just now alerted linguists of at least a dozen different fraudulent scams. But more perfidious scams are perpetrated from within the profession. Must we circulate ballots that are an indictment of the board’s competence to frame and edit a simple bylaws amendment proposal?

For over a decade beginners were advised by prominent HITA and AATIA members not to bother to apply for municipal and county court interpreting in Texas. From a position of public trust they emphatically proclaimed that a license was required as a prerequisite. Nevermind that this was a law urged by three individuals claiming to represent the profession without their lobby efforts appearing in our trade publications. The persistent lie was finally exposed at a regulatory meeting at which a government regulatory attorney explained on the public record that the law meant nothing of the sort.

The old law merely formalized a procedure for showing an incompetent interpreter the door and ordering up a substitute, typically someone grandfathered in irrespective of real credentials or ability.  The dissembling was a sales platform for quickie diploma mill courses pushing test answers, podiums for grandfathered insiders to talk down to aspirants, and a loophole enabling agencies possessed of counsel to quietly and without fanfare exploit inexperienced youngsters at pauper rates. The law was only repealed after a libertarian interpreter put up a website playing a recording of the regulatory lawyer’s explanation in language too clear and simple to falsify.

If sidetracking students from earning a degree liable to make them employable is deemed a good idea, it ought to be passed by honest vote of fully-informed members using a ballot prepared in conformity with its own instructions and specifications.  Leaving out the underscores and strikethroughs is a demonstration of lack of competence or subterfuge that can only lead to the outcome being challenged. That is not the sort of attention the board needs to be focussing on the Houston Interpreters and Translators Association.

Any association of actual linguists can raise revenue and provide a public service by hosting interpreting contests. Winners selected by the attendees could thereby earn credible credentials by live testing. A similar competitive approach is used to select and rank athletes, speakers, dancers, writers–even tire-changers or jugglers performing at association events. An interpreting contest need be no more complicated than a live debate or a spelling bee, and its results would carry weight with the membership, judges, attorneys, doctors and honest regulators interested in an objective assessment of competence in performance.

If you are an interpreter or translator interested in the honest defense of individual rights, by all means do get in touch.

Find out the juicy details behind the mother of all economic collapses. Prohibition and The Crash–Cause and Effect in 1929 is available in two languages on Amazon Kindle, each at the cost of a pint of craft beer.

Brazilian blog


Two solutions to ABBYY highlighting

Ever use ABBYY to convert a document composed by someone not very literate–like a clueless defendant or respondent? It takes forever if you let ABBYY agonize over every letter, but the program ignores settings telling it not to smear light blue highlighting everywhere. So how do you clean the exported Word doc of unwanted highlighting that is unresponsive to normal removal of highlighting?

Method 1 by Steven Marzuola:
To fix this shading in Microsoft Word

Ctrl-A to select the entire document (or just the pertinent text)
Open the Borders and Shading box. Simplest is Alt-O, B
Go to the Shading tab.
Take note of the setting in the “Apply to:” box. It’s probably “Paragraph”
Under Fill, click “No Color”. (Even though the window already says “No Color”)
Click OK.
Make sure that the correct text is still selected.
Open the Borders and Shading box again (Alt-O, B)
In the “Apply to:” box, change to “Text”
Under Fill, click “No Color”
Click OK.

BTW, the Alt-O, B keyboard shortcut is a holdover from pre-1997 versions of Word. There was a pull-down menu called “Format”, which used Alt-O instead of Alt-F because that was already used for the “File” pull-down.
Since 1997, the official way to bring up the Borders and Shading dialog box using the ribbon interface is:

Click the Home tab.
In the Paragraph group, click the triangle by the Borders button.
Choose the Borders and Shading command.
Method 2 by Hank Phillips:
Open the document in Open Office
Select everything
Use the highlighting tool to specify no highlighting.
Save the file in the same Word format.

If you enjoyed this, visit the HITA website. We’re both volunteers there.

What-Is-Your-Rate crowdsourcing

An unsolicited solicitation came in today from a no-reply@address. It barked out an announcement to no one in particular, much like a Mussolini speech from a balcony.

<spam>Dear colleague,
[Pitch to go to a website in some unidentified country to fill out forms and offer credit to strangers…]
Now, here’s the good part:
If you are not the named recipient of this transmission, please notify us immediately, by telephone, and delete or destroy any copy of this message.  You should not disclose or use this information in any way. Disclosure or use of this information may expose you to criminal or civil liabilities.  We apologize for the inconvenience and thank you for your attention to this notice. The views, opinions, conclusions and other informations expressed in this electronic mail are not given or endorsed by the company unless otherwise indicated by an authorized representative independent of this message. </spam>

This… outfit–principals unidentified–claims to have been in business almost as long as I have. But even its attempt at drawing up a paragraph of intimidating legalese is miscopied boilerplate laundered of identifiers. Its website contains no physical address but features a cartoon that unwittingly explains why it is usually better to get a bid (not a rate or guesstimate) from a real translator rather than hire some crowdsourcing meddleman ignorant of the language and subject. Dealing direct saves time and money without bureaucratic entanglement.  Just as bookstores let the customer be the judge, the internet lets you choose among translations as carefully as you choose every book you want to read.


1980s Translators job ad

In 1987 language middlemen laboriously compiled lists of test-screened linguists from association member lists and intermediated between the general public and talent as time-saving triage agents. The rare translators’ associations that offer actual testing or public contests to identify ability, all have searchable websites. Certifications can be verified at legitimate association websites.

Any individual needing a translation can locate experts directly and compare their credentials. Search engines have replaced phone books. An interpretpreneur willing and able to deal with the public has a website containing credentials and sample translations. Many bilingual individuals include audio recordings of their own voices in different languages–a security measure that thwarts impersonation.

The globalized market supports many freelance contractors and virtual crews, and yes, brick-and-mortar agencies. But the quality of surviving agencies has improved. None of us little guys and gals can compete with a well-staffed value-added language company when it comes to glossy brochures in seven languages.  I recommend a Houston corporation for weighty material, and some government agencies deal with their own “pet” vendor oligopsonies.

Then again, no company has ever taken pencil and paper and passed a certification test–or produced simultaneous interpretation of content meriting judicial notice. Language encodes thought, and thinking is done by individuals–not artificial entities or machines. Searching for translators is a function search engines, websites and online linguist locators now execute nicely. For an example, visit 

Remember, you saw it here first. If in need of a Portuguese or Spanish translator for some immigration papers, a lawsuit, contract–or maybe an interpreter for a deposition, think of