Handouts for ATA59 – An Introduction to Neural Machine Translation

I will be giving another presentation at the upcoming ATA Annual Conference in New Orleans, ATA59, jointly in the SciTech and Language Technology tracks. The presentation will give an introduction to neural machine translation. My talk is preliminarily scheduled for the very last time slot on Saturday before the final keynote. I hope to see you there, despite the late hour!


“The end of the human translator,” “nearly indistinguishable from human translation” – these and similar headlines have been used to describe neural machine translation (NMT). Most language specialists have probably asked themselves: How much of that is hype? How far can this approach to machine translation really go? How does it work? The presentation will examine one of the available open source NMT toolkits as an illustrative example to explain the underlying concepts of NMT and sequence-to-sequence models. It will follow in the same spirit as last year’s general introduction to neural networks, which is summarized in the accompanying handouts.


I have just uploaded the handout for the presentation onto the ATA server. The material is a slightly updated version of my blog post on neural networks, which summarizes my presentation at ATA58. You can download the handout here.

Workshop: How to Create a Professional Website with WordPress

I recently presented this workshop on website creation with WordPress, which was organized by the Northern California Translators Association.


Themes, posts, pages, widgets, plug-ins, SQL databases, SSL, … oh my! In this workshop, you will not only learn what these terms mean, you will learn how to build a professional, responsive website from scratch with WordPress, one of the most popular solutions for this task. Attendees can follow along on their computers and optionally create their own (free, with limitations) site on

Prerequisites: While no experience with WordPress or website programming and design knowledge is required, attendees should have some basic familiarity with computers and their setup. Those who want to follow along with their devices and start building their site during the workshop (optional), should bring a device with internet connectivity, an installed browser, and a keyboard (tablets will probably work, too).

The slides for the first part of the workshop are available here.

Checking your website’s security, sources, and cookies – GDPR preparation part II

A week ago, I discussed the installation of an SSL certificate on an existing WordPress site in preparation for the European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which will go into effect in May 2018. Today I want to explain the process to check your website’s security, sources, and whether it is setting any first or third party cookies. This is important in order to write a GDPR compliant privacy statement that every website that processes data of European Union citizens needs to include, regardless of whether the website provider is located in the European Union or not.

The easiest way to check your website’s security, sources and cookies is to download Google Chrome. Once downloaded, turn on the Developer Tools, as shown in the screenshot below.

Google Chrome Developer Tools

Google Chrome Developer Tools

Then, the window will be split into two parts, one, which displays the usual browser window, and another one, which displays a range of options. Go to your website, which should now be reachable via https://, and specifically check the security tab, which will display any unsecured elements that your website may be loading and that you may have missed when adapting your site to the new SSL certificate. Also check the “sources” tab, which will display all data sources loaded by your website, and the “cookies” tab, which will display any cookies your site may set, first and third party cookies. As you can see from the screenshots below, my site does not load any third-party objects other than the standard fonts and also does not set any cookies. At least the homepage does not.

Inspection of website sources

Inspection of website sources

Inspection of website for cookies

Inspection of website for cookies

Now, visit every single page on your site in turn and check these three items. In my case it turned out that I had missed one insecurely loaded element in the SSL adaptation, but none of my pages set any cookies. Which means that my GDPR-compliant cookie policy is fairly straightforward, because there are no cookies.

SSL Installation on WordPress in Preparation for the GDPR

Recently, the Internet has been ablaze with information about the impending compliance deadline with the European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). The GDPR is already in effect, however, the grace period for compliance ends on May 25, 2018. This means that all businesses processing data on EU citizens must comply with the GDPR by that date, regardless of whether they are located in the EU or not. This also means that you are likely impacted if you have a website that is visited by EU citizens and your website stores cookies and/or has a contact form and/or has means for visitors to leave comments and “likes” etc (which basically means any blog). The GDPR states that you need to “…implement appropriate technical and organisational an effective way.. in order to meet the requirements of this Regulation and protect the rights of data subjects.

In practice, in my opinion (I am not a lawyer!) this means among other things for your website that you probably need to

  • Install an SSL certificate on your website, such that all web traffic is encrypted;
  • Update your website to include a disclaimer on your cookie and data protection policy.

Now, ideally, one would install an SSL certificate first and then set up the website, but alas, this is not what I have done with this website, which is based on WordPress. So I had to go through a few extra steps to make the SSL certificate work.

Step 1: Install SSL Certificate

This was the easy part, since all I had to do was to purchase an SSL certificate from my hosting provider, and the installation of the certificate was up to them.

Step 2: Edit the Settings of your WordPress Installation

This step is necessary so that all your permalinks point to https:// instead of http://. This can be accomplished by going to Settings > General Settings and editing the WordPress and Site addresses to point to https, see the screenshot below.

https settings in WordPress

https settings in WordPress

However, unfortunately, this was not the whole story, since my site contains quite a few pages and blog posts, complete with lots of images and uploads, which all still pointed to http:// instead of https:// internally. This meant that upon visiting my secured site ( instead of, the browser didn’t show a nice (green) padlock in the address bar, but instead a broken lock, indicating partially insecure elements on the site.

Secure site indicated by padlock

Secure site indicated by padlock

A broken padlock means that portions of the site (links, images) still point to insecurely loaded elements, which means these images are for example loaded via http:// instead of https://.

Broken padlock indicating insecure elements on website

Broken padlock indicating insecure elements on website

Step 3: Change All Internal Links to https

In my case, getting the aforementioned insecure elements to load securely turned out to be the most cumbersome part. There are a number of WordPress plug-ins which claim to accomplish the same task with the click of a button. Unfortunately, they all turned out incompatible with my theme or some of the numerous plug-ins I use. If you don’t use any elaborate plug-ins and your theme is compatible, I suggest you simply search for plug-ins related to “SSL” and install the plug-in of your choice. In any case, please make sure you have a back-up of your site in case things go awry and you need to restore the site to its original condition before installing the plug-in.

If, however, the plug-in of your choice does not accomplish the task, there is a second option. Install and activate the plug-in “Better Search Replace,” and then search for “” and replace it with “” After this step, visiting your site via https:// should show a nice (green) intact padlock with no security warnings.

Step 4: Redirect http:// to https:// in Your .htaccess File

This step is necessary so that all visitors typing or without any of the prefixes are redirected automatically to the secure version of your site at Now, every hosting provider has their own means to access and edit the .htaccess file in your home directory. Most hosting providers also have a recommended syntax for the https redirect, so please follow the instructions of your hosting provider.

In my case, I had to insert the following lines at the very top of the .htaccess file, before anything else:
RewriteEngine On
RewriteCond %{HTTPS} off
RewriteRule (.*) https://%{HTTP_HOST}%{REQUEST_URI} [R=301,L]

That did the trick, and all visitors are now redirected to a safe and secure site. The second step to make my website GDPR-compliant is to check which, if any, cookies my site uses (direct or third party), and update my existing cookie and privacy policy page accordingly. However, this is the topic of a future blog post.

The curious case of the “Upwards Arrow With Tip Rightwards” in Trados Studio

A long struggle with a strange character that appeared in Trados Studio just came to a successful conclusion with the help of a wonderful inofficial Trados help group on Facebook. Here is the curious story of the “Upwards Arrow With Tip Rightwards” that had a number of power users stumped.

Once upon a time, I accepted a project to translate a patent from English into German, whereby the source document was sent to me in form of an innocent-looking Word file. However, after importing that document into Trados Studio 2017, the trouble began. The document was riddled with strange-looking symbols everywhere, see the two screenshots below.


Strange arrow appearing in hundreds of places in Trados Studio.

text with arrows

Sample source segment in Trados Studio, text is redacted for confidentiality.

I looked for these strange symbols in the source document, to no avail, they were not shown (and thus not search- and replaceable). After some back and forth in the aforementioned user group, I was able to determine that Studio treats these characters as whitespace characters, not as formatting or tags. According to this Wikipedia entry, the symbol itself is a so-called “upwards arrow with tip rightwards,” with unicode hex symbol U+21b1. Searching for that unicode hex symbol in Word only resulted in errors (Mac version) or “not found” messages (Windows version). Various transformations and trying to save the source document in various other formats lead nowhere. Saving the entire document as plain text and then reimporting into Word was not an option due to various intricate equations and other formatting that needed to be preserved.

After some more back and forth, thanks to the wonderful colleagues in the user group, we were able to determine that it is Studio’s way to display “left to right” bidirectionality marks. Such marks are completely superfluous in this document, which is entirely in English, and the overabundant appearance of these marks ever second word is definitely an error. In the Word for Windows version I was finally able to search for these invisible characters with “^h” and replace them with…nothing! (As an aside, the Mac version only output an error message, saying that the search for “^h” is not a valid search.) Saving the document with the thus removed bidirectionality marks resulted in a clean document. And I translated happily ever after.

The end…