Thanks to developments in technology, the translation landscape has changed immensely in the past 20 years. Long gone is the translator working with pen and pad and flipping through paper dictionaries. The modern translator is an IT whiz, deftly analyzing various file types, searching online terminology databases, and even working simultaneously with teams of translators on the other side of the world.
The technology that has modified the translation landscape more than any other is Computer-Assisted Translation (CAT) tools. As a prospective translation buyer or an aspiring translator, there are a few things that you should know about CAT tools, how they are used, and how they can benefit your business.
What are CAT tools?
CAT tools are computer programs that separate a text into translatable segments and save them in a database. They often include integrated spell checkers, grammar checkers, terminology managers, dictionaries, aligners, and search tools to facilitate translators’ work. The two most popular CAT tools are Wordfast and SDL Trados, but there more than a dozen others that you can choose from.
Google Translate is not a CAT tool
It is important to make the distinction between CAT tools and machine translation (MT), the technology that powers Google Translate. Machine translation uses algorithms and increasingly also uses neural networks, machine learning, and artificial intelligence to translate texts automatically without the intervention of a human translator. While SDL’s newest product release includes an integrated MT feature, this technology is far from perfect and should only be used in specific cases.
CAT tools save time and money
The simple fact is that CAT tools are a huge money and time saver, which is what typically interests buyers and sellers the most. CAT tools allow for customers to pay less for repetitive text or similar text in a file and allow translators to reduce the amount of time it takes to translate and reformat a file drastically. This means savings for customers and increased productivity for translators.
CAT tools create a valuable asset: the TM
CAT tools are used to create a database of translated segments called a translation memory (TM). This memory allows translators to never translate the same sentence from scratch twice. Over time, TMs can become very large databases full of previous translations, industry- and client-specific terminology, and stylistic considerations that are fully searchable.
CAT tools improve accuracy and consistency
Because CAT tools automatically search TMs for previously translated content and terminology, the consistency between two or more files is vastly improved. This can be particularly helpful if more than two translators are working on the same file or when customers have files with key terms that must be consistent across versions. CAT tools also include a variety of QA features, from number and punctuation checks to glossary term and double space flags. The result is a cleaner, more polished text that matches previously translated content.
A CAT tool will not turn just anyone into an amazing translator, but amazing translators can put CAT tools to use for impressive results. I use both Wordfast and SDL Trados for different projects and customers, and I have colleagues who swear by memoQ. The important thing is to find the one that is right for you, so be sure to shop around!
What’s your favorite CAT tool? Please leave a comment or tweet your answer to @bentranslates.