Computer-assisted translation (CAT) tools have been around for decades now. They have been a translator’s true friend, coming to their rescue when they are stuck for a word, taking care of the more repetitive tasks, so they don’t wear down the translator, and so on.
Before we go into why you need CAT tools, let’s take a brief look at what kind of tools are out there in the tech landscape today.
Types of CAT tools
It divides the sentences into segments and then tries to identify any segment that might have been translated before. All previous translations are stored in a memory bank, and the tool runs all fresh content against the segments or strings in this bank to see if there are any matches. When it finds a match, it presents it to the translator.
Terminology management software:
Translators can search for terms in the database in new documents with this tool. They can add new words that are similar in meaning to an old term in the database. With the help of a variety of functions, translators can check if a particular term has been translated as defined in the termbase. They can develop their own bilingual glossary, as they work through the documents.
There are desktop termbases as well as open-source, online ones like the Interactive Terminology for Europe.
Translation management systems are portals which house many of the CAT tools. Many of them are cloud-based. Multiple translators can work on the same content within the portal, without any danger of creating duplicate versions or overlaps.
App translation tools:
As the demand for mobile app translation increases, some tools have been developed which are specialized for the translation of apps. Apps have to follow the publishing rules of different play stores. Such tools make it easy for the developer and the translator to comply with these rules.
Interactive machine translation (MT):
It comes up with suggestions as the translator types, making it very intuitive to use. Nowadays, these tools are powered by artificial intelligence systems, so they learn as they go.
How CAT tools can benefit you
Each department of an organization produces a lot of content these days, be it marketing, sales, legal, or training. Often, no one has the time to manually coordinate the translation processes between these different departments. As a result, multiple styles emerge from the same company, making it seem as if the company has no central, unified brand voice.
Also, there can be different generations of content. If content produced for products in one development cycle is starkly different from the previous generation, it will stand out. It can lead to conflicts in the translation process as to which is the right translation for a particular term or phrase.
However, if CAT tools like terminology software or translation memory is used, it readily presents the previous translation or the defined meaning of a term. All the translators working on the content have access to these tools, and hence they can all use the term in the same way.
Even if different sets of translators work on your content, the CAT tools will come in handy in ensuring consistency.
Consistency in translation naturally contributes to an improvement in quality. Once a translated string is edited, reviewed, and approved, it can be repetitively used in the same manner thanks to translation memory, thus creating no room for error. Style guides and glossaries can be used to set the company’s brand voice, indicate words that should not be translated, the meanings of product-specific terms, and so on. Translators working on the content will have clarity on the terms being used and need not look up external sources, which will not only take time, but can also end up in varying meanings of the terms.
Translation memory tools are by far the single most time-saving tool for a translator. They can increase the translator’s productivity by letting them translate only new content. However, different CAT tools have their own time-saving features.
Increasing volumes of content are turning up for translation, and CAT tools are inevitable to bring scalability. Saving time also means that we can fit the translation cost into our budget and thus translate more content, not less.
Gone are the days when the only tool used for translation was an Excel sheet. Translation is quite dynamic these days, with bits of content being created in agile development cycles. On the other hand, there are also huge volumes of content coming from social media, user-generated content, product documentation, and so on that need to be translated to increase their reach. All of this make CAT tools irreplaceable in the translation process.