Frequently asked questions about translation tools

CAT tools have become absolutely indispensable in the translation industry. However, unless you are a translator, you will most probably not be familiar with the concept behind those CAT tools. That is why we want to explain what CAT tools and their benefits are and also clarify some common misunderstandings. If you are planning to have any types of documents translated, the information in this blog will certainly be extremely helpful for you.

linguistic tools

What are CAT tools?

CAT tools are Computer-Assisted Translation tools. In very simple words: CAT tools are computer programs that help translators do a good job.

Are CAT tools the same as machine translation programs?

Absolutely not! This is probably the biggest misunderstanding about CAT tools. While machine translation is done by a machine, a CAT tool is a computer program that a human linguist uses while he/she translates. Basically speaking, most CAT tools provide an interface with a source text column on the left and a target text column on the right. The column on the right side is where the translator types his/her translation. Besides this interface, high-quality CAT tools offer a huge range of features that translators and their clients profit from – and we will address those benefits right now.

What features do CAT tools offer to translators?

CAT tools are highly complex programs that are constantly updated to provide state-of-the-art functions specifically tailored to help linguists. There are various CAT tools by different providers, each of them with unique functions. However, most of them offer the following:

– An automatic search function for repetitions in the source text (this is a very important feature and we will discuss more details below)

– Translation memory: A database, which saves translations that a linguist has previously done (also this is a crucial point that we will explain further shortly)

– Search features for punctuation issues, spelling errors, omitted/wrong numbers, formatting issues, etc.

What is the translation memory about?

The translation memory is a type of terminology database. Clients can, for example, request that the name of a certain product will always have to be translated the same way in the target language. That is why even if several different language professionals work on a translation for a client, all linguists will be able to use exactly the same product designation. However, not only clients, but also the translators play an essential role in expanding this terminology base: While linguists type the translations, the translation memory will normally save the text content in a database. Consequently, when the CAT tool discovers repetitions in the source text, linguists will normally be reminded automatically to translate those repetitions in a similar or even the same way as they have done previously.

Why is it important to check for repetitions in the source text?

Checking for repetitions does not only guarantee consistency, but also saves linguists a lot of effort. This probably best explained with an example: Let us say that an insurance company needs to translate three insurance policies for a) mobile phone, b) a laptop and c) a tablet. The text content of the three policies is identical, except for the terms “mobile phone”, “laptop” and “tablet” and some few minor differences in 5 short paragraphs. A CAT tool will immediately confirm that the only differences in the three policy texts are those three terms and the 5 short paragraphs. That is why translators will not need to compare the three source texts word by word, but will simply translate one of the policies. Once they move on to the second (and the third) policy, the CAT tool will display the translation of the first policy. This means that the translator will not have to translate everything again from scratch. Instead, the linguist can use the existing translation from the first policy, check it and amend the bits that are not identical. As you can imagine, this saves a huge amount of work and time.

So what are the main advantages of CAT tools for clients who order translations?

As you have seen above, CAT tools are extremely handy for translators. But why would you as a client actually care? Because you profit from CAT tools, too!

– Costs: When a CAT tool discovers repetitions in your documents (as in the example discussed above), linguists will need to spend far less time on the translations, so you will normally receive a huge discount

– Time: CAT tools help translators complete their tasks much faster, which means that the turn-around time for your documents can be shortened significantly

– Quality: Many features of CAT tools as discussed above offer a very strict form of automated quality assurance and therefore help ensure that your translations correspond to highest standards

As you can see, CAT tools offer huge benefits to linguists and their clients. The linguists at elionetwork are well acquainted with CAT tools and use them on a daily basis. We are proud to offer you translations in 55 languages and a wide range of other services. If you have any further questions on CAT tools and how you can profit from them, or if you would like to request a free quote, please contact our friendly team now for more information.