What are CAT tools and how do our translators use them to produce high-quality translations?

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A CAT tool is software that helps translators do their job better and faster – so you get results that are more consistent with a shorter turnaround time. What it’s not is a translation machine designed to replace humans.

Actually, this tool has nothing to do with machine translation. Rather, a good CAT tool helps a translator produce high-quality translations that are far superior to machine translations. Let's take a look at exactly what this tool does and how professional translators work with it.

 

What does a CAT tool do?

As we've established, CAT stands for "computer-assisted translation"*. This software primarily offers two central functions for producing high-quality translations:

*CAT is also referred to as “computer-aided” / ”machine-assisted” / ”machine-aided” translation

The Translation Memory

The translation memory, or translation archive, is the software's memory. All of a translator's terms and text segments are stored here and can be automatically retrieved in subsequent translations.

With each new translation task, the translation memory enables the CAT tool to search for the same – or similar – words and phrases used in previous translations and to suggest them in the current context. This ensures a high degree of consistency in the terminology and style used. It can also save a lot of time, especially when translating text that contains frequently recurring passages. Would you like to know what intercontact does with the time saved and how you will benefit? We are totally transparent with our customers and give them a corresponding discount of 20–70%.

The scope and quality of each translation memory grows with use, as the system can access an ever-expanding, ever more comprehensive database.

The Terminology Database

The terminology database (or "termbase") is usually set up as part of the translation memory. Terminology refers to a collection of words, terms and specialist expressions. This can include industry-specific and company-specific terms. A termbase stores this terminology as a glossary and then suggests these terms to the translator as they work. This ensures that the correct terms are used consistently within each customer's corporate text.

Within certain fields, it is crucial that terminologically is used consistently to avoid any confusion. This is particularly true of technology, science, law, medicine and finance. Using a CAT tool helps avoid the use of synonyms, which would make technical translations unclear and difficult to understand.

In addition, the tool can be instructed to exclude terms used by competitors. This is especially beneficial during the localisation process, which is when we translate a website into many languages. Our terminology databases help us maintain an overview and ensure uniformity.

The benefits of CAT tools

• Higher Quality
• More Consistency
• Faster Turnaround
• Reduced Costs

As we said at the start, this tool makes a translator's work easier and ensures our customers receive a higher-quality translation with a faster turnaround. For our customers, this means getting the best possible results with significant cost savings.

Here's how:

First of all, the software tool analyses the text to be translated and calculates the number of words and word repetitions in the document. It also identifies the terms and phrases that are already in the translation memory. For the translation agency, these key figures are crucial for assessing the workload involved, preparing a cost estimate and for scheduling purposes.

The document to be translated is then divided into segments, which makes the entire translation process clearer for the translator. This is also helpful for the second translator, who reviews the translation as part of our double check system, as they can instantly access the information they need while they proofread.

As a further benefit, an efficient CAT tool provides support within our translation project management and order processing departments. This reduces the overall turnaround time of translation assignments to a minimum.

It's important to note, however, that this software still relies on human performance. A bad translator produces bad translations even with a CAT tool, while a good translator can improve their skills through its use.

Several computer-assisted translation tools on the market are suitable for professional use. Among the best known are MemoQ, Trados and Across. At intercontact, we mainly use Trados in conjunction with GroupShare.

Do you have any questions about CAT tools? Our team is here to advise you

Ordinarily, our translation customers have no direct involvement with our CAT tool. They simply enjoy having their translations processed quickly, cost-effectively and to a high standard of quality.

However, if you do have any questions on the subject, just talk to us and let our specialists advise you.