Introductions to CAT Tools and Machine Translation

CAT Tools (Computer-assisted translation)

We know that Machine Translation is the process by which the translation is performed by computer software. This means that the translation is performed automatically without human intervention. Machine CAT tools, on the other hand, are software tools that can be used by the translator to facilitate his/her task. The protagonist, in this case, is the translator, who will translate the document aided by the tool. How do CAT tools help the translator? By providing the translator with already translated content and terminology stored in a database, called Translation Memory, among other things.

How They Work

So, the most important feature of the CAT tool is that it automatically stores the text translated in a translation memory (TM). This is particularly useful when you have a high number of repeated phrases or sentences because the program will automatically provide the sentence translated if it finds a perfect match in the translation memory. It is also good for consistency, as it ensures that specific terms and phrases are translated always in the same way where there are several translators involved.

The CAT tool breaks the source text into segments, usually no longer than a sentence, using punctuation marks to identify where each segment ends. Then, it presents the source segment in a box and provides another box below to enter the translation, which becomes the target segment. Once translated, the source segment is associated to the target segment creating a translation unit. This translation unit is saved in the translation memory. The tool automatically saves the content into the translation memory as the translator advances in the translation. So even though you don’t save your translation, it will still be available for you in the translation memory. This ensures that you will not miss your translation in case outage or accidentally closing the file without saving.

Understanding the Results

The segments will be classified by the degree of similarity between the text you have to translate (source text) and the content stored in the TM. So the tool will provide the following results:

100% matches: these are a perfect match, which means that the segment of the source is identical to another segment stored in the TM.

Repetitions: a segment is repeated many times in the document. Once translated, the TM will provide the translation each time the segment appears in the file.

Fuzzy matches: These are partial coincidences. The source segment may coincide in 95% – 99%, 85% – 94%, 75% – 84% or 50% – 74% with a segment stored in the TM.

No match: These are new segments.

Different Types of CAT Tools

Nowadays, there are many kinds of CAT Tools, some of them are desktop software like Trados and Studio, which you must install in your computer and then import the files to translate. Others, like Idiom, MemoQ, Across, offer a desktop version or a version online. For the online version, you need to have Internet connection to work with this tool. You enter the server with a password provided by the client or agency and you will translate in an online environment. This allows agencies to monitor the translator’s work and also create work teams for big projects. In this way, the translation memory is constantly updated as the translator advances in the project.

Are they really necessary?

CAT tools are designed to facilitate and accelerate the translation process. They are very useful in cases where the translator works on documents of the same topic with repeated phrases and formulas, like legal documents and certificates. They are also useful for translating manuals with technical vocabulary, since once you have translated the word you will have it stored in your Translation Memory and you will be able to look it up. You can import custom glossaries created by the client which ensures a high level of consistency with previous translations done by other professionals.

Unfortunately, the use of CAT tools is not so much a decision of the translator as a requirement of the agency or client. Agencies and clients will often use one or more CAT tools and they will require that the translator works with them. They will usually send the translator an existing TM created by other translators and they will pay less for 100% matches, repetitions and fuzzy matches. The most used CAT Tools in the industry are Trados, Studio 2009 and 2011, MemoQ, Wordfast and Across so you should look into such of these and become well aquainted with them.

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