CAT tools, which have been in use since the 1950s, have significantly transformed both personal and professional translation processes today. Originally introduced as standalone software that could only be used on a single computer, these tools later evolved into client-server applications used on networks. Nowadays, these tools are primarily cloud-based, allowing access from anywhere and anytime through web browsers. In the present day, businesses and translation services widely employ these tools to expedite their operations and enhance productivity.
In this article, we will explore what CAT tools are, why we need them, the advantages they offer, and what factors to consider when selecting the most suitable CAT tool for your needs.
What are CAT Tools?
CAT tools, used by almost all professional translators, are programs that help human translators translate faster and more efficiently. However, these programs are not the same as automatic translation engines. They do not replicate or replace the human ability to interpret context. The main purpose of these tools is to augment human abilities, compare, store, and retrieve data. In short, these tools provide translators with an interface for organizing, managing, and storing translation texts.
How does a CAT Tool Work?
CAT tools work by breaking down the source text into smaller segments and storing all the source and translated segments in a database. Additionally, they have a range of features for editing and linguistic quality assurance.
The basic steps of working with a computer-assisted translation tool are as follows:
- The translator inputs the source language text into the CAT program.
- The CAT tool extracts the content to be translated (elements other than text or images are not visible in the interface for translation).
- The program divides the text into segments.
- The CAT tool displays the source text and the translation area side by side.
- The translator writes translations into the empty target language segments.
- When a translation segment is completed, the CAT tool saves both the source text and the translation in a database.
- If the translator needs to make changes to a translation, they can go back to that segment, and the database is updated accordingly.
- The CAT tool recognizes the same or similar sections of source text and automatically fills in corresponding translations in the target column using translation memory.
- The more content is translated, the more translation matches the CAT tool records in the database and uses when necessary. This saves time for the translator and greatly enhances the quality of translations by ensuring consistency.
Why do You Need CAT Tools?
The reasons why translators need CAT tools can be summarized in two main points:
In order to meet the increasing demand for translations driven by globalization, translators often have to provide shorter delivery times to their clients. Incorporating a CAT tool into the translation process can significantly enhance a translator’s performance.
Translators do not need to repeatedly translate the same content thanks to the pre-existing translations stored in the translation memory of a CAT tool. This can substantially expedite the translation process. The more translations a translator completes, the more extensive and efficient their translation memory becomes.
Regardless of the type of translations they are handling, consistency and accuracy in terminology are crucial for achieving flawless translations.
These tools include integrated terminology databases that assist project managers and translators in maintaining consistent terminology across all projects.
The Benefits of CAT tools
CAT tools can handle many tasks successfully, from editing translation texts to ensuring consistency. Using CAT software in translation projects brings many benefits, which you can find below:
1. They increase productivity
The CAT tool eliminates the need to copy and paste your translations into a template. Don’t spend time writing, editing, and formatting translation content, just focus on the parts you are going to translate. Let the CAT tool take care of everything else and create a clean copy of the original file for you when the translation is complete.
2. They foster consistency
Thanks to the translation memories and term bases available in these tools, you can translate multiple texts with the same consistency every time. In addition, the more you use the CAT tool, the larger the translation memory will become and the fewer words you will need to translate over time.
3. They are flexible
CAT tools are easy to adapt to different professional needs and workflows:
- Most CAT tools are compatible with files from other tools.
- They offer the possibility to customise the workflow thanks to various integrations and built-in modules, so that it is possible to adapt them to most projects.
- It is possible to configure access, so you can determine who can edit and who can only read on the project.
- These tools can be accessed via web, desktop, and mobile devices. This means that you can use them in the office, in the cloud and on the move on any device.
4. They increase translation quality
Using a CAT tool, you can easily and consistently produce high-quality translations. Tone and terminology are especially important in texts containing technical, financial, or industry-specific jargon. By using internal or external translation databases integrated into a CAT tool, you can master these details more easily and speed up translation.
5. They save you time and money
Thanks to matching technologies, CAT tools enable you to translate faster and more efficiently every time. You don’t have to type the same translation over and over again for similar texts.
How to Choose the Best CAT Tool for Your Needs?
In the ever-growing CAT software market, you should know what is most important for you to find the most suitable CAT tool for your needs without getting lost among the options:
- Budget: These tools have different prices. Although the money you will spend may seem high at first, you will be rewarded with high efficiency and time savings.
- Goals and needs: You should know which features of the vehicle are useful and necessary for you.
- Learning curve: It will be easier to learn to use a flexible and user-friendly CAT editor with a simple dashboard, clear navigation, and support services.
- Integrations: The best CAT tool should be able to integrate with your preferred software tools to seamlessly communicate and exchange data within your ecosystem.
- Test: Take advantage of free trials to test and see if the tool meets your requirements.
- Think about the future: Finally, choose a CAT tool that you can use seamlessly over a long period of time based on your growing needs.