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The ultimate guide to CAT tools

by Thomas Lovecraft

What are CAT tools?

Professional translators often require assistance to finish their projects faster and easier, especially if the workload is difficult to bare singlehandedly. This need for help gave birth to a wide range of computer-based tools that all go under the name CAT tools – meaning Computer Assisted Translation tools.

CAT tools are not there to do the work for the translator nor should they be mistaken for machine translation, however, their main purpose is to facilitate the translation process depending on the tools individual features. As far as the features go, CAT tools can offer a wide array of useful services that can help translators manage their projects and process textual content faster. The list of basic CAT features includes managing, editing, and storing translation projects.

When it comes to CAT tools and their practical use, there are several types of tools that are most commonly used:

Translation memory software

These kinds of tools are widely used among translators that work with different industries where technical terms could create a nightmare. These tools store previously translated textual content as individual units of text called “segments”. As the translator works through the text, the translation memory software stores the segments and keeps it in case a similar segment comes along later. Some of the most popular CAT tools include:

Termbases

These types of CAT tools allow the translator to add terms to a database during or after the translation process for future use. It also allows the translator to add a definition of an individual term or even place grammatical information which would provide even more detail regarding a specific word or syntax.

Dictionaries

These tools are best described as linguistic search engines. The whole idea around dictionaries is that they allow the translator to enter a text that needs to be translated and then, instead of searching the internet for data (like regular search engines) the software searches through a large database of terms and syntaxes in order to provide the most useful translation results.

Machine translation engines

These CAT tools perform translation of large segments of text or speech from one natural language to another. Simply put, machine translation engines translate the text word for word, however, this doesn’t satisfy the needs of professional translators, so software developers work on neural techniques that will allow better handling of various differences in linguistic typology, idioms, etc.

The benefits of using CAT tools

Obviously, CAT tools allow translators to spend less time working around difficult technical terms or foreign slang and other terms that would otherwise take more time to translate properly. Additionally, this makes translators more productive, which is essential if they're working for a large company where the material for translation never runs out. Freelance translators can enjoy faster turnaround time, and get more work on their hands if they want to. A number of CAT tools offer proofreading assistance so the overall quality of the content is also improved. All in all, the benefits depend on the tool used and the needs of the translator.

Some of the most popular CAT tools include:

Conclusion

There are a lot of free and paid CAT tools on the market, all of which are built with one purpose only – to help translators perform a better job in less time. They can’t replace the translator or abolish the need for humans in translating business, but they can greatly cut the costs of translation, improve the quality, and provide a seamless working experience for the people who use them.

About the writer

Thomas Lovecraft runs a small business in California. He is an ornithology lover and an amateur songwriter; he is also a content strategist at Best Dissertation. He likes Pina Coladas and getting caught in the rain. You can follow him on Twitter.

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