What are translation memory programmes (Computer Aided Translation or CAT)?

Even though computers are becoming more powerful, they are still unable to compete with humans in regard to the translation process. However, the last decades have seen the production of increasingly useful “computer aided translations” (CAT) or “intelligent translation programmes”. These programmes weren’t created to replace translators, but rather to work with them and improve the overall speed and quality of translations. Today, working with translation memory programmes is considered a common necessary for translators, and even more so for translation companies. These tools help get the job done better, faster and with more precision! But it’s important to remember that CAT programmes are not automated translation programmes, but aides for qualified translators, editors and proofreaders in their daily line of work.


When are translation memory programmes or CAT tools applicable?

CAT tools can be used for the majority of translation projects. Translation memory programmes:

  • help build a precise and client-approved terminology and company-specific concepts for each individual client or project;
  • ensure the cataloguing of repetitions to provide clients with increasingly qualitative translations;
  • saves time spent translating and costs.

However, there are cases where CAT tools will not work. For example:

  • if the text is handwritten;
  • if the translation memory programme is unable to connect to the text file provided by the client;
  • if the document to be translated is hard to read or illegible (i.e. scanned files in PDF format).

How are translation and proofreading prices calculated for CAT translations?

When using CAT tools, translation costs are calculated based on a prior analysis of the document. The analysis determines repeated text, as well as partial or full matches with the existing translation memory. Essentially, these matches are identified on a per-sentence level and not by word. This means the entire document is analysed sentence-by-sentence and compared with the other sentences in the document, as well as any previous sentences stored in the translation memory.

What are repetitions?

Repetitions are sentences that occur two or more times within a single document. Once this sentence is translated, it is not necessary for it to be translated again. Experience shows that this type of repeated sentence structure is most often found in handbooks, annual reports, contracts, prescription drug pamphlets and other such standard texts. Repetitions are also analysed based on compatibility. For example, if you need translations for prescription drug pamphlets, translations using the CAT tools will render sentences that will have already been translated and that will repeat. In these cases these texts won’t have to be translated again, but will be offered as translations based on the existing (and client-approved) translation memory. This helps translate documents faster, with greater consistency and while saving costs.

What kinds of documents are usually translated using CAT?

Translation memory programmes are useful tools for standard legal and economic texts (annual reports), as well as technical texts (technical reports, instructions, user manuals) and prescription drug pamphlets. CAT tools are also effective for website text translations because they work with XML, HTML and other Internet platform formats. Translation memory programmes can simplify the working process with texts from any number of other sectors, especially if the client knows this or a similar terminology will be used in the future as well.

What are automated translation programmes?

Automated translation programmes have been developed to maximise the speed with which the meaning of a word, sentence or phrase is understood. This is done by entering a text into a programme screen. The most popular automated translation programmes (also referred to as machine-based translation programmes) are: Pragma, Promt and Google Translate. Because language is a very specific thing and is a form of communication unique to humans, the existing automated translation programmes are very rarely able to provide adequate translation results. This is why professional translators and language service companies do not use such programmes.

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What are the most common CAT programmes?

The current worldwide favourites are:

  • Memsource;
  • Trados Studio 2015;
  • Across;
  • Transit NXT;
  • Wordfast Pro;
  • u. c.

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