A range of computer-assisted translation (CAT) tools are available to help professional translators with their work. They blend human translation with machine translation by using computer software to support and facilitate the process of translation. They do not replace the human element of translation work, but rather enhance it.
So are CAT tools a must for translators? For many translators, the answer is a hearty ‘yes.’ CAT tools have a number of benefits that can increase translators’ productivity levels. In simple terms, this equates to the translator being able to increase their income through the use of CAT tools.
Before the job even begins, a translator must quote based on the document in question. CAT tools can provide word counts, segment counts and an analysis of how much of the document is similar to previous translations. The translator can factor all of this in before providing the client with a quote.
Once the translation begins, CAT tools enable the translator to build up a translation memory. Essentially this is a database of past translation work that can be used to support future jobs. Recurring phrases and statements, along with particular word choices, are all logged as part of the translation memory, helping to build up consistency of terminology and style.
Such a tool can help translators to produce more consistent documents and in a shorter timescale than they could without using a CAT tool. For translators who tend to focus on one area of work, such as marketing translation or medical translation, a translation memory is particularly useful, due to the recurrence of key phrases and terms. Translator Jonathan T. Hine Jr., PhD, reflecting on the impact of CATs on his work, comments,
“My own work data shows an increase of over 50%.”
CAT tools can also reduce the amount of time that a translator spends typing. As the translation memory builds in real time, each time a new phrase is typed by the translator, the CAT tool can check the rest of the document and use the phrase wherever it appears. Thus if the same phrase appears on pages 1 and 3 of a document, by the time the translator gets to page 3 that part of the translation will already be populated.
CAT tools can also aid in the review of translated work, as their division of the document into segments can allow for an easier side by side comparison between the translated copy and the original version, thus speeding up the proofreading process.
While computer translation is unlikely to ever replace human translation, unless it becomes vastly more sophisticated than it is at present, computer-assisted translation has certainly had an impact on the professional translation community. It allows for faster, more accurate and more consistent work – things about which no professional translator or their clients is likely to complain!
Do you use CAT tools? Are they essential to your translation work? Share your experience via the comments box.