CAT tools

Modern technology helps translators boost productivity.

CAT tools – Decrease costs and increase quality

These days, everyday (work) life is pretty much unimaginable without modern technologies – and the same is true of translation. So does this mean that all translations are pumped out by a machine? Not at all. But it does mean that translators are supported by what we call CAT tools.

CAT is short for…

…“Computer Assisted Translation”. As the name suggests, a special software is employed to lend the linguist a hand during the translation process. Any repeated segments are automatically displayed, ensuring that your translation remains consistent. CAT tools are as integral to translation agencies across the globe as hammers are to blacksmiths. To be able to offer a high-calibre, reputable service, you simply cannot ignore the benefits of a CAT tool.

But, isn’t it effectively machine translation?

No. In machine translation, the translation is created by the machine alone, and subsequently fine-tuned by the translator. CAT tools are merely a form of technical support in the translation process – the translation itself is carried out by a human being. Of course, the software does offer a number of helpful functions, such as displaying repeated phrases or sentences. It can also retain the format of the source text.

The three pillars of CAT tools

Save costs with translation memories

One particularly useful element of CAT tools is what is known as a translation memory (TM). It is essentially like a digital recall service for the translator. The CAT tool breaks the source text down into individual units, called segments, which are then translated one by one. Once the translation has been given the stamp of approval, the translated segments are stored in the TM and can be retrieved for later projects. This ensures consistency and coherence across different texts. If a new text contains a phrase or segment that has occurred before, the CAT tool recognises this and displays the translation stored in the TM. Users can also search the TM for particular terms or phrases, again enhancing consistency. This CAT tool function is invaluable for speeding up the translation process – provided, of course, that similar text units are present – and offers you, as the client, the chance to lower your costs: this is because we can offer you a lower price for repeated segments. As more and more projects are translated, the TM continues to grow and your translations get cheaper and cheaper. So it’s well worth calling on the services of a translation agency, because the more projects that are included in a TM, the lower the price.

Integrating terminology databases

Standardised, company-specific terminology is vital for ensuring a consistent translation. Once again, CAT tools come in handy here, as they can also integrate terminology databases in addition to translation memories. During the translation, the defined terms are identified by the CAT tool and displayed to the translator. These are then translated accordingly.

Quality assurance with a subsequent QA check

In order to deliver a high-quality translation, you cannot do without a quality assurance check, or QA check for short. It forms part of the CAT tool, but can also be supplemented by additional plug-ins, such as xBench. This QA check helps the translator and the project manager clarify any seemingly minor issues, which may actually turn out to be very important. Inconsistent translations, missing figures or accidental double spaces are flagged up, so that they can undergo subsequent review if necessary. While the eagle-eyed translator can zero in on many things, a little bit of machine-aided QA can identify any other potential sources of error (especially in long texts).

Please send us your source text as an “open file format”!

We can then immediately process your source text using our CAT tools, and make sure there are no issues with segmenting and analysis.

Your translation will be delivered to you in the same format as your source text, identical in structure and with all its graphic elements intact. This naturally boosts efficiency, as you can process the translated text immediately without having to worry about formatting or structural modifications.

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Customer advisor

Advantages of CAT tools

Translation process with CAT tools

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Source text

Source text ideally sent as an open file format (.docx, .xlsx, .idml, .xml, etc.)

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Segmenting & analysis
  • CAT tool breaks down the source text into individual units
  • Add TM and terminology databases
  • Analysis of the source text (volumes, structure, etc.)
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Translation & revision
  • Translation & revision by qualified, experienced specialist translator
  • QA check by project manager
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Target file exported
  • Target file exported in source format
  • Target file delivered to client
  1. To start with, the software reads the open file format, then divides the document into small segments i.e. into sentences or constituent parts of sentences.
  2. Next comes an analysis: How many repetitions are there? How many segments are similar? We call these repetitions “matches”; they help us calculate costs and estimate how much time is required to complete the project. The next step is to start the translation.
  3. Once complete, the quality assurance check is carried out: have any figures been missed? Are there any unwanted spaces anywhere? Are there any spelling mistakes? All these aspects are pinpointed by the CAT tool, and can then be corrected accordingly, before the translation is exported and delivered in its original format.

FAQs about CAT tools

CAT tools provide technical assistance in the translation process. The translation itself is performed by a human being. In machine translation, the machine does all the work and the result is polished up by a translator.

The most common CAT tools are SDL Trados, MemoQ and Across. There are also cloud-based CAT tools such as Memsource and XTM. At Cruz Communications we work with SDL Trados and Memsource.

Translations don’t necessarily have to be undertaken using a CAT tool. However, we do recommend this, in order to speed up the process and make your texts more consistent.

CAT tools can be used on all kinds of texts – as long as we are talking about an open file format, such as Word, InDesign, PowerPoint, Excel or xml files. All open file formats can be read and exported back in the same format. Of course, there may be texts for which a CAT tool isn’t quite so ideal, such as in transcreation, but on the whole the sky’s the limit.