Computer-Assisted Translation (CAT) Tool

Computer-assisted translation (CAT) is a stage in translation workflows where software automates certain steps of the translation process for the user. This type of software is called a computer-assisted translation tool (CAT tool). It allows translators and reviewers to handle translation and revision tasks faster, more efficiently, and more consistently.

What does a CAT Tool do?

CAT automates tasks that a user would have to carry out manually. It breaks down the source content into translation units, commonly referred to as segments. These segments most often are either phrases or paragraphs. The user can and should choose the specific rules for segmentation for each project client for the best outcome.

CAT tools extract only the content that should be translated. Source content with images, code, or other non-text elements (commonly called “non-translatables”) will not appear in the user interface with the segments for translation.

On top of that, CAT tools automatically insert tags. These tags can be related to font formatting (i.e. bold or italic), active hyperlinks, and other layout specific details. The user can then carry the tags over into the translated version accordingly.

This feature helps to retain the original formatting of the source file for the translated version. Some CAT tools offer a live preview of the final result, which allows the user to make adjustments in cases where space limitation or text expansion may be an issue.

CAT lets the user organize and create translations, translation memories (TM), and glossaries by project or client. It also allows the library of existing translation memories and glossaries to be leveraged for any future translation.

Creating and editing TMs and glossaries happens automatically during the translation and revision process. This means that phrases and terms are stored in a database for future use. When working with existing TMs, the CAT tool also allows for automatic insertion of so-called matches.

These matches are categorized according to a percentage of matching content. The user can choose whether or not to take advantage of that feature and also to what extent. With this capability, previously translated content can be reused, saving time and money on each translation project.

CAT tools also offer other great features:

  • Automated quality assurance (QA),
  • Comment functions for discussion between translators and reviewers,
  • Text indexing,
  • Autosuggest,
  • Merging of segments.

Why is a CAT tool essential for translation?

Besides the substantial saving in time and costs, a CAT tool also saves a lot of frustration and helps to retain consistency in terminology used, accuracy, and quality. This keeps translators focused on the translation or revision tasks themselves while ensuring that the original format remains the same.

This minimizes the risk of costly errors that might need fixing later on. It also allows for a more simplified workflow for the users and for the direct collaboration between them through commenting features. The ability to automatically create, edit, and update translation memories, termbases, and glossaries is a big plus because these tasks are quite time-consuming if carried out manually.

CAT tools are widely used by corporations, language service providers (LSPs), and freelance translators and revisors. They constantly evolve and adapt to new technological advancements, incorporating more features and functionality. This makes them an essential tool for anyone in the translation industry.

Why should you consider using a CAT tool?

Anyone in the translation industry and organizations with a need for translation can benefit from using a CAT tool. It turns both the translation workflow and necessary quality assurance into very efficient tasks. CAT tools save time and costs. They allow storing previously translated content in translation memories that can be used for future translations.

Retaining the original format of any compatible file is another great benefit. No, or only minimal, adjustments will be necessary after the translation has been completed with a CAT tool. All non-translatables will stay intact. All translated content is automatically inserted in the right place. These are all useful for the efficient completion of a translation project while staying consistent and delivering high-quality results.


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