When researching translation services, you may have heard the term CAT tool being used? After (hopefully) quickly realising this wasn’t referring to a feline friend you may be left wondering what CAT actually means. This article is here to help and will explain how CAT tools are changing the translation game and why translation agencies like ICS-translate are using them to assure the best quality translations.
CAT stands for Computer Assisted Translation. “Assisted” is the important word in this acronym because when CAT tools are used there is still a real-life human involved, with the software being there to help them. Therefore, there is an important distinction between CAT tools and machine translation software such as Google Translate which are in full robot mode. However, as is obvious from the many “fail” photos across the internet, machine translation is not always the most accurate option. So how do CAT tools help improve translation?
CAT tools have an incredible feature called translation memory which is a database of all past translations in a certain language for a certain client, giving a memory much greater than any human translator could have. This becomes extremely useful when text from past translations is repeated in a new translation. The CAT tool will automatically and instantly suggest the previous translation. Beyond exact matches, a translator can also search for any word or phrase and the CAT tool will show how it was translated on every past occasion. All of this means that the translator will save time and, most importantly, the terminology used will be consistent and accurate.
A CAT tool also allows companies and agencies to easily create, edit and share term bases which can be accessed by translators at a click of a button. This means translators keep important key terms consistent. For example, a phone manufacturer will always want the key features of their phones like “Settings” or “Contacts” translated in the same way for every model. This is where organised and accessible term bases come into play to assure the best quality translation.
Another great way that CAT tools help translators ensure the best quality is that they can run an automatic quality assurance check. The CAT tool will warn translators if there are likely mistakes in the text. For example, numbers not matching, a missing full stop at the end of a sentence, double spaces, or even if key terms differ from the translation memory or term base. It is human nature to make mistakes but with a CAT tool on your side you can reach perfection.
Apart from ensuring linguistic accuracy and consistency, CAT tools can help manage many formatting troubles which translators might face. We have all experienced the annoyance of a temperamental document when moving an image one millimetre across then sends the rest of the formatting out the window. Luckily, CAT tools can extract any text from a document so that the translator can simply focus on the isolated text. Once the translation is complete the CAT tool will nicely package up the translated text back into the same formatting as the source document without lifting a finger.
These are just a few ways CAT tools can make the high-quality work of translators, like those at ICS-translate, even better.