Getting To Know CAT Tools

What is it?

CAT, or Computer Aided Translation, is a software tool used by many language providers such as translation companies and freelance translators, in order to achieve consistency and deliver higher quality of the translation.

What are the advantages of CAT tools?

Any of the widely used CAT tools such as Trados, MemoQ, and Catalyst, can significantly improve consistency by utilizing the same terms used inside translation memories (more on this later). Consequently, this minimizes the turnaround time and reduces the cost of translation. But that’s not all; all CAT tools allow users to track the history of changes that have been made to the text, letting them know who did what and when.

Are there any disadvantages for using a CAT tool?

They are not disadvantages, but some CAT tools may require proper training before being able to fully utilize their features. Thus, translation and localization companies may consider offering their linguists, whether in-house translators or freelancer translators, extensive training on the highly demanding CAT tools.

How does a CAT tool work? 

There are 4 main functions that allow a CAT tool to become a useful piece of software, they include; segmenting the source texts, creating translation units, creating translation memories, and generating terminology databases:

1- Segmentation:

A CAT tool breaks any source text into segments and displays these segments in a certain way that makes the process of translation easier for the linguist.

2- Translation Unit:

After the process of segmenting the source text and the translation, the CAT tool unifies each segment of source text along with its translation in the target text inside a Translation Unit (TU). This feature also helps in the Quality Control process as it highlights units that have not been translated or revised.

3- Translation Memory (TM):

After the translation process is successfully completed, the CAT tool generates a Translation Memory (TM), which is basically the reference for future translation projects. Inside this translation memory, are the exact terms used to translate the meaning of the source text, and any future linguist can follow the same pattern to ensure consistency across all translation projects.

4- Terminology Databases:

The last feature is the ability to automatically look up terms and insert their equivalent into the target text. This is done through the terminology databases.

Additional Functions:

Even though the above features are the 4 main features of all major CAT tools, some CAT tools include additional features such as:

  1. Text search tools
  2. Index/concordance tools
  3. Quality checking
  4. Statistical tools
  5. Import/Export tools
  6. Tools for post-production
  7. Alignment Tool
  8. Internet tools

For more information about CAT tools, see our “Introducing CAT tools


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