cat tool-traduzione

CAT tools: what they are and what they are for

What are CAT tools? Why are they used for translation? Why have CAT tools become one of the indispensable tools for translators?
CAT tools, an abbreviation for Computer Assisted Translation or Computer Aided Translation, are professional software and tools for translating with the aid of translation memories, databases in which the translations produced are stored for later use.

CAT tools do not translate and should not be confused with tools such as Google Translate and others; these tools, in fact, fall into the category of machine translation software. CAT tools, on the other hand, are only assistants to the professional linguist; it is the translator who does the job, while CAT tools help maintain a high quality of the final result.

These computer-aided translation software have become essential in the localisation sector because they can analyse the original file and segment it, meaning divide it into more or less long units according to a certain logic. This makes it possible to identify and isolate:

  • Parti molto simili tra di loro, ad esempio frasi in cui cambiano solo alcune parole, l’ordine delle proposizioni o un segno di punteggiatura.
  • Ripetizioni, come ad esempio le intestazioni e i piè di pagina di un documento o una presentazione.
  • Contenuto potenzialmente non traducibile, come ad esempio numeri, segnaposto o hyperlink.

The advantages of translation memories and CAT tools for a professional translator are manifold:

  1. They improve text uniformity: CAT tools always return the same translation for each identical source text, so consistency can always be maintained both within the same document and different documents.
  2. They increase the productivity (intended as the number of words translated in a given time interval): segments that are identical to each other (also called 100% match) are translated only once, while similar segments (fuzzy matches) are partially translated by the programme, as they are already present in its “memory”.
  3. They improve quality: CAT tools enable accurate proofreading and precise quality control of the translated text. CAT tools highlight critical aspects of the text, such as missing or incorrect figures, different formatting, unnecessary spaces, and word and character counts in a single string.

The latter advantage is particularly evident when translating the second version of a document in which most of the content remains unchanged.

First, let us identify when CAT tools should not be used: when we have to translate a “creative” text. Literary and poetic texts should express feelings and sensations, should “speak” to the reader’s heart; we could say that literary translations are more “free” translations in terms of vocabulary and style.

The area in which CAT tools are used most is technical translations, where there will be a lot of repetitions and where the choice of terms is crucial.

A technical standard must be written in a certain way. No synonyms, no variations in style. Technical texts must “inform” the reader about a certain topic. This is where CAT tools become indispensable: terminological and stylistic consistency must be maintained throughout the text and even if repetitions are “ugly”, they are mandatory.

So, as for translations, in which areas should we use CAT tools?

  • Industrial sector (aeronautics, electronics, energy, technology, industrial production, engineering, automotive, technical documents, etc.).
  • IT sector.
  • Scientific sector (patents, expert reports, studies, etc.).
  • Medical sector (product descriptions, research work, medical reports, clinical studies, drug package leaflets, etc.).
  • Legal sector (laws, notary deeds, company bylaws, diplomas, patents, marriage certificates, etc.).
  • Economic and financial sector (balance sheets, profit and loss accounts, audit reports, risk analysis, etc.).

Knowing how to professionally use CAT tools is essential for every translator. For this reason, we at twords are always careful to keep abreast of any new update by attending training and refresher courses provided by the industry and producers of CAT tools.

In particular, for our projects we currently use SDL Trados Studio 2021, MemoQ, Wordfast and SmartCat.

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