CAT tools: an asset for optimising translations and reducing costs!

With the evolution of technology, computer-assisted translation (CAT) software makes it possible to obtain a better quality translation in a shorter time, particularly by relying on translations that have already been completed to avoid redoing the same work. Although proofreading is still essential, the time saved on the first translation stage is considerable. Much more reliable than machine translation (MT), various tools are available to reduce translation costs and optimise quality.


Computer-assisted translation (CAT) or machine translation (MT)?

Be careful not to confuse computer-assisted translation (CAT) and machine translation (MT).


Machine translation (MT)

Machine translation (via Google Translate, for example) consists of passing an entire text through dedicated software to produce a translation without any human assistance. The advantage: to quickly propose globally comprehensible content in order to have a general idea of the subject matter. Although this method has made great strides since its creation, translations are still awkward and do not allow for nuances, cultural specificities or expressions to be taken into account.


Computer-assisted translation (CAT)

CAT, on the other hand, offers a slightly different approach: in this case, the translation is carried out by a specialised translator using software. The human remains the most important variable. Based on terms and text segments already translated in the past using the same software, the expert translator saves time by focusing on the new parts. An indispensable element that is still offered by language service providers is a global proofreading to verify the consistency and accuracy of the information.


Did you know?: CAT stands for Computer aided translation.


 How do CAT tools work?

CAT tools are therefore an aid to the translator. To do this, CAT tools use the texts and documents that have already been translated and are enriched with each new translation. This software in the form of a platform combining several applications offers a display of source and target texts and draws on the database that is built up over time and with each translation. A good CAT tool is based on:

  • The use of translation memories. The database grows with each new translated text. The text is segmented and the associated translation will be saved. If the same source text segment comes back in another translation, the software will be able to offer the same text in the target language. The translation can therefore be done much faster if it is not necessary to translate everything again.
  • The use of glossaries or terminology bases. Very useful for slogans, product names, recurring usage rules or frequent dictionary queries, the glossary ensures consistency in the choice of terms and translations proposed.

In addition to the first two essential methods, CAT tools provide spelling and grammar correction applications.

CAT is a help and support tool for the translator. A large part of the text is still translated by hand and a thorough proofreading is required.

Please note: the more texts the software records from your company, the more varied and precise translations it will store. Therefore, the more you work with the same translation agency, the better your translations will be!


 Which CAT tool software should I choose?

There are many software packages available on the computer-assisted translation market. The market leader, SDL Trados Studio, understands the use of translation memory and terminology databases and offers a variety of features to make the translator’s job easier. Another must-see: MemoQ, easy to use and just as complete.

Regardless of the computer-assisted translation tools used, post-editing by professional translators is essential.

Please note: Before any translation by an agency, remember to discuss terms and conditions of ownership of Translation Memories to avoid any intellectual property disputes afterwards!


 The 4 major advantages of CAT

With CAT, everyone benefits: both the client and the translator, especially when translating large volumes of text.

  1. Consistency in texts. The use of a glossary and translation memory allows for consistency within the same text as well as between several texts. Over time, translators may change within the translation agency and the use of CAT software ensures that there are no differences in the different translations.
  2. Increase in quality. In addition to increased consistency, CAT tools provides more efficient quality control: in addition to the translation memory and terminology base, CAT tools provide applications for correcting and reporting grammatical errors and avoiding typos.
  3. Saves time, reduces delays. As the translator focuses on text segments that have not yet been translated, they save time during the translation process. The higher the number of segments already translated, the faster the document will be translated.
  4. Cost reduction for the customer. Therefore, if the translation is faster and is directly related to a smaller number of words, the quote will be more advantageous for the customer because the translator will only charge for the parts that need to be translated. Excellent value for money!

CAT tools also allow for greater adaptability in terms of source formats and files and allow you to work on several translation projects at the same time.


Please note: a good translation agency works with CAT tools and expert translators: an optimal arrangement for a high-performance customer service.


Computer-assisted translation therefore allows the expert (who remains indispensable!) to rely on past translations and pre-translated vocabulary to ensure consistency with the target text. Based on the translation memory and terminology bases, the use of CAT tools increases translation quality and text consistency while reducing deadlines and costs. Everyone wins!