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What is a CAT tool?

Computer Aided Translation (CAT), is a broad term used to describe software that human translators use during the translation process to improve their productivity. Most professional translators use CAT tools.

With a CAT tool, translators can work faster, eliminate repetitive translations, automatically correct mistakes, and achieve higher consistency of translations. Typical CAT tools are text editors that support bilingual file formats, and have built-in translation memory.

Tool Functionality

  • ‍Spell checkers, autocorrect—automatically highlight and fix spelling and grammar mistakes.
  • In-context review—display multimedia documents with images, text box sizes and layout in real time in both source and target language.
  • Integrated machine translation—suggest translations for segments from a connected MT engine.
  • Adaptive machine translation—offer translations for segments from a connected MT engine as autosuggest pop-ups, learn from user input (examples: Lilt, YarakuZen, SDL Trados Studio 2017).
  • Concordance—retrieve instances of a word or an expression and their respective context in a text corpus, such as a translation memory database, to check their usage.
  • Electronic dictionaries—allow term search inside the tool, track usage statistics.
  • Text search tools—find phrases or terms in the text for reference.
  • Alignment—build translation memories texts from source text and its translation. When a translation company adopts a CAT-tool, they often use alignment to create their first TM databases.

CAT tools support MS Office formats, such as .docx, .odt, .csv, .xlsx, plus .html files and .xml. The primary translation industry formats are XLIFF, and tmx. Advanced tools also support various software formats, such as .json, .properties, Visual Studio, as well layout building software such as InDesign, Corel Draw and AutoCAD.

CAT tools are useful when translating multimedia formats. They extract text for editing and rebuild files in the target language after the translation is finished. This ability reduces the time needed to create multilingual artwork. Instead of fishing for each individual bit of text on the page, the translator simply goes segment by segment in plain text.

Automated Quality Assurance (AutoQA)

AutoQA tools scan bilingual texts and detect errors in translation, such as wrong numbers and number format, incorrect terminology, missing tags, missing segments, erroneous formatting and many others. Complementary to spellcheckers, AutoQA helps editing.

While popular translation memory tools feature built-in QA components, standalone software offers extended functionality and support for morphology of selected languages. Advanced functionality leads to better error detection and fewer false positives. Standalone tools may require import/export of translation files from the TMS, unless there is an integration in place.

Terminology Management

Terminology Management or glossary management, refers to technologies that centrally maintain lists of subject matter-specific, company, or other technical terms to improve consistency and speed of translation. Such systems usually include guidance on terms that should not be translated to target languages or additional reference material and images to assist translators in understanding the translation material.

Advanced terminology systems include integrations with authoring tools, workflows for terminology creation and validation processes, and automated term mining functions.

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