CAT tools explained

For many years, researchers have attempted to find a way to overcome the linguistic barriers among peoples by means of computer technology. The idea had always been that, one day, computers would be able to perfectly and automatically translate any type of document, from the technical manual, to the financial report to the most linguistically elaborate work of literature.

Research on automatic computer translation started back in the early 30s, in Russia, reaching its apex in the 50s and 60s. However, by the mid-70s, the enthusiasm concerning the machine being able totally to replace the human started vanishing, and the extremely high volume of funding it received started decreasing.

It was by this time that a new approach was suggested: the machine did not have to replace the human, but had to instead assist them in the translation, allowing them to translate more quickly, efficiently and consistently.

Among the various suggested approaches, the one which stood out as the most reliable and advantageous was, and still today is, the translation memory approach, which is the founding tile of all CAT (Computer Assisted Translation) programs.

 

 

What is a memory?

A translation memory is, put simply, a collection of text units in a language, paired with their corresponding target language equivalents. From now on, in proper CAT tools language, we shall call these units by the name of segments.

When a translator produces a text, it gets automatically saved into the memory, which grows with each newly translated sentence. As the work progresses, should the system find a source unit which has a certain degree of correspondence with the original sentence, it displays the corresponding source and target language segments and lets the translator decide what to do. At this stage, the translator can:

- Accept the match as it is, which usually occurs for exact matches, in which the correspondence is perfect; 
- Modify it, which results in a translation which maintains consistency and resemblance to the previous one, but is modified to reflect the changes in the new text in contrast to the old one;
- Completely reject the match, if they feel like it is of no use to them and they find it easier to directly translate from scratch.

The advantages of such an approach are numerous. Just to name a few:

- Much faster and more consistent translations, especially in technical and highly repetitive texts: no more million copy-paste operations and a lot of typing saved, since a translation can be just edited where needed;
- Interchangeable memories among translators, who can all benefit from each other’s work inside a project;
- Format retaining: the CAT tool does all the dirty work of keeping the layout of the original text exactly as it is. Without such a tool, the translator would indeed have to worry about tables, footnote placement, indents, paragraph breaks, font changes and the like. Instead, thanks to the CAT tool’s ability to assemble the segments together just as they were, the translator only has to focus on the actual words, not on their placement on the page;

In addition to all those advantages, Wordbee offers others which are exclusive to it, thanks to its cloud-based and collaborative nature:

- No cumbersome, resource intensive software to install: everything runs inside your web browser, which can be run within any operating system;
- Collaborative translation: many translators can work in real time on the same project, on the exact same interface, whereas revisers can directly insert real-time comments and changes;
- No translation memory incompatibility. Since everything is stored in the cloud, you do not run the risk of having translation memories or files which do not work 100% in your CAT tool because they come from another tool.  Plus, everyone working in the project can contribute to the translation memory, which grows and ensures all your translations are kept consistent, even if different parts come from different translators.

All these advantages, along with Wordbee’s project and business management features, make it the ultimate all-inclusive solution, which once chosen allows all the work to be carried out on-line, inside the same software ecosystem, letting the whole translation process flow seamlessly from start to finish.

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