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CAT Tools: Harnessing the Power of Computer-Assisted Translation for Global Expansion

June 17, 2023
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Discover how growing companies leverage computer-assisted translation tools for global growth, their benefits, and how to select the ideal CAT tool.

Since the 1950s, CAT tools (computer-aided translation tools) have been transforming how people approach translation for personal and corporate use: Initially, they appeared as standalone software that could only be utilized on a single computer.

Subsequently, they developed into client-server tools on business networks. CAT tools are cloud-based and can be accessed from any location, anytime, through a web browser.

This guide will introduce you to various CAT tools, their advantages for growing businesses, and the crucial factors to consider when choosing a CAT tool for your company's needs.

What are CAT tools?

CAT tools are software applications that support human translators in efficiently conveying text between languages. More specifically, they offer translators an interface for submitting, editing, managing, and storing multilingual content in one location.

As part of their global expansion strategy, growing businesses utilize CAT software to accelerate market entry by automating manual or repetitive translation work when generating content for audiences in different target markets.

Machine Translation vs. Computer-Assisted Translation

Machine translation (MT) tools are becoming increasingly beneficial in producing multilingual content at scale. However, they differ from CAT tools in their purpose: CAT software enables the human translator to take the lead, whereas MT tools automatically convert text between languages.

With the advancement of MT, the choice between machine and CAT translation is becoming less significant. Many organizations rely on machine translation to enhance translation productivity and reduce costs—typically using it as a starting point for post-editing by human translators.

By integrating the rapidity of MT engines with the precision and uniformity of CAT tools in cloud-based translation management systems (TMS), expanding enterprises can optimize translation workflows and produce top-notch multilingual content more swiftly and effectively than ever.

Distinguishing Between TMS and CAT Tools

A translation management system is an all-encompassing software platform integrating CAT tools and machine translation functionalities with project management and business intelligence elements. 

Modern TMS systems are cloud-based and act as the core repository for all processes focused on modifying products, services, or content to suit a target audience's cultural and linguistic preferences—falling within the broad concept of localization.

How do CAT Tools Operate?

CAT tools are engineered to assist linguists in working more swiftly and efficiently and achieving the best possible quality. They segment the source text into smaller pieces and store all the source and translated segments in a database. Furthermore, they provide a variety of editing and linguistic quality assurance features.

The standard workflow while utilizing a computer-assisted translation tool consists of the following steps:

  1. The translator inputs text in the source language into a CAT program.
  2. The CAT tool extracts the content designated for translation (source content containing images or other non-text elements won't appear as translatable in the user interface).
  3. The software partitions the text into translation units—phrases, sentences, or paragraphs—called segments.
  4. The CAT tool displays the source text field alongside the translation field—one segment after the other.
  5. The translator enters translations into the blank target segments until the translation task is finished.
  6. Upon completing a translation segment, the CAT tool preserves the source text and its translation as a pair in a database known as translation memory.
  7. The translator can return to this pair to make modifications, and the translation memory will update as needed.
  8. The CAT tool will identify identical or similar source-text segments (matches) and automatically populate the corresponding translations in the target column, using the translation memory as a reference.
  9. As you translate more content, the CAT tool will be able to reuse more translation matches in the long run—conserving time and resources.
  10. By sustaining consistency with previous translations, the CAT tool significantly enhances the quality of translations.

Common Computer-Assisted Translation Tools

CAT tools resemble text editor programs but with added features for translation. Numerous CAT products are available, each with its unique set of functions. However, modern CAT tools typically share some standard features.

Translation Memory

Translation memory represents an archive of past translations aligned with their original source texts. The translation memory feature enables the splitting of extensive multilingual documents into translatable segments (phrases, sentences, or paragraphs) stored in a database.

Upon identifying identical translation segments (full matches) or similar translation segments (fuzzy matches) in a new translation project, the translation memory allows you to repurpose your previous translations with or without modifications.

By enabling the storage and reuse of all previously approved translations when working on similar content, translation memory saves time and enhances translation consistency.

Term Base

Alternatively referred to as translation glossaries, term bases are repositories containing definitions or precise guidelines for employing translated terms. Consider it a dictionary utilized in conjunction with the translation memory to search for terminology pertinent to the organization for which you provide translations. Term bases preserve translation accuracy throughout various projects by promoting consistent application of general or specialized terminology relevant to your enterprise.

Style Guide

Translation style guides serve as the rulebook for accurately translating your content into each target language—while preserving its original meaning and intent. A translation style guide can help ensure your brand's unique attributes are conveyed consistently across all languages, cultures, and markets.

A translation style guide helps maintain brand consistency across languages by outlining guidelines to ensure accurate content translation while preserving its original meaning.

Quality Assurance Features

Analogous to spelling and grammar checkers in text editing software, translation quality assurance (QA) functionalities, including spellcheck, help avoid errors in your translation projects. QA tools can detect missing text or tags, deviations from accepted terminologies, or discrepancies in numbers.

The QA process can begin before submitting a project for translation, continue throughout translation and editing, and even involve final checks after completing the ultimate translation version. With linguistic quality assurance, you can rest assured that your translated content is consistently error-free and of the highest possible quality.

The Advantages of CAT Tools

CAT tools can handle everything from editing text to performing quality assurance—using indexing tools, applying formal rules or style guides, correcting formatting, and standardizing terminology. With the help of CAT software, your translation projects can improve in several ways.

CAT Tools Enhance Productivity

Utilizing a CAT tool eliminates copying and pasting your translations into a template. Rather than spending precious time typing, editing, and formatting content, you can concentrate exclusively on translating the units that need translation. AFTER COMPLETION, the CAT tool takes care of the rest and produces a polished copy of your original file in the source language.

CAT Tools Encourage Consistency

Due to the presence of translation memories and term bases in CAT tools, you can achieve consistent results across multiple translations. As you use your CAT tool more frequently, it becomes increasingly adept, with its translation memories—or database of previously utilized translation units—continuously growing. Consequently, you will encounter fewer words that require individual translation.

CAT Tools Provide Flexibility

CAT tools can be effortlessly adjusted to accommodate a wide range of professional requirements and workflows:

  • The majority of them are compatible with file exchanges from other CAT tools.
  • They feature integrations and built-in modules that enable you to personalize your workflow, adapting the solution to fit most projects.
  • Customized access rights can be configured, allowing specific users to have write permissions while others have read-only access.
  • CAT tools are typically accessible on various devices—on the web, desktop, and mobile—allowing you to use them on your preferred device, whether in the office, in the cloud, or on the move.

CAT Tools Boost Translation Quality

Employing a CAT tool enables you to consistently and easily produce superior translations. Tone and terminology are critical, especially if you often create texts with technical, financial, or industry-specific language. By accessing internal or external language databases incorporated into a CAT tool, you can capture these subtleties more effectively and expedite the translation process.

CAT Tools Conserve Time and Resources

Owing to their matching capabilities, CAT tools allow you to operate more swiftly and effectively with each instance. Your translators and other team members are no longer burdened with repeatedly typing the same translation in comparable texts.

Why are Language Translation Tools Vital for Global Business?

Global expansion is about having a product or service that resonates with international audiences and strategically approaching the process. In other words, every move must aim to maximize growth while minimizing risk. Through automation, customization, and quality assurance, CAT tools can alleviate the burden of translation management when expanding into new markets. Their value lies in accelerating market entry, reducing opportunity costs, increasing profitability, enhancing scalability, and boosting brand recognition.

Selecting the Ideal CAT Tool for Your Requirements

The CAT software market is constantly expanding. To sift through the numerous options and identify the CAT tool that best aligns with your business needs, it is crucial to understand your organization's priorities:

  • Establish your budget: CAT tools are available at various price points. While the initial investment may seem steep, the time savings and increased efficiency will ultimately justify the cost.
  • Identify your objectives and requirements: Ascertain who will utilize the tool and inquire about the specific features that would benefit them. For instance, which file formats should the tool support?
  • Factor in the learning curve: A user-friendly interface saves time for users. Opt for a versatile CAT editor with an uncomplicated dashboard, straightforward navigation, a knowledge base, and support.
  • Seek out integrations: The most suitable CAT tool can seamlessly integrate with your preferred software tools, enabling smooth communication and data exchange within your digital environment.
  • Assess before committing: Utilize free trials to examine the software before choosing and grasp how the tool can cater to your requirements.
  • Opt for a future-proof CAT tool: Choose a CAT tool provider capable of scaling with your evolving requirements and open to collaborating with clients to deliver updates that might benefit you.

In conclusion, CAT tools play a crucial role in the successful global expansion of businesses, offering benefits such as increased productivity, consistency, flexibility, and translation quality. These tools save time and money and help maintain brand recognition across different languages and cultures. Hareword, as a leading provider of advanced CAT tools, is committed to helping companies improve their translation quality and reduce costs. With Hareword's state-of-the-art technology and comprehensive features, businesses can streamline their translation processes and deliver consistent and accurate content to their target audiences worldwide. By choosing Hareword, companies can achieve greater efficiency, scalability, and profitability in their global endeavors.

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Serkan Haşlak

Serkan H.

Serkan is a seasoned expert in B2B marketing with an emphasis on delivering substantial ROI. For over a decade, he has been deeply involved in various projects, from B2B acquisition and conversion to content marketing, nurturing programs, and beyond.

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