A Buyer’s Guide to Translation Tools
by Sándor Papp and Rachel Hideg
For a company that does business around the world, dealing with translations can be pretty time consuming. However, just as in any other industry, there’s a vast amount of technology available to help translation service providers optimise their workflows, allowing us to offer you, the client, the best service possible for your time and money. If you’re new to the world of translations, here’s a guide to translation technology, along with an overview of the most important digital tools we use.
Today, pretty much any reputable translation agency uses at least one computer-assisted translation (CAT) tool. These software packages are essential to ensure the efficiency of the translation process on many levels and to guarantee that the outcome is tailored to your needs. We at Albion Languages use a number of these tools in our daily business, always choosing the most suitable one according to your needs, or the one we consider to be the most effective for a particular job type.
How does a CAT tool work?
CAT tools are used throughout the translation process, for translation, revision and quality assurance (QA). The software can recognise and process any text format in any language and turn it into an easily translatable form. Although the cost of a translation is determined by the number of letters or words in the text, CAT tools break the text down into segments, smaller units that can vary from single words to long, complicated sentences. Segmentation is necessary for an efficient translation workflow and for storing the translation in the translation memory (TM), as described below. Each CAT tool has its own word processing interface (such as Microsoft Word), with the original text on the left, and the translation (or the space for it) on the right. Around this interface, a number of additional resources can be accessed, such as the TM and termbase, with their various search functions.
What is a TM and why do we use them?
The translation memory is a file that contains the segments referred to above. While working on a project, the translator can use the TM to achieve internal consistency with text they have already translated. It is also a very efficient way to ensure that consistency is maintained in further projects, such as revisions of brochures or instruction manuals. Also, if the text contains repetitions, the client doesn’t need to pay for them, so the more you translate, the more you save.
What are termbases and what are they good for?
For returning clients, we create and manage a terminology database (TB) that functions as a client-specific technical dictionary. These files are always accessible to our translators and can be effortlessly integrated with the CAT tool, automatically displaying relevant target terms when the translator clicks in the respective segment. The termbase can also display additional information about the usage of certain words. We make sure that these databases are updated and amended on a regular basis, according to your specific terminology needs.
Offline vs Online – which one is the way to go?
Most CAT tools offer offline and online versions for different needs. With offline tools, translation files and resources are fully accessible for us, so we can edit them anytime you ask for a change in terminology, for example. Their interface is also very stable, intuitive and customizable, which makes the translation process smooth and trouble-free. This is the best choice if you are not likely to buy translations in large volumes, and/or you trust us completely with translation management.
If you do plan to order larger quantities in the future, investing into an online CAT tool might be beneficial for you. As these applications mostly run projects from remote servers and are often used via browsers, they are somewhat slower and may lack some offline functions, which can affect usability. Sending or receiving translations, however, takes only one click, you have full control over your translation files and resources, and you can monitor the progress of your projects end to end in real time, anytime.