Contrary to what many people believe, no piece of software can produce human-quality technical translations. Yet this doesn’t mean that computers have no place in the translation industry, and developments in CAT (Computer-Assisted Translation) technology have meant that technical translators can use CAT tools to increase their productivity and ensure consistency.
So, what are these CAT tools, and what do they do?
CAT tools come in several different forms, and should not be confused with MT (Machine Translation) systems. While MT software is able to automatically translate texts in their entirety, their output can be unreliable. This is due to the fact that computers can’t understand the context in which words appear. At best, this means that translations may sound a little clunky and strange. At worst, translations can be incomprehensible, often to the point of hilarity (just google ‘bad translations’ – you’ll soon see!).
The difference between CAT and MT software is that MT is designed to do all the work itself, and CAT tools are designed to simplify the process for translators. Some CAT tools include Translation Memory (TM) programmes, and Termbases. This software is particularly useful in technical translations, where there is often a lot of terminology to keep track of.
TM software saves previous translations, and can suggest translations for matching phrases in future technical translations. While this might not be very useful when translating literature, it can greatly increase productivity when translating repetitive texts like instruction manuals.
Termbases are like specialist dictionaries, created by technical translators to help them ensure regularity in their work. Termbases can be created for a particular subject area, for example to ensure that the correct terms are used when translating medical texts. They can also be created for each assignment [...]