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Computer Aided Translation (CAT) tools

“Computer Aided Translation (CAT) tools” – are the machines finally taking over?

We are not talking about robot translators, producing thousands of translated words with correct register and displaying cultural awareness to native standard while drawing on reference material from obscure journal articles. Nor are we talking about browser‑based automatic translation tools like Google Translate. We are referring to human translators who are learning to use a range of available software to work more efficiently and store and manage translation memories. They are pushing for greater consistency of terminology and, where possible, making savings in time and money available to their clients.

The list of available Computer Aided Translation (CAT) software is large, and the extended features of these programs are varied. All of them break suitable texts down into segments, highlight any repeated segments, ‘pre‑translate’ segments already stored in a memory, and allow the translator to approve, reject or modify these segments according to the new source text.

Once a translation is complete, there is also the functionality to store, manage and edit the translated segments for future use. When a future translation containing matching text is required, the pre-translated segments will be available to use again.

There is a growing desire among clients to have translation work performed using CAT tools in order to affect three key variables:

  • Cost
  • Speed
  • Quality

It is possible to reduce costs, increase speed or improve quality/consistency, given an appropriate source text. However, can a CAT tool help your translation service provider to do all three simultaneously?

Putting pressure on any one of these three factors is very likely to have an impact on the remaining two. The translation of words is no different to many other products in this respect.

In general, where a source text is repetitive and the quality of the text is good, there can be savings of time and money. This is an immediate benefit of using CAT software for large-volume or repetitive documents such as master batch records, summaries of product characteristics (SPCs) and other regulatory documentation, adverse event reports, market research responses, informed consent forms, clinical trial documentation and standard operating procedures (SOPs).

In the life sciences industry, however, where patient safety is of paramount importance, quality is our primary concern. So we believe that CAT tools should be used to drive quality forward, rather than simply a means to faster and cheaper translations, as high-quality, consistent translations will help to ensure the successful marketing of a medicinal product.

So, how can CAT tools help?

  • The time spent translating repetitive, technical documents can be reduced.
  • Consistency of terminology is improved, especially over multiple projects.
  • They allow for the creation of editable and context-specific glossaries when overseen by an experienced linguist.
  • They allow multiple translators to work on large translation projects over a server, sharing and adding to translation memories. When such projects are headed by a lead translator, the risk of inconsistencies in terminology use is reduced, and by sharing any repetitions across texts, translators are not ‘doubling’ workload.
  • Version control can now be applied not only to whole documents, but also to terminology units in the glossary. This means that we can record when translated terms are added to the glossary, and be sure that the most up-to-date terminology preferences are being used.
  • The flexibility of the software means that we are able to supply pre-translated segments to translators who do not currently use CAT tools, or they can access a simplified version online – thus not excluding any of the talented linguists who may choose not to use the software full-time.
  • A comprehensive translation memory loaded with good-quality translated segments contributed by one expert translator is the ideal by-product of CAT tool use.

This takes time to accrue, and in reality a strong translation memory is built and maintained by:

  • a core team of translators,
  • a team of reviewers receiving regular feedback from translators, and
  • care and knowledge on the part of the client in the form of a high-quality source text, and the expression of any terminology preferences to guide the translators. DWL can also help in this by offering a comprehensive review of the source text, to eliminate ambiguities and errors and check consistency before translation begins.

Project Managers at Dora Wirth (Languages) Ltd. have received certified training in project management using CAT tools, and are able to use this software on appropriate projects.

We have taken great care to ensure that the software we use is compatible with our ethos of delivering high-quality translations, and that we may continue to work with the very best medical translators with whom we have built our solid reputation over the last 52 years.



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