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Why do I need a CAT tool?
Thread poster: Susan Welsh

Susan Welsh  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 21:16
Member (2008)
Russian to English
+ ...
Mar 19, 2008

I am a newbie, brushing up my Russian after a long spell of not using it much. Having read a lot on the site, I remain mystified by CAT tools. I tried Omega-T for awhile, and couldn't make any sense out of it. It didn't seem worth all the effort, for what it would (apparently) do for me. A lot of these Tradoses and things are very expensive. Why would you choose one over another? Can someone help?

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Jack Doughty  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 02:16
Member (2000)
Russian to English
+ ...
Why indeed? Mar 19, 2008

I am an oldie, still translating from Russian after a long spell (55 years) of using it all the time. I remain mystified by CAT tools. I tried SDLX for a while a few years ago (I believe it's merged with Trados now) and couldn't make any sense out of it. I continue to get all the work I need and am not convinced that I have lost anything by not using CAT tools.

But this may be a minority view. I'm sure others will be able to explain why they prefer to use CAT tools and help you to select one if you decide to do so.


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Joan Berglund  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 21:16
Member (2008)
French to English
don't like them, but Mar 19, 2008

Not using one will limit the work you can accept, since so many agencies require them. I think Wordfast is easy to learn and on the less expensive side. This is what I use when the client does not specify Trados. I can't stand Trados, but I own it since so many agencies require it. Right now I have an old version, but I will probably break down and upgrade, since agencies are starting to specify SDL Trados. And CAT does make your own life easier since it will save you quite a bit of typing. I am old enough to remember when most translators had carpal tunnel or wrist tendonitis. Of course, I am also old enough to remember when a 24-hour turnaround on a 5000 word document was an outrageous request. CAT is not an unmixed blessing.

On the practical side, you can download a trial version of Wordfast free that actually has enough memory to do real jobs in. This will give you a good idea of what you think about the whole thing. I think you can link to their website from here under tools. Then you can also download manuals from their site that actually make sense (which I wouldn't say about Trados manuals).


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xxxMarc P  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:16
German to English
+ ...
Why do I need a CAT tool? Mar 19, 2008

You need to use a CAT tool on texts with some degree of repetitiveness (within texts or between different texts, and at any level, e.g. terminological or phrasal), or for a longer period of time, before you really begin to appreciate the benefits. If you translate texts of a general/journalistic nature, it may well not be worth using CAT tools.

Marc


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Giles Watson  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 03:16
Italian to English
Another wrinkly's opinion Mar 19, 2008

Hi Susan,

I'm no spring chicken, either, although I'm not quite as mature as Jack, having persuaded people to pay for my translations for the first time as recently as 1975, but currently translation is my sole source of income and I have to say that I do find CAT tools help me a lot.

I first started struggling with Trados in the 1990s, and later dabbled with Déjà Vu (DV) as well, but you can obtain most of the benefits of these programs from just about any CAT. In my experience, the more expensive ones simply give you greater flexibility in handling abstruse file formats, which is of course not to be sniffed at.

The sneaky thing is that you don't realise at first just how useful CAT tools are. You bang away at a totally new workflow and have to deal with a whole new range of operations (translation memory maintenance, terminology management and so on) that you never knew existed until one fine day you find yourself able to look at all your past work from a totally new angle. This is where legacy translation leveraging, the boon that CAT tools give us, really kicks in.

Many people promote CAT tools on the basis that you won't have to translate the same phrase twice again, thanks to translation memories which store all your work, but if like me you need variation more than repetition, you can also use the concordance feature of your CAT tool to recycle all your best ideas from the past.

Terminology management and concordance functions also help you to maintain client-by-client lexical and phrasal uniformity, which can be crucial, and of course the CAT's pretranslate function means you can zip through a last-minute final version of a text you have already started to translate without doing a manual comparison.

If you are a professional translator, the actual cost of a CAT tool is a business expense. Provided you have the cash, the CAT will only cost you the interest on the invoice cost from when you pay until the moment you write it off against tax. From that point of view, even the most ambitiously priced CAT isn't actually all that expensive.

Finally, when it comes to choosing a CAT, the main difference AFAICS is between the programs that use Word as their interface (Trados Workbench, Wordfast etc) and those that have their own format (Trados TagEditor, which is part of the same suite as Workbench, DVX, SDLX, Omega-T etc).

I use Trados Workbench most of the time because I like the endless options of Word but the future probably belongs to TagEditor/DVX/Omega-T and other non-Word-based CATs.

Needless to say, if you can earn a living without a CAT, as Jack does, who needs one?

FWIW

Giles


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Marie-Céline GEORG  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 03:16
English to French
+ ...
[Why] Do I need a CAT tool? Mar 19, 2008

Hi,

I've been using CAT tools for almost ten years now and I think it's a very good question to ask before buying any one... Jack is not the only one who gets work without having a CAT tool and I have a good number of customers who are not aware / don't care about how I work.

CAT tools are an asset for me because
- I translate mostly technical texts with repetitive structure and terminology so they help me work faster
- I have been working for some clients for 10 years, which means that I have translated lots of texts for these clients and I can't remember every single one instantaneously + I'm lazy i.e. I don't like having to fumble in my files when I get a text that I immediately recognize as similar to a previous translation or when I know that I have already translated this word for this product last year and want to keep using the same translation.
- They help me check that I haven't forgotten to translate one line in the middle of the text because I wanted to check some word in a dictionary and didn't find it right away, so I moved on and forgot about it...
- They help me ensure consistent terminology throughout big projects.
- I use them to manage my personal glossaries.

Basically, a CAT tool is a memory where I store each translation as I do it so that the computer can remind later me how I've translated a given sentence or term when it comes again in another text.

I also like my CAT tools because I can work on different file formats - DTP files, html files etc.

So it depends very much on how you work and what kind of text you translate. Maybe you don't need a CAT tool at all.

But if you think that a CAT tool can be useful to you, the best thing to do is to compare them - there are free trial versions for most of them.

I have started by using Trados - 10 years ago I hadn't heard about any other tool – but now I use DejaVu because the terminology tool is integrated and more practical + support is much better. Most tools are compatible with Trados (regrettably the most used by agencies) so that you can work with another tool and give back Trados-formatted files without problems.
Apart from the free ones, Wordfast is the least expensive.


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Lawyer-Linguist  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 02:16
Dutch to English
+ ...
Have to agree with Márie & Giles Mar 19, 2008

Hardly any of my clients require a CAT tool, as such, but I prefer working with one for all of the reasons mentioned. I hardly ever discuss how I arrive at the final product, as long as I deliver it correctly and on time, but it's handy to have one when it's made a prerequisite (whether essentially or through ignorance).

Nearly all my work relates to legal or financial texts, so I'd be foolish not to use a CAT tool to leverage what I can from past translations. The wording doesn't have to be identical before one can benefit significantly from a CAT tool.

Bottom line: make the CAT tool work for you. Don't think black and white in terms of discounts, work out what you'll effectively be earning per hour - at the end of the day, you sell time in a service industry - and charge accordingly, keeping most of the time-saving benefit to yourself.


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Peter Linton  Identity Verified
Local time: 02:16
Member (2002)
Swedish to English
+ ...
Tool for the job Mar 19, 2008

When I got married, a good many years ago, my new father-in-law gave me an electric drill.

Until then, my limited amateur bachelor needs had been met by a hand drill. An electric drill didn't seem worth all the effort, for what it would (apparently) do for me.

But I soon discovered that I was expected to do all sorts of Do It Yourself work in our attractive but dilapidated flat. Proper tools were needed.

At first, I couldn't make much sense out of it. The first few shelves were no better than I could have done with a hand drill.

But gradually, I got the hang of it, and was able to put up better shelves more quickly. I found the tool was more versatile than I had expected.

By now you will have got the drift of this little story. Just like an electric drill, CAT tools are exactly that -- tools that can improve your productivity, both quality and quantity, and enable you to produce better results and earn money faster for the same effort.


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Vito Smolej
Germany
Local time: 03:16
Member (2004)
English to Slovenian
+ ...
you dont Mar 20, 2008

so why do you ask?

EDIT: if my answer is not convincing / as well founded as others (g), you can still go and kick tires, for instance by downloading OmegaT (http://www.omegat.org).

I am just skeptical about whether it would make any difference. As for me, I learnt a lot about the issues involved doing my first (~40.000) words order.

[Edited at 2008-03-20 06:45]


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Nicole Schnell  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 18:16
English to German
+ ...
You don't. Mar 20, 2008

I am serious.

You will lose the connection and the feel for your text, you will stop trusting your brain and your memory, you will be confronted with chopped-up, bite-sized text fragments and after a while your brain gets lazy and you will think that you can't do translations any longer without. Some call it religion, some call it a tool. I call it addictive and it sucks.


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 03:16
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
No need for you Mar 20, 2008

Susan Welsh wrote:
I tried Omega-T for awhile, and couldn't make any sense out of it. It didn't seem worth all the effort, for what it would (apparently) do for me.


If you couldn't figure out OmegaT, you may not be able to figure out any of the more complicated CAT tools either. So don't worry about it.

If you get by with a bicycle and everyone keeps telling you that you really need to buy a motorcycle, but you struggle to learn how to ride one, and you're doing fine with your bicycle, then there is no need to break your head over it. Translators do not need to use CAT tools, but it can be helpful, if they figure out how to use them.


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Giles Watson  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 03:16
Italian to English
You need to adjust your workflow... Mar 20, 2008

Nicole Schnell wrote:

You will lose the connection and the feel for your text,



... but you will only lose your feel for the text if you skip the final stages of editing the text on paper and reading it out loud, which is still the best way of spotting the clunky bits.

Giles


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Nicole Schnell  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 18:16
English to German
+ ...
Personal experience Mar 20, 2008

[quote]Giles Watson wrote:



... but you will only lose your feel for the text if you skip the final stages of editing the text on paper and reading it out loud, which is still the best way of spotting the clunky bits.

Giles


I've been working with this stuff for one year now and here is my year-end evaluation and a listing of more or less pleasant experiences:

- It is helpful only if I can work with my own TMs. Otherwise I can't accept rebates any longer, because:

- For Heaven's Sake, do not dump sub-standard, idiotic, moronic TMs upon me and think that I will not double-check them

- At no charge.

- I've had it.

- No charge for 100% matches? Have we all gone nuts?

- I write for my readership, not for my clients.

- I can't deal with this pathetic crap any longer.


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Giles Watson  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 03:16
Italian to English
Whose TM is it anyway? Mar 20, 2008

Nicole Schnell wrote:

- It is helpful only if I can work with my own TMs.



Good point.

Thankfully I can, since most of my clients are direct, which is why CAT tools are such a godsend

YMMV, of course.

G.


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Charlie Bavington  Identity Verified
Local time: 02:16
French to English
Tools Mar 20, 2008

Nicole Schnell wrote:

I've been working with this stuff for one year now and here is my year-end evaluation and a listing of more or less pleasant experiences:

- It is helpful only if I can work with my own TMs. Otherwise I can't accept rebates any longer, because:

- For Heaven's Sake, do not dump sub-standard, idiotic, moronic TMs upon me and think that I will not double-check them

To be fair, not all TMs I have been given are crap.
Some are excellent.



- No charge for 100% matches? Have we all gone nuts?

I don't go for that either. But if you don't like the terms, don't take the job, is the trite (but no less true) response, I'm afraid.

Sounds like you're having a pretty rubbish time with it.
But really, it's like any tool, it should be what you make of it.
One size does not fit all, it's true. It may not be your cup of tea. That's cool too. Live and let live though....


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