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Are CAT tools really any good at all?
Thread poster: Thomas Johansson

Thomas Johansson  Identity Verified
Peru
Local time: 03:44
Member (2005)
English to Swedish
+ ...
Apr 19, 2005

Hi,

I have this issue with CAT tools that I'd like to have sorted out. Would appreciate any input. So a few sceptical questions:

Are CAT tools really any good at all?

Are they not just designed to make translators buy these programs?

Do they really speed up the translation process?

To the extent that they do, doesn't this come at the expense of quality?

Are the "word repetitions" measured by these programs really good and justified excuses for clients to offer lower rates?

Best,

Thomas Johansson


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Elvira Stoianov  Identity Verified
Luxembourg
Local time: 09:44
German to Romanian
+ ...
Have you tried searching old forum postings? Apr 19, 2005

There have been numerous discussions on this issue.

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Marijke Singer  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 08:44
Dutch to English
+ ...
CAT tools Apr 19, 2005

Are CAT tools really any good at all?
Yes but only if you know how to use them and for specific areas (manuals are a good example). I prefer Trados because it is open to manipulation by the translator and not necessarily by the agency/customer. It works for me and not for my customer.

Are they not just designed to make translators buy these programs?
No, they make you faster and more consistent. Terminology and style stay the same because you can search previously translated strings.

Do they really speed up the translation process?
Yes. Again depending on the area you work in. I am a technical translator and Trados is perfect for this. It also makes correcting your work a lot easier.

To the extent that they do, doesn't this come at the expense of quality?
No, it improves quality. It becomes much easier to check your translation especially if you work within a group or team (I do and when I correct work I can see the source right there without having to print out lots of pages and getting lost; manuals can be very long).

Are the "word repetitions" measured by these programs really good and justified excuses for clients to offer lower rates?

Again this will depend on the area you work in. I often do updates of manuals/extranets/help files. I'd rather have the whole thing in front of me than just the new bits so I do not mind giving a discount as long as the time I put in is covered.

By using Trados I can improve my earning capacity by up to 100% so I'd be crazy not to use Trados. Again, you need to know how to use the CAT tool and specifically what it can and CANNOT do.

Good luck,
Marijke


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 09:44
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
CAT is cool Apr 19, 2005

Thomas Johansson wrote:
Are CAT tools really any good at all?


Some of them are very difficult to learn and I can therefore not comment on those since I was unable to learn how to use them.


Are they not just designed to make translators buy these programs?


Perhaps some of them, but...


Do they really speed up the translation process?


The certainly do speed up the translation process in certain types of text. Last year I did a certain translation for a client, and it took me 34 hours. Last month the same client had me do a similar job, and the same amount of work in 14 hours, with the same level of consistency and quality of work.


To the extent that they do, doesn't this come at the expense of quality?


CAT is a tool that can be abused if you use it to cut corners, yes.


Are the "word repetitions" measured by these programs really good and justified excuses for clients to offer lower rates?


This is a philosophical question which has been debated before. No-one is putting a gun to your head, so you can decide for yourself if you want to offer discounts. I don't generally.


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Riccardo Schiaffino  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 01:44
Member (2003)
English to Italian
+ ...
Yes they *are* good Apr 19, 2005


Are CAT tools really any good at all?


This begs the question: which CAT tools? Translators' opinions of which are good and which are not vary widely, probably depending on each translator's experience with various CAT tools.
But, generally speaking yes, they are very useful.


Are they not just designed to make translators buy these programs?


No


Do they really speed up the translation process?


It really depends on the kind of translations one does: if one translates literature or fiction - don't bother: a CAT tool is not going to do anything for you.
If one translates technical documentation, translation memory tools greatly speed up translation: when I worked in the translation department of a large software company, we found that even for a brand new manual (i.e., one for which there was no translation memory to begin with), by the end the transltion of the manual was completed, the translation memory had saved about 17% of the work. With manuals that are new editions of existing manuals, that can grow to 85% or more.


To the extent that they do, doesn't this come at the expense of quality?


On the contrary, translation memory packages, when properly used, improve translation quality by aiding translators in maintaining consistency. Of course, like any other tool, translation memory packages can be used incorrectly, in which case quality would probably suffer.


Are the "word repetitions" measured by these programs really good and justified excuses for clients to offer lower rates?

That depends: I think that if the translation memory is of good quality (since the GIGO principle works here as everywhere else), "fuzzy" matches of 75% or above (especially 85% or above) really speed up translation. Requesting a discount for fuzzy matches below 75% is not justified.


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Riccardo Schiaffino  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 01:44
Member (2003)
English to Italian
+ ...
An Example (and a question) Apr 19, 2005


Do they really speed up the translation process?


Say that your customer has just finished updating a manual for their product. The product is a mature one, version 8 of a financial software package, and the manual has grown with the product. Version 7's manual was 125.000 words long. Now version 8's is 135.000. 5000 words are in a new chapeter, added because of new functionality in the software, so that's easy. The rest of the changes are more difficult to pinpoint: brand new sentences have been added throughout the manual, to describe new or changed functionality; other paragraphs and senteces have been deleted, and many more have been changed, to a greater or lesser extent, by the technical writers: in order to correct mistakes in the previous version, to reflect minor changes in the software, or, often, just because the technical writer saw that as a chance to improve the manual.
Your customer estimates that the changes affect maybe 25% of the manual, and that about half of them are new sentences added, but they cannot tell you exactly where the changes are.
They have really thoght ahead, this time, and they are not rushing you: they need the work back in fifteen working days, so that they may send it to the editor.
Translation memory from the previous versions is available.

Now my question is: without a translation memory package, how would you do to meet their deadline?

The only way that I see would be to divide the work between several translators, considering the amount of work to do.

With translation memory, a single translator could tackle the whole manual, and complete the work well within the deadline.


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Klas Törnquist
Local time: 09:44
English to Swedish
+ ...
They increase your productivity and improve your quality Apr 19, 2005


Are CAT tools really any good at all?
Do they really speed up the translation process?


Yes, definitely. A CAT tool will increase your productivity by
10%, or more. You will normally see a break even for your investment within a month or two.


To the extent that they do, doesn't this come at the expense of quality?


No, on the contrary you can improve your quality and the consistency with previous translations.


Are the "word repetitions" measured by these programs really good and justified excuses for clients to offer lower rates?


To some extent yes. However, the "standard discounts", often according to Trados analysis, do not necessarily reflect the work needed to edit fuzzy matches, or even 100 % matches if the "heritage" is of poor quality.

Klas


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