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Working without CAT tools?
Thread poster: Sissel Louise Kalleklev

Sissel Louise Kalleklev  Identity Verified
Norway
Local time: 22:26
English to Norwegian
+ ...
Jan 7

I’m fairly new to translating and have been told that you must have a CAT tool to translate through. But I have seen a few people write here that they don’t use CAT tools. My question to them is, if you don’t use it, how do you get jobs?
I am very curious to know.


 

Joseph Tein  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 13:26
Member (2009)
Spanish to English
+ ...
You don't always need CAT tools Jan 7

The answer is quite simple: some clients want you to use CAT tools, and will even specify which one they require, and some clients don't need them.

I have WordFast, which I think is a wonderful tool. I use it occasionally with some jobs and love the way it helps me work. For most of my work I don't use any CAT tool. TRADOS seems to be the most popular or highly regarded, but I have no idea personally how it looks or works.

You can certainly do most jobs without a
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The answer is quite simple: some clients want you to use CAT tools, and will even specify which one they require, and some clients don't need them.

I have WordFast, which I think is a wonderful tool. I use it occasionally with some jobs and love the way it helps me work. For most of my work I don't use any CAT tool. TRADOS seems to be the most popular or highly regarded, but I have no idea personally how it looks or works.

You can certainly do most jobs without a translation tool.
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Dan Lucas
Giuliana Maltempo
Ali Sharifi
P.L.F.Persio
Teresa Borges
Tradupro17
Chakib Roula
 

Chris S  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Swedish to English
+ ...
Work for direct clients? Jan 7

Only agencies demand CAT tools. Direct clients just want a translation and don’t care how you do it.

If you are serious about being a translator, though, you will almost certainly need to use a CAT tool at some point, and you should find they help you. You don’t have to buy Studio. I think many Norwegian agencies will give you free use of Memsource.


Ali Sharifi
Chakib Roula
Sandra & Kenneth Grossman
 

Joakim Braun  Identity Verified
Sweden
Local time: 22:26
German to Swedish
+ ...
Quality Jan 7

The CAT tools I've seen are decidedly unimpressive in terms of UI and stability. CAT does have its points, but I get (and look for) jobs where a sharp style and a thorough understanding of the material are more important than using mandated expressions or ensuring consistent terminology over a large text volume. These are typically one-off jobs where using a terminology database is slower than just writing ahead using knowledge you have. I do occasionally collate bilingual reference material, an... See more
The CAT tools I've seen are decidedly unimpressive in terms of UI and stability. CAT does have its points, but I get (and look for) jobs where a sharp style and a thorough understanding of the material are more important than using mandated expressions or ensuring consistent terminology over a large text volume. These are typically one-off jobs where using a terminology database is slower than just writing ahead using knowledge you have. I do occasionally collate bilingual reference material, and will glance through it before starting the work, but don't use CAT reference much while writing. I spend a great deal of time and care on polishing the style - using CAT, with its segmenting and bad UI, destroys my flow.

You get jobs from jobs. Getting that first job is the hardest part. Getting to the good agencies (whose customers are willing to pay for quality) is also a matter of patience and luck. Translating is the easy part...
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Diane G  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 13:26
Member (2013)
Portuguese to English
+ ...
CAT tools Jan 7

It was just recommended by a colleague to purchase Trados Studio...she seems to do well with it. This was recommended to me years ago as well. My experience with CAT tools has been that you actually get paid less for documents with repetitions, matches, etc., and a lower rate overall. I'm sure that's not everyone's experience.

 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 21:26
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
At least be able to justify why you can't, won't or don't use them Jan 7

Sissel Louise Kalleklev wrote:
I’m fairly new to translating and have been told that you must have a CAT tool to translate through. But I have seen a few people write here that they don’t use CAT tools. My question to them is, if you don’t use it, how do you get jobs?

I suspect they're absolutely essential for technical translations. Neither of us do them, so we're less constrained. I've rarely been required to use them, but it does happen and it's a shame to turn down a lucrative job for that reason. Also, you're going to upset regular clients who request very similar translations (e.g. monthly reviews that add to or amend the previous data, or a catalogue of similar product descriptions) if you charge them full price time and again.

Some bad agencies may try to take 100% (along with any other undesirable business practices you let them get away with), but many good agencies and direct clients will be fair. I use discounts as a loyalty bonus for regular direct clients. Other reasons to use them even when not specifically instructed to are (1) for the ease of formatting tables etc., (2) the quality checks: automatic reminder of preferred terms, checking of proper nouns, conversion of numbering formats and punctuation etc., and many other optional features, and (3) the time savings after a while, particularly if you translate mainly specialist subject areas (although you won't see any savings overnight).

An older, well-established translator may well be able to make a good living without owning or using CAT tools. But I always find it sad when it's clear from what they say that they don't actually know what they are, e.g. they confuse MT with TM -- prejudices and "arrogant ignorance" have no place in an intellectual profession. I think a young person coming into the profession absolutely has to keep up with the increasingly complex IT side of the job. Even though my personal preference is to use a CAT tool most of the time, I'm still a really basic user 10 years in, and my lack of IT skills really is getting to be a handicap.


Diane G
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Tina Vonhof
Canada
Local time: 14:26
Member (2006)
Dutch to English
+ ...
No CAT Jan 8

When you are young and just starting out, I think it may be wise to get a CAT tool. As Joseph says, you don't always have to use it but if you don't have it, you would miss out on jobs as many agencies now do require it. How well it works for you depends also on your specializations; some may be more suited for use of a CAT tool than others.

As for myself, with my specializations I have gotten along fine without a CAT tool. I do a lot of certified translations of legal or personal
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When you are young and just starting out, I think it may be wise to get a CAT tool. As Joseph says, you don't always have to use it but if you don't have it, you would miss out on jobs as many agencies now do require it. How well it works for you depends also on your specializations; some may be more suited for use of a CAT tool than others.

As for myself, with my specializations I have gotten along fine without a CAT tool. I do a lot of certified translations of legal or personal documents for direct clients and have always worked with agencies that don't necessarily require a CAT tool. I tried one years ago and found that it was contrary to the way I like to work.
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Teresa Borges
Tom in London
 

Lincoln Hui  Identity Verified
Hong Kong
Local time: 05:26
Member
Chinese to English
+ ...
CAT Tools Jan 8

CAT tools are to translators what measuring cups are to cooks. An experienced chef can gauge by eye; an inexperienced one who tries to do the same is committing manslaughter. And even experienced chefs may prefer to use a measuring cup.

Ignore what I said if you have never cooked, or if you have never used a measuring cup in cooking. At least I will never have to eat what you cook.


 

Hans Lenting  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Member (2006)
German to Dutch
Stability Jan 8

Joakim Braun wrote:

The CAT tools I've seen are decidedly unimpressive in terms of UI and stability.


I'm not sure which CAT tools you've seen, but I'd like to emphasise that stable CAT tools do exist. UI is another thing, since it's (more or less) a subjective factor.

Perhaps more important is the factor of distraction: With CAT tools you can get all kinds of information supplied (from web searches, from glossaries, from memories, etc.). You can set segmentation to paragraphs to create some flexibility in rearranging sentences. But the information provided by your CAT tool can distract you while you are trying to focus on the source text and your translation. Luckily, some CAT tools can provide a ‘clean screen’, almost like an empty sheet of paper, and you can display the additional information only when you're stuck.

However, I must admit, that when you're not using any of the offered aids and when you're client isn't asking for a bilingual version or memory, I'm not sure if a CAT tool would offer you any benefits . It probably will only distract you and limit your flexibility.

So, use a CAT tool when you:

  • want to reuse your own translations
  • want to benefit from any additional aids
  • have to supply a bilingual version of your translation


P.L.F.Persio
 

Laurent Mercky
France
Local time: 22:26
Member (2019)
Chinese to French
+ ...
Depends Jan 8

Sissel Louise Kalleklev wrote:

I’m fairly new to translating and have been told that you must have a CAT tool to translate through. But I have seen a few people write here that they don’t use CAT tools. My question to them is, if you don’t use it, how do you get jobs?
I am very curious to know.


CAT Tools are useful for working fast without mistakes and also for paging.
But if your client has no special request or gives you a Word or Excel file, CAT Tools are not required then.


 

Kay-Viktor Stegemann
Germany
Local time: 22:26
Member (2016)
English to German
Some direct clients require CATs as well Jan 8

Chris S wrote:
Only agencies demand CAT tools. Direct clients just want a translation and don’t care how you do it.


As always, be careful with generalisations. I have at least two direct clients who work with CATs too, and ask for delivery of a TMX file together with the translation, for example.

Sissel Louise, "translation" is a very, very wide and diverse field of work, and I have come to believe that the workplace, tools, and working methods of two translators can be as different as day and night. It all depends on the clients and jobs you get, the kind of content you translate, your language pair(s) and whatnot. Flexibility is the key. If a client/agency wants things done their way, and you do it their way, they will be happy. If the next client/agency wants it done differently, do it differently. CATs are just CATs and do essentially the same things. In the last 3 or 4 years I worked with nearly a dozen different CATs and platforms, whatever the client required.

When you do literary translations or translations of single documents, working without a CAT is quite feasible. When you translate HTML files littered with tags, or technical content with repetitive structures and/or required terminology, CATs are a huge time saver and quality factor.


Dan Lucas
MollyRose
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Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 21:26
Member (2008)
Italian to English
Never Jan 8

Sissel Louise Kalleklev wrote:

I’m fairly new to translating and have been told that you must have a CAT tool to translate through. But I have seen a few people write here that they don’t use CAT tools. My question to them is, if you don’t use it, how do you get jobs?
I am very curious to know.


I've never used a CAT tool and I have as many jobs as I can handle. I even sometimes refuse a job if it doesn't interest me,


Teresa Borges
diana bb
 

finnword1
United States
Local time: 16:26
English to Finnish
+ ...
I would not Jan 8

My best customer does not care how I do my work. Still, I would not want to work without my CAT tool. I estimate it nearly doubling my work output and it helps in my own proofing process.

[Edited at 2020-01-08 18:19 GMT]


Christine Andersen
Jorge Payan
 

Fiona Grace Peterson  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 22:26
Member
Italian to English
Trados Jan 8

I have Trados Studio 2015 and like many of the features it offers. I am not an advanced user by any means, but find it useful even for "literary" type texts. I used to translate texts on Marvel characters, and having a termbase meant I could keep track of all the different characters' names.
I also like that I always know what percentage of a text I've done, and that you can easily insert comments and glossary terms on the fly. Not advanced features by any stretch of the imagination, but I
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I have Trados Studio 2015 and like many of the features it offers. I am not an advanced user by any means, but find it useful even for "literary" type texts. I used to translate texts on Marvel characters, and having a termbase meant I could keep track of all the different characters' names.
I also like that I always know what percentage of a text I've done, and that you can easily insert comments and glossary terms on the fly. Not advanced features by any stretch of the imagination, but I'd feel lost without it now.
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Christine Andersen
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Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 22:26
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
The benefits of a CAT tool are cumulative Jan 9

As you gather experience, do repeat jobs for the same good clients, or build up a routine in translating standard documents in your specialist field, you will want to keep notes one way or another of things like good solutions to difficult formulations, the client's preferred terminology (which you should NOT confuse with your other client in the same field of business, who prefers a slightly different approach...)

Of course, translators have done that for centuries before CAT tools
... See more
As you gather experience, do repeat jobs for the same good clients, or build up a routine in translating standard documents in your specialist field, you will want to keep notes one way or another of things like good solutions to difficult formulations, the client's preferred terminology (which you should NOT confuse with your other client in the same field of business, who prefers a slightly different approach...)

Of course, translators have done that for centuries before CAT tools appeared on the market, and many still do. A good CAT is basically a system that lets you organise your experience, so that you can take advantage of it later on.
Different people prefer different CATs, because they suit different workflows and styles of working, or clients and types of documents.

My advice is to get some demos and try one or two. Wordfast Classic was more 'lean and mean' when I tried it, great for the basic functions, but without a lot of bells and whistles. Others fell short of my demands on the glossary functions. I started out with Trados and actually learnt to use Multiterm, the once clunky glossary, and then to take advantage of its features.
Since then Multiterm has become much more reliable, and there is a free app that does the basic functions fast, so it is less of a struggle. (I find the initial Excel file more of a pain than Multiterm these days!)

There are advanced features that I like with Trados, but most other CATs have similar features - for reviewing, or aligning texts that are already translated (an advantage if you work with EU legislation or medical templates, for instance).

You do not have to use all the features straight away, but think about them.

A lot of people like MemoQ, and there are plenty of others to choose from. I would avoid agencies that insist on you using their exclusive CAT if you cannot link up to your own and accumulate your work in your own TM. Often you cannot take advantage of glossaries that you have spent time building up, and whatever else you have collected along the way. You are an eternal beginner with systems like that, or you have to keep dropping the CAT and using a separate offline system.
With Trados Studio, for instance you can link up glossaries and memories to appear automatically or at a couple of keystrokes.

I use my CAT for everything, and if I have a large job with a lot of terminology, the first thing I do is to make a glossary and set it up in Multiterm or in one of the other features.

Give yourself time to customise a CAT, and you will probably find it a very worthwhile investment.
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Joëlle Bouille
 
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