The Joy of the CAT Tool

I have to admit I have become a convert to translation CAT tools (in particular MemSource. I'm sure I will eventually learn how to use Trados after I learn how to control my gag reflex whenever I try it).

I remember back when I started applying for translation jobs, sometimes companies would send me text that had been generated by Google Translate and ask me to do some 'light machine postediting' work. 'Don't worry' they would say 'it's not translation, it's only machine postediting'.

Right. I hope you don't mind if I block your email address.

The awfulness and sheer uselessness of much of what Google Translate produces turned me off using any kind of machine translation for some time. It was much, much easier just to translate it myself without any help.

I sort of 'wrote off' translation programs and translating software at that time.

Later on, my first experience using a CAT tool was when I once took on an enormous games translation project involving over 150,000 characters (actually it was the game 格斗冒险岛) using OmegaT. I must have been crazy because I only had two weeks to complete it.

I have to say it certainly helped to use a CAT tool, but there were massive issues connecting to the company's Chinese servers through the Great Chinese Firewall and occasionally several hours of work would be deleted. The experience left me hungering for good ol' PDF / Word document translation.

Later on I got asked to do a couple of other games translation projects using different CAT tools and had a much better experience, particularly with MemSource.

What I found through these later experiences are that CAT tools excel in documents where there is a) a lot of repetition, b) a lot of technical terms where Google Translate and Bing Translate are actually good, and c) team projects.

There is also the exciting possibility that you can get to the stage where so many 'memory terms' are saved in your translation database that much of the actual work of translation (i.e. the creative thinking part) is no longer necessary.

After doing quite a few contracts and financial documents, I've started to really look forward to developing my term database to this level.

Anyway, a while ago I decided to bite the bullet and that I should probably start using CAT tools for myself rather than through a translation agency's account.

Now I'd say that CAT tools are starting to look pretty good for technical translations (e.g. patents, manuals, etc), contracts and video game materials.

I'd still rather get a PDF or Word document and do some creative translation because I actually find that more stimulating, but I think the need is greater in the market for this kind of nitty-gritty technical work.

If you're a translator and want to get started using a free and relatively easy-to-use CAT tool, I'd recommend trying MemSource. You still need to be a bit 'techy' though to get really comfortable with it.