Taking the leap: why I started using a CAT tool

April 25, 2013 by

Translation tools: why I started using a CAT toolI’ve recently found myself very grateful for the translation memory and concordance that are part of the CAT (Computer-aided Translation)tool that I use. Thank goodness for that huge database of sentences I’ve translated before, giving me chunks of text to reuse for my clients’ brochures and reports.

Do you use a CAT tool? Why/why not? Here’s why I took the big leap a few years ago.

I used to translate in MS Word by typing the target text over the source text. I also kept a glossary for each client in Excel, to keep track of terminology. This worked fairly well for most texts, but my heart always sank a little when a client sent me a new brochure to be translated.

These texts were usually based on previous marketing materials – sometimes reusing big chunks, sometimes chopping and changing them around – and I would have to search through all the other brochures and website texts that I’d translated for that client before, to find the right sentences and keep everything consistent.

Of course, this took ages! But I couldn’t really charge more just for finding and recycling previous work. Especially as I knew that, if I had translation memory software, reusing texts like this would actually be quicker, not more time consuming.

After a particularly difficult search-and-reuse job, I decided that I’d had enough. I was no longer going to spend my time searching for bits of text – it was time to give a CAT tool a try.

There were not so many CAT tools on the market at that time so I thought I would try Trados, which I knew was a popular tool. I bought and downloaded the software and set about reading through the user guides.

After a lot of reading, I set up a translation memory, imported all my previous translations and was ready for action. Trados 2007 was a bit of a pain to work with, but it did the job. And next time I had an updated brochure to translate, I flew through it!

I also found that the concordance can show you how you translated a particular word before (nice), and that integrated termbases show you which words are in your glossary, let you insert them straight into your text, and add new terms on the fly.

Since then I’ve upgraded to Trados Studio, which is SO much better, and I use it every working day. In fact I’m so keen on CAT tools that I have memoQ as well. Oh and of course, I blog about handy ways to to get the best out of them.

How about you? Have you shared the pain of search-and-reuse? Did it push you towards a CAT tool? Let me know in the comments below!

By Jayne Fox BSc MITI, German-English translator.
For German-English medical translation – and translation of corporate communications.

Photo: pixabay.com via pexels.com

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About the author: Jayne Fox is a German-English translator specialising in corporate communications for sci-tech and health care. She works with German and Swiss organisations to help them communicate effectively with international audiences.

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  1. Jayne Fox

    Comment from Chris Irwin via Facebook: When working in-house with SDL, I used their proprietary tool SDLX, which many still use today. Upon starting as a freelancer, I did not follow the ‘Trados route’ although SDL did, going on to buy Trados GmbH. This gave birth to a ‘joint package’ featuring the Trados tools together with SDLX and they were eventually combined, eventually giving rise to SDL Trados Studio (two saloons had been welded into a an HGV). Following the extent of peer acclaim and recommendation from noted professional sources, I eventually migrated to memoQ which I believe to be not a little less complex to keep in harness and also not so likely to crash (the jury can be vociferously out on that here and there, but we all have our preferences).
    CAT tools can certainly be an excellent contribution towards productivity and most definitely towards quality (consistency, observing legacy ‘customer preferences’).
    I am also aware of the fact that some translators use several tools, indeed preferring to prep files in ‘Tool A’ while actually working in ‘Tool B or C’ (depending upon the nature of the material concerned). There is no doubt that the tool vendors are finally getting the message that interoperability is of the essence. If I am an agency/ language services provider, then surely it makes little sense for me to insist upon a certain task being performed by my freelancer partners in my ‘Tool A’, when I should rather let them get on with the job in the way that they prefer?
    One good reference point here is of course your excellent guest post in Kevin Lossner’s blog: http://www.translationtribulations.com/2012/09/memoq-for-trados-studio-users.html

  2. Martin Purdy

    I've been using Wordfast since 2001 and now run 99% of my jobs through the program, even if I have to spend a bit of time extracting and formatting PDF documents first. Not quite sure what first pushed me to do it now, but cutting-and-pasting, relying on my own memory and searching old files all tended to be counterproductive. I haven't upgraded in a while - the last upgrade I tried proved unstable so I downgraded again to the previous one and have stuck with that since. With almost 12 years' worth of work in my German TM the file is now bordering on the gargantuan! Wouldn't be without WF now, for all its quirks.

    • Jayne Fox

      I wouldn't want to be without my translation memories, either. They're much more reliable than my memory!

  3. Jennifer Callaghan (@onestepforwords)

    Hi Jayne,
    Great post! I was just wondering if you could please share your thoughts on using two CAT tools? Do you find it useful or advantageous? Do you find that certain projects lend themselves more to MemoQ, and others to Trados? Is it something you'd recommend, or do you think simply using one would be sufficient? I'd love to hear your thoughts on this! 🙂
    Sorry about the twenty questions 😉

  4. EP

    I haven't taken that leap yet, but I've been looking into it for quite some time now. Your memoQ comments are very interesting. I'll be reading more. Thanks!

  5. Grayson Bray Morris

    This is a timely post for me. I've just started using Wordfast, after ten years as a translator, most of which I've spent firmly refusing to use a CAT tool.

    Not that the temptation never overtook me. Through the years, I tried OmegaT and Swordfish and Trados--that one twice, the last time at an agency's request and on their dime--and every single time, I hated the way the tool broke up the translating flow and reduced the source text to small, independent chunks with almost no context. So, like you, I kept manually wading through past translations to make sure I gave my clients consistency.

    That extra work was frustrating, but not enough to get me to butcher my way of working. What I really, really missed, however, was an easy-to-consult glossary. I saw that Wordfast Classic works inside MS Word, where I do 90 percent of my translations, and I thought, "Hey, automated glossary suggestions right inside Word! Perfect. Can I use just that one part?" The answer appears to be no--but to my pleasant surprise, Wordfast Classic's translation flow is much less intrusive than other tools I've tried. You still see the entire document mostly as it really is.

    Another huge appeal is Wordfast's "hack factor." The TMs and glossaries are just editable text files in easily readable formats. The "unclean" file is just a Word document with some clearly delineated markers. I can revise right inside it, seeing the completed file just the way I usually do, then ask Wordfast to clean it up and update the TM with any changes I made. I love any tool that keeps things simple and lets me get in and manipulate the data to make my life easier.

    I haven't been using Wordfast long yet, but so far, it's surpassed all my other CAT-tool experiences by a wide margin. I think it just may be a keeper.

  6. Grayson Bray Morris

    Lord, I sound like some kind of paid Wordfast shill up there! I'm not, I promise. I'm just giddy at having found what looks like cake I'd already eaten. 🙂

  7. Isabelle F. Brucher

    CAT tools are fine for updates, as you stated, but it gives a great argument to intermediaries to rob translators better...

    Personally, I have used the Autocorrect macros in MS Word for 10 years now, it's for free, nobody can try to extort rebates on the claim of repetitions, and I am perfectly happy about it and do not intend to change, ever.

    I am surprised that very young newbies are trying to impose their views in the translation sphere, just to get some more online visibility. Let the oldtimers speak, girl... Stop being an instrument of crooks like Proz, SDL, CAT tool producers and the like. Stop being so apple-polishing. It disgusts me... Thank you very much...

    • Jayne Fox

      Thanks for your comment, Isabelle. I've seen a lot of your opinions online. I've been a translator since 1996 and enjoy sharing the knowledge that I've gained during that time.

  8. Miguel Herrera

    Hi Jayne,

    I found your post very interesting and I totally relate. I am currently an intern for Project Concern International (PCI), and the official translator motivated me to start using Wordfast; he taught me the basics, and I have to admit that at first I hated it, since there's so many things to learn. I am still learning, but it definitely facilitates the translation process, especially in terms of not spending too much time formatting a document. I use Wordfast Everywhere because it's free! When I start making money, I'll buy the professional version.



  9. mary

    Hi, I have several books translated, is it possible to import all the books? I have never used CAT tools, but as you say, many paragraphs are the same in several books and have to find them. How do you suggest I could do this? I am trying the free demo of Wordfast Classic with Word 2011 for Mac. What do you recommend? I would appreciate a reply, thanks. Mary

  10. Mary

    Hi Jayne,
    Are there any good video tutorials of memoQ and LiveDocs and Aligning? I am trying but is a bit complicated at first. Thanks, mary

    • Jayne Fox

      You could have a look at the Kilgray YouTube channel or CatGuru or ask Kevin Lossner at http://www.translationtribulations.com/.

      • Mary

        Thank you so much!

      • Mary

        Jayne, thank you again, your advice has been very helpful. I am getting into it and like it a lot, still I have to learn the alignment.... I find this video quite good as it is an overall basic explanation of how to use it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YxfI32WzYuQ

        Cheers, mary

        • Jayne Fox

          Great to hear that you've been making progress with it, Mary! Thanks for the link,

          • Mary

            Hi, Jayne. When I create a new project and then in LiveDocs I clik on "Add alignment pairs", first I add the source document and then the target, but on the box they do not appear as paired, and then when I click on OK to do the alignment it says "Not all documents are paired and memoQ will not import unlinked documents". What do I have to do? Many thanks, Mary

          • Jayne Fox

            Hi Mary, I can recommend Kevin Lossner's book on memoQ - it has lots of good explanations and a great list of where to find help! http://www.translationtribulations.com/p/publications.html

  11. Nicole

    click on the source document and the target document, then right click, choose link them. it should work...

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German-to-English translator specialising in medical and technical translation and corporate communications
Welcome to my blog, Between Translations! I'm Jayne Fox, German-English translator specialising in sci-tech, health care & corporate communications.
I work with clients from around the world. From my location in New Zealand, I translate overnight for European customers.
See my websites for more information.
Sci-tech translation and corporate comms: www.foxdocs.biz
Medical translation: www.jfmedicaltranslation.com
Email: jayne(at)foxdocs.biz