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How Do Computer Assisted Translation Tools Work And Why Should You Use One When Translating?

For someone who offers professional language translation services, Computer Assisted Translation (CAT) tools are a huge asset. There are many reasons why I say this and I will explain them to you later in this post, but first let us define what CAT is.

If you’re new to this profession, you may never have heard of computer assisted translation. Those who have been offering professional translation online for some time will likely have come across the term. A CAT tool will help translators be more efficient in their work. The computer software works based on a Translation Memory (TM) which is a database where original and translated text is stored as you do your translations.

When you use a CAT tool you can finish your projects faster, because you don’t have to translate words you have done before again when you start a new project. The tool will show you the words that are already in your database and prompt you to use them. That’s awesome, right?

What are the benefits of using computer assisted translation?

As I mentioned at the start of this article there are many advantages why you should use CAT. Here are some of them.

1. You’ll have a faster delivery time

Using computer assisted translation can reduce translation turnaround time by up to 50 %. Since you’re working with a translation memory you don’t have to waste time translating the text you have done in the past. Once you begin working on a text, a CAT tool will scan it and automatically present to you phrases, terms, sentences, etc. already in the database. You’ll use this and focus on the new words you need to translate. That will save you time and you can be able to finish your tasks a lot quicker.

2. You can take on more projects

You’ll be taking less time to do your translation. That means you’ll have more time to take on other projects. For example, if without using computer assisted translation you’re only able to do one translation a day with the tool you can do 2 or 3 more. The more translations you do the more money you make, which is what any successful translator hopes for.

3. You’ll offer your clients consistent terminology

When a business decides to translate their website they want the message they convey to their customers to remain the same throughout. You can guarantee them this when you use computer assisted translation because your database will help you translate similar text the same way with each new job you receive. This will happen not only on your first text with a client but with subsequent work they give you.

To ensure you offer the same translation all the time to clients you can create a client-specific translation memory in your CAT tool.

4. You know how to price your translation services

As you start your professional translation business you may have difficulty deciding what to charge your clients. If you use computer assisted translation deciding how much to charge will become much easier. I will give you an example.

You have a client who comes to you to translate a manual for one of their products. At the start you will give them a rate for the whole text, but how much will you charge them if they come back later with some modifications to the manual? They’ll probably not be prepared to pay the same price they did for the first translation.

So with CAT, you can simply analyze the new version against the translation memory assigned to this client and only charge them for the new texts and not for the whole manual translation from scratch. In most cases, the client will get a reduced rate for text translated before.

5. You deliver high-quality translations

There is nothing as bad as submitting to your client translated text that has grammatical errors, poor formatting and so on. CAT tools have in-built quality assurance tools which alert translators of grammatical errors, missing translations, and formatting errors. With these features, you can clean up your translation and ensure you have the best translations for your clients.

As you can see doing translations with CAT will make your work much easier and if you want to offer the best translation services I recommend you immediately get one of these tools.

Common misconceptions about CAT Tools

Machine translation and computer assisted translation mean the same thing

Wrong! Machine translation tools like Google Translate offer you automatic and fast translation of content. These tools are usually cheap or free but have high inaccuracy levels. Computer assisted translation tools require human translators to operate. The input by human translators makes CAT more reliable, accurate and consistent.

Some CAT tools have machine translation as an added feature.

CAT tools are complicated and difficult to use

Again, this impression is wrong. You don’t have to be a computer geek to use computer assisted translation tools. Yes, it may take some time to learn how to confidently use one, but if you’re not willing to learn something to grow your translation business I see a problem there.  

There are a lot of articles and tutorial videos online you can use to quickly learn how to use one of these tools. Also, some of them have a free trial period so you can try to figure out how user-friendly they are.

Only translation agencies use CAT tools.

Many translation agencies offer their translators CAT tools, but there is no reason why as a freelance translator you shouldn’t use one. You’ve already seen how they can help you improve your translation speed, quality, and consistency. So don’t limit yourself to this misconception.

Good translators don’t need CAT tools 

This is a huge myth. As a professional translator, anything that can help you improve your translation should be considered. Different professionals have tools they use to make their work easier. That tool for you is computer assisted translation.


I hope I’ve made a good case as to why you need to use CAT tools as you do professional translation online. If you’re sold on the ideas you can use memoQ, SDL Trados Studio or Déjà Vu. These are some of the best computer assisted translation tools on the market.

Are you a translator?

4 thoughts on “How Do Computer Assisted Translation Tools Work And Why Should You Use One When Translating?

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