What Is a CAT Tool and How Can It Help Your Organization?

Are you fond of CATTs? No, we’re not talking about the household pets with whiskers and litterboxes—for translators, CATT stands for Computer-Assisted Translation Tools. In this post, we explore what CAT tools are and how they can be helpful for your business or organization.

What is a CAT tool?

A computer-assisted translation tool, as the name suggests, is software that helps translators to translate more quickly and efficiently. In general, CAT tools work with smaller segments or units of translations stored in what is called a translation memory (TM). A CAT tool is the computer interface that allows a translator to draw on these segments, making the process easier, faster, and more consistent than having to translate each word individually.

CAT tools come in a very wide range, including translation memory (TM) tools, indexers, terminology databases and electronic lexicons, and grammar checkers, among others. A given CATT may offer comprehensive assistance with the translation process, or it may target aiding one specific element of that process, such as a spell checker or an indexer. Likewise, this variety of CAT tools ranges from free tools to paid and from standalone software to web-downloadable options.

Understanding the translation toolbox 

Are CAT tools the same thing as machine translation? How does artificial intelligence enter the picture? Although these three acronyms—CATT, MT, and AI—are often thrown around in the same confusing alphabet soup, all three tools are different from one another.

  • CAT Tools (CATTs): CAT tools are software, but they assist human translators in the translation process. And while some longstanding CAT tools use artificial intelligence to enhance their offerings, CATTs are not necessarily AI-based.
  • Machine translation (MT): Machine translation is the automated production of translation between a source and a target language using software, but without any involvement by a human translator. Whereas a machine translator does your translating for you, a CAT tool only works to aid, not supplant, manual human translation.
  • Artificial intelligence (AI): While both CATTs and MT may incorporate artificial intelligence, AI itself is a general term that the Encyclopedia Britannica defines as “the ability of a digital computer or computer-controlled robot to perform tasks commonly associated with intelligent beings.” AI has many different applications, including but not limited to language services.

Advantages of CATTs for businesses

Should you consider using CAT tools for your organization’s translation needs? CAT tools are widely used throughout the translation industry due to their many benefits, including:

  • Increased productivity and efficiency
  • Quality assurance and consistency
  • Speed of delivery
  • Overall cost savings

CAT tools are especially helpful for high-volume projects, that is, when a large body of text must be translated—say, for example, a company wants to update its international product manuals, particularly if the project must be completed in a short amount of time. Overall, when paired with a professional translator, CAT tools are a great way to increase the speed of translation delivery without sacrificing overall accuracy, which can help your business save on costs in the long run.

That said, it’s important to remember that a CAT tool is only as successful as the person wielding it. If you’re interested in exploring how CAT tools can help your organization, be sure to choose a language service provider that is well-versed in CATT options and that offers human translators that are highly skilled in the application of these tools.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay