Translation software is often confused with machine translation (e.g. Google Translate, Bing Translator) and occasionally some translators even say that they do not use translation software, as they like to think for themselves when working. In actuality, no translation software is able to translate for the human. Translation software does not translate but rather assists translators in their work.
Using translation software is not the same as using machine translation
First, the text to be translated is divided into segments. This is performed on the basis of specific rules, such as by sentences. All translated segments are stored in a translation memory.
If the text contains repetitions (the translator can define the repetition percentage), the system recognises these and suggests them as possible translation. The translator may then accept the suggested translation or modify the segment.
Advantages of translation memory
All segments are stored in a single translation memory, and this can be used for years. This is especially useful when translating user manuals and software. Let us say, for example, that you have a 30-page user manual in Finnish. In all likelihood, it contains repeated sentences.
Should you want to update or re-translate the manual, the translator does not have to go through the previous manual, as suitable matches are retrieved from the translation memory.
If a translator uses a text editor to translate, they tend to copy and paste or re-translate repeated sentences. A translation memory, however, automatically remembers all the translated sentences. It is therefore not necessary to translate the same sentence several times. Translation software also contains shortcuts that make the translation process faster.
A translator using modern translation software can translate most common file extensions in the translation software without converting them beforehand.
These systems compare the source text with the translation and automatically detect terminological errors (differences from the project dictionary), discrepancies (the source text is identical to the target text, the same segment has been translated differently), wrong numbers (values, formatting), etc.
Translation software is especially useful when translating technical texts (user manuals, quick guides, etc.) since these often contain many repetitions and specific vocabulary.
100% complete translations
It may sometimes happen that translators skip sentences. This can easily happen when using a text editor (e.g. Word). Since translation is done segment by segment in translation software and the translator sees both the source and target text simultaneously, it is much more difficult to skip a sentence.
Most common CAT tools
Some of the most common CAT tools include Trados, Wordfast, MemoQ, and MateCat.