Computer Assisted Translation or Computer Aided Translation (CAT) is a form of translation where the translator uses specific softwares (CAT tools) to simplify the translation process itself. It must not be confused with Machine Translation, which indicates softwares automatically translating from a language into another.
CAT tools offer a lot of advantages to translators, especially if they work with repetitive texts or with texts pertaining to the same field. First of all, CAT tools are based on Translation Memories (TM) that store Translation Units (TU): each source text is divided into segments and the translator provides his or her translation in the target segment. A Translation Unit is made of a source segment and a target segment, which are stored in the Translation Memory and can be accessed when working on a new translation with similar contents or whenever necessary. When the CAT tool finds a suitable match in the Translation Memory, the translator needs to confirm or modify it: this is particularly useful for recurring expressions and sentences and can save a considerable amount of time, which is of paramount importance in a business where time is of essence.
CAT tools also make different possibilities available to translators for spell and grammar checking, terminology management, text and concordance search, text alignment and project management.
Translators can choose between a lot of CAT tools available on the market: they all exploit the same concepts, declining them in different ways. However, they all aim at creating a translation environment capable of meeting the requirements of the industry, making different tools available to both freelance translators and translation agencies.
Personally, I chose SDL Trados Studio, not only because it is – according to what I have read – the most used CAT tool in the world, but also because I think it is really functional and efficient. I honestly believe that such a CAT tool can make my workflow faster and consistent, also solving issues like terminology consistency: after all, I don’t need to go looking for previously translated files to see how I translated a certain term or sentence for a certain client, my CAT tool does it for me!