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Why We Invested in CAT: An Examination of the Buisness Benefits of Using CAT Tools For LSPS


by Frank Wei, Master Translation Service



Imagine how we proceeded with a project of this scope three years ago: one million words to be translated into Chinese, with files comprising of websites, brochures, operation manuals, sales tools, marketing messaging and customer support guides and file formats including html, Framemaker and InDesign files, MS PowerPoint presentation files and spreadsheets. The lead time was tight: 20 work days. How did we handle this?

Without using CAT tools, we divided the project among as many as 15 to 20 linguists for the translation and a second team of 4 to 5 reviewers to proofread/review the translation. We also set up a third team for layout and DTP. You can imagine the workload, cost and how hard it was to keep the translations from 20 translators consistent in terminology.

All of this becomes much easier after we employ CAT tools. Analysis of all the project files finds that over 60 percent of the words are repetitions! We would only need to set up a team of 6 to 8 linguists. They will set up a TM in our server and every member of the team will connect to the same TM when they translate. All the tagged files will be handled by Tageditor. The project will be completed on time, at a much lower cost and with better quality.

From the case study above, it is obvious that without using a CAT tool to capture this repeated content, your translators will be translating the same phrases time and time again and the same sentence could have as many different translated versions as there are linguists. This can slow down project completion and end up in you paying for the same translation multiple times. In addition, not using a translation memory may also reduce the quality of localized content, potentially leading to customer dissatisfaction.


CAT means "Computer Aided Translation", referring not to machine translation, but to translation done with specialized software providing functions to increase workflow while providing quality assurance, glossaries and other assistance. The core of CAT is translation memories (TM). A translation memory is a linguistic database that continually grows and “learns” from the translator.

All previous translations are accumulated within the translation memory (in source and target language pairs called translation units) and reused so that the same sentence never has to be translated twice. The more the translation memories are built up, the faster translators can work, thus accelerating delivery of translation projects and increasing revenue.


Using SDL Trados 2007 for example, the translator opens the source file and then applies the translation memory so that any “100% matches” (identical matches) or “fuzzy matches” (similar, but not identical matches) within the text are instantly extracted and placed within the target file.

As the translator works through the source file, the "matches” suggested by the translation memory can be either accepted or overridden with new alternatives. If a translation unit is manually updated, then it is stored within the translation memory for future use as well as for repetition in the current text. In a similar way, all segments in the target file without a “match” are translated manually and automatically added to the translation memory.


4.1. Reduces The Overall Cost of Translations

CAT tools capture your teams' translations as they work, building up a linguistic database (the translation memory or TM). From this database, the software identifies reusable content. When a translator is working on new content and comes across a sentence similar or identical to a previously translated sentence, the software automatically proposes reuse suggestions.

As a result, you never have to translate the same sentence twice and never have to pay for the same sentence twice. An investment in CAT will provide you a dramatic return-on-investment.

4.2. Improve Quality And Ensure Consistency, Achieve Greater Customer Satisfaction

CAT tools should be used by anyone who translates text from one language to another. They are most effective when localizing documents with a high level of repetition.

CAT tools are also very helpful when translating content out of context. An increasing number of organizations rely on Content Management Systems (CMS) to manage their information. A CMS allows individual blocks of text, rather than entire documents, to be created/edited and then published in a variety of different formats. A translation memory helps make this process quicker and more consistent. In the end, this will be met with greater customer satisfaction and increases in your revenue.

4.3. Improve Efficiency, Accelerate Delivery of Translation Projects And Increase Revenue

Never needing to translate the same sentence twice also means improved efficiency. As a result, your translators can reuse what they have translated as often as they want. The more your teams contribute to your translation memory, the faster they can translate subsequent projects and the more time they will have for the more creative aspects of their work.

Most CAT tools provide a dedicated translation environment that allows translators to extract text from the source file and focus on localizing the text without having to worry about the tags. For example, with an HTML file, all of the coding will be hidden so that you do not have to waste time searching for the text that requires translation. They also offer compatibility with a wide range of programs used to create content. These formats include Microsoft Office 2007, Office XP, OpenOffice, QuarkXPress 6.x/7.x, XML and Adobe InDesign CS (InDesign 3.x). SDL Trados claims their filters give translators the ability to work with over 70 different file types and the translator will never have to turn down a translation project due to file compatibility ever again.

Many CAT tools, such as SDL Trados, also offer powerful quality checks (for inconsistent translations, punctuation, grammar, and more). As a result, time in reviewing and QA is saved as well.

4.4. Compatibility With Other Translators, LSPs And Corporations And Increase Global Revenue

CAT tools are now being used by translators, LSPs and corporations worldwide. Using CAT tools will guarantee your compatibility with the global translation supply chain and help to increase global revenue.

According to Translation Memories Survey 2006 (Imperial College London, 2006), the percentage of individuals using a TM system was 82.5%, against 17.5% who did not use any TM systems at all. With a growing number of players of the translation supply chain using CAT technology you will no longer need to worry about finding translators, translation agencies or corporations who can work with your files.

4.5. Improve Team Work, Share And Exchange TMs And Glossaries

Many CAT tools allow the sharing of TMs among translators over LAN and in some cases over the Internet. This makes team work possible. For large projects that require more than one linguist, it makes meeting tight deadlines easier, helps to maintain consistency and lowers costs.

4.6. Protecting Investment In Translators And Translation

The single most important and major investment of a translation company is its investment in translators, regardless of whether they are in-house translators or freelance contractors. In most companies, the cost of translators accounts for one third to a half of total revenue. Without a CAT tool, all of your projects are stored as files and although they may serve as a reference for future jobs, they are not directly reusable. What’s worse, if the translator or translators in question leave your company, your past investment in them will leave you with only piles of files. The most effective way to protect your investment in them is to use a CAT tool. Many CAT tools, such as Trados, offer alignment to mine, collect and covert from legacy translation materials to translation memory. Translation memories will make your past translations manageable and reusable, hence protecting the investment in translators and the interests of owners of LSPs.


To conclude, CAT tools can aid the translation/localization process, dramatically improving both quality and efficiency. All of a client’s previous translations can be stored for future re-use, meaning that the same sentence never needs to be translated, or paid for, twice. Furthermore, the acceleration of project completion will mean that you will be able to handle a larger workload and increase your revenue. State-of-the-art CAT technology will afford you compatibility with the global supply chain and drive global revenue. Last but not least, CAT tools will protect your investment in translators and in intellectual property.

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