Why choose human translations and CAT tools

(Last Updated On: May 14, 2015)

Human translations vs machine translation

The mistake most people who aren’t working in professions related to translations is to believe that translating a text is a simple automatic task of word-for-word correspondence between two languages. Moreover, they think that anyone who knows two languages can deal with human translations. However, the truth is that this kind of automatic process can only be applied when talking about machine translation. The human brain works differently, and this is the reason a human translation is superior to a mechanical one.

Human translations

As our mind tends to absorb all the information we encounter, a human translator will use their years of knowledge and experience to produce quality translations that actually make sense in other languages. A translator understands the whole process and the Translation Paradigm. He is continuously learning and developing his skills, therefore expanding his professional know-how to limits that a computer can never reach.

But the most significant difference between a human translator and a computer is that a person can sense and solve language issues that can’t be solved by a computer. A computer doesn’t know if the text is ambiguous and it cannot choose the most accurate word from a list of synonyms in order to convey the exact meaning as in the original text.

Human translations benefit from an array of words carefully chosen in order to support the meaning of the text and also cover the cultural and linguistic gap between two languages. Experienced and certified translators know how to use the right collocations and the right approach, they adopt a particular style and tone that resembles the original ones. The final result is a translated document that conveys the same message as the original text, mirroring it and making it understandable by natives. In other words, human translations respect strict ISO standards: idea, style and original composition.

Of course, machine translation can be okay, depending on what you need to have translated. Machine translation is generally used for personal purposes as it is good enough to help people not sharing a common language understand each other. However, when it comes to business, you need to use professional translation services.

Human translations & CAT tools

There is another type of translation which is human translation supported by CAT tools (Computer – Assisted Translation). The advantage of CAT tools is that they can help a translator save time and money while enabling him or her to deliver a better quality. For example, TM (Translation Memory) is a very useful and popular tool for translations agencies and clients. While this tool has both advantages and disadvantages for translators and agencies, for clients it has only advantages.

One of the significant advantages TM offers is the enhancement of the translation quality, in terms of consistency. TM internalizes pairs of terms or strings of texts and reproduces them whenever it encounters the same SL (Source Language) in the text being translated. This way, the text stays consistent, and the translation becomes more efficient. The best part is that TM can be used for other future projects, enabling the translator to achieve a personal style. Such CAT tools are of great help in achieving high quality human translations.

The second great advantage Translation Memory has to offer is tied to the economy of time. The terminology ends up spending 75% of a translator’s time. With TM, that time is saved because the translator doesn’t need to look up the words and terms again if they are repeated in the text. This helps a lot in the cases of big projects or projects of the same client. In other words, a translator needs only to translate the terms once, and TM will use that translation every time those words appear in the source language.

Another great advantage of Translation Memory is that it increases productivity, thus the income. TM is known to many clients, and most of them ask that their projects to be translated with the help of TM software. This way, agencies become more competitive, offering TM as their unique selling proposition in comparison to the agencies that don’t use this CAT tool. Translation memory not only provides consistency but also saves time, thus providing clients with faster human translations.

The disadvantage of using Translation Memory is that you can only use it for technical documents that have repetitive content, like brochures, manuals, and balance sheets. If a translator tries to use this tool for literary texts, where the context is much more important, TM will diminish the quality of the translation. Also, the figurative language and elevated style of literary texts and the fact that they don’t have the same amount of repetitive information like technical documents, make TM difficult to use.

But, aside from disadvantage, using CAT tools along with human translations is a very productive method and a goal that each client should try to achieve if they want an original, consistent, efficient and qualitative translation .