The translation business revolves around the language – something that most people perceive as the most human of all intelligence traits. It might seem that linguistic skills are something that computers aren’t capable of either helping us with or taking over from language specialists, but a wide variety of specialist IT aids has been supporting them in their work for years now. From spell-checking tools and dictionaries to complex tools used by professionals, they make translation agencies’ daily operation far more effective. Let us take a closer look on three most widely used systems.
Computer-assisted Translation Software
Computer-assisted translation, computer-aided translation or CAT tools – call them anything you like, they are the cornerstone of current translation industry. Long story short, these resemble really complex spell checkers that confirm the consistency of various translations between projects. They also significantly contribute to the reduction of amount of the text that undergoes translation.
Translation memory and term base are two key elements of every CAT tool. A term base resembles a dictionary made up of bilingual catalogues consisting of the most important terms; it helps you ensure that all phrases are consistently translated in the same way – both when it comes to large projects and between multiple projects. The latter is particularly useful in cases when your customer demands given terms to be translated in a particular way.
The other core element, a translation memory, stores all formerly translated texts. To illustrate how this works, let’s say you have a new version of a previously completed translation – now you have to amend only those segments that have been changed. Using TMs significantly shortens deadlines and costs, so their use is a must in today’s competitive market. CAT tools, however, are much more than just a way of managing your resources.
You can also use them to supervise various translation stages and assess the actual amount of work required to complete a given project. It’s also important that most CAT tools are currently available both in desktop and cloud versions, fostering efficient and seamless cooperation with your vendors.
Machine Translation Systems
This software type is most likely to match your idea of artificial intelligence. It’s worth to say that we can distinguish between two types of such software. One of them is rule-based; formerly established rules determine how particular phrases are being translated into the target language. The other is based on statistics and one could say that it learns by example, as such systems basically aim to discover parallel structures in formerly completed translations. These approaches are perfect for some very specific and narrow language areas, demanding also input of highly skilled specialists. Therefore, machine translation usually works wonders in case of specialist texts, but might turn out to be hardly helpful in case of more general areas – so despite all improvements in MT, it still requires further advances.
Nowadays translation industry can also rely on a number of free software available online. The “free of charge” thing, however, turns out to be quite costly in the end: consider the effort of a specialist who has to prepare the ready translation. Machine translation systems work best when you assign a specialist editor to verify the completed project and find the discrepancies between source and target texts. Hence, most business owners do not resort to the use of MT in case of individual projects due to its relatively low economical profitability and a necessity to assign a specialist editor to ensure that the quality of a ready-made translation does not deviate from your usual high standard.
Translation Management Systems
Let’s say that both CAT and machine translation tools resemble instruments in an orchestra. In order to achieve a harmonious and pleasant sound, musicians need someone to turn the chaotic noise into art. That’s where conductor steps in, and that’s precisely the role of the Translation Management System.
Currently translation projects are ever-growing and are becoming more complex with every day that passes. It is not uncommon for a client to submit a request for a completion of a project that involves several languages; the range of project complexity is also diversified, with various translations falling on both ends of the spectrum. You get monstrous projects involving hundreds of pages and consisting of multiple files – but also tiny orders for few sentences that require express delivery. No matter their size, each project requires thorough proofreading, editing and preparation for the ultimate submission; add translation memories, CAT analyses and term base management to that in order to get the real picture of what it takes to complete a project. Nowadays all these stages are completed online, using specialist tools enabling remote collaboration with your vendors and customers.
Handling all these issues using spreadsheets or e-mails belongs to the past; more and more translation business owners turn to dedicated Translation Management Systems. These allow effortless file distribution, job selection, project supervision, but also help to prepare invoices or track your margins. Most of these can be integrated with specialist financial systems, CAT tools available and CRM Systems (unless they do not involve CRM functions). While human touch is much needed in language-based specialist services, IT solutions can tremendously improve daily operation of both small- and large-scale translation agencies. No wonder, then, that such systems are the cornerstone of operation of most important players on the market.