Science or Fiction: Computer-Assisted Translation Explained

Juraj Močilac 4 months ago Comment

Hot on the heels of our article on machine translation, it’s now time to discuss computer-assisted translation or CAT.

Science or Fiction: Computer-Assisted Translation Explained | Ciklopea

Even though computer-assisted translation or computer-aided translation may sound like an offshoot of machine translation, it actually represents a completely different technology. It is a form of translation in which a professional human translator uses a computer software to support and facilitate the translation process, meaning it requires even more human input than MT, because translation is performed manually, but with a little help from computer science.

First, what you need is a software that includes a translation interface such as SDL Trados Studio, Across, memoQ or Memsource. Of course, software itself is useless without its not-so-additional “equipment”.

That equipment is what really helps you get the best of translation and it includes the following:

Translation Memories (TM)

The subject of translation memories could take an article for itself, but I will try to make it as short and clear as possible. Translation memories are databases containing the previously translated segments of the source texts and their equivalents in the target language that can be retrieved, used, reused or updated via CAT software during the translation process.

Terminology Managers

Terminology management software, or what we like to call it – termbases – are manually created bilingual or multilingual lists of specific terms relating to specific topic or field. This can be really helpful when the right term is just at the tip of your tongue, but your brain gets stuck on the thought whether or not you should have that third coffee. And it is also a great tool that enables accurate and consistent translation of specific terms.


These are the programs that look for the context of the text in monolingual, bilingual or multilingual corpus. Their outputs may serve as input to a translation memory system or as an early step in machine translation.

Spell Checkers

Those short deadlines got us type fast like crazy, which is why we’re in desperate need of spell checkers to make sure there aren’t any typing mistakes in our translation.

Grammar Checkers

In the day and age when people still have difficulties figuring out the difference between their and they’re, grammar checkers are definitely a must-have accessory. They can be either built into word processing software or used as standalone or add-on programs.

Of course, there are many more tools that serve as the backbone for computer-assisted translation, but it would be too extensive to fit all of them into one blog post.

However, this short dichotomy should be enough to clear any possible confusions regarding the machine translation and the computer-assisted translation.

I feel the need to say once again that there is no need for panic, since we’re not living in a science fiction movie where we’re completely replaced by robots and smart technology. Our jobs are still safe because no other creature, living or artificial, is better in word manipulation than us humans. And there will probably never be one.

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