Do you use the spellchecker when you are writing a text? Nearly everyone does.
It is possible to eliminate any spelling errors from your text by carefully reviewing every word of it. But it is very efficient to run a spellchecker and therefore have the computer assist you with that task. So what you are doing at that moment is to use a specialized tool to help you with a specific task. The spellchecker is a “tool of the trade” for writing. And you get your task done faster and with more quality than doing it manually.
The same reasoning applies to translators. They also use specialized tools of the trade to deliver to you translations that are done faster and with more quality. Could a translator simply work with Word? Yes. But most translators don’t. The same way that you did with the spell checker, translators let the computer assist them with the translation. And that is the reason why something called CAT tools has the feline acronym expanded as Computer Assisted Translation tools.
Yes, it does that. And you know what happens.
Imagine that it is January and you created a beautiful report. Your boss, she loves it, and the people that have you as the boss, they love it as well. Life is good. Comes February, and you notice that the overall structure will stay the same, the sections are all good. The content is going to change a little. In January we “exceeded expectations” and in February we only “met expectations”. When you explain that performance, some things stay the same, such as the “the economy is growing strong”. And some new things appeared such as “there is uncertainty in the market”.
You make a copy of the January report, rename it as February, and start making the necessary changes. But you are not going to rewrite everything from scratch, are you? So what you are doing at that moment is reusing content that you created before. Translators do exactly the same thing as you do. They have specialized tools that read a sentence and provides them with the translation that they had created before. It is a smart tool, so it even provides translations that are very similar to what you need. Because the tool is remembering what the translator wrote before, these pieces of the past are called Translation Memories.
It makes the translations faster, consistent with what was done before and therefore, yes, the translations have better quality. Better and faster because of “tools of the trade”. Again.
You are in charge of the suppliers of your company. You write instructions and communicate with them all the time. You have a relationship with them, it is a good one and you would like to keep it that way. So you came to the conclusion that it would be best to use the term “partners” to call your suppliers. It has this idea that “we are in this together” (we actually are). And it is less impersonal, less commercial than “suppliers”. It is also better than “providers”. And absolutely not, we do not want to call them “vendors”, too financial and disposable. So you made up your mind. Let’s call them “partners”.
Now, how do you guarantee that everyone will use “partner” every time, in every document? It is not obvious, is it? You try this: create a checklist. That checklist contains a step saying:
This actually works and you are one happy person.
The translators do a very similar thing. They have a glossary, where they capture the preferred translations for important terms. So you decided that “partner” is a really important word. The translator will add “partner” as the English word and will add a nice, well thought translation for that word that conveys the exact message that you have in English. When the translation is in progress, the translator is using that magic CAT tool that I told you about. They actually have a window there that shows “partner” and the perfect translation for it. It also highlights the word “partner” in the English segment that you wrote. Nice, isn’t it? In case the translator misses one of those, at the end of the translation they can run a “glossary check”. The computer assists the translator by going through the text, finding the word in English and checking if the translation contains the correct word. If it doesn’t, the translator will see a message saying “Houston, we have a problem”. No, it does not say that. It says “the translation does not match what is in the glossary”. Then the translator can make corrections.
This is so nice that you wish you had a tool like this for the English source, don’t you? Yes, me too…
So what you saw with the glossary here and with the very smart translation memories is a kind of high tech feature on tools of the trade. It is like an engineer thing. Which brings us to my final message to you.
Translators are artists of the words. But when they use these high tech specialized tools, they are being the engineers of words. That is what you get when you hire a professional translator: the artist and the engineer.
What is not to like?