In the previous entry, I told you what Computer Aided Translation software was and, also, I covered the CAT basics, namely translation memories (TMs) and glossaries. Today I’m going to describe some other useful features of CATs. Since, as you remember, we operate on Wordfast PRO, I’ll focus on this programme.
Projects – where files are gathered
First of all, the texts we translate are grouped into something called ‘projects’. In simple terms, a project is a collection of files to be translated in a given language pair (e.g. English-Polish). A project can contain any number of files on various topics, but it is a good practice to organise them thematically, according to customers, or adequately for a given translation project. For instance, when I receive a package of 30 documents on one given topic (e.g. an in-depth technical documentation of a circuit-board printer) from a customer I regularly cooperate with, I create a separate project just for this particular task. I don’t want to flood my other projects with a great number of files that are not thematically related, because it makes future file management difficult.
Projects can have their own TMs, glossaries, and other customised configuration settings. Of course, it is possible to reuse TMs and glossaries in different projects: if I translated a series of documents on surveillance cameras and I created a separate TM for that some years ago, I can always use it again when I receive a similar project in the future. You can use as many TMs and glossaries as you like in a project, the only limit is the computational and reading power of your computer. If you connect many TMs which have tens of thousands of entries, your CAT needs to search through them whenever you open a new segment – and this may take time.
Analysis – how much text is in the text
Once we have a project with its TMs and glossaries and add files to it, we can perform a very useful operation before we even start translating. In order to send a quote for the translation, we have to know how much text is in there and CATs have tools to do just that. It’s simply called ‘analysis’. In the analysis, the programme shows how many words and characters there are in the file(s), whether there are any repetitions, how many exact or similar segments can be found in the TMs. This way, we can calculate the final price for the translation and also estimate how much time it will take to translate it.
This feature has also some other options. In Wordfast PRO, the software can also ‘pretranslate’ segments while performing the analysis. Depending on the settings, it can fill in (‘populate’) the segments with 100% matches from the TMs or any percentage or higher. Again, this is a useful feature if we translate texts similar in their phrasing and structure like instruction manuals.
Blacklist – an anti-glossary
Sometimes it may happen that the client requires very specific terminology and certain phrases have to be translated in a given way – and we add them to a glossary. But occasionally certain words or phrases must not be used: then we can create a blacklist. A blacklist is a list of terms in the target language and their suggested, preferred counterparts. For instance, we want to be sure not to use the term ‘the blind’ but ‘visually impaired person’. If we use the term ‘the blind’ by accident, the segment will be marked by the quality assurance tool – transcheck – as requiring an action.
Transcheck – a Quality Assurance tool
Once we’ve translated our text, we proofread it to guarantee the highest possible quality. Yet people do make mistakes and sometimes it is the software that can achieve better results. CATs have in-built Quality Assurance tools to help us avoid mistakes and errors. Some programmes, like Trados, are performing QA continuously, while in Wordfast PRO it can be configured in a feature called ‘transcheck’ (from translation check). It either checks the current segment on the go, checks it once the ‘transcheck’ button is pressed, or checks the whole text and generates a QA report.
Depending on the configuration (and there are lots of options), transcheck will mark all the segments that don’t include terms from the glossaries, edited 100% segments, repeated words, forbidden terms from the blacklist, number differences, and many, many more. I particularly like the function of checking for any number differences. Sometimes it happens that we copy a number without the first or final digit, we don’t notice that the 99% exact segment differs by one digit and so on and we also may not notice that during proofreading.
Aligning – creating a TM with ready translations
Another useful function is aligning. Wordfast PRO doesn’t have it built in the software itself and uses an online tool for this, but Trados and memoQ offer this functionality within the programme.
Sometimes, the client sends additional reference files and their translations with the instruction that the translator has to use the already existing terminology, phraseology, etc. It often happens when the client develops a new product range of similar products or upgrades previous versions.
A regular operation of finding and comparing text parts in two files and then with the currently translated project would be very time-consuming and it may happen that the translator will overlook such fragments. Alignment (or aligner) allows uploading the reference source text and its translation and, if necessary, joining or dividing the provisional segments into proper translated pairs. The aligned translation can be then added to the TM which will serve as the proper reference material that can be used by the CAT, assuring higher quality.
Machine Translation – machine does the work
Many (if not all) CATs have the feature of a machine translation (MT). I won’t go into great detail here, as I want to cover this topic in the future. The MT feature allows connection to external services, like Microsoft Translator, Google Translator, DeepL Pro, or some others. Most of those services require monthly subscription, but Microsoft allows translation of 2,000,000 characters per month for free – which is more than enough for a freelance translator, as it equals to translating roughly 265 pages per day for a whole month.
This feature provides a machine-made translation with all its good and bad sides. In short, it works best with IT and technical documents, but is wi(l)dely off the mark when it comes to marketing and the humanities. That’s why I sometimes use it when I translate technical documentation, because it saves my time, as I don’t have to type all those ‘In case of emergency, press the emergency stop button’ phrases: here the MT does as good work as the human being. However, this is a rare occurrence that an MT suggestion requires no editing. Usually, I correct grammatical mistakes, the sentence structure, or terminology – and it takes less time than writing the segment from scratch.
I think this is enough to cover some secondary features of CATs. Of course, there are many more options, but they are very specific and not often used, and they are usually the topic of professional webinars. However, if you’d like to learn more about some basic and secondary features of Wordfast and about its strong and weak points, just let us know in the comment section and we’ll be happy to share everything we know about this CAT.
PS: If you want to learn more about the translation process itself, be sure to read this post.