Although machine translation (MT) tools are probably the first thing that will appear in your mind if you want the process of translation much faster, they are still not competent to produce high-quality translations unaided since their output must be edited by a human to correct errors and improve the quality of sentences. However, computer-aided translation (CAT) tools are able to incorporate manual editing into the software through using translation memories (TMs), making translation an interactive process between human and computer.
In concrete terms, TM programs store previously translated source texts and their equivalent target texts in a database and retrieve related translation units (or ‘segments’) during the translation of new texts. As the translator works through a document, the software displays each source segment in turn. It will provide a previous translation for re-use if matching source segment in its database is found. Otherwise, the program will allow the translator to enter a translation for the new segment. After the translation for a segment is completed, the program will store the new translation and moves on to the next segment, where the TM is updated for future use.
Nowadays, there have been a number of CAT tools available. Although the following ten applications can be regarded the most notable ones, it is very hard to assert which one is the best for in general.
SDL Trados Studio
As one of the most well-known CAT tools, SDL Trados Studio is widely used by translators and translation project managers. It has three different versions to meet the needs of different users: Starter (perfect for beginners and part-time translators), Freelance (perfect for freelance translators) and Professional (perfect for translation service providers). Trados almost supports all editable file formats. Additionally, the SDL OpenExchange app store offers numerous useful extensions, which are mostly free and can make your work much more convenient.
But Trados is not perfect. For instance, users cannot manage terminology with Trados alone, where SDL Multiterm Desktop is the necessary auxiliary software you must install at the same time. In addition, Macintosh users might be much more reluctant to use the tool since it is only compatible with Microsoft Windows. Furthermore, the ‘extremely’ high price of license (especially that of Freelance and Professional versions) might frighten the users with meagre income – not to mention that SDL even does not provide free upgrading service. In that sense, a free trial of at least 30 days is little more than a drop in the ocean.
Free 30-day trial: http://www.translationzone.com/products/sdl-trados-studio/free-trial.html
SDL product shop: http://www.sdl.com/products/shop/
Support information: http://www.sdl.com/support/language-technology-products/trados-support-services.html
MemoQ is another powerful CAT software suite that runs on Windows. Apart from most editable file formats, MemoQ even supports SDLXLIFF files (SDL Trados Studio’s native format for translation). Besides, since termbase and TM management is integrated into the suite of MemoQ, you need not search for any auxiliary software like SDL Multiterm Desktop. Regarding the price, MemoQ Translator Pro’s perpetual license is hardly cheaper than Trados, it offers 1-year free support and upgrade services, as well as the longest free-trial period (45 days) amongst the CAT tools which are not free of charge.
MemoQ downloads: http://kilgray.com/downloads
Product webshop: http://kilgray.com/webshop/
Support information: http://kilgray.com/support
Perhaps Wordfast is not more powerful than Trados and MemoQ in terms of translation, TM and termbase management. However, you may seriously consider using it if you take the following three factors into account:
• Wordfast is an amazing cross-platform suite that can runs on Windows, Mac OS X and Linux.
• The perpetual license of Wordfast Pro and Classic is considerably cheaper (€400) than that of SDL Trados Studio Freelance (€695) and MemoQ Translator Pro (€620).
• As a cloud-based and license-free tool, Wordfast Anytime can be an attractive choice if you do not want to pay and would like to work from anywhere with an internet connection available.
• If you are interested in working for some certain large translation companies (such as TransPerfect), Wordfast might be the only TM software they would like you to work with.
Wordfast downloads: http://www.wordfast.com/store_download.html
Wordfast store: http://www.wordfast.net/index.php?whichpage=buy
Support information: http://www.wordfast.net/index.php?whichpage=aftersale
Déjà Vu used to be the second popular CAT tool compared to Trados. Despite the fact that its market share has fallen behind that of Wordfast and MemoQ, Déjà Vu is still highly praised for its powerful autosuggest function (‘autowrite’) which does not need prepared special dictionaries.
Trial downloads: http://www.atril.com/en/node/6330
Product store: http://www.atril.com/en/store
Support information: http://www.atril.com/en/node/255
Developed by the famous international translation agency STAR Group, Transit NXT may be a veruy distinct CAT tool, since it, contrary to most TM tools, maintains the full breadth of the context contained in a document available in the Transit reference material rather than rely on a sentence-based database. Nonetheless, it does not provide the users with a perpetual license online, so you need to convert your time-limited license into a permanent one by contacting the one of Transit’s offices instead.
Product webshop: http://shop.star-group.net/
Support group: http://tech.groups.yahoo.com/group/transit_termstar
A non-negligible free, open-source and cross-platform CAT tool, OmegaT can support most formats of source files and TMs. Overall, it is able to meet most basic requirements a freelance translator expects. Moreover, its online support team is considered one of the most user-friendly CAT service teams.
Download OmegaT: http://www.omegat.org/en/downloads.html
Contact and Support: http://www.omegat.org/en/contact_support.html
A newly emerging open source tool, OpenTM2 is developed by IBM with Welocalize, Cisco and LiSoG. Many freelance translators are already using TM2 in delivering work to IBM. The major problem of this tool might be that it does not support the translation of MS Dos files.
Official releases download: http://www.opentm2.org/download
Support group: https://groups.google.com/forum/#!forum/opentm2-support
Strictly speaking, Okapi Framework is not designed for regular translation work process, and can hardly be defined as a standalone CAT tool. It is actually a repository of open source software to carry out auxiliary tasks. Concrete examples of Okapi tools include:
• Rainbow — A graphical user interface to launch any Okapi-compliant utility.
• The Text Extraction utility — A component that make use of the various Okapi filters to extract translatable text from different file formats and can produce RTF, XLIFF and other type of output files. These files can then be used in different translation tools.
• Tikal — A command-line program to launch any Okapi-compliant utility.
• Olifant — A Windows application to create, edit and manage translation memory file. It uses TMX as its main format, but also supports a few others.
• The Quality Check utility — A component that allows you to compare source and target text and search for generic differences, or user-defined patterns.
General information: http://okapi.opentag.com/
Okapi tools group: http://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/okapitools/info
For Chinese translators, Snowman CAT can be an excellent domestic alternative to other popular international tools. Snowman has developed separate versions to support fourteen language pairs: Chinese-English, Chinese-French, Chinese-Japanese, Chinese-German, Chinese-Spanish, Chinese-Russian, and Chinese-Korean. One of Snowman CAT’s advantages may be its incredible speed under Windows. The software is more and more popular amongst China’s universities and colleges.
You can either choose the Free or the Standard version, and the latter’s licensing price is only about €240 which is considerably cheaper than Trados, Wordfast, MemoQ and Déjà Vu.
Official releases download: http://www.gcys.cn/fy_xiazai.html
Purchase information: http://www.gcys.cn/fy_goumai.html
Online teaching videos: http://www.gcys.cn/shipin.html
Sina Weibo: http://www.weibo.com/p/1005051670059504
About the author: Lizhi (Roger) Zhao has been in the UK for over 3 years and has been granted an MA in Chinese-English Translation and Interpreting by the University of Essex, as well as an Academic Certificate of International Law by the University of Bristol. With good knowledge of law, culture and IT, he is passionate about becoming a professional and specialist translator.