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Can CAT tools help with the translation of business texts?

My dissertation for my MA in Translation Studies discussed whether or not Computer-Assisted Translation (CAT) tools help in the translation of business texts (company reports, financial records, etc). I chose this topic because the use of such tools is increasing and many agency clients had asked me to use them when translating company reports for them. However, I was unconvinced of the benefits in terms of increased productivity and accuracy.

For the dissertation, five MA Translation Studies Students or recent graduates translated a 300-word section of a company report from French into English using Wordfast Anywhere. Meanwhile, five students or recent graduates translated the same text without using any CAT tools. All participants in the study were native English speakers and were allowed to use dictionaries and other appropriate resources. All ten participants were then asked to complete a questionnaire about the experience. An experienced business translator then reviewed the translations and provided feedback.


• It took the students who were using the CAT tool an average of 2 hours to translate and edit the text. But, it took the participants who weren’t using the CAT tool an average of 5.25 hours to translate and edit the text. However, it also took me fifty hours to build the translation memory (TM). Therefore the use of translation memory does lead to an increase in productivity, but only once the TM has been built.

• The experienced translator asked to evaluate the translations wasn’t fully convinced that the use of TM resulted in either an increase or decrease in quality. But he did find that the use of TM reduced the number of mistranslations.

• The questionnaires answered by the participants in the TM group revealed that overall they weren’t happy with the quality of the translations provided by the tool and didn’t feel comfortable using the TM. However, this criticism wasn’t the result of the sentence-by-sentence translation by the TM as is suggested by many researchers, but the result of technical problems experienced during the study.

What does this mean for translators and their clients?

This limited study suggested that while the use of CAT tools is beneficial for avoiding mistranslations, as well as consistency when using terminology, it doesn’t improve the overall quality of translations nor does it guarantee an increase in productivity. Therefore both translators and clients should analyse the text to be translated to establish whether the use of CAT tools is the best option.


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