Automated translation continues to be afflicted by a major problem despite its increasingly popularity: if you’re not an expert, you don’t really know how to use it or what exactly it can do.
Moreover, two forms of automated translation must first be differentiated. They are often mistaken one for the other even though they operate very differently and do not have the same purpose: computer-assisted translation and machine translation.
Computer-assisted translation (CAT)
In general terms, computer-assisted translation refers to the use of computer software to streamline and improve the translation process. It consists mainly of providing the translator with several search tools on a single platform. Such tools can include terminology data banks, document indexing software, bilingual concordancers or translation memories. Of all of these tools, translation memories are the most powerful. Therefore, let’s examine them more closely.
General information on translation memories (TMs)
Translation memories are tools used to locate individual words, word groups or sentences that have been translated in the past and to insert their translation in the document being translated. Translation memories are comprised of two components: a database and a search algorithm.
In its simplest version, the database resembles a dual column table: one column contains segments in one language (the source language) and the other contains the equivalent segments in another language (the target language). As for the algorithm, it is a calculating function that is used to locate a sentence or segment in the database and find its equivalent in the other language.
There are two ways to populate the database: either during the translation per se (i.e., the translator adds to it as he or she translates) or by incorporating both versions (source and target languages) of previously translated documents into it.
Translation memories offer two main advantages. Firstly, they speed up the translator’s work and therefore enable him or her to meet the tighter deadlines that have become more and more common in the modern workflow. Secondly, they enable the translator to achieve greater uniformity—or at least consistency—between similar documents. At least they do in theory…
(to be continued)
Translated by Sébastien St-François, C. Tr.