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What is the difference between CAT and Machine Translation?

CAT or Computer Assisted Translation and Machine Translation are two often confused translation approaches.

In the case of CAT, a professional translator is using different translation tools and apps in order to speed up the translation process. Machine Translation means that the translation is fully performed by a machine.

About Computer Assisted Translation (CAT)

Computer Assisted Translation tools usually rely on translation memory to provide translators with translation suggestions and corrections. Essentially, CAT tools help a translator to work faster, with more precision and in line with previous translations. This is especially helpful for niche translators, who focus their translation skills on specialized areas or industries (medicine, agriculture, legal).

Although the quality and versatility of the tools vary, it is possible to find CAT online tools for free or for a light fee. More advanced tools usually include higher fees. However, it is important to know that the quality of translation even with the use of CAT tools, depends greatly on the human translator.

Among CAT tools are indispensable language search-engines, translation memory and terminology management software, spell and grammar checkers.

About Machine Translation

Machine Translation is a translation process in which a machine provides instantaneous translation of a text. No human translators are involved in the translation process, although often human translators are hired for the review phase.

There are many free Machine Translation engines, such as Google Translate and DeepL. The major issue with most MT engines is the (somewhat) uncertain level of translation accuracy. Machine Translations are a perfect solution for projects that involve high volumes of text or require a speedy delivery.

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What is the best solution?

Choosing between CAT and Machine Translation might seem as a daunting task, but there are a couple of questions that might help you choose the best solution for your localization needs:

  • How much text do you expect for translation? How many languages will the text be translated to?

  • Does your budget allow usage of expensive CAT tools?

  • How quickly do you need the finished translation?

  • Is your text niche or generic content?

No option is perfect, but it’s crucial to find a translation and localization system that aligns with your other project activities and general resources that you have at your disposal.

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