What Is Translation Software?

Find out not only what translation software is, but also its features, benefits and its role in the future of translators’ workflow.

Micael Pinto • Updated on January 28, 2020
Micael Pinto • Updated on January 28, 2020
A white desk and a white computer on a wooden desk

Translation software provides an environment totally designed for translators, which includes features such as translation memory, terminology management and machine translation. This allows translators to become more productive, have a smoother workflow and come up with higher-quality translations. Consequently, translators can reach a wider spectrum of clients and earn more money.

However, don’t fool yourself! Translation software won’t do the work for you. Indeed, that’s why part of them are known as CAT (Computer-Assisted Translation) tools – they help you throughout your translation process!

Whether you work as a freelance translator or not, knowing how to handle different types of translation software is important. You never know when translation software can be helpful. Besides that, you won’t lag behind the competition.

Features of Translation Software

The features that each translation software includes may vary depending on its developer and purpose.

For example, a translation memory-based software tends to incorporate other features such as machine translation and terminology management. However, a terminology management tool doesn’t necessarily have to include other features to play its role.

The difference is that a specific tool tends to be more precise and offer more options regarding its specificity while a general tool “offers a little bit of everything” and reduces the need of having several tools.

Translation Memory

The translation memory is the central feature. It stores both source and target texts divided into segments which you can later reuse when translating similar texts.

A translation memory is extremely useful when you translate long texts with repetitive sentences or within fields of expertise that usually have a particular use of language. With this you can translate faster while assuring consistency and quality. There’s no need to scroll backwards over and over to verify the solution you previously opted for.

Terminology Management

The terminology management feature allows you to import, edit and create termbases that you can later use in other translations. By managing terminology, you can easily keep consistency and accuracy in all your translations.

Differently from a translation memory, termbases target specific terms (for example, medical or legal terms) and can contain terms in several languages.

Machine Translation

Software that relies on machine translation basically does word for word substitution, similar to Google Translate. There are several types of machine translation software, including statistical and neural, which can be much more efficient than Google Translate and similar services of machine translation.

When it comes to machine translation services, I would say that DeepL is the most accurate, but only in the most popular language pairs. However, use it with caution and be careful with data confidentiality.

Translation Alignment

Translation alignment consists in the use of previous translated texts to create translation memories. It matches both source and target texts to come up with a list of correspondent segments which you can insert in a translation memory and use in future translations.

Usually, the translation alignment tool comes as a built-in feature in translation memory software in order to avoid the need to buy multiple tools.

LOCALIZATION software

Localization software aims to speed up and optimize the process of translation and adaptation of software, games, apps and websites to another language and culture in order to create a familiar environment to the user, as well as to assure the best user experience possible.

Others

Nowadays, big companies are working on developing translation software based on augmented translation, neural machine translation and human speech.

I didn’t include them in the list above because they are more complex and are still in development. It’s important to start with the simpler ones in order to later learn the most complex. However, if you are interested in knowing more about them, feel free to keep reading.

Desktop VS Cloud-Based Translation Software

Nowadays, desktop translation software still remains very popular amongst companies and translators. However, the use of cloud-based translation software is gaining more and more ground. Thanks to it, there’s no longer the need to download and install the software on your computer. In other words, companies are offering solutions that you can use online directly via your favorite browser.

Desktop Translation Software

Certainly, you have already used a desktop software like Microsoft Word. You can access it whenever you want without an Internet connection – practical and easy. But if you want to collaborate with other people or simply create a specific environment for a certain team or project, you can easily achieve it by using cloud-based software.

Most companies firstly released their software in this format and now they are creating the cloud-based version of it.

Cloud-Based Translation Software

In order to use cloud-based software, you only need an Internet connection. This is great if you don’t use Windows or Mac, since some desktop software only work on them. Besides that, collaboration and access to files will become easier and more flexible, and that’s why cloud-based software is becoming more and more popular.

Some of them also allow you to work offline, which is a great feature, mainly when your Internet connection is not that good.

Benefits of Using Translation Software

No one will use a tool unless it provides real value, like increasing productivity, accuracy or quality.

At first, when learning to use them, they can look complex and useless. But if you want to become a translator, sooner or later you will recognize how helpful translation software is, even if you choose not to use them – in some cases, they are not that necessary (for example, when translating literary texts).

Therefore, translation software allows you to:

  • Work in an environment completely designed for translators.
  • Increase productivity and quality.
  • Save time while assuring consistency and accuracy.
  • Reuse previous translations.
  • Create translation memories and glossaries.
  • Keep your work organized and have an optimized workflow.

Summarizing, translators use translation software to translate more and better, but don’t forget that it’s you who are the core of the translations you do, not the tools.

Which Translation Software Should I Use?

There will be times when it will be better to use one instead of another. Sometimes your client or agency requires you to use a certain tool. It always depends on several factors.

However, when you have the freedom of choice, choose those that fit your needs and preferences in the best way.

We recommend you start with the free trial that some offer or with the completely free ones. Then make your choice based on your experience. The most important is being productive and having your work done properly.

The Future of Translation Software

What about neural machine translation, augmented translation and text to speech software for translators? Will machine translation and AI replace human translators? Will CAT tools become obsolete? Let’s dive in and explore these controversial issues.

cat tOOLS and neural machine translation

According to Jochen Hummel, the creator of Trados, CAT tools will become obsolete as soon as neural machine translation becomes the center of the workflow.

Hummel adds that it will only take a few years until translators become familiar with neural machine translation and begin working around it.

You can read the full article by Marion Marking on Slator.

Augmented Translation and Speech to Text Technology

Norbert Oroszi, CEO of memoQ, starts by saying that, just as it did in the automotive industry, technology and automation in translation exists to redefine the value of workers, not to steal their jobs.

He continues by saying that we are entering an era of “augmented translation”, where an immersive environment of translation management platforms and neural machine translation make the life of those that work with translation easier.

Oroszi also stresses that the human being will still be the protagonist of the translation process. However, the success of these technologies will depend on how far translators engage and adapt to them.

In the same talk, Oroszi said that now we can use speech to text apps to dictate to our software and, with this, save from 15% up to 20% of our time when translating.

Find the full article by memoQ on Slator.

Concluding

One hundred years ago, translators’ way of working was totally different from today. In a hundred years, translators’ way of working will also be different from today.

Technology is always evolving, and we have to learn to take advantage of it, otherwise technology won’t replace us, but our competitors will.

For translators, translation software is simply a mean to an end. In the end, the translation process still revolves around the translator and their knowledge. Without the translator and their skills, high-quality translations are unattainable.

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Micael Pinto
Micael Pinto

English and French to Portuguese translator and co-founder of Alumiar Elísio. Currently attending a master's degree in Specialized Translation.

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