Preparing for the Future of Translation: 4 Steps to Incorporating CAT-tools

Last month, Kirti Vashee contributed a blog titled Global Village: The World is Going and Growing Online. He discusses the impact that the growth of the internet is having on businesses around the world, including the increased need for content to be made available in multiple languages. It is no wonder that the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 29% growth in employment for interpreters and translators from 2014 to 2024.[1] However, the way we do our job in 2024 will surely be significantly different than how we do our job today. So, what can we do to prepare?

As Kirti states in his blog, there is a growing need for translators to deliver more, sooner. Timelines are shortening and word counts increasing, which is good for job security – but only if you can deliver. Although technology can seem daunting and unreliable, it is the true key for job security. So, how can we incorporate technology, specifically, computer assisted translation (CAT) tools? The following 4-step process will help you get started.

Step 1: Gauge your level of comfort with technology.

You need to know how comfortable you are with new technologies before you jump in. This will help you plan your pace for integrating technology into your work. Ask yourself questions like: When using a new technology, do I usually figure things out on my own or use a user manual? Am I comfortable using the various functions in Microsoft products like Word and Excel or do I limit my use to the primary, basic functions?

Step 2: Get help!

As with any new skill, there may be a learning curve. Remember learning to type? Ride a bike? Swim? The less comfortable you are with technology, the more extensive your research should be. Start by approaching your clients and colleagues. They may already be using a CAT tool and may be able to provide you with some resource and guidance. If you are new to the field or you feel uncomfortable reaching out to others, it might be a good idea to use a guide like The Translator’s Tool Box: A Computer Primer for Translators. Also, most of the tools available have a variety of resources and videos available to help you get started.

Step 3: Identify your must-have functionality.

As you complete Step 2 you will begin to have a better idea about what a CAT tool can do for you, now you must decide what you want it to do. There may be tools such as document alignment[2] that play a major role in your decision making process. The first two functions for your must have list are: Translation Memory and Terminology database (term base). This list will later serve as a checklist as you evaluate and compare different tools.

Step 4: Maximize your free trial.

Many tools will give you about 30 days to try their product (some CAT tools may have a free version with limited functionality). There is no need to try them all at the same time. Try one at a time and always have at least one real assignment to work with. If you are trying a tool for the first time, make sure it is a project with a generous timeframe; you do not want an impending deadline interfering with your ability to test a tool. Do NOT forget to test all of the functions on your must have list.

As you prepare for the needs of this growing profession, remember:

technology is designed to help, not impede.

Following these four steps will put you on the right track towards embracing Computer Assisted Translation tools and thereby increasing your productivity and possibly your quality. Feel free to share in the comments below which step you found most helpful.

[1] Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Interpreters and Translators, on the Internet at (visited December 01, 2016).

[2] Document alignment is the process of matching segments of previously translated text with the corresponding source segment in order to incorporate them into a database of translations for future use.