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You may be aware of Machine Translation (MT), and how it’s implemented by organizations to convert websites and documents into other languages. MT is commonly used as an umbrella term to describe all translation software but it’s only one of two similar processes. The sister process of MT is CAT (Computer Assisted Translation) which is, as the title suggests, software that assists the translation process of a trained, translation professional. MT does translations directly, generally without human involvement.

Each software process has it’s strengths and preferred applications. For instance, MT is generally effective when used to translate technical information, especially in languages such as French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese and Tagalog, and it’s less effective when translating conversational subjects or literature in those languages. It is far less effective, regardless of content type, translating Dutch, German, the Scandinavian and Slavic languages, Hindi, Bengali, Korean, Farsi and many other languages. Where MT falls short is that it doesn’t include the cultural elements so crucial to the complete communication of the intended message.

CAT software is used by all serious translation professionals to increase efficiency, streamlining the process of proofing, editing and storing content. Employing CAT allows the translation firm to systematically review the content, creating a memory of words, phrases, acronyms and abbreviations to aid the project manager in maintaining a consistently translated document. The project team starts a project utilizing CAT as a tool so that they are able to complete the translation with maximum accuracy and consistency. Because of this hybrid approach to the process, CAT software is key to the successful completion of projects by a trained, language service professional.

An illustration of the differences between MT and CAT would be translating the French term “belle-sœur” which literally means “beautiful sister.” A widely used MT product, Google Translate, will render the expression as “sister-in-law.” While this is correct, the words can also mean “step-sister” which has a very different meaning and why a human review, utilizing CAT software, will consistently make the correct translation based on the context of the the words.

This brief lesson in translation technology shows how easy it is for organizations to make the mistake of assuming MT is sufficient for their professional documents, projects or website translations. When it comes to language services, penny wise and pound foolish could lead to a negative outcome for your firm. Contact us to professionally handle your language projects with guaranteed accuracy from or into 120+ languages.



Philip Auerbach
Founder, President & CEO
Auerbach International
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