If you’re new to the world of translation and have no formal education in this area, you probably have heard about CAT tools, but do not know really know them.
The first thing you must know about CATs (Computer Assisted Translation tools) is that they’re your friends, and are essential to work in the translation industry, whether we talk about game localization or other specializations.
Since this is a comparison article, I won’t be too detailed.
If you have some experience in fan translation or free game localization, for indie developers, for instance, you already know we often work on excel sheets, text files, or similar. You may also have met some typical issues, such as being consistent throughout the file or repeating sentences. CAT tools help you deal with these things. How? They automatically populate your translation. In other words, they fill in the translation for you when necessary. It avoids inconsistencies, one of the most feared boogiemen of game localization (and of translation in general). You’ll be able to translate the same name or sentence in the same way throughout the file. They also help you keep consistency with partial matches, such as sentences with a similar structure but with few variations. For example, when you’re translating the skill’s part, and you have something like this:
The only differences between these sentences (the technical term is segments) are the words Health, Armor, and Shield. What a CAT tool does is to fill in the next segments. So, all you have to do is changing a single word instead of re-translating it from scratch (risking two or more different translations) or searching for the first you have translated (if you remember it!).
So, what are the most used CAT tools in the translation industry?
As you can see from the header image, they are MemoQ and SDL Trados. There is a sort of ancestral competition between these CATs. Some translators prefer one, some the other. It’s personal.
The most used for game localization, though, is MemoQ, in particular when your client is an agency. Trados is less used.
What are the pros and cons of each of them? Let’s see in a quick overview.
- It’s more intuitive than Trados
- You can install it whenever you like on your PC, external drives included
- Shortcuts are easier to use and remember
- You don’t have to buy a license. Agencies have temporary licenses that grant you to work on the localizations assigned
- It automatically saves the translation once you confirm a segment
- It’s fully compatible with Trados’ project, TM, and termbase files
- If you don’t want to buy a license, you can still use the CAT when the free trial expires
- Free version updates
- It has a communication feature when there are several translators/localizers working on the same project
- The personal license is expensive (currently, the Translator Pro version costs €620 / $770 + taxes)
- When the free trial expires, the most important features of a CAT tool are no longer available, such as attaching a translation memory to a project
- The license is less expensive than MemoQ’s (currently, the 2019 version costs €519 + taxes and the soon-to-come 2021 version is free)
- It’s mostly used by clients not working in the game localization industry, so if you’re not translating this specialization only, owning a license is a big plus
- The software is updated quite regularly through service packs, or as soon as a major bug appears
- Your client will send you translation packages, small compatible files that include both the working files and the TMs – and also the termbase if any. When you’re done, you only need to create a return package and send it back, without exporting anything
- Excellent customer service and community forums
- It’s less user friendly than MemoQ
- You can install it on the C: drive only
- Shortcuts are often real finger gym (thanks to Carolina Abilio for this spot-on definition)
- You must save your work regularly while translating. If you don’t, you risk to lose it, especially if you didn’t confirm the segments immediately (in this case, you will find everything in your TM, but it would still be annoying)
- It crashes. A lot, in my experience
- It comes with several other tools. This feature is a con because, in my opinion, an additional software to manage termbases and translation memories may be cumbersome
- It does happen that you won’t be able to open a project, translation memory, or termbase out of nowhere as soon as you launch the program. That’s one of the reasons why the software is constantly updated
Personally, I prefer MemoQ. Even though I bought a Trados license to have that “plus”, I experienced too many bugs and incidents (some of them potentially damaging for the project). I have to rely on the Knowledge Base or community forum too often to solve doubts or issues. The only thing that makes my experience with Trados easier is the gaming keypad I talked about in my previous post.
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