CAT tools: yay or nay?


TRADOS, Wordfast, Deja vú…these are names that you all may know if you are in the translation business. What do we know about these programs? They may have told you about them in university, or you might have found about them on your own. These programs are intended to help us translators work faster, create translation memories, etc.  Nowadays it seems that without any of those programs you are not suitable for a job, they require translators to use at least one of them for said projects, sometimes they especially want the translator to use a certain program. The aforementioned brings some doubts to my mind to say the least:

Each and every one of you may have a preference for one or the other, but the client might ask you to use a different one. That’s a point against you when it comes to be the chosen one for the project. These programs are really expensive and, if you can afford buying one at all, the usual case is that you may own just one program due to their high price. Does it mean we need to purchase more than one CAT tool?

But, I wonder, do they really help us work better? All I’ve been hearing since I started applying for jobs and getting into the field has been: “Are you aware of the discounts by repeated word?”. Yes, CAT tools allow us to work faster, means more productivity, but that doesn’t necessarily mean more benefit or more clients.

Since I graduated I haven’t been able to afford purchasing a CAT tool license since I don’t have an amount of work that would make the investment profitable, and I’ve been working without them.  I wouldn’t have to do glossaries myself but is it that big of a deal? Are they that big of a help and is that help worth the lower benefit? Do clients require CAT tools because it’s useful for them or just because it means they’ll pay less for the job?

I’d love hearing your opinions on the subject.

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3 thoughts on “CAT tools: yay or nay?

  1. I guess all beginners have the same problem (including me). Really don’t know what’s the point with CAT tools. I mean, if you can do a job and attend a deadline really does it matter the means? but agencies does care about that and even ask if you have CAT tools and if you don’t have a specific one you’re out.
    On the other hand, there are some free CAT tools, as Wordfast, Memoq (trial version). And, now I’m working for an agency that provides me with everything I need, in terms of CAT tools.

    • Hello Alicia,

      Thanks for your comment. I suppose you may be right and all beginners have the same problem. I’ve been reading around about opinions on this subject and there are many translators who don’t see the use in them and have been working without CAT tools all their lives, and despite that, it works pretty well for them. While I see the benefits (we work faster and it creates a translation memory all alone), I don’t see the big problem of not using one. I translated a book during my internship with no CAT tools, of course I had plenty of time to finish it, there was no rush.
      I’ve recently found out about free CAT tools through someone who commented on one of my posts and I’m glad I did, but I still see some kind of barrier so to speak because they normally ask you to have a specific one.
      Besides that, one of the reasons why I wanted to work at an agency was to be able to work with CAT tools and learn how to use them better since in university we didn’t really get much information on that.

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