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Computer-aided translation, sometimes known as computer-assisted translation, or CAT, is a form of language translation that uses software to assist a human translator in translating text from one language to another.

Often, a CAT software tool facilitated the process by dividing the text into smaller, translatable segments, then organizing these segments in a way that speeds the translation process along. These segments can later be recalled in the event that it becomes necessary to ensure the accuracy of the translation.

CAT tools also assist the translator by offering translations for idioms, terms, and sentences that the human translator has previously translated. The CAT tool does not do all of the work, but the software may provide some shortcuts.

The efficiency of CAT programs generally improves over time, particularly when there are similarities in the text that is being translated. This is helpful when translators are preparing a variety of texts, transcripts, and other materials.

As with most other types of software, a range of computer-assisted translation products are available. Some of these can begin the translation for the user. As the software is loaded with spelling and grammar information for two or more languages, and it may be able to render sentences in reasonable translation. However, because the software may, at times, fail to capture the intent of the original text, produce translations that read stiffly, or simply be wrong. When a human translator makes corrections, the software is designed to learn from its mistakes, so that the quality of its work will improve over time.

Other CAT programs may not be able to perform even a rough translation on their own, but may be helpful with spelling and grammar checks, flagging possible errors for consideration, sometimes offering suggestions for corrections.

More intelligent CAT programs might be capable of identifying homophones, alerting the translator when a word appears to be inappropriate for the purpose.

Generally, users are able to add idioms and terms to the base dictionary.

While CAT software is not intended to replace the human translator, they can help to speed up the process of translation, while human translators check the computer's work, and performing some of the translation tasks, depending on the text to be translated and the sophistication of the software used.

Other types of software that would be appropriate for this category include terminology managers and translation memory software.

Terminology managers are designed to allow users to maintain their own terminology bank in digital form, generally stored in a database that can be accessed or added to in various ways.

Translation memory programs are similar, in that they consist of a database of text segments in a source language and their translations in one or more target languages, which may be called upon during the translation process.

Electronic dictionaries would be appropriate for this category, as well. These may be in the form of a digital language translation dictionary, such as an English-Spanish dictionary, or solely in the user's native language. Depending on the program, these dictionaries may or may not allow for user additions or edits.

For the purpose of categorization, we will take a broader definition of the term, including a wider range of tools in this category, such as spell-checkers, and grammar checkers, which may include those in the user's native language, and not solely used for translation purposes. For example, while writing in his native language, a user might make use of a spell-check or grammar-checking program, such as Grammarly.

Machine translation software is similar to computer-aided translation software except that the machine translation tool attempts to replace the need for a human translator. Although much progress has been made, the limitations of machine translation tools are likely to result in a translation that includes several, often serious, grammatical and syntax errors. Although the general idea of the document might be discovered through machine translation, a great deal of post-editing would be required. For the purposes of categorization here, machine translation software may also be listed in this category, although they are not synonymous with computer-aided translation tools.



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