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What tools do professional translators use?

Translators - AdAstraTranslates - Translation - Tools

Translation and its tools have come a long way from the days of Gilgamesh being translated into different Asian languages to modern apps that can snap a photo of text and translate it at the press of a button.

The Internet has totally revolutionized language access and understanding of contemporary and historical texts and documents worldwide. Modern instruments and technologies have augmented today’s translators, affording them new ways to more rapidly and accurately work. Here we’ll explore the types of tools used alongside the classic trusted thesauruses and dictionaries of all translators.

Types of Tools

CAT Tools

Computer Assisted Translation (CAT) tools aid translators in tackling their projects and sharing them by parsing and grouping blocks of text in a document into more digestible sections. Depending on the CAT tool, connecting it to glossaries, memory, or dictionaries can all be included features.

So you have your CAT tool right? Well wouldn’t it be great if it saved phrases, words, or regional translations that could then be reapplied to increase your translation speed? That’s where Translation Memory comes in.

Translation Memory Software

Source texts that have been translated in your CAT tool can be stored in a database. Related segments or parsed sections can be recycled and applied to new texts.

These applications break down and remember the text in manageable chunks or segments. A segment can be a source or unit like headings, titles, or lists. Text can also be broken down into larger pieces such as paragraphs or smaller chunks like clauses. The software displays each source segment as the translator works through a document and if a matching source segment is found in its database, provides a previously used translation. If the section is entirely new, the translator starts from scratch with a new translation which is then logged in the memory.

The translation memory database is organized with field types like the segment’s source language, segment translation, creation date, the last time it was accessed, translator name, and a host of other fields or customizable parameters.

Some translation memory programs are standalone applications, while others are add-ons or macros for commercially available word processing or business software. The document types handled can range from standard Word files, Excel files, or more complex items like html code – add ons can be integrated to add rarer and unique formats as well.

Language Search-Engine Software


This tool is a must have for the modern translator. Language search engine software is basically a web search engine system that works in the same way as search engines on the internet. Instead of searching the web for information, a language search engine looks for pre-translated sentences, phrases, whole phrases, or even entire paragraphs corresponding to the source document segments in a large translation memory repository.

To ensure that search results are consistent with a source segments’ significance, language-based search engines use modern search technology to perform source-word-based context searches. The value of a language search engine, like that of traditional translation memory systems, is heavily influenced by the repository it seeks – so in effect, quality translations will yield better results and references.

Terminology Management Software


The Terminology Management Software (TMS) allows the translator to use hotkeys and a custom interface to view terminology database entries and rapidly search the terminology database for terms that appear in a document. Some of the most advanced systems allow translators to check if the correct source and target terms were used accurately across a project’s segments. Workflow functions, visual taxonomy, spell checkers, term flagging, and other types of multilingual term facet classifications are all integrated in to more robust TMS systems. With multimedia now being a major component of translation and transcreation work, terminology management systems also have the ability to tag and separate different types of photos, videos, etc.

Alignment Software programs divide source and target texts into segments and try to match and reuse the parts of content into a translation memory. Many alignment programs enable translators to manually rearrange or modify incorrect elements. The resulting alignment can be used in future translations as a reference document or imported into translation memory programs.

Augmented Translation


Augmented Translation is pique sci-fi for translators of today – this is the sum of many translation tool parts. It combines automatic content enrichment, CAT tools, translation memory and adaptive machine translation for work, file handling, project management automation, and other related tasks all in an integrated technology environment.

The end goal is to increase a translators’ productivity by providing information and assistance as needed so they can focus on the creative concepts and linguistic interpretations required. Augmented translation differs from simple machine translation post-editing in which linguists revise entire machine-translated texts, by instead giving suggestions and assistance that that can be embraced, edited or ignored.

Now You Know the Tools

So we’ve lifted the car hood to reveal the engines that help drive successful translators to deliver more rapidly and more accurately. While these tools ultimately allow translators to take on more, they cannot replace the interpretive art that matching meaning for meaning is across languages and regions. The above list of tools will continue to evolve, change, and expand just like the very languages they’re pulling from.

At Ad Astra we take the same level of care and attention that the dedicated translators and linguists we collaborate with, to create masterful, accurate translations. Reach out to one of our dedicated team members to discuss your translation project needs.