CAT Tool Pricing: Is it Worth It?
Computer Assisted Translation (CAT) tools have been part and parcel of the translation business for well over a decade now. Barring the odd Luddite averse to technology or too set in their ways to adapt to new trends in the business or simply refuses to work with modern translation agencies that insist on using CAT tools, you will be hard-pressed to find a translator these days that does not use a CAT tool on a regular or at least job-by-job basis.
Advantages of CAT Tools
CAT tools offer great advantages to translators in terms of speed, consistency and overall productivity. CAT tools allow translators to create Translation Memories (TMs) and build Term Bases, which further increase their efficiency and consistency. It is possible to translate almost every file type in CAT tools, and, with the exception of some tag related issues, you get error-free documents in terms of format and layout. Using CAT tools increases a translator’s productivity by 40 to 60 percent depending on the type of software.
From personal experience I can say that working in segments allows for better Quality Assurance since quality issues are immediately flagged by the system and reported when you run a QA check at the end of your translation. While I believe in the importance of thorough quality check by the translator themselves (as in going through segment by segment and reading every sentence before deciding that the translation is good to go), it is always possible for translators to miss the odd error, and this is never the case with CAT tools.
Use of CAT Tools by Translation Agencies
Such advantages reserved for freelancers are doubtless enjoyed by translation agencies as well. This is why, with the exception of some traditional or boutique-like translation agencies, almost every translation agency nowadays uses CAT tools and works with translators who are competent in using such tools. Trados Studio is perhaps the most common CAT tool available in the industry today and it is hard to imagine a professional translator who hasn’t already worked with this tool in their career.
Working with direct clients from a variety of industries, it is vitally important for translation agencies to build consistent and efficient TMs in various fields. So, from this perspective, translation agencies are dependent on CAT tools more than translators themselves, and they make better use of it. They also use CAT tools for financial purposes, which brings us to the main topic of this blog post.
As every translator in the business knows, translation agencies use what they call a CAT tool pricing system. When they receive a document that contains a large of number repetitions or context matches coming from their TMs, they rate matches and new words differently to be able to offer discounts to their clients or to increase their profits further at the expense of the translator.
Flaws of CAT Tool Pricing System
Most translators are well aware of this system and it’s become increasingly commonplace for them to provide their rates based on such pricing arrangement. While translation agencies enjoy both the productivity and financial gains brought by CAT tools, there are some issues which may potentially undermine such seemingly perfect system.
Translation agencies work with dozens of translators in any given language combination. While CAT tools and TMs can ensure terminological consistency, style is a completely personal and subjective aspect that cannot be helped by any CAT tool. This means that a translator observing the term suggestions in a CAT tool may get the terminology right, but can form sentences in a completely different way and thereby run the risk of disrupting the textual consistency, especially when the text in question is a large one and has been worked on by a number of translators to date.
It is also worth considering that not every translator in a translation agency’s database is a competent translator and the terminology they have entered into the system can be terribly wrong and changing such erroneously entered terminology may prove quite problematic. Unless the terminology is specifically advised by the client themselves, you largely depend on the knowledge and expertise of the translators populating your TMs, and, without proper monitoring in place, you invite the possibility of erroneous translations.
CAT Tool Pricing: Is it Liable to Fail?
When a translator receives a job offer from a translation agency that utilizes CAT tool pricing system, they are paid a full rate for new words only. This means they get as little as 0.01 USD per word for certain fuzzy matches and nothing for 100% matches and repetitions. So the translator getting the job will only translate the segments that need translating, meaning the words for which he/she is getting paid, and will leave the rest of the segments as is or with minor changes. He/she will certainly not touch the segments that are already in the TM, thinking those segments were already approved either by the client or by the agency’s proofreader. This will inevitably give rise to errors and mistranslations (resulting either by the previous translator or proofreader or by the current translator who accepted the job with CAT tool pricing) or, at the very least, to style issues.
It is ironic to see a system built for consistency has a potential to result in inconsistency because of pricing. Unless thorough checks are performed to ascertain the quality and accuracy of translated segments entered into TMs, and since it is unrealistic to expect a translator to go through and change the segments for which they are not getting paid, CAT tools are liable to produce the opposite effect than the one intended by translation agencies. In this context, it is worth asking the question: is CAT tool pricing really worth it for agencies in the long run?