What is a CAT tool?
The acronym CAT stands for Computer-Assisted Translation. CAT tools incorporate many different functions, including spell checking, terminology management, electronic dictionaries, translation memories, and others.
Segmenting and Translation Memories
A CAT tool usually divides a text into smaller segments. For example, this blog post would be broken into individual sentences. This improves readability and makes the translation process easier.
After the translator finishes translating each segment, the source segment and its translation are stored in a file called the translation memory (TM), which can be easily accessed in the future for reference. This leads to improved consistency within and between translated documents.
The translator can also create or import glossaries or terminology databases in a CAT tool. If a term in the source document is present in the terminology database, the CAT tool automatically highlights it and suggests the correct translation, ensuring the term will be consistently translated throughout the document. The translator can easily edit the terminology database to correct an existing term or add new terms on the fly.
What does this mean for clients? If they have previously approved terminology, it can be conveniently managed and followed when the translator knows how to use a CAT tool. Even when the client doesn’t already have a terminology database, the translator can create one while translating and follow it, instead of relying solely on their memory to translate terms uniformly throughout the document (which will lead to mistakes sooner or later).
Most CAT tools assist with formatting by preserving the exact same format as the source document. For example, it is much easier to translate a PowerPoint file in a CAT tool than by editing each text box in PowerPoint. After completing their translation in the CAT tool, the translator will just need to open the PowerPoint file exported by the CAT tool to resize some of the text boxes. Overall, the process is much faster and more reliable. It enables quicker delivery, and there is a much lower chance that the translator will forget to translate something in the document, especially in the case of ‘hidden’ content in the original file.
Quality Assurance and Statistics
Most CAT tools also have Quality Assurance functions, which allow translators to check punctuation, spelling, numbers, tags, and expressions for errors. With a simple click, the translator can address the error without having to scroll through the whole document.
Another interesting feature, particularly for large projects, is the statistics function. Translators can view details like what percent of each document is translated, the number of repetitions, and other useful information. This enables better oversight of the translation workflow, and the translator can anticipate whether the current pace will be enough to meet the deadline and take action if not.
Good CAT tools have many built-in functions that allow translators to work more quickly and effectively.
Unfortunately, many people that don’t know much about CAT tools are prejudiced against them. The main reason? They confuse CAT tools with machine translation, which is a huge misconception. CAT tools may include support for machine translation engines, which can be easily activated or deactivated by the translator according to their preference. Therefore, a translator will only use machine translation in a CAT tool if they want to, and using CAT tools definitely does not imply using machine translation. Translators who confuse the two concepts know very little about CAT tools and machine translation.
Like most professional translators, I use a state-of-the-art CAT tool, SDL Trados Studio 2019, to ensure consistent, high-quality translations and better management of my project schedules.
So your company has decided to expand its business and include Portuguese—the sixth most widely spoken language in the world—in its marketing strategy.
Now you may find yourself asking questions like:
I often see translation jobs from English to Portuguese that don’t mention which variant is expected. However, the choice between Brazilian Portuguese and European Portuguese has strategic implications.
Even though Portuguese is officially a single language, Brazilian Portuguese and European Portuguese undeniably differ in important ways.
What are the main differences between Brazilian Portuguese and European Portuguese?
Perhaps the most obvious difference is in pronunciation. The accent difference is so striking that Brazilians often have a hard time understanding Portuguese people, to the point that it isn’t unusual to see subtitles in Brazilian TV shows or news broadcasts when Portuguese people are speaking. On the other hand, since Brazilians speak slower and Portuguese people are often exposed to Brazilian Portuguese through soap operas, movies, and other media, people in Portugal can understand Brazilian Portuguese more easily.
Nevertheless, the differences go beyond pronunciation. There are some grammatical differences, such as the use of the pronouns “você” and “tu”, which correspond to the 2nd person singular “you”. While “tu” is preferred in Portugal, “você” is more common in Brazil. In addition, in Portugal, “você” is considered more formal, whereas in Brazil it is very informal.
More importantly, there are also relevant lexical differences. Many common words used in Brazil aren't used in Portugal and vice-versa. There are more differences between Brazilian Portuguese and European Portuguese than between US English and UK English, for example.
Here are just a few examples.
Many of these differences exist because Brazilian Portuguese absorbed words from indigenous and African languages.
Some words also exist in both variants but have entirely different meanings. For example, “apelido” means nickname in Brazil and surname in Portugal.
Are Brazilian Portuguese and European Portuguese mutually understandable?
As a result of the differences mentioned, when a speaker of one variant reads a document in the other variant, most of the text will be understandable, but it will sound strange or unnatural. In some cases, those differences can lead to a communication breakdown. Therefore, they should be treated as separate languages for localization purposes.
Another caveat is that you should be wary of translators who claim they can translate into both variants. This sometimes happens when a Brazilian translator has lived in Portugal or when a Portuguese translator has lived in Brazil for some time. In those situations, the speaker tends to underestimate the influence of the local language , and they often fail to realize that fragments of one variant are creeping into the other. In other words, their original variant is being “contaminated” with the other, and the result is often a mix of both—which won’t please either side.
Is there such a thing as “international Portuguese” or “universal Portuguese”?
No, there isn’t. Despite efforts to keep Portuguese a single language, like the Orthographic Agreement of 1990 between Brazil, Portugal and the other Portuguese-speaking countries, the fact is that the difference between European Portuguese and Brazilian Portuguese is growing over time. Considering the geographical separation and cultural differences between both countries, this process is actually unavoidable from a linguistic point of view.
Should I localize into Brazilian Portuguese, European Portuguese, or both?
Since you won’t be able to please speakers of both countries with a single version of your material, you do have to make a choice.
In terms of reach, the difference is huge: Brazil has approximately 210 million inhabitants, while the population of Portugal is just over 10 million. Therefore, if your goal is to get the best return on your investment, Brazilian Portuguese is the most logical choice.
If your target audience comprises mostly people in Europe and Africa, European Portuguese is the best choice.
However, if you intend to reach both audiences, ideally you should localize into both variants.
Whatever you do, don’t mix both variants. That is a sure way to displease both sides.
What is Localization?
Globalization—the interdependence of the world’s economies and cultures—has had an incredible influence on our society. Although cultural elements from elsewhere in the world are more accessible than ever before, each country continues to have its own unique cultural identity. That’s where localization comes in.
Localization consists of basic modifications—like providing numbers, dates, and times in the preferred local format—but it also encompasses more subtle and complex issues. For example, what seems like a simple statement of fact can be misinterpreted or even considered offensive because of cultural differences.
Localization aims to address those differences by adapting content for the target language and culture, which is key to successfully promoting products or services in a foreign market.
Localization vs. Transcreation
When it comes to marketing, we often use the term “transcreation” to refer to the process of adapting content to the local culture in order to meet its needs and maximize your chances of success when launching your international marketing campaign.
The Dangers of Poor Localization
So what happens when these challenges are neglected? It can lead to embarrassing and costly mistakes. Let’s take a look at some examples.
Clairol's “Mist Stick” curling iron didn’t sell as well in Germany as the company hoped. Why? Because while “mist” in English means “small drops of water,” in German, it means “manure.”
Rolls-Royce successfully avoided falling into the same trap. In the 1960s, the company planned to release a vehicle called the Silver Mist. Fortunately, its team realized the potentially disastrous association in Germany, and chose to call it the Silver Shadow.
Similarly, if Ford had released the Pinto in Brazil without changing its name, it would have caused some serious trouble. That’s because “pinto” means “dick” in Brazilian Portuguese. Fortunately, this never happened, despite what some websites may say. This article examines the controversy.
In 1988, the General Electric Company (GEC) and Plessey merged their telecom businesses and chose to call it GPT, short for GEC Plessey Telecommunications. However, in French, GPT is pronounced as “J’ai pété,” meaning “I farted.” Naturally, that ruined any chances of creating a single brand throughout Europe. In France, the brand had to be changed to GPTel.
Orange, a mobile network operator in the UK, used the slogan “The future is bright. The future is Orange.” However, in Northern Ireland, orange is associated with the Orange Order, a Protestant organization. The predominantly Catholic population interpreted it as “the future is Protestant,” which led to a lot of criticism. Ultimately, the company had to change their campaign in Northern Ireland.
How to Avoid a Localization Fiasco
As you have seen, advertising a product or service in a foreign country without consulting people who are fluent in the language and really know the local culture can lead to costly mistakes. Fortunately, those missteps can be easily avoided by working with a reliable translation partner who’s an expert in marketing and business.
I’ve worked with global brands like LG, Samsung, and others for several years to help them in their marketing efforts, and I’d be pleased to assist you in your global marketing campaign. For more information, please feel free to contact me.
As a translator with a background in Linguistics—more specifically an MA in Computational Linguistics—I have great interest in the progress being made in machine translation. One cannot say that advancements in this field have been small or insignificant.
On the contrary, I’m really amazed that Google Translate sometimes renders perfectly correct sentences, under some circumstances. Years ago, this was something very rare, but it has become more and more frequent, depending on the material you are translating.
The type of machine translation carried out by Google relies heavily on huge amounts of information to train their system. As a result, it performs considerably better with general texts than in more specialized fields, where mistakes are noticeably more common.
You may be asking yourself: is Google Translate good enough for my business?
The answer isn’t simple. It depends on your line of work and the impression you want to make on your client.
Where Machine Translation Works
In some cases, Google Translate seems to be working well enough. A great example is the Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba. They have literally millions of ads, and using human translators for all of them doesn’t seem feasible, especially considering how quickly their ads come and go.
Machine translation seems to be working well for them, particularly if we consider that (1) most product descriptions also have pictures, which will hopefully clarify at least some instances of mistranslation; and (2) consumers are often buying relatively cheap products. You wouldn’t negotiate the purchase of an expensive machine that costs hundreds of thousands of dollars based solely on a description generated by machine translation. However, the risks involved in buying a Bluetooth headset seem to be pretty acceptable.
… and Where It Doesn’t
But there’s another factor at play: the image that you want to convey to your client. When you buy something cheaply, you usually don’t get frustrated when you receive a product with a cheap package, or a poorly translated user manual. After all, that’s what you paid for. On the other hand, when you invest in a higher quality product, you tend to expect a better package and clear instructions.
The bottom line is that the translation you use has to match your product. If you sell cheap products, a higher rate of product defects is acceptable or expected. The same goes for flaws in their description, user manual, and so on.
If you sell medium- or high-priced items, you shouldn’t consider using machine translation, because it will produce errors that may upset your customer or harm your brand’s reputation.
Not sure you agree? Well, let’s look at some sentences translated using Google.
Google Translate at Work
From time to time, I like to try Google Translate and see how it’s progressing. Despite undeniable improvement, it often generates some curious or even funny sentences—well, not so funny if they end up on your packaging or as part of your product copy.
All of the following examples involve English to Portuguese translation.
These examples were all collected in the last two years. In other words, this is recent stuff.
Does Machine Translation Make Sense for You?
Ask yourself: are you willing to have these kind of errors associated with your brand? Translation costs money, but so do mistakes. Not only in terms of reputation, but often in the form of lawsuits from angry clients who feel deceived.
The point is that you need to weigh the pros and cons. Google Translate can be used when human translation isn’t feasible because of large volumes, as long as you clearly state that the text was machine translated. You also want to make sure that the amount of money you will save outweighs the potential harm caused by mistranslation and damage to your brand reputation.
Despite the great advancements in the field of machine translation, Google Translate certainly hasn’t reached the point where it can be safely used for high-end commercial purposes with no risk of blunders.
Engineering is one of the most specialized fields of translation. It demands extensive knowledge and, if the translator intends to deliver clear and accurate translation, they need to have a thorough understanding of the subject.
We have seen numerous cases of people translating material in this field without fully understanding the principles behind a given machine, equipment, or system, and the result is inevitably poor, with sentences that range from slightly confusing to utterly unintelligible.
Translators who wish to succeed in this field should be familiar with the types of documents that are common in this industry, such as technical reports, drawings, and specifications, user manuals, safety guidelines, quality standards, certificates, and others.
Since small mistakes can have enormous consequences, it's crucial for the translator to have the right skills. A safer path for your company is to look for a professional translator with an Engineering degree from a renowned university, besides relevant experience in the field. Otherwise, it may be venturing into dangerous territory.
At MRC Translations, we care about your reputation and brand image. Does your company need help with engineering translation? Please do not hesitate to contact us.
Matheus R. Chaud
I am a Certified English to Portuguese Translator with extensive experience in translation, proofreading, editing, subtitling, and quality assurance.