I was advised to make rough notes and scribblings in the margins beforehand, but I never really had time for that in translation. The wise tutor I had later, when taking an Italian into English translation course, emphasised the importance of getting started, rather than spending time at the beginning of a translation exam looking up individual words, or making notes.
When I started translating for paying customers it never occurred to me that I would use computer-aided translation (CAT) tools. I suppose I thought, wrongly, that they were a high-tech form of cheating; that they would produce something a bit like the cringing machine-translated text I am sometimes asked to proofread, with rogue infinitive verbs misplaced in a sentence, words translated too directly, phrases that read inside out.
When finally I came round to the benefits of CAT tools - and realised that many customers not only demand they are used but specify which one - I did some research and discovered that the choice is remarkably broad. Prices range from free to several hundred pounds. Fortunately there are a number of sites such as ProZ, as well as YouTube videos that provide helpful comparisons of prices, features and user ratings.
The advantages of CAT tools are too numerous to list, but probably the most important aspect for me is the way my version can save a file in its original format, including the original font, letter size and colours. Attempts to reproduce a document that includes tables, diagrams, textboxes and wrap-around text without CAT tools can be frustrating and time-consuming. The source text and target text sit opposite each other on the left and right of the page respectively, in numbered segments. This means that I can return to a particular segment easily when I want to make a change.
My CAT tool doesn’t require the internet, and its memory function means that repeated or very nearly repeated sentences or, for example, headings of tables, are inserted automatically. Translation memories are easily shared between translator teams, resulting in greater consistency if there are several people working on the same document. Some CAT tools do spellchecking and predictive typing, and others even do invoicing, and there is a facility to record client feedback. Mine offers translation services in more than 90 different versions of the English language alone, including the English spoken in Vanuatu, Samoa and Namibia.
Of course there are a few glitches now and then. When my translation turns out to be longer or shorter than the source text, often the final version doesn't quite fit into the same space. Converting a PDF file into Word to open it in the CAT tool can sometimes cause the text to become jumbled; some files won’t go in at all.
But these are minor details and on balance I am very happy to be working with a CAT tool. In fact I intend to learn more and increase the repertoire of tools I work with. I could never go back to working without one. So to anyone considering investing in CAT tools I would say go ahead; do some research and choose the one that seems most suitable for you.