Category Archives: Background

CAT got your tongue?

The Fluency Translation Suite is what many people refer to as a CAT tool – a Computer-aided (or assisted) translation tool. In other circles they are referred to as Translation environment tools, or TEnTs (coined I believe by Mr. Jost Zetzsche). The idea behind the technology has been around for over 20 years now: save previous translations and give translators resources when they translate. It began with DOS based tools, with the most familiar one known as TRADOS, a clever derivation from the words “Translate” and “DOS”.  Since then, these tools have evolved substantially into comprehensive translation solutions. There are many competitors for TRADOS now, some of them quite good.
Enter Fluency. About 5 years ago, our parent company–The Western Standard Publishing Company–was awarded a government contract that involved language technology development. This contract included some translation work. Hence the development of a translation division of Western Standard. As we began this translation work, we surveyed the available CAT tools and got the distinct impression that these tools were not geared for what we needed – fast and accurate translations of unique material. So we built our own tool which we named Fluency.
At the end of the government contract, we opted out of pursuing Language Service Provider work in favor of pursuing the technology side of translation. After a few months work on the Fluency tool, we brought the tool to market. In gearing up for marketing, we visited multiple language conferences. One of the banners we brought claimed that Fluency was the world’s smartest translation software. One translator questioned me particularly about this claim in context of the market full of CAT tools that have been around for decades. It was a legitimate question.
The answer is in the question. There’s a tool disconnect. After having been around for decades, tools have language and translation so wrapped in technology that you can’t see the meaning for the words. This standard and that standard, this file format and that file format, this feature and that feature. One of our clients told us after we responded to a technology question that there is an “ever-growing morass of daunting technology faced by translators.” That’s where Fluency is different. We try to strike a balance between cool technology (I’m personally a computational linguist interested in pretty much all things techy that deal with language) and good-ol’ translation. We know that to you, time is money, and because of this we get out of your way and let you translate. We’ll provide TM matches, terminology, and a wealth of other resources,  but in a simpler, more friendly way. Proverbially, we don’t want the CAT to get your tongue.
To us, features need to be motivated not by “coolness” but by actual usefulness in the translation process. Will it speed the translator up or help accuracy? Is it practical? Will it get in the way? If it doesn’t pass these questions, why add it? Features for the sake of features just muddies the water.
So that’s a little about us. We are around to stay, and wouldlove to hear your feedback. Please let us know what you think Fluency needs, or what it does well. We’ll post information about cool technology, but also cool language tid-bits.