Under the circumstances of globalization, the demand for high-quality and high- speed translations has been increasing worldwide. Satisfying these demands may result of the increasing of time and cost for translators and translation companies. Thus how enhance the quality and productivity with low cost is one of the problems. In order to achieve the time and cost saving, the computer assisted translation (CAT) tools is playing an important role in translation industry. The CAT tools enabling to cover the whole translation process at a time has been created and commercialized by the language industry in recent decades (Austermuhl, 2001). Amongst translation tools, translation memory (TM) systems are considered as the effective tools due to increasing translation productivity by offering previous translation automatically (Austermuhl, 2001). However, there are various TM systems worldwide and which is the most effective may vary depends on individual requirements such as language system or text types. This essay will attempt to assess two TM systems, SDL Trados Studio and Wordfast classic, by comparing each feature of operational functions. To compare and assess two TM systems, the concept of TM systems, features of respective TM systems first will be explained as background knowledge of the discussion in this essay.

The outline of TM systems

Translation memory is a database of multilingual texts which allow to storage both the source and target text segments in parallel and retrieved accordance with the set criteria (Austermuhl 2001 cites Expert Advisory Group on Language Engineering Standards, EAGLES ). Namely, the target text is first divided into segment units and stored in TM through translation process. These stored segments are available to be reused for the new translation project. If the segments stored in TM are perfectly matched or similar to the new source text, TM offers the previous translations automatically to a translator. The translator can decide whether these offered translations should be accepted or not. Also it is possible to revise the previous translations in TM through and after translation.

Esselink (2000) points out some disadvantage of TM as follows:

  1. The Final layout of translated text is not displayed until finishing the translation. In this case, proofreading after the translation is required.
  2. Some problems may occur in TM management, especially in the case of multilingual project.
  3. Revising TM after re-converted into the original style is not available, namely, in order to update TM, the translated file is required to be converted into TM’s acceptable format again.
  4. Time consuming due to the requirement of converting the source text into the appropriate format for translation.
  5. TM filter is not updated when the source text is a new file format. As a result, some arrangement is required in order to be accepted.
  6. Changing the structure of the text is not available within paragraph.
  7. It is necessary to create the file filter depend on the file format if it is different from the default.

Considering above mentions, he (2000) suggests that the material text should be examined before translation, and translators should decide whether to use TM, because in some cases, translating without TM is more effective than using TM system.

Meanwhile, TM has recognized as effective and time-saving technology for massive translations, especially technical or manual text which include some repetitive use of technical terminology (Mitkov 2007). This is mostly due to the effectiveness against reducing duplicative work and to enhance the uniformity of terms. For example, in the case of the continuous translation project of the specific field, the TM is offered to the translator and the technical terms will be transferred from TM precisely to the new source text. By this means, TM allows translators to share the unique terminology used in the specific field and contributes to maintain the translation quality.

The specific features of Wordfast Classic TM operational functions

Wordfast Classic is defined as “a CAT tool designed as a Microsoft Word™ add-on. Its lightweight, flexible structure makes it easy to install and use (Wordfast 2010)”. This CAT tool comprises some useful operational functions, such as terminology management, importing exporting glossary and TM, document conversion, analysis and alignment (Wordfast 2010).

Amongst the operational functions, some beneficial features of Wordfast Classic will be explained here.

ITI Bulletin (2006) points out that Wordfast Classic is simple to use, which can not only apply to Word but also to Power Point, Access and Excel files by connecting directly with Word application interface. It is also compatible with other machine translation programs such as PowerTranslator™ and other CAT tools such as Trados, by converting TM into another format which is appropriate for respective program and exporting it (ITI Bulletin 2006). Importing other TM to Wordfast is also available (ITI Bulletin 2006). In addition, alignment function allows editing the translation stored in TM after translation.

Since this CAT tool is available of free download to own computer with some limitations, those who are considering to use this tool can try and examine how useful or not for them before paid registration(ITI Bulletin 2006). If download PlusTools™ and add-in to the source document, Wordfast Classic is available for a variety of file format from HTML/ XLM to other tagged files (Miller 2002).

However, there are some important reminders for using Wordfast Classic. One of them is that it is necessary to do clean-up TM after translation for updating the TM database (Miller 2002). Since database is stored as txt. format, revising the translated text is possible without Wordfast (Miller 2002). Thus translators tend to forget to update TM and glossary. As a result, the accuracy of TM will be lost and TM can not apply to other new translation project.

The specific features of Trados TM operational functions

Trados TM which comprising the source and target segments, is created in the Translation Memories view (Trados 2010). Respective segment pair of the source and target is called a translation unit and it is possible to add some information for each translation unit such as when it was created and updated, and who created it (Trados 2010). Thus it might be useful to manage the translation history. The translation unit is displayed in parallel, which is conducive to comparison of the source and target segment when editing.

There are three types of matching function: fuzzy, context and 100% match (Trados 2010). Although the default of Fuzzy matching rate is set at 70% or over, this rate is able to be changed (Trados 2010). Context match is applied when the source text and TM segment match perfectly and have the same context (Trados 2010). 100%match means the source text segment match exactly with the TM segment (Trados 2010).

In terms of the segmentation, Trados can customise the segmentation rules depend on respective languages; Chinese, French, English, German, Spanish and Japanese, which are supported by Trados (Trados 2010). Therefore, there is not required to adjust the segmentation each time.

As mentioned above, fuzzy match is applied when the matching rate is 70% or over (Trados 2010). This indicates that if the matching rate between the source and the TM segment is less than 70%, TM will not return any translation (Trados 2010). Therefore, if preferring more or less than 70% matching customise of the fuzzy matching rate should be required.

Comparison of feature between Wordfast and Trados TM

With the avobe description as background, the feature of Wordfast and Trados TM will be compared and assessed.

First of all, in terms of using TM in othe tranlation tools, both Wordfast and Trados can import/ export TM database by converting the file type into the acceptable format for respective TM. For example, Wordfast TM is stored in txt. format, while Trados TM is stored in sdltm. format. If converting Trados TM to Wardfast, it is necessary to export to a tmx.file. Then open it with MS Word and open Wordfast, then select it as TM. Likewise, Wordfast also can export its TM by converting TM into tmx.format, open Trados, creating new empty TM and import the txt.file.

Secondly, although creating or opening Wordfast TM is almost as simple as that of Trados, Trados TM is enriched with various optional functions, such as Enable character-based concordance search and fuzzy match threshold, compared with Wordfast.

However, when compareing the source segment with target segment for translaiton, Wordfast seems to be more useful than Trados. In wordfast, the segment is highlighted with gray color and it is not allowed to jump sentences till click the icon which represent to confirmation each time. By contrast, Trados does not have any specific functions which privent from moving to the next segment. As a result, skipping segment sometimes occur in Trados. Since generally translation project have a tendency to demand for high-speed and quality, translators are often forced to work long hours a day. This will result in a higher rate of translation leakage.

Finally, while Wordfast can not allow a user to confirm the translated text layout during translation, Trados can display the finished translation within the edditing window. Therefore, the TM user can available to confirm the translated text layout even during translation. This display function of Trados might be effective to time saving, because the mistranslations or text layout and presentation can be recognized easily and translating and modifying can be available simultaneously in the editing window.


Although Wordfast and Trados share certain simiralities in those operational functions such as the availability of importing/ exporting TM, some merit and demerit of respective TM were also recognized. It is difficult to recommend which is more excellent CAT tool, bacause the detarmination of merit and demerit is affected by the situation. In the case of the massive translation team project, Trados may be more effective than Wordfast due to a variety of optional function. On the contrary, if translating relatively simple and short text, Wordfast may be convenience due to its simplicity of program configuration process. Therfore, it might be significant to examine which CAT tool is suitable for the translation text or project.

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