CAT Tools and Machine Translation

Being new to translation, one thing that I am really trying to get my head around is the subject of CAT tools and MT. Some of the most heated discussions to be found on translating websites and blogs it seems to me centre around CAT tools. Being very inexperienced in the field, I have decided to download Wordfast and see if I can get to grips with that and see how it works.

The difficult thing about the subject is that I can see the merits of both sides of the argument. I can see that they should increase productivity if used correctly, but can also see that using them to go over fuzzy matches can take just as long if not longer, as you have to check so carefully what has been done correctly.

The worst effort of machine translation I can recall was the information booklet for a four star hotel in a town in Spain where I was living this year. My boss showed it to me for a giggle one day. The grammar did not agree, the hotel team was translated as “human equipment”, machines were personified. It certainly brightened up our day, but you have to ask the question of why a four star hotel could not spend a small sum just getting it right. Any human being with a decent sprinkling of English knowledge could have improved such a translation 100%.
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However, I do not believe that CAT tools, if used properly, should produce such poor quality work. I will try Wordfast and see how I get on in understanding it.

I would love people’s educated opinions. I am trying to get some experience with them before starting my MA in Translating and Interpreting in September because, although it is one of the subjects offered on the course, there are other topics that I feel may be more useful if I can “self-train” in this department. Advice on this level is also very welcomed.