Copywriter, technical writer, translator (FR>EN, ES>EN, IT>EN), journalist

Computer-aided translation (CAT) tools – I’m a top student!

This blog post is partly about technology and partly about me patting myself on the back.

I was recently recognized for my ability to conquer new technology. Here’s the story.


If you follow my social media feeds, you’ll notice I increasingly speak about translation. That’s because I’m pursuing an accelerated B.A. in Translation (French to English) and a Certificate in Translation (Spanish to English). I’m doing this at Glendon College, a campus of Toronto’s York University.

Last summer, the department chair helped me choose courses for  2017-18. I originally wanted to do one course per semester, but she talked me into doing two. For the second semester, I said I didn’t want to drive to Glendon more than twice a week. I noticed a fourth-year course offered online. It had prerequisites I didn’t have. I suggested the chair could waive the prerequisites. She readily agreed.

That fourth-year online course involved the exploration of computer-aided translation (CAT) tools. These are not machine translation tools that just do the work for you, like Google Translate. Rather, this class of software helps professional translators work faster by doing “busywork” that software can handle easily. (For basic background on CAT tools, read this article.)

The tools we explored are widely used in the translation industry. Here are the big two we used:

  • For the first time, members of the class received temporary Wordfast licences that expired after the class ended. We used those on our computers.
  • The university keeps a licensed version of SDL Trados Studio on its servers. Students in the translation program access it using Citrix.


I aced the course. The professor shared her enthusiasm for the software by offering students the opportunity to get certified on SDL Trados Studio. So I did. (Side note: I hope SDL Trados puts my name on this list of certifications.)


The combination of high class marks and this certification led to a surprise announcement at a September event (International Translation Day), where I learned I was one of two students in the CAT tools course to win a free SDL Trados Studio licence. In October, the official notice arrived (again without my name on it) as well as a link to download the software (that DOES have my name on it).

I have to say that I easily grasp how these tools work. That’s due largely to my background as a technical writer. I also have a knack for fixing issues that may arise when I use software (like when the instructions provided don’t “map” properly to the software).

However, this accomplishment isn’t all me. I want to thank:

  • SDL Trados for having this award
  • Glendon’s translation department chair for letting me access the course
  • my CAT tools instructor for providing an excellent learning experience
  • my other teachers for sharing their expertise in and enthusiasm for the translation field.

Sometimes you need to celebrate these milestones. I hope similarly encouraging things happen for you, and that you celebrate them when they do.