Translation Student? Why you need to try Lilt…

In my recent article, What are CAT Tools good for? Absolutely… everything?!?, I mentioned an online CAT (computer assisted translation) tool called Lilt. Unlike SDL Trados, which is the only other CAT tool I’ve used (there are several others available, this is what is available at university)  Lilt is an online CAT tool which specialises in machine translation.

To go back a bit, I’ve only used CAT tools when specifically directed to do so for an assignment. Professional CAT tools can be quite expensive for freelance translators, and as a student, they are definitely out of my price range. On the occasions that I have used them, the project has been small, 900 words roughly, and using a CAT tool has seemed like a bigger fuss and nuisance than it’s worth – creating a project and the termbase etc. took more time than translating the actual article. Also, I was translating a newspaper article, and since CAT tools break projects down into sentences, sometimes segments need moving around, so using the CAT tool actually took up more time than it saved.

However, this time I’ve been translating a manual for medical students on the protocols of interviewing and getting information from patients and explaining procedures. Since this text is longer, 2,900 words, and more formulaic (with repetitions), it seemed like a good time to test out what Lilt can do.

For anyone unfamiliar with Lilt, it is essentially a new form of CAT tool that is online, instead of a software – I use it on Google Chrome, it’s not compatible with Microsoft Edge yet. It is also free – although there are paid versions.

As written on their website, Lilt is supposed to be the new medium between unreliable but quick machine translation, and the reliable but slow human translation

The core technology is an interactive, adaptive machine translation system that learns in real-time from human feedback and/or existing translation memory data. Adaptation allows the system to progressively provide better suggestions to human translators, and higher quality for fully automatic translation.

Lilt contains:

  1. Interactive, adaptive machine translation – MT that responds to and personalizes to you.

  2. Translation memory and computer-aided translation – lightning-fast, easy-to-use web CAT tool with TM.

  3. Intuitive design for maximum usability – start translating faster and smarter in minutes.

Signing up is free, and as a student, the free version is as much as you really need.

Making a Project


Creating your own project is fairly straightforward, and I’m not going to go into it in this post. If you’d like me to do a step by step guide, leave me a comment below. Currently I’m working on a chapter of a medical textbook, when I click on the document on the start page, it shows me how many segments the text has been split into, how many words the source text has, how many words I’ve translated and what percentage of the text that is. When you’ve finished with the text completely, you click the down arrow next to Open File, and you can download the target text.



Lilt also allows you to add your own termbase to the project – in this case, the termbase for my current project is a Excel file of English to German medical terms. When the English terms come up in a translation segment, the programme will search the termbase for any matching vocabulary. If segments contain just one word from the termbase you’ve uploaded, then they’ll be inserted into the target segment automatically.

Source and Target Segments


If you’ve ever come across SDL Trados, you’ll have seen that the segments for the source and target texts are parallel to one another – in Lilt, the segments are still broken up by sentence, but the source text is at the top, and the target text is created in a box underneath. Suggestions for words are phrases are then displayed underneath the target text box. Each page fits 100 segments before moving on to a new page. Once a segment has been confirmed, it is added to the translation memory. This means that when similar sentences appear in the later in the text. Suggested words from the machine translator, the memory and the termbase appear below  the target segment – ones that are saved from the termbase appear in orange.


For more information about Lilt’s pro-packages, and what they have to offer,read this article on If you want to find out more about the technology and software itself visit this post on Emptypages. Finally, if you want to sign up to Lilt or read more about what it can off, click Lilt . If you want a more in depth tutorial about how to use Lilt, leave me a comment below.

This is not a sponsored post, since I don’t have a CAT tool at home, I wanted to see how this online, free version worked, compared to the software, paid version I’d tried at uni. I’m pleased to say that I quite like it, and for smaller projects in an informal setting, it works very well. The free version doesn’t have as many features as the paid-up version, but for a student, I think it’s good for projects and for practice and is much easier to use than SDL in terms of uploading and downloading and editing documents.

If you’ve ever used Lilt, what did you think? Let me know in the comments below!




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