What is translation memory?
If you have been shopping for translation services, you’ve surely encountered terms like CAT (computer-assisted translation) and TM (translation memory). Are these just industry buzzwords or do these technologies hold real value? The short answer is yes, they absolutely add value, as you will soon discover.
The core component of the system is the TM (translation memory) which is a database that stores previously translated sentences and phrases in a bilingual format. A CAT tool is the software environment in which TMs are utilized. While there are a variety of CAT tools used in the translation industry, the underlying principles of how TMs work are fundamentally the same.
Never pay for the same work twice
Using a translation memory, a piece of translation that appeared in a similar document last week, last month, or last year can easily be re-used today, with a linguist making updates as needed. This is called partial (or fuzzy) pickup. Sometimes, no updates are needed at all because the phrase or sentence is identical to one translated before (exact match). If the same phrase or sentence appears more than once within the same translation project, this is called a repetition and all subsequent instances can be automatically populated based on the first translation.
Since both pickup and repetitions reduce the amount of work necessary to complete a translation project, a transparent translation provider will pass these savings on to you in the form of discounts. In addition, they will be able to meet more aggressive deadlines because using a translation memory system saves time by eliminating double work.
Think of a document that is published monthly with only minor updates, or a set of user manuals for slightly different models of the same product. The bulk of the work is done the first time these materials are processed and each subsequent version requires less and less new translation. So why would you pay full price for the second or third version?
Consistency is key
Another benefit of using a translation memory is the fact that it can be shared by a team of linguists. This becomes extremely important as soon as the size of a project requires more than one translator to complete in time. How can multiple translators, possibly working in different locations and time zones, produce a consistent final product? A common translation memory makes this possible by showing them, in real time, the translations created by their team members.
Likewise, because the same translation memory is used for project after project, a new translator joining the team today can immediately benefit from years of past translations to quickly become familiar with any specialized terminology and pick up the desired style with ease.
Translation memories are not to be confused with machine translation. They are merely a tool to aid human translators, enabling them to work more quickly and efficiently by automatic repetitive tasks. Linguistic decisions are never left to computers.
You are in control
We never share translation memories between our clients. Your memory is yours alone and reflects your brand’s unique voice and style. We can even maintain multiple translation memories for separate departments or lines of business that require a different translation style.
Does reusing past translations mean that you might be stuck with a potential error or outdated terminology forever? No, because the translation memory is a living database that is continuously updated and maintained. If your preferred terminology or translation style changes over time, we are able to apply edits throughout the entire translation memory.
The longer a translation memory is used and maintained, the more it grows and the greater the savings and efficiency gains. However, you don’t have to wait to start seeing these benefits. They can begin with your very first translation project! Even within a single document, there may be similarities and repetitions that reduce the overall translatable word count.
Another way to kick-start your savings is to provide existing bilingual reference materials that we can extract translation pairs from. We can even import translation memories created by other systems if you are switching translation providers.
What are you waiting for?
In summary, translation memories…
- Save money because you don’t pay full price for fuzzy pickup and repetitions
- Save time by reusing previous translations that are similar to the new content
- Ensure consistency and a unified voice, no matter how large the project or linguist team
- Grow over time and become more efficient the more projects are processed
- Are never shared with other clients and do not involve machine translation