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Why Translation is Equal Parts Art and Science

It takes valuable resources to produce new content and launch new marketing campaigns. Precious time is spent creating, rewriting, translating, and approving new advertising slogans, ad copy, and other marketing materials in English, often involving multiple internal and external stakeholders. 

The new content needs to be creative, compelling, and faithful to the organization’s brand guidelines, including its chosen tone of voice. Achieving this not only takes skill and experience but also imagination––and the same applies to the process of translation. 

The Challenge of Maintaining Quality

Whether as a result of time, resources, organizational priorities, or even supply chain issues, the translation process does not always receive the level of attention that it deserves. As a result, overseas offices may receive translated content that does not resonate with their local audiences. This may be because the content has not been localized appropriately to the language or culture, but it could also be because the translator did not––or could not––recreate the spark that conceived the original. 

Producing high-quality translations doesn’t only require subject matter expertise and language skill. The smart application of processes, workflows, and technologies is also key to delivering content to tight budgets and timeframes. This is where the “science” meets the “art” of translation, and also where translation memories can play a crucial role. 

A Building Block for Creativity

Translation memories are living databases of content that are valuable assets, unique to an organization, and sometimes even to a specific business unit. They contain all content that has been previously translated by a team of professional linguists, verified by editors and proofreaders, and approved by internal teams. 

In other words, they centralize knowledge to provide organizations with a trusted database of approved multilingual content. This is a valuable asset that organizations can and should leverage to take a more holistic and strategic approach to their language assets. 

Why? Because translation memories save organizations time and reduce translation costs while ensuring quality and consistency. The time that would be spent on translating can be used instead for internal reviews and quality control. 

A Smarter Approach to Translation

Without access to translation assets, individual translators will inevitably translate content in distinct ways and using different words and phrasing. It is also not unusual for the same translator to approach similar content differently each time. They may not recall the language or phrases they used in previous projects, for example, or they may not wish to submit content that is copied verbatim from an earlier project, fearing it reflects badly on their efforts. 

Yet, consistency in language and messaging is crucial for global organizations and not only when it comes to marketing and branding roll-outs. Every company has sensitive content that––for legal, compliance, or human resources reasons––needs to be “locked down,” such as corporate boilerplates or contractual terms.

Translation memories minimize the risk of error or confusion across such critical content and reduce the duplication of effort that can cause organizations to bear unnecessary costs for repeated translations of the same content. They also help to avoid overcomplicating the translation process. You have already invested time and resources in developing new materials, so why start that process again from scratch for each local language?

Adding the “Art” Back To The “Science”

By leveraging previously translated content, translation memories speed up the translation process. But this does not mean that the translator’s creativity is redundant. While translation memories are a part of computer-assisted translation (CAT) tools, they are not the same as machine translation. A human translator will always review the output from a translation memory to decide if they wish to incorporate the suggested text into their new translation. 

If a word, phrase, or sentence has been translated before, then a translator might receive an exact or 100% match from the translation memory. Depending on the context, it may be immediately suitable for use. More often than not, however, it may simply provide the translator with a solid basis on which to proceed.

In other cases, there may be no match at all, in which case the organization will know upfront that additional translation and review time will be required. Once translated, edited, proofread, and approved, however, that translation will also be stored in the memory for future use. 

In between lie the “fuzzy” matches that indicate text that is similar to previously translated content but with certain variations. Here, the linguist also has the discretion to translate the content as new or partially translate and partially reconstruct the text from existing content in the translation memory.

Across all instances, however, the translation memory provides the tools, parameters, and knowledge the translator needs to develop compelling, powerful, and consistent content that resonates with the local language and culture. As importantly, it enables organizations to build consistency and ensure quality while reducing cost and translation time. 

The good news is that every company can harness the benefits of translation tools and technologies if they use the services of the right language service provider. 

For more information and targeted advice, download our eBook ‘The Definitive Guide to Translation Memories‘ or contact our team today at



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