Knowledge is power. The more you know about the tools used to create your company’s translations means you know how to control your costs and content consistency.
Have you heard of Computer Assisted Translation (CAT) tools? Probably not. You may have heard of what is created from the CAT tools – your translation memory or TM. CAT tools are used by professional translators and can be quite expensive. (It’s important to note it is not machine translation or MT.) Humans drive the decisions powered by this software, but the features of the tool help the process to be more efficient and therefore save you money.
This software records text that has been used in previous translations. The TM is a package containing all of your previously translated content aligned with the source content. When you send a new document for translation, the text is extracted and compared against the translation memory for this matching text. The translator can re-purpose past translations thus eliminating the need to repeat a segment of translation that may be inconsistent with past work. Translations are more efficient, consistent and cost effective using this tool.
It is important to note – your company does not need to purchase this software in order to have control of your translated investment. If you have ownership of this package, you can provide it to any professional translator. This enables you to accurately obtain the most competitive price utilizing already purchased translated content, as well as move the memory to another provider if needed while maintaining consistency with past work. The most important question to ask any translation provider is if you can request and receive an updated copy of your translation memory at any time at no additional cost.
Most CAT tool use begins with the initial proposal or quote. A price for completing the translation work is determined by comparing the source document to text in the memory or repetitive text within the file itself. The tool is able to analyse:
Text already in the memory doesn’t require a whole new translation. This equates to savings, as match types are charged at different rates. The industry standard is to price translations per word. New segments are charged at a higher rate than repetitions found in the memory or within the file. For example instead of paying .17 per word, you would pay .10 per word for a partial match and .05 per word for a perfect match in the memory. “Fuzzy” matches (75-99% matching text) are usually charged at 60% of a normal per word rate. Perfect matches or repetitions are charged usually at 30% of the normal per word rate. Clients have found even with one project thousands of dollars can be saved with this tool.
This adds up to significant savings over time which can make it hard for a client to leave a provider due to cost though the service may be horrible. Your company may wish to use a different provider but cannot because the current translator has the lowest cost every time you bid with others. This is because they have a significant advantage using your translation memory. They are utilizing the memory to their advantage instead of yours in this case. To enable you use what you have paid for to your advantage, ensure that you have a copy of your current and updated translation memory in .tmx. You can then distribute it to other translation providers during the quoting process if you would like an accurate cost comparison. Your company does not need to open the file, just provide it to those who can. Of course if you are leaving a company due to quality issues, you will not want to provide a bad translation memory to another provider. It is usually best to start new or pay someone to edit the existing one.
A CAT tool’s translation memory creates consistency throughout your documentation. Whoever works on your documentation can use the TM, which contains previously translated content. This means sales brochures, web sites, instruction manuals and other marketing materials will use the same terminology. This ensures your brand voice is consistent through the same vocabulary and tone of voice. Glossaries and reference material can be imported into the translation memory as well.
You will want to ensure your translation provider updates the translation memory with any review comments or preferential changes that are made after the initial delivery so future work will also reflect these preferences. It is important to ask upfront if there is a charge to maintain and update the translation memory as most companies do not have the software to make the changes.
Quality checks are included with most CAT tools. There are basics such as grammar check but there are also warnings given if there are missing tags or formatting errors.
The suspicious areas are summarized in a report which the translator then reviews to determine if they are truly errors and if any modifications are needed. Though these tools are helpful, they do not replace the need for an independent human editor. Ensure your translation quality assurance check includes at least one professional translator and independent editor.
The fact that the translation memory can quickly identify past matching work speeds up productivity. Updates and corrections to a document can be completed with a quick turnaround. Many clients find that turnaround times are reduced the larger a translation memory grows.
As you can see translation memory improves your company’s consistency, quality and speed. Utilizing this tool is especially vital with updates and documents with similar content. When you have control of this asset, you have more control over your company’s translated investment – past, present and future.
Terralingua is an ISO 9001 and 17100 certified translation and localization agency. We provide our clients with their translation memories upon request. We do not charge to maintain or update the translation memory with review comments. If your company would like a no obligation quote, please visit our website for more information.