Though you may not even be aware, if your company’s material is translated, odds are a translation memory has been used to create the localized material. An essential question you should ask anyone or any agency who is working on your translation is if a translation memory tool is being used. If a translation memory is being used, it is important to ensure an updated copy is kept for your company’s records, even if you do not own the software. Having ownership of a quality translation memory ensures term consistency and time savings even if you have to change providers.
This article will provide more insight as what translation memory is and how it will benefit your company.
What Exactly Is Translation Memory?
Translation memory is an essential tool used by professional translators. Many confuse machine translation or MT with translation memory or TM. Translation memory is not machine translation but a time saving utility through which the translator accepts or rejects database suggestions much like spell check or grammar checks are used in Word.
Translation memory tools create a database to store aligned source and translated text in segments. These segments contain sentences, lists and titles that have been used in your previous translation work. For example if you translate instruction manuals, you probably use some of the same words and phrases every time you write a new manual. Each language will have its own database aligning the source and target language.
When a translator uses a memory tool it matches any new text to existing translations in the database. Suggestions are then provided as to how these segments were translated in past material. The translator can then choose to accept and insert the matching segment in the current work or modify the segment to create a new entry.
How Do We Know If We Have a Quality Existing Translation Memory?
The translation memory is a reflection of the finished translation. Even if you do not speak the language, a trusted reviewer can provide insight as to the quality and acceptability of the localized version.
If the completed translated material contains the proper terminology and reflects approved content, it is essential to ensure that TM database is maintained and used for future translations. This ensures term consistency and captures repetitive text for discounted per word pricing.
However, if the translated material contains incorrect terminology and is overall of poor quality, you will want to ensure either that database is corrected or destroyed to ensure future translations will not contain the same issues.
Using a translation tool means that words and phrases you have used in the past will be recorded in the database as segments. Every time a new translation is started, the software will search its memory for an exact or similar translation which is called a match.
There are four matching types:
- • New words – As the title suggests, these are segments that are not currently in the database. It is recorded as the first occurrence of this segment.
- • Exact or Perfect Matches – These matches are 100% identical segments that have been previously used.
- • Repetitions – When a document contains several words or phrases that are identical, but not already in the Translation Memory.
- • Fuzzy Matches – These are segments that contain similar words and phrases, but are not exact matches. These matches are measured in percentages.
During the quoting process the document will be evaluated for any matching segments within the file or stored in the given translation memory and the discounted pricing per word should be provided accordingly. Most translators and agencies provide pricing with new, perfect and fuzzy match rates.
The technical, business, legal and medical fields substantially benefit from a translation memory tool because a majority of their documentation contains very similar wording. Not having to translate documents from scratch increases speed, consistency and quality.
Does It Matter What Version of Translation Memory Software Is Used?
There are various translation memory tools available. The best known and most widely used product on the market is Trados. Companies usually do not purchase translation memory software unless they have in-house translators who will use the tool.
An agency or professional translator will also not require your company to purchase translation memory software for their use and should provide a copy of the translation memory database upon request. Your company does not need to own translation memory software to benefit from translation memory or to store databases. Companies often archive a copy of the most recent database(s) to pass along should they use different providers or translators. This ensures consistency and repetitive discounts as other providers will use the database if it is vetted.
Request a .tmx file from your provider, which is usually universally compatible regardless of the software. Usually your agency or translator will update and maintain this memory at no cost as well so it is essential to pass along any preferential changes that are made after delivery so the memory may be updated as well.
The top three translation memory brands are Trados, Déjà vu, and Wordfast. The important differences are the ease of use, the file formats that can be processed and of course the cost. All tools usually come with a free 30 day trial. No matter what brand of translation memory is used; it is an essential tool that should not be overlooked. Using TM will ensure consistency, as well as provide time and cost savings which are vital to any organization’s international communication.
Terralingua is an ISO certified translation company that partners with global businesses to provide translation and localization services. We work with many of the world’s top brands to provide documentation, software and websites in all major languages. Visit our website for more information and to submit pricing requests.