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The Most Important Tool in a Translator’s Toolbox (and why they should share it with you)
by Terralíngua      Posted in  January 20, 2017

The Most Important Tool in a Translator’s Toolbox (and why they should share it with you)It is a new year with new markets and products. You may have been tasked with obtaining translation quotes to update your literature in other languages. If so, you must know that a question frequently asked by providers when obtaining quotes is if you have an existing translation memory. Not wanting to be hassled with another item to obtain, you may be very tempted to just say “no”.

But why should you check?

Chances are if you have had your materials translated by professional translators, they will have used a Computer Assisted Translation (CAT) tool. This kind of tool is or at least should be used by all professional translators and it does not work as machine translation – you need a human resource to translate the content.

And why is it the most important tool? If this is in your translators’ toolbox, it allows them to produce quality work on a day to day basis. It enables them to create a translation memory (TM) – that works as a database – to ensure future work uses the same terminology and saves time with repetitive text. The translation memory can be exported into a file that can be shared with your company.

There are many CAT tools on the market but the most commonly used are SDL Trados, MemoQ, Across and Wordfast. Your provider may use the brand name instead of saying CAT tool or TM. Though you do not have the software, it is important to retain a copy of the memory for your safe keeping and to provide to other providers if the need arises.

A translator will most likely not provide a translation memory copy unless a client asks. Some translators will not release the files even if asked, which is not right. Therefore a very important question when selecting a translation provider is if a translation memory will be provided upon request.

If a translator does not provide a copy, know that your company is being held hostage in essence to this provider especially if a large amount of work has been completed. This translator will always have an unfair advantage when quoting as turnaround and repetitive matches may give them an edge that the others will not have. Without this edge, they may not be the best price or choice. If you can provide the same translation memory to all providers, then you know you are comparing apples to apples.

What makes a translation memory such a vital tool?


Translation software helps to speed up productivity. In simple terms, this means that it stores words and phrases from previous translation projects and uses them with new topics. A translator using a memory tool avoids the need for repetitive tasks, can easily reference similar past work and therefore returns a final file faster.


Translation tools also help with consistency. Previously translated text can be retrieved with a few clicks. Product content and past terminology can be re-used so that they are consistent with existing translated documents.


Another benefit is that all available programs have error checking built in to add an extra level of quality assurance.

Reduced Costs

Repetitive text matches found with CAT tools can be offered at a reduced rate. Instead of paying the regular price per word, lower rates are available for text found in a translation memory. For example, your company creates an instruction manual for distribution in several different countries and invests to provide translated versions. Later you add a similar product which will have an instruction manual with much of the same content. The translation memory can find the matched text and your company will see significant savings on the second manual.

As you can see, a CAT tool and the translation memory it provides are important not only to your provider but to your company as well. The memory has an aligned record of all the source and target words your company has invested in. Even if you cannot open the file, it is a treasure chest with many precious assets inside.


Terralingua is a professional ISO certified translation company specializing in localization and desktop publishing. We have worked with many of the world’s leading industries and we would be happy in help you out with your translation needs. Please visit our website for further information and to request translation pricing.

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