What is a translation memory and how can it help me reduce costs and improve quality?
In today’s interconnected world, companies and organisations are increasingly extending their presence across international borders. This expansion requires effective global communication in multiple languages. One powerful tool used in the translation industry is the translation memory (TM) system. Thanks to the advantages of TMs, content translation becomes more efficient, as well as more consistent and cost-effective. In this article we will explore what a translation memory is, and what its advantages are.
What is a translation memory (TM)?
A translation memory (TM) is a software tool used in the translation industry to improve the efficiency and quality of translation processes and reduce the final cost of a project. It consists of a database that stores segments of text that have been previously translated, along with their corresponding translations. Each segment of the translation memory is composed of a translation unit, which includes the source language text in one column and its translation in the target language in another column. Each language combination has its own translation memory.
The way a translation memory works is based on segment alignment. When a new project needs to be translated, we run the documents through computer-assisted translation software that uses the TM system to analyse the source text and search for matching segments in the database. If a matching segment is found, the system suggests the pre-approved translation, which the translator can accept or modify as necessary. We can define the translation memory system to analyse the extent to which a segment matches, as a percentage. This reuse of existing translations streamlines the process, improves consistency and reduces the effort required to translate repetitive content, as well as making it more economical. When there are 100% matches that have already been translated once and approved, they automatically appear in the translation and do not have to be translated again, or paid for (unless, for some reason or type of document, etc. they need to be reviewed to ensure they are suitable to be reused).
There are different types of translation memories on the market, each of which have their own set of characteristics and capabilities. Below, we will explain the three main types that exist:
Independent translation memory software:
Stand-alone translation memory programs are applications specifically designed to manage translation memories. They offer various functionalities, such as segment alignment, translation reuse and database maintenance. These types of software often offer advanced features such as terminology management, quality assurance and collaboration tools for translators and project managers. An example of this type of software would be Multiterm, by the company RWS.
Computer assisted translation tools (CAT):
CAT (Computer Assisted Translation) tools are complete translation software programs that also include translation memory functionality. They offer a full translation environment, including integrated text editors, filters for many file types, project management tools, and terminology management. CAT tools are widely used in the translation industry, offering a comprehensive solution for translators and facilitating efficient translation workflows. An example of a CAT tool is Trados Studio from RWS or DéjaVu by Atril. There are also many free (open source) CAT tools with similar functionalities.
Cloud-based translation memory systems:
These systems store translation memories in the cloud, allowing access from anywhere with an Internet connection. These systems provide a centralised database accessible to multiple users and facilitate collaboration between translators and project managers. Cloud-based translation memory systems offer real-time updates, seamless integration with other translation tools, and options to add machine translation to the translation process.
Each translation memory software uses a different format, e.g. TMX (Translation Memory eXchange) or XLIFF (XML Localization Interchange File Format). These formats aid compatibility and enable the exchange of translation memories between different translation tools and systems.
What are the advantages of using translation memories?
Improved consistency and accuracy:
Translation memories store text segments that have been previously translated, such as sentences or even entire paragraphs. This feature helps consistency and accuracy in translated content, because it enables translators to ensure they are always using the same terminology. By using translation memories, translators can easily access previously approved translations, thus avoiding the need to rewrite texts for each new project and search for new terminology. This significantly reduces the risk of errors, improves quality, and maintains a consistent brand voice across languages.
Improved efficiency and time savings:
One of the biggest advantages of translation memories is their ability to increase translator efficiency and save project time. Because they can reuse previously translated segments, translators work faster and are more productive. When dealing with large projects or frequent updates, TM systems streamline the translation process by automatically suggesting translations for repetitive or similar content. This automation allows translators to focus on the more complex and creative aspects of translation, increasing their productivity. In addition, translation memories reduce the need for manual research, as the system learns similar existing translations as the text is being translated.
Translation memories offer significant cost advantages for companies and organisations. Being able to reuse previously translated content helps optimise translation budgets. Repetitive segments, such as legal clauses, product descriptions or FAQs, only need to be translated once, so this significantly reduces costs. In addition, MT systems make it easier to identify partial and similar matches, allowing translators to make minor adjustments to previously completed translations rather than translating entire sentences from scratch. This way of working saves money and ensures consistent and accurate translations, while maintaining the overall quality of the translated content.
Collaboration and scalability:
Translation memories foster collaboration between translation teams. When working with online software, multiple translators can simultaneously translate different projects, using the same shared translation memory. This collaboration streamlines workflow and improves the efficiency of translation projects. When working as a team, it is important to have a final review process to ensure consistency in the style/tone of the various translators who have worked on the project. Translation memories also allow for scalability, especially when dealing with large volumes of content. As the translation memory grows with each project, it becomes a valuable knowledge database that can be used throughout the organisation, ensuring consistent translations for different departments, products and markets.
Translation memories are an indispensable tool in the world of content translation. They help improve consistency, efficiency, cost-effectiveness and collaboration. Incorporating the use of these databases in companies helps to overcome language barriers and reach more audiences, and therefore boosts global communication.
If you do not have any translation memories, but you already have content that’s been translated and can be reused, you can create these translation memories in order to work on the new content and take advantage of the benefits.
Ultimately, translation memories are powerful tools that streamline the translation process, improve consistency and save time and costs. Whether as stand-alone software, integrated CAT tools or cloud-based systems, Translation Memories play a vital role in today’s globalised world, enabling companies and translators to deliver high-quality translations efficiently and helping companies reduce the costs and turnaround times of final products in all other languages.
If you have any questions about the use of translation memories or would like us to advise you on how to improve your global communication processes, please contact us at email@example.com, and we’ll be happy to help you.