About Translation Memory Software
Also known as CAT (Computer-Assisted Translation) tools, translation memory technologies were born around 30 years ago but only became “mainstream” towards the end of the 90s. Back then, this was probably the most disruptive technology in the language industry since the invention of the printing press.
These days, translation memory software is used as standard by the vast majority of professional translators and translation suppliers. A 2013 poll by Proz (an online directory of professional translation services) suggests that 88% of language professionals use at least one CAT tool.
Considering its widespread usage and long history, it’s therefore surprising that so little is known about Translation Memory technology outside the language industry, with many translation suppliers providing limited information to translation buyers about savings in terms of cost and time.
Free E-Book: Translation Memory Tools explained
We are here to answer all your questions with our free e-book that provides an introduction to the basics of Translation Memory software.
In addition, the e-book also includes a bonus section containing answers to Frequently Asked Questions concerning Translation Memory software.
What is a Translation Memory (TM)?
Basically, a translation memory tool is a software that processes content and splits it into sentence-long (and sometimes even smaller) pieces of text called segments. These segments are then translated one at a time. Once the translation has been approved, each segment and its relative translation are stored in the software’s database, so that they can be reused or referenced in the future. This way, when the same sentence or a very similar sentence needs to be translated again, the system suggests the already existing translation. To summarize, a translation memory is like a repository that stores and recycles the content your company translates.
The benefits of Translation Memory Software
Translation memories provide a series of benefits that every translation buyer needs to be aware of in order to make the most out of their multilingual content:
You don’t have to pay twice to translate same or similar sentences. Reused content has a discounted price, allowing you to save money from the very beginning.
Shorter turnaround times
Reusing existing translations allows linguists to translate faster and reduce delivery times. Time and money are key factors. But there are more benefits to translation memory software:
By being able to reuse and reference existing translations, consistency of style, terminology and tone of voice across different content formats and platforms can be assured.
Multiple content formats
All the previous benefits can be leveraged regardless of the content format. TM software can process the most common content formats: from documents, presentations and spreadsheets to XML and Desktop Publishing files, among others – meaning you don’t need to waste time copying and pasting content from one format to another.
Translation Memory Best Practices
In order to make the most of this technology, there are a series of best practices that you should bear in mind when working with your translation provider.
1. Work with the original files
Provide your translation partner with the files that were used to generate the content in the first place. PDF and other non-editable file formats require heavier processing, hence raising the cost and time required to get the file translated.
2. Work with glossaries and style guides
Have company-approved glossaries and style guides for every language combination. These will help you establish your preferences so you can keep style and terminology consistent across all your company’s materials. This is particularly helpful when working with different providers.
3. Get involved in the Translation Memory management process
Closely collaborate with your translation partners by providing them with relevant feedback and updates regarding translations. Centralize TM management as much as possible on your side by appointing a person responsible for managing translation memories, glossaries and style guides.
TM vs MT: What’s the difference between Translation Memory and Machine Translation?
Don’t get confused by acronyms. We use so many of them in the translation industry and some can be misleading. Now you have an idea of what translation memory technology is about, it’s important to remember that machine translation technology is a whole different story. While translation memories store signed-off translations in a database for re-use, machine translation is a fully automated procedure through which an engine provides a rather literal translation based on statistical and grammatical rules in virtually no time. It is important to note that these two technologies are not mutually exclusive. Both remain valid options and, increasingly, we are seeing solutions that include a combination of these two technologies to obtain the optimum output in terms of cost, time and quality.
How to know if your translation provider uses TM software
Whether you know it or not, chances are your translation provider is using TM software to translate your content. However, your translation provider may or may not be transparent about the reuse on your quotations and invoices.
Typically there are 3 different ways that translation providers will use to pass on savings from Translation Memory leverage:
- The Full Breakdown: In this case, your translation provider will provide you with the specific number of words per TM category together with the relative cost, i.e:
- Number of exact match words and relative cost
- Number of repeated words and relative cost
- Number of similar words and relative cost
- Number of new words and relative cost
- The weighted word count (WWC): In this case, the total word count is weighted according to the proportion of exact matches, repetitions, similar matches, etc. So for example if a document has 1000 words with the following breakdown:
- 200 exact match words and repeated words calculated at 0.25 (equivalent to 50 words)
- 100 similar words calculated at 0.5 (equivalent to 50 words)
- 700 new words
The overall Weighted Word Count will be 800 words
- The Discount Method: In this approach your translation service provider will let you know the full cost of the translation according to the word count and standard rate per word and will then add a discount based on the number of words leveraged from the translation memory, i.e:
- 1000 words * rate per word = translation cost
- 20% discount for TM leverage
However, if you are in doubt about whether your translation provider uses Translation Memory software the best thing to do is ask.
Translation Memory Ownership
Over the years, the question of translation memory ownership has been the subject of some debate. Still, the general consensus is that, even though your TM may be hosted and managed by your translation provider, the intellectual property of the content is yours. Nevertheless, it is worth clarifying this aspect with your translation provider, to ensure that you don’t risk losing all your translation assets if you should decide to change from one translation provider to another in the future. The TMX (Translation Memory eXchange) specification was developed for this purpose and ensures that the content of your TM is exported into a compatible format so that it can be used with any other TM software.
For more information on any of the aspects described in this post please feel free to contact us.
And don’t forget to download your copy of the free e-book “Translation Memory Tools Explained” here: