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How Translation Memory Can Improve Quality While Saving Time & Money

October 16, 2019

If you’re considering expanding your business into foreign language markets, a translation memory (TM) is one of the tools you can implement with your translation services company. A TM helps translators work more efficiently to reduce costs, increase consistency and reduce time to market. Here’s a closer look at all you need to know about TM.

What is Translation Memory?

A translation memory is a repository of original content and the translated versions of that content. For each new project, the translation services company inputs the new content into the TM, and the TM identifies repeated or similar content. Translators can then reuse previously translated content stored in the TM during future projects. As more content is translated, the TM continues to grow — so the more you put into the TM, the more you get out of it.

How Does a Translation Memory Work?

The TM compares existing content to the new content and identifies three types of segments:

Repetitions/100% match – This type of segment occurs when a new word segment matches exactly with another word segment in the TM. For example, let’s say that you previously translated this sentence: “To complete the installation, you need two AA batteries.” If this sentence exists in a new translation project, it would be identified as a repetition/100% match. The translator still needs to review the sentence for context and quality, but this type of segment takes the least time of the three to translate.

Fuzzy segment – This type of segment occurs when a word segment partially matches another word segment in the TM. Per the previous example, let’s say that your TM contains the following sentence: “To complete the installation, you need two AA batteries.” Now let’s say that your new translation project contains this sentence: “To complete the installation, two AA batteries are required.” In this case, the TM will recognize the sentence as a fuzzy match because the first part matches an existing segment exactly, but the second part is somewhat different. A fuzzy match takes the translator less time to work through than brand new content, but obviously it takes more time than a 100% match.

New segment – A new segment is one that either doesn’t match any existing segments or it matches a segment at less than 50%. A translator will have to translate this segment from scratch.

Note: A translator will see both the original content and the highlighted 100% match/fuzzy/new segments, and then decide whether to accept the translation that’s in the TM or modify it. Upon completion of any translation project, the TM will need to be updated so that it contains the latest information.

Benefits of a Translation Memory

A TM has three main benefits:

It Saves You Money – When repetitions/100% match and fuzzy segments are identified, they will have lower translation fees than new segments. If you’re working in an authoring environment where you have a content reuse strategy, you’ll probably have a lot of 100% match segments. If you don’t have a content reuse strategy, and/or if you have multiple writers, chances are that there will be a lot of fuzzy segments along with some 100% matches. In either case, a TM will make your translation projects more cost-effective due to its ability to recognize word segments.

It Improves Quality – Using a TM will increase consistency across different projects. It makes for a better customer experience when things are translated the same way across all documentation, websites and software applications. Even if more than one translator is working on a project, the suggestions from a TM can help translators remember which specific words to use. This can be especially handy if there are certain standard terms for your industry, product or service. If you work with your translation company to capture this terminology and get it translated before a project begins, you can incorporate it into your TM. A TM and a glossary of standard terms are two good tools to use together for the highest quality translations.

It Decreases Time to Market – A TM prepopulates new content with previously translated segments. A translator can then simply approve those segments and focus their energy on new content. You can really see the benefits of using a TM whenever content is repeated a lot, such as with technical documentation, or with larger projects such as website and software localization. With a TM in place, you can expect faster turnaround time and therefore decreased time to market.