If you’ve partnered with a translation company before, you’ve probably heard of Translation Memory (TM). Maybe you’ve even benefited from it. But have you ever wondered how it actually works?
First, let’s have a crash course on what TM is. When you have more than one translation project (which, let’s face it, most companies do), it’s a huge waste of time and money to translate the same words and phrases over and over again. TM helps take away that burden.
This computer-assisted translation (CAT) tool stores all your previously translated content in a database, so that human translators can use it for updates and future translation projects. Over time, this can reduce the cost of translation, improve quality and ensure consistency.
Here’s Where Things Get Fuzzy
TM‘s effectiveness depends on the quality of the matches it makes between its database of stored phrasing and the new content you’re translating.
- 100% match: A perfect match. The translator can quickly approve a translation and move on.
- Fuzzy matches
- High fuzzy matches: Only a few words have been changed, and most of the translation can be recycled from the TM; it requires minor edits.
- Low fuzzy match: Mostly new content, with minimal reusable content in the TM; requires substantial edits.
- No fuzzy match: The translator needs to translate from scratch.
Let’s Take a Closer Look
Below is a typical CAT-tool environment featuring an English-into-French translation. The translator starts with empty fields.
- Left column: Source segments
- Middle column: For entering corresponding translation
- Right column: CAT pane that will display translation memory fuzzy matches
- Bottom left: In-context preview
- Bottom right: Track changes field
Segments 1 and 2 contain new words, therefore no suggestions are provided in the CAT pane.
Segment 3 shows a 99% fuzzy match. The results from the TM show an almost identical string already translated into French. The track changes field shows the precise changes, so that the translator can quickly update the translation.
Similar fuzzy matches appear in segments 4 and 5.
Segments 6 and 7 are new words.
Segment 8 contains similar text to segment 6. It’s a 70% fuzzy match.
Segment 9 is identical to segment 7. This is a repetition. It shows a 100% match from the TM. There are no changes displayed in the track changes field.
Almost Any Translation Project Can Benefit from Translation Memory
Your savings can be significant even if your project produces a preponderance of low fuzzy matches. Why?
- TM matches require less time to update than new translations
- Your company will sound like it’s writing with “one voice”
- Faster updating gives you a speed-to-market advantage
And when you’re eager to make your mark in new regions, there’s little time to do things twice.