Conventional wisdom has it that the best, highest-quality translation method is human translation and editing (as opposed to a rules- or statistics-based machine translation tool, à la Google Translate). Certainly when style and nuanced meaning are important, there’s really nothing that takes the place of the human mind for intelligent, effective, accurate localization. But there’s also a great tool that aids our linguists during translation, adding the power and speed of computers to the fluidity and contextual smarts of the human cerebellum.
That tool is translation memory, or TM, and it helps us create better consistency both within and across projects for our clients. Translation memory can also lower costs and speed up timelines for greater efficiency.
So how does TM work?
At its core, translation memory (TM) software parses and saves every English sentence and its translated equivalent to a database — “remembering” it for subsequent re-use within the same document, updates to the document, or even other projects for the same client. That way, we can easily reuse key terms, common phrases, and sentences we’ve translated previously, ensuring that they’re translated the same way each time. This is especially important when more than one translator works on a project — or for managing version changes when a project is updated. Beyond this TM has evolved to include a litany of other features that serve as a productivity enhancing toolkit for professional translators.
So, what kinds of projects benefit most from translation memory? Here’s our short list:
- Software localization: Since software may be frequently updated, translation memory helps keep terminology consistent and can leverage exact matches based on string IDs across new versions.
- Website localization: There are often large amounts of regularly updated text in a typical website, as well as repetitive boilerplates. Translation memory makes the localization process more efficient and more consistent.
- Technical documentation: Translation memory keeps all unique terminology and specialized vocabularies consistent in manuals, software docs, warning messages, error messages, and more. And since those terms need be translated only once, it can make for true cost efficiencies, too.
Working with a good translation memory tool like the one we use here at Acclaro, a human linguist is also able to:
- Ensure that a translation is complete — the TM tool will not allow “missed” sentences or phrases.
- Make sure that all terminology is correct and consistent in context, both linguistically and stylistically.
- Use the built-in quality assurance features of the TM tool as an additional proofing function.
- Process and translate documents in many different file formats without having to extract or convert text. That lets us integrate our translations seamlessly with our client’s processes, which saves them time and money.
We’re glad to be able to partner the excellence of human translation with the power of translation memory (or support translation memory tools in machine translation solutions). Like the proverbial elephant, it never forgets.
Photo attribution (elephant): TeryKats