Imagine that a brand of cars brings a new model to market and needs to translate the user manual into multiple languages. It is quite likely that most of the new manual is the same as the manual for the previous model, which would mean re-translating something that has already been translated.
To solve this type of problem, translation memories or TMs (Translation Memories) were created. But, what are the main benefits?
1. Re-use translated segments from previous works
A translation memory consists of a linguistic database in which texts are stored in a language alongside their translations. To create such a database, the texts are divided into smaller manageable segments. Normally, a segment is a phrase or expression that is stored along with the corresponding translation in the translation memory. Such a phrase or expression is known as a translation unit.
When a translator faces a new translation with the same subject, he/she can use the translation memory created from previous works but crucially add value to the existing TM by contributing their own translation to the new units.
2. Increased translation quality
In addition to the translation units, you can also store information about who the translator was, the date on which the translation was completed, the language pairs, etc. All this information makes it possible to agree on the terminology used for a specific type of work: if, for example the terminology for a specific product was agreed on during the first translation then subsequent use of the term will be translated in a consistent way. The translation memory ensures that a previously translated term appears in the new translation to benefit the quality of the final translation. As a result, it is now possible to increase the quality of future translations.
This also allows translators who are new or have limited experience to have access to a proven resource and carry out their work in the most effective and productive way possible.
3. Cost savings
It is evident that language is a variable that is constantly evolving with the passage of time. However, the majority of texts – particularly legal, scientific and technical texts – maintain the same terminology with little variation.
Translations for these types of documents or large volumes of work, such as a manual for a refrigerator, require the use of translation memories.
When a translation memory is used, we work with equivalency percentages. That is to say, all the expressions or terms that are between a 75 – 100% match to previously translated content will be shown to the translator. Matches can be partial or complete. Using translation memories correctly can save time by reusing previously translated terms. As the working time decreases, so does the price of the translation.
Using the network you can find translation memories online, some can be accessed for free. The most well-known and widely used in the world is SDL Trados and MemoQ, amongst others, which have a free trial period and later license based usage. Such software allows you to work with TMs for a relatively small investment which often pays for itself in terms of time taken.
In short, the more that is translated using translation memories, the higher the quality of work produced and the lower the cost overall. In addition, this information can be shared between a team, making use of the same database for long-term projects.