What is Translation Memory (TM)? How TM Supports Translation

Language translation is a time-consuming task, but today’s technology makes the process a lot easier. New technologies have revolutionized the way brands localize their content.

One such technology is translation memory (TM). Translation memory can help you cut repetitive work and direct your efforts toward what matters.

What Is Translation Memory?

TM refers to a database or glossary of your previously translated text. This could include words, sentences, or even entire paragraphs. Each entry in the TM consists of the source (the original language) and the target (the translation). This pairing is called a translation unit.

The source text is saved along with its paired text to create this database. For example, a source text in English is saved with its paired text in Spanish.

How Does Translation Memory Technology Work?

The goal of TM is to prevent the same translations from being done over and over. TM is built into many TMS and CAT tools. TMS stands for Translation Management Software. CAT stands for Computer-Assisted Translation and is an umbrella term for software used in professional translation. These tools segment the text that needs to be translated and present it in a way that is easier to translate.

When a translator is translating a sentence using a TMS or CAT tool, the sentence is compared to sentences available in the database. If a similar sentence is found in the memory database, the tool will allow the translator to use the previous translation. If needed, the translator can also update the database with a new translation or change the reference provided by the TM.

Image: A screenshot of the translation memory feature in the Localize TMS
Example: The Localize TMS saves previously used phrases in the translation memory database. You only have to translate new content.

How Does Translation Memory (TM) Help Localization?

TM improves the efficiency and quality of every translation job. Here are some other benefits:

1. Provides a Centralized Database

Many companies reuse written content. For example, when a company launches a new model for a washing machine or a smartphone, they typically don’t create a whole new manual from scratch. They’ll reuse some of the content from previous user manuals, like warranty clauses or maintenance guides.

With a good TM database, a translator can re-use previously translated words and phrases. This not only saves time but also ensures consistency throughout all content.

2. Saves Time on Repetitive Content

TM speeds up the localization process. Translators should never have to translate the same words or phrases twice.

When localizing technical, legal, and financial documentation, TM technology can be a big help. Such documents typically follow a standard format. They have a lot of repetitive content that a TM can translate quickly, saving a lot of time.

3. Cost Savings

TM can bring down costs as well. Since translation is often billed on a per-word basis, it is going to cost you to translate a revised version of an existing piece of content. However, if you use a TM, this won’t be the case.

With a memory database, you never have to re-translate repeated pieces of text. This brings down the overall word count. As result, you, as a client, will pay much less.

4. Consistent Translations

Finally, TM helps build quality and consistency in translations. It gets smarter over time. As you save more and more approved translations, your translation team will make fewer errors in new content. Editors, managers, and translators can edit or refine the entries in the memory database. This can greatly improve the quality of localization by enabling a consistent tone and voice throughout the translation.

Since a chunk of your content has already been translated and saved in the TM, there is no need for fresh translations. This ensures that your content sounds consistent, whether it’s a brochure or a manual. This is quite helpful for branded content that needs to be clear and consistent in multiple languages.

Translation Memory Technology: Final Thoughts

You should never have to translate something more than once. It pays to invest in a translation management system (TMS) with built-in translation memory (TM).

With Localize, you get an efficient localization platform that helps you translate text into your targeted language. Our smart memory database saves translated words, phrases, and paragraphs so you can re-use them for free.

To learn more about Localize can optimize your translation workflows, contact us today.

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