Everything you need to know about Translation Memory

In a world connected by language diversity, efficient and accurate translation is critical in various industries, from marketing and finance to healthcare and technology. With the advent of translation technology, two powerful tools, Machine Translation (MT) and Translation Memory (TM), have revolutionised the translation process.

two black computer monitors on a black table

The concept of machine translation is probably familiar to most, with Google Translate becoming mainstream amongst travellers and tourists exploring countries that speak different languages. Translation Memory, however, is not talked about as often, being an industry tool, rather than a consumer-facing tool. If you’ve worked one-on-one with a translation company, they might’ve taken you through their translation memory system and its advantage when it comes to having multiple, repeat jobs. Well, there are plenty more benefits to Translation Memory, often referred to as a CAT (Computer-Assisted Translation) tool, and its pivotal role in ensuring consistent, high-quality translations.

Keep on reading to learn more about the translation technology that changed the game, how it works, how it can benefit you and your business, and how it’s changing the face of the translation industry.

Understanding Translation Memory

Translation Memory, as a part of the broader translation process, is a database that stores segments of text, which can be sentences, paragraphs, or even individual words, along with their corresponding translations. The database is called a translation memory database and automatically matches and pre-translates similar phrases in future translations, which helps increase consistency and efficiency in the translation process. Translation memory database software can also track changes and revisions over time and share information between team members working on the same document or project.

How Translation Memory Software Works

Most Translation Memory tools operate using the TMX (Translation Memory eXchange) format, a standard format for storing translation memories. When a new translation project is initiated, the software compares the source text to its database of previous translations to find matches. Translators will then be given suggestions based on the previous translations available in the database. Matches are classified into two categories: “perfect matches”, which are identical matches, or “fuzzy matches”, which are usually similar sentences. Translators can then work on the translation with that base, modifying for context, and translating phrases and sentences that don’t have matches. Here’s a closer look at how it works.

Translation Units and Segments of Text

In the translation process, text is divided into smaller, more manageable units known as Translation Units (TUs). These units can be as long as a paragraph, sentence, phrase or string of words, and are the building blocks for translation. Each TU consists of a source text segment and its corresponding translation, creating a reference point for future translations.

Source Text and Previous Translations

The source text is the content, in the source language, that needs to be translated. Previous translations, stored in the Translation Memory database, are the translated versions of segments from past projects, and the base upon which the translation memory database is built.

A language service provider using translation memory software doesn’t have to start working on every new translation project from scratch. They can rely on previous translations to inform the translation of the new project. With every translation job, the database is enriched with more newly translated, reusable content.

The Translation Process with TM

When a new project begins, the source file is uploaded to the CAT tool. The tool analyzes the source text, breaking it into segments. It then checks these segments against the database for matches. If a match is found, the corresponding translation from the database is automatically inserted into the target text (the translated version of the source text).

The accuracy of translation matches is categorised based on a rating system. A perfect match, where the segment of text in the source file is identical to text in the Translation Memory, is a 100% match. A fuzzy match, where only parts of the translation unit correspond to the content in the database, can be modified by the translator who can make some changes to the text to create an accurate translation.

When there is no match at all, the translator needs to come up with a new translation that will be added to the Translation Memory, building up the database for future projects.

Benefits of Translation Memory

Now, let’s dive into the benefits of incorporating Translation Memory into your translation workflow.

Consistency in Translation

Consistency is a main quality criterion when it comes to translation, however, when translation projects are months apart, remembering the exact terms and phrases can be a challenge. Yes, a style guide and glossary can help but they can be time-consuming in the grand scheme of things and are not 100% fool-proof. Translation Memory tools ensure that the same phrases and terms are translated consistently across different projects and languages, maintaining brand and message integrity.

Time and Cost Savings

Translation Memory Tools accelerate the translation process by reusing previously translated segments. This can reduce the translation time turnaround without compromising on quality.

Projects with repetitive content benefit greatly from Translation Memory as they can involve much less actual work than they first seem. The reduced turnaround time can help companies go to market faster with their translations, which could, in turn, mean higher revenue for them.

Enhanced Translation Quality

With the use of translation memories, professional translators can focus on refining existing translations rather than starting from scratch, leading to higher translation quality. Translators can also focus on new translation segments to achieve better accuracy in their translation.

Collaboration

TM facilitates collaboration among team members working on different parts of a project or across different languages. Across the collaboration, with the use of the translation memory databases, you can ensure consistency and quality across the entire team and all the various human translators that work on your business.

Best Practices in Using Translation Memory

To make the most of this powerful tool, consider the following best practices.

Use Consistent Terminology

It’s important to use consistent terminology throughout your Translation Memory to ensure consistency of translations. This can be achieved by creating a glossary of terms and their translations and using it to pre-translate similar phrases and sentences in your TM. This process can help to ensure consistency and accuracy across all your translation projects.

Train Your Translation Memory

If you are working in a specific industry, it’s crucial to train your TM using specific content and terminology from that field. This, in turn, will improve the accuracy and consistency of your translations.

Optimise your Source Text

Pay attention to your source text, even before translation. When creating a new text, try to reuse as much content as possible that has already been translated. This will increase your perfect matches and allow you to benefit from your linguistic database to the maximum.

Consistent formatting and structure of the source language content can also help the translation memory system recognize and match text segments more easily. For example, using the same punctuation can make it easier to find perfect matches.

LEXIGO Core: Our AI-Powered Translation Management System

Translation Memory is a valuable tool for professional translation services, offering unmatched benefits in terms of translation consistency, cost-efficiency, and quality, especially for organisations that frequently translate large volumes of text. By understanding how Translation Memory works and adopting best practices, companies can harness the power of this linguistic database to enhance their translation projects, streamline workflows, and prepare for future translations effectively.

At LEXIGO, we’ve created our AI- powered translation memory platform, LEXIGO Core, which serves as a reliable ally for our clients in achieving impeccable translation quality. This dynamic tool diligently records and manages all translation units, providing an essential foundation for maintaining consistency and precision in every translation project. Whether managed entirely by LEXIGO or adopted by our clients for their in-house teams, the benefits are unparalleled. LEXIGO Core not only streamlines the translation process, but also empowers businesses to communicate effectively in a globalised world. It’s more than just software; it’s a key to unlocking language barriers and ensuring that your message resonates accurately and consistently across cultures and languages.