Business communication almost always relies and builds upon material that has already been created, unless the company is new. You don’t write a new company description every time you send out a press release, and you don’t write a new set of customer instructions every time you launch a new version of a product.
The ‘why’ is pretty obvious. We’d all be pounding our heads against the wall rewriting and recreating material that is perfectly fine as it exists. We’d waste lots of time and money, only to produce communication that’s inconsistent and potentially confusing. So instead, we just tweak and update the material we already have.
A translation memory (or TM, for short) exists for the very same reason — so you’re not starting from scratch every time you need to translate some kind of messaging, description, instructions or other written material. Using translation memories saves time, money and hassle, and it leads to more consistent translations.
What is a Translation Memory?
If you’re not in the language translation industry, you might have no clue what a translation memory actually is. However, if you regularly hire or plan on hiring a professional translation company, also known as a language solutions partner (LSP), it’s an important term to learn because of the potential benefits.
A TM is a resource that keeps track of certain segments of a translated document that may need to be reused in the future. The text — typically full sentences or paragraphs — is stored in a database for quick and easy access later. These segments are paired in the database with their original source text so they can easily be identified, located and reused for future communications and materials.
Once a TM exists, translators can access it through a computer-assisted translation (CAT) tool. Any matching text is automatically populated into the translated document, and the system notifies the translator of the match, even if it’s just a close or “fuzzy” match. The translator may leave the text as is or make edits, but either way the bulk of the work is done for them for those segments.
Translation Memory Benefits
Most clients are attracted to the idea of a translation memory for the potential cost savings — and that makes complete sense. A robust translation memory can slash a significant chunk from the cost of translation by speeding up the process and reducing the translator’s workload. And the cost savings grow over time as your database builds and expands.
If your business has never used a translation service before, you’ll have to start building that database from scratch and it will take some time to see cost reduction. However, it’s wise to start a translation memory from day one in order to see the financial benefits sooner and prevent repetitive work.
Beyond just the bottom line, a translation memory brings consistency to your translations. Just as five different writers are likely to write a blog on the same topic five different ways, different translators are going to have at least slightly different interpretations of a text. Translation memories ensure that your text is translated the same way — or at least close to it — every time. This means you don’t have to worry about distributing mixed messages, confusing or contradictory language.
Finally, the speed a translation memory offers is invaluable when you need translated materials in a short amount of time. Because some of the work is already done, project turnaround time is much faster and the entire process is more efficient.
A Necessary Tool
A translation memory is one of the many tools of the trade used in the language industry and creates notable time and cost savings for clients.
Be sure to ask a potential translation vendor if they have TM capabilities. The resource will pay big dividends in the long run.
To learn about the difference between a translation memory and a translation glossary, check out this blog post.