What is Translation Memory Software & How Does it Work?
Computer Assisted Translation (CAT) tools have been reshaping how we approach translation projects for the last few decades. While machine translation has received significant attention, the development of Translation Memory (TM) software has been quietly revolutionizing the translation process since the 1990s. Today, TM software is a must-have tool for professional translators and localisation companies.
In this article, we’ll explain the basics of TM software, how it works, and why it’s still a powerful and reliable solution for businesses and organisations that require quality translations.
What Is Translation Memory Software?
Translation Memory (TM) software is a type of computer-assisted translation technology that stores previously translated text in an easily searchable database. It was first developed in the 1980s, and since then it has become one of the most widely used tools for translators worldwide.
The idea behind TM is simple: when you come across a sentence or phrase that’s already been translated, you don’t need to translate it again. Instead, TM software will search the database for a match and automatically insert the correct translation into your document.
This process saves time and human effort, as well as ensuring consistent quality across all of your translations. It also ensures that the same phrase or sentence is always translated in the same way, making it much easier to maintain consistent language throughout your documents. For example, if a certain word was translated differently in two different documents, TM software can help to standardise the translations.
How Does Translation Memory Software Work?
TM software uses sophisticated algorithms to compare the source text with its translation memory database. When a match is found, the software will insert the correct translation into your document. Here is a more detailed breakdown of the process:
- Importing Text: The first step is to transfer both the source text and its corresponding translation into the TM software. The software usually accepts a variety of formats, for flexibility and ease of use.
- Analysing Text: The software employs powerful analysis methods to understand the text better. This involves recognising punctuation and other text elements, and also includes “segmentation” or the identification of useful translation units within the text. This enables it to handle not just individual words, but also sentences and phrases.
- Matching & Retrieval: Once analysed, the text is then compared to the stored translations in the memory database. An exact match is when the software finds an identical segment that has been translated before. If the match is less than perfect, it’s considered a “fuzzy” match – useful for handling synonyms, slight variations, or even slang. The software presents these matches to the translator, showcasing both the source and target text, highlighting similarities and differences.
- Term Extraction: TM software can also extract terms or idioms, a feature particularly useful in maintaining consistency and recognizing specific phrases.
- Updating and Exporting: As the translator progresses with their work, the software keeps updating its database with new translations. Once the work is complete, the software exports the final translated text.
- Automatic Functions: The software provides an automatic retrieval feature which displays results from the TM as a translator works through a document. If an exact match is found during the translation of a new version of a document, the software can automatically insert the previously translated text. This allows for efficiency but does call for careful review to avoid repeating past errors.
- Networking: TM software often provides networking features, allowing teams of translators to work collaboratively, sharing and benefiting from each other’s translations. This can speed up the translation process and help it become more consistent.
Who Uses Translation Memory Software?
TM software has become a vital tool for anyone working in the translation industry. In particular, the legal and medical sectors often rely on TM software, as they require a high degree of accuracy in their translations. These fields also tend to use specific terminology, making the term extraction features of TM software highly valuable. Here are a few examples of who can benefit from using TM software:
- Professional Translators: TM software is used by professional translators on a daily basis. In addition to speeding up the translation process, it helps maintain consistency and accuracy of their work, as well as facilitate collaboration with other members of their team.
- Localisation Companies: Language service providers (LSPs) use TM software for larger projects, where files need to be translated into multiple languages.
- Corporate Teams: Companies that often work with foreign clients or partners can also benefit from using TM software. It helps maintain consistency in their translations and keeps them up-to-date on any changes or updates.
- Translation Freelancers: For freelancers, TM software is a great way to save time on translations, as they can easily reuse previously translated parts of texts. In addition, it helps them deliver more accurate and consistent work, which is highly appreciated by their clients.
Why Is Translation Memory Software Useful?
Translation Memory software is incredibly useful for translators and translation agencies for several reasons:
Translation Memory software helps speed up the translation process, as it can recognize previously translated source texts and present them to the translator. This saves time, as translators don’t have to re-enter already existing translations while still ensuring the highest quality of work.
Translation Memory software helps to ensure consistency in translation projects by leveraging all previously translated material. This helps to ensure that the same terminology and style are used throughout a project, reducing errors, and improving the quality of translations.
Translation Memory software makes the translation process more cost-effective by significantly reducing the amount of time needed to complete a project. This can help to lower the cost of translation projects over time, as less labour is required.
Translation Memory software can handle large projects effortlessly, making it a highly scalable solution. Whether it’s for small, one-off tasks or large, ongoing projects, the software can make it far easier to manage varying volumes of work.
Its networking feature allows teams of translators to work together more easily, allowing them to share and learn from each other’s translations. This helps to improve the overall quality of translations and ensure that projects are delivered on time.
The software’s memory is dynamic and continually learns from new inputs. As translators work on more projects, the software’s database grows, refining its matches over time. This means the software gets better and more efficient with each use.
The software provides additional quality assurance. It allows for automated checks, such as searching for untranslated segments or inconsistent translations, acting as an additional layer of quality control.
Tips for Using Translation Memory Effectively
While TM software is an incredibly useful tool, it does require some additional input to get the most out of it. To ensure high-quality translations and maximum efficiency, here are some tips for using it effectively:
Always check the TM matches
While TM is often very accurate, there may be times when the matches are not appropriate. Always double-check to make sure you’re using the right translations.
Update your TM files regularly
Make sure that any new translations are added to your TM files, as this will keep the software up-to-date and help ensure maximum accuracy.
Use the software as a reference
While the TM matches can be used in translations, it’s important to remember that they’re only a starting point. Always use your own knowledge and experience to make sure that the translated text is correct and accurate.
Leverage Context Information
It’s crucial to consider the context in which a text is being used when choosing TM matches. The software will provide you with the source and target text segments but remember to refer to the larger context to ensure the suggested match is suitable.
Be Consistent with Terminology
One of the advantages of TM software is its ability to maintain consistency in translations. When adding new translations, ensure you’re consistent with the terminology that’s already been used in your TM.
Regularly Review and Clean Your TM
Over time, TMs may accumulate some translations that are outdated or no longer in use. Regularly review and clean up your TM to maintain its efficiency. This can also help to eliminate any inaccuracies.
Utilise TM for Large Projects
TM software becomes more beneficial as the volume of work increases. It’s especially useful for larger projects or for documents that need to be updated regularly, as it allows for easy updating of translations with minimal additional work.
Make Use of ‘Concordance’ Feature
Many TM tools offer a concordance feature which allows you to search the TM for how specific words or phrases have been translated in the past. This is particularly helpful when dealing with challenging or industry-specific terminology.
Use ‘Fuzzy’ Matches Wisely
Don’t ignore fuzzy matches but use them with caution. While these can offer good starting points, they usually need to be edited to fit the current context.
Need Help With a Translation Project?
Here at LingvoHouse, we use the most advanced translation tools in the industry to make the translation process faster, more accurate, but also affordable. We also have a team of experienced translators and talented linguists who have a wide range of expertise. Our native translators paired with the latest in computer-assisted translation technology helps to ensure that your translations are of the highest quality.
Contact us today and find out how we can help you with your language translation projects. We look forward to hearing from you soon!
LingvoHouse is a professional translation & interpreting agency with a wealth of industry experience. They specialise in bespoke translation solutions in over 200 languages in a range of different industries. With a team of more than 4,000 professional translators located across the globe, the company offers round-the-clock services that are highly accurate with unmatched turnaround times.
For more information, please visit https://www.lingvohouse.com/