The Wonders of Translation Memories

Ever wondered how the same term can be translated consistently across different documents? It's all thanks to translation memories (TM).


Dario Barbieri

8/23/20232 min read

Ever wondered how the same term can be translated consistently across different document? Well, one technological advancement that has significantly improved the translation process is the implementation of translation memories (TM). Their usage has revolutionised the way documents can be translated, ensuring consistency, saving time, and enhancing overall translation quality.

A translation memory is a database-like file that stores previously translated segments of text, such as sentences, phrases, or paragraphs, along with their corresponding translations in the target language. This stored linguistic knowledge acts as a reference for future translations, helping translators maintain consistency and reduce redundant work.

The functioning of translation memory can be likened to that of a bilingual phrasebook, but on a digital scale. When a new text is fed into the translation software, it is analysed and broken down into smaller segments. These segments are then matched against the stored segments in the TM database. If an exact or similar match is found, the translation is automatically suggested, allowing the translator to either accept the suggestion or make necessary adjustments based on context. This process not only speeds up translation but also ensures that the same terminology and phrasing are used consistently throughout a document or project.

For instance, imagine a company preparing to launch a new version of an older product. The new marketing material, which includes product descriptions, features, and benefits, needs to be translated accurately and consistently. By utilising a translation memory, the localizers can ensure that technical terms or branding jargon remain consistent between the old and the new translation. This consistency is crucial for maintaining the brand's identity and credibility.

The benefits of translation memory extend beyond consistency. It significantly reduces the workload for translators, particularly when dealing with content that includes repetitive or recurring phrases. Instead of translating the same sentence multiple times, the translator only needs to do it once, and the TM system takes care of the rest. This time-saving aspect is particularly advantageous when working on large projects or meeting tight deadlines.

However, it's important to note that while translation memories are highly effective for repetitive and consistent content, they might not be as efficient for texts that contain creative or context-specific language. Additionally, maintaining and updating the TM database requires diligent effort to ensure accuracy and relevance.

In conclusion, translation memories are truly a technological marvel that has transformed the landscape of language translation. It empowers linguists and localizers to work smarter, ensuring linguistic consistency, saving time, and ultimately improving the quality of translated content.