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How translation memory works and how to make it work for you

You’ve probably heard the phrase “translation memory” tossed around here and there. Maybe you’ve heard about how it can save companies time and money, and you’re naturally intrigued. Or possibly your current language service provider isn’t managing your translation memory asset very well, and you’re starting to feel the effects.

So how exactly does translation memory work, and what does it mean for your company’s long-term plans for going global?

The nuts and bolts

Translation memory is the process of segmenting and storing translation data—all of the translations that your company has previously commissioned. Think of it as a secure, ever-evolving digital archive that contains hundreds, thousands or even millions of translated segments.  A translation memory segment represents a complete thought, sentence, heading or other contained portion of words.

The more translation projects that are performed over time, the larger and more robust your repository becomes. Translation management systems can then scan through your translation memory to look for matches in this previously translated content. All matches are then applied to your current project.

Matches are assigned to one of four categories: exact/reuse, fuzzy, new and duplicate:

  • Exact/ reuse matches require a 100 percent equivalency;
  • Fuzzy segments are lower than a 100 percent match to the translation memory and usually have a basement match range of about 75-85 percent;
  • New refers to a percentage match that ranges from 0-fuzzy, requiring translation from scratch;
  •  Duplicate matches are repeated source segments within the project.

TM puts dollars back in the company coffers

How can properly managed translation memory positively affect your company’s bottom line and operating efficiency? As you might imagine, having quality translation memory to utilize significantly reduces the time it would take for a linguist to translate new material.  The linguistic team is now able to spend less time translating content from scratch because it’s already right there in storage. This means the linguists can devote more time to reviewing this previously translated content to ensure contextual and grammatical consistency and accuracy.

While there is some cost involved with duplicate and exact matches—editors still need to review the content for proper context and accuracy—the per-word fee is greatly reduced.

A centralized, dynamic storage system that is customized to you

Imagine your company has two divisions and each produces a distinct type of filling: one related to dental uses and the other specific to sugary confections. In every document, the word “filling,” and any phrase associated with it, will require a crystal clear and highly contextualized translation. A tiered translation memory structure separates each division’s specific terms and phrases into its own bucket or repository, clearly delineating between the two.

The translation memory’s dynamic storage structure means you will always know you’re getting the most up-to-date translation for the appropriate division of your company. An added benefit is that you will always be able to access your translation memory from anywhere, since it is stored on our secure global content management system.

Translations you can trust

As you know, clear and direct communication is vital for businesses—in every language. To this end, translation memory can help to standardize vocabulary and style to ensure consistent target translations and high quality translations across all deliverables and in all languages.

This is especially critical in the life science industry, in which one incorrect or missing word can result in harm to a patient. What if a medication guide specified that it “is safe” to consume alcoholic beverages with each dosage—rather than the intended phrasing “not safe”? You can see why quality translation memory and the consistent messaging it provides are so important.

Now you can appreciate why so many companies and individuals place such high importance on translation memory’s appropriate storage and use.  It provides an opportunity to drive down costs, reduce project turnaround time, increase speed to market and boost the consistency and quality of translations.

Do you have translation memory out there somewhere? Or are you interested in ways to build and manage this dynamic asset? Have some thoughts or advice to share? Connect with us today!

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