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What is a translation memory (TM)?

Translation Memory (TM) is a database which stores predetermined units of a source language together with its translated equivalent. A TM allows you to take advantage of repetitions within or between documents. In other words, the program that uses a TM will automatically translate repeated sentences by pulling the translation of a 100% matched and previously translated source sentence from the database.

The different TM software uses complex “fuzzy-logic” algorithms that allow the translator to take advantage of similar previously translated source sentences. In other words, the TM application will pull the translation of a previously translated source sentence, which “somewhat” matches a new sentence, and allows the translator to change it accordingly.

The main purpose of working with a TM tool is to save time and assure consistency in the translation process. As a translation services agency we at GPI integrate the translation memories in each translation project and customer.

Some of the benefits of using TM’s are:

  • Ensure translators that the document is completely translated.
  • Ensure consistency through all the file or files.
  • Cost reduction for client and the translation company.
  • Time saving while maintaining quality.

What is the real impact of using TM technologies in the translation process?

With TM tools, translation agencies can analyze all source files received and breakdown translation costs into different tiers, for example:

  • 100% match and repetitions: 100% match will apply only if the client can provide previous approved translations; otherwise this will apply to upcoming translation projects. Repetitions are words repeated across the source files provided and they’re charged usually as same rate as 100% matches.
  • Fuzzy Matches: Fuzzy matches are words/sentences that are very similar to ones translated before. This will apply only if the client can provide previous approved translations; otherwise this will apply to upcoming translation projects.
  • New words: Words/sentences that don’t fall in the categories above.

Each tier listed above have a different price model which helps translation agencies and customers to achieve savings in cost and time for upcoming translation projects.

Common Translation Memory tools

There are a variety of TM tools available. The list below highlights some of the tools more commonly used by linguists:

  • SDL Trados 2009
  • SDLX
  • Trados
  • Déjà Vu
  • Star Transit
  • OmegaT
  • Wordfast

Who does Translation Memory belong to?

Translation Memory (TM) is an important asset, and it belongs to the client (you) who paid for it in the first place. All time spent creating TM is billable as part of on-going translation projects, so TM does not belong to the vendor (translation agency.)

Unfortunately, there are a small number of translation vendors who will attempt to “sit on” TM and not deliver it to their clients. If this ever happens to you, treat this as a “red flag” and consider finding another translation company to work with. Most translation agencies will deliver TM updates at the end of the project, or on a quarterly basis. Your TM files are highly “portable” and can be shared with a multitude of translation vendors.