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Translation Memory

Websites. Product documentation. Sales tools. Marketing messaging. Branding. Customer support guides.
What do they all have in common?


They all contain similar, if not identical, carefully-crafted language and messages, recurring phrases and statements that can make up 40% or more of the text within your customer’s communications.

Without using a translation memory to capture this repeated content for future reuse, your translators will be localizing the same phrases time and time again. This can slow down project completion and cause you to pay for the same translation multiple times.  In addition, by not using a translation memory can also reduce the quality of localized content, potentially leading to customer dissatisfaction.

Translation memories can aid the localization process, dramatically improving both quality and efficiency. All of a customer’s previous translations can be stored for future re-use so that the same sentence never needs to be translated, or paid for, twice. Furthermore, the acceleration of project completion will mean that you will be able to accept more work and increase your revenues.

What is a translation memory?

A translation memory is a linguistic database that continually grows and “learns” from the translator.

All previous translations are accumulated within the translation memory (in source and target language pairs called translation units) and reused so that the same sentence never has to be translated twice. The more the translation memories are built up, the faster translators can work, thus accelerating delivery of translation projects and increasing revenue.

How does a translation memory work?

Using SDL Trados Studio software, the translator would open the source file and applies the translation memory so that any “100% matches” (identical matches) or “fuzzy matches” (similar, but not identical matches) within the text are instantly extracted and placed within the target file.

As the translator works through the source file, the "matches” suggested by the translation memory can be either accepted or overridden with new alternatives. If a translation unit is manually updated, then it is stored within the translation memory for future use as well as for repetition in the current text. In a similar way, all segments in the target file without a “match” are translated manually and automatically added to the translation memory.

When would I use a translation memory?

Translation memories should be used by anyone who translates text from one language to another. They are most effective when localizing documents with a high level of repetition.

Translation memory is also very helpful when translating content out of context. An increasing number of organizations rely on Content Management Systems (CMS) to manage their information. A CMS allows individual blocks of text, rather than entire documents, to be created/edited and then published in a variety of different formats.  A translation memory helps to make this process quicker and more consistent.

Furthermore, even if a translation memory is not being used, the dedicated translation environment allows translators to extract text from the source file and focus on localizing the text without worrying about the tags. For example, with an HTML file, all of the coding will be hidden so you do not have to waste time searching through unnecessary lines for the text that requires translation.

What are the business benefits of using an SDL translation memory?

  • Accelerates project completion so that you can take on more project and increase revenue
  • Ensures consistency and quality within translations for customer satisfaction
  • Speeds up the localization process and reduces the overall cost of translations – never translate the same sentence twice

How does a translation memory tool differ from a terminology tool?

A translation memory tool stores segments of text as translation units (in source and target pairs). A segment can consist of a sentence or paragraph.

A terminology tool, on the other hand, is a searchable database that contains a list of multilingual terms and rules regarding their usage.

Terminology is typically used in conjunction with a translation memory.

How does translation memory software differ from machine translation?

Machine translation automatically translates a document without any human input.

These kinds of tools are fast, but result in a poor quality translation as a machine cannot understand the subtleties or contexts of language. As a result, quality and accuracy tend to be around 50% - 70%, therefore it is not advisable to send the raw form directly to your customers. In addition, machine translation can only be used for a limited number of supported languages. 

With translation memory software, such as SDL Trados Studio, the number of supported languages is unlimited, and the actual translation is performed by a professional translator. The translation memory assists by presenting “100%” and “fuzzy” matches from the legacy translation database, so that the translator can work with greater efficiency, consistency and quality.

Do SDL translation memories work on many different file formats?

Yes, SDL Trados Studio is compatible with a wide range of programs used to create content. These formats include Microsoft Office (2000-2003, 2007, 2010), OpenOffice, RTF, Tab Delimited, HTML and XML.

We also support new format versions, such as Adobe FrameMaker 8.0/9.0 and Adobe InDesign CS5, Adobe InDesign Markup Language (IDML) and InCopy Markup Language (ICML), PDF, XLIFF and XML flavours such as DITA, Docbook and W3C ITS.

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