Translation Memory: a vital tool for the customer, not just the translator

How many times have you heard STUDIOTRE project managers mention the Translation Memory or TM?
Every time we manage a translation project, that’s for sure.
In fact, a Translation Memory is a vital tool in the daily work of a translation and interpretation agency, but don’t confuse it with other types of software, such as automatic translation tools.

Today we want to tell you something more about this important piece of technology not just for translators, but also customers.

What is a Translation Memory?
A TM is a real linguistic database which can save texts in the source language and the respective translation in the target language. Texts are divided into units known as segments, which can be single words, complete sentences or whole paragraphs.

A TM can be created specifically for each customer and language combination. It’s a flexible database as it grows gradually as new translations are processed and evolves with the customer’s and sector’s language.

When were Translation Memories created?
Multilingual glossaries, which we can call the forefathers of TMs, first appeared in the 1960s. The first Translation Memory systems on MS-DOS were rolled out on the market in the 1980s.
It wasn’t until the 1990s, with the arrival of Windows, that translators actually started using computer-assisted translation programmes (better known as CAT Tools) and TMs are a part of these programmes.

Is the Translation Memory a Machine Translation?
A Translation Memory is not an automatic translation tool. A TM is the result of the hard work of a professional: in fact, the actual translation is always done by a translator who, thanks to the TM, can save everything they translate over the years and retrieve the exact or partial corresponding parts of previous translations.

On the other hand, automatic translation doesn’t require any human intervention, which is why, although it’s a very quick tool, it offers poor quality as it isn’t able to pick up on and use information given by the context and subtle nuances or select the right meaning of a word with various definitions.

What are the advantages of using a Translation Memory?
1) The same terminology and consistent interpretation
Customers’ documents often arrive at different times and in various formats from different departments and, based on the relevant style and sector, the project can be assigned to several translators. A TM helps maintain the same terminology among all documents and consistent interpretation over time, following the typical terminology of the sector and the specific style of the document.

2) Savings on costs and translation times
A TM identifies the repetitions either in an individual document or among several documents, even belonging to different projects. The translator therefore only translates the same content once, working more quickly and allowing the customer to save time and translation costs.

3) If a customer indicates a preferred terminology or style, something particularly to bear in mind depending on the context of the content or the target audience, the project manager will update the TM and all the translators can work in the same way following any specific requests and in line with any previous translations.

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