First, let’s look at what Translation Memory does. Translation Memory (TM) forms part of most Computer Aided Translation (CAT) tools. It is different from Machine Translation, however, in that the memory is “populated” by post-edited machine translation or human translations.
TM benefits the client’s company and the translation agency in several ways, particularly with large projects containing many repetitions, such as financial statements, procedural manuals, technical documents and product catalogs. The memory will “populate” and retain matching terms or numbers, and even entire phrases and paragraphs. This is helpful in large projects with more than one translator, as it greatly improves consistency and saves time and money. It is always good for translators to collaborate, and using TM, they can agree on the proper translation, then go on using the TM term without re-translating.
A few caveats should be mentioned, however; Translation Memory is not the same as a Term Base. A Term Base, although created by the translators or editing teams, only involves defined words or phrases. Therefore, if a term appears in a non-matching phrase, the translator will still have to translate the rest of the phrase. Sometimes a procedural manual will contain similar but not exact phrasing, and be intended for several job titles within the company.
In this case, the translator must still read through the entire section and make the necessary changes in job title or in the instructions. This is also true with things such as part numbers; the TM will translate a part number from a previous section, but in reality, the last two digits are different. For example; 203744 – 203745. The TM will show the previous number until all the numbers have been entered. These are referred to as “fuzzy matches,” which are often seen as time-saving, but can be seen as using time as well. Translators using TM also need to be trained to detect fuzzy matches so they don’t mistake them for a “100% match” or a “repetition.”
TM is not as advantageous for files that do not have repetitive text, such as literary text or scholarly articles. It may not be helpful in complex legal documents either, as only things like party names or introductory phrases will appear in the memory.
But these are relatively small issues that don’t really have much impact on the benefits of TM. Time saved and consistencies are perhaps the most important advantages on large projects with several translators. Lowered cost to the client is also important; by using TM, the client can not only be sure of a consistent product, but the TM can also be used for future similar projects. Overall, Translation Memory has many benefits for bigger projects, clients and agencies.