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What is Translation Memory (TM)?

Translation Memory is essentially a database which stores segments of text which have been translated before. Translation Memory entries can be sentences or sentence segments, or even paragraphs. Each entry is available in the source language and target language.

Translation Memory basics

Translation Memory (TM) functions as a database filled with previous translations which then uses the existing data to search, analyze and match according source and target text segments. Ideally, Translation Memory learns what was once translated and eliminates the need for the actual process of re-translation.

Translation Memory tools are among the most popular CAT solutions and are the backbone of all good translation management platforms.

Types of Translation Memory tools:

  • Desktop based: Desktop Translation Memory tools are the ones which translators can download and install on their own computer. This is a great solution for freelance translators.

  • Server-based: Server-based Translation Memories are centralized and usually a great solution for companies, projects which require continuous translation etc.


Translation Memory Matches

Translation Memory systems are based on the recognizing and matching appropriate language pairs (source + target). This type of statistical solution relies greatly on the match accuracy percentage.

  • Complete (100%) matches - often automatically recognized and used by the system, complete matches are the perfect outcome of Translation Memory

  • “Fuzzy” matches - fuzzy matches are matches that have a lower percentage, but might still be useful. These matches can be selected, used or discarded by translators.

Translation Memory vs Term Base - What’s the difference?

While Translation Memory is used for sentences or paragraphs (larger chunks of content), Term Bases or Glossaries are usually used for key words (such as names, abbreviations, etc).

Having words in TM is usually not that handy, since the word might have to be adapted or changed depending on the context of translation.

Benefits of Translation Memory in Localization

Translation Memory is for a couple of very good reasons among top tools chosen by translators and language professionals.

Translation Memory increases the quality of translation while reducing:

  • Duration of the localization process
  • Number of inconsistencies across projects/project teams
  • Costs - content repetition means less words need to be translated

Translation Memory really shines when put to use in translating repetitive or technical texts (manuals, privacy guidelines, generic content). However, when it comes to more creative or nuanced content, relying too much on TM might not give you the solutions you are hoping for.

Translation Memory Process

The Translation Memory process is quite simple:

  1. Create Translation Memory
    Depending on the translation management platform you are using, you will have either an option to create and assign TMs to your projects or you will have to use a specific CAT tool that would give you the option of creating such a document.

  2. Import Translation Memory
    Once the Translation Memory is created, you can import it with ease into any better localization or translation management platform.

  3. Apply Translation Memory
    When you activate the Translation Memory or assign it to a specific translation/localization project, similarities between your TM content and ongoing project will be scanned and analyzed.

  4. Select Translation
    Based on the correlation of content between your current project and Translation Memory, complete and fuzzy matches will be displayed. Depending on the translation management platform, you will probably have an option to select automatic translation fill in case of 100% or complete matches.

  5. Edit or Cancel “Fuzzy” Translations
    “Fuzzy matches” might not be the perfect solution, but they can certainly speed up the process and give your translators a helping hand in the process.

  6. Save Updated Translation Memory
    If you are using a translation management software, your Translation Memory should be automatically updated with each appropriate project. If you are however using a different solution, be sure all new translation solutions are available in your Translation Memory before proceeding to another project.

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