What is translation memory and how does it work?
Translation memory (TM) is a database of all your previously translated texts. The database includes segments like sentences, paragraphs, or even sentence-like units like headings, titles, or elements in a list. Every segment includes text in the source language and their translated equivalent in the target language.
You can think of translation memory as an ever-growing content library. Every time a new piece of content is translated, it is added to the database. TM is a common feature in translation software such as website translation plugins and CAT tools.
The whole purpose of TM is to help human translator boost translation workflow. Every translation project enriches the database with new reusable content. TM enables translators to rely on previous works so they don't have to translate the same content over and over again. When the software finds an exact match between the current source text and an existing translation unit the translator can reuse the previous translation.
Translation memory vs. glossary: What is the difference?
A glossary is a terminology database used for terminology management. The database includes company and industry-specific or technical terms and is perfect for translating specialized content. The same as with TM, the glossary consists of phrases in the source language and their equivalent in the target language. Additionally, it also includes terms that should stay in the source language at all times.
A glossary helps translators stay consistent through multilingual and multiple projects. It helps them efficiently manage specific terms in both source and target language while translating large volumes of content.
All in all, the glossary will benefit you with:
- Translating technical and industry-specific terms.
- Translating acronyms.
- Translating brand-specific terms.
- Having a good overview of term definition.
Translation memory vs. machine translation: What is the difference?
Albeit similar acronyms, machine translation, and translation memory serve different purposes.
Translation memory serves as a database of all your previously translated texts. Machine translation serves as a translation tool that generates text without any human intervention.
Machine translation enables you to boost your translation workflow by allowing you to translate thousands of words instantly. You can thus increase the number of translated languages by minimizing the degree of human involvement.
It is essential to mention that MT accuracy is often not the best. Post editing by Professional human translators is thus unavoidable.
To learn more about the pros and cons of MT, check out our article: All you need to know about Machine translation.
Benefits of using translation memory
Translation memory will help translators work more efficiently and faster. However, reducing translation time is not the only benefit of TM. To give you a better idea of how to leverage TM to enhance your localization strategy, here are some additional benefits:
- MT improves translation consistency. A big database of reusable content helps you stay consistent throughout all your projects.
- MT helps you reduce translation costs. The more you translate, the more the database grows.
- MT helps you improve quality. All relevant stakeholders can work to optimize and refine translation memory entries to adhere to brand tone and voice.
- It serves as a centralized database accessible by any department.
When to use translation memory?
Translation memory is a perfect solution for translating repetitive content. Here are some use cases for when to use it:
Technical documents and product manuals
Technical documents and product manuals are large blocks of content that mostly stay the same once they are written. Let's say some good examples of such texts would be: user guides for devices, car manuals, etc. All those documents include reusable content that never changes as a whole. The translator can only translate the new piece of text, not the entire document.
Legal and financial documentation
Other examples of very repetitive content are legal and financial documents. Those documents are very precise and must strictly follow a specific format. Consistency is essential in translating that kind of document. Translation memory is thus a great tool in this case.
A great user experience is a driver of every mobile app today. Consistency is key in keeping a great UX throughout multiple languages. Here is where TM comes into play. When different app elements are defined and translated, the translators can re-use this content.
Video game localization
All video games follow the same pattern. The story revolves around a few selected characters using specific powers /tools to accomplish a specific goal. Video games are also full of repeatable dialogs and actions. TM will help store all this content to reproduce when it is needed. For example, a character in the game will always refer to his sword in the same way. He won't change the name through different episodes. TM will help video game developers stay consistent.
Last but not least are product descriptions. Every product comes with a set of instructions. Once the product is made, it won't suddenly change its features. This also means that the description stays mostly the same, even when the new version comes out. TM helps translators be consistent, and translate only the newly added parts.
How can translation memory help you localize your website?
Many businesses are no longer operating only in the local market. To enter a new global market successfully, you must address the new audience in their local language. Knowing that more than 70% of consumers only browse websites in their local language is a strong indicator for localizing your website.
When you localize your website in a new language it is important to consider the differences between different local contexts. Adapting your content to the new audience is thus not just word-by-word translating. It is also adapting the currency, communication style, tone of voice, formality, etc.
Once you localize a website to a new language, TM will help you with the new content. You can reuse previous translations to efficiently apply them to new content.
Let's take an example: You create a landing page for promoting one of your products. This landing page is full of reusable elements such as CTA's and email submissions that can be used in a different landing page. The translator thus doesn't have to translate those elements again when he is building a different landing page.
The more you translate, the richer your library. The TM automatically store all your translation in its database. When having a rich TM library, the translator can focus only on post-editing and optimizing your content for conversion. Translating from scratch is so no longer necessary.
Another great thing about TM is that it ensures consistency. TM will help you stay consistent on every new piece of content you publish. This will help you achieve greater credibility.
Translation memory is a database of all your previously translated texts. It serves as a content library that helps you boost your translation workflow. Not only, does reduce the redundant work of repetitive translation, but also ensures consistency. It also helps you reduce costs and saves time, so you can focus on what matters most - growing your business.
In times when most businesses aim to reach a global audience, TM can be a great asset. It can help you with:
- Website localization
- Product descriptions and manuals
- Software and video game localization
- Technical documents
- Financial documents
If you are looking for a way to localize your Webflow site, you can the advantage of Linguana. A multilingual SaaS tool specialized only for Webflow. Linguana grows your TM database with every translation and enables you to boost your localization workflow effortlessly. Follow this link and expand your business globally.
Frequently asked questions
What are the benefits of using translation memory?
The benefits of using translation memory are reduced translation costs, improved speed, consistency, and quality of translation.
Who owns the translation memory?
The ownership of translation memory (TM) will vary case by case. The potential owner could be the translators, the translation buyer, and any agency involved.
How does translation memory work in Linguana?
Every translation helps build your TM database in Linguana. The more you translate, the bigger the database. You can always access your TM database and reuse already translated content.