Questions posed by first-time translation buyers: What’s translation memory?

You know you need translation services, but what’s all this talk about translation memory?

Can it really save you money? Is it really a beneficial tool? Or is it just a language service provider’s attempt at persuading you to use their services?

As a first-time translation buyer, or someone who just isn’t fully aware of how your translation provider uses translation memory, it’s time to get educated on how translation memory can further enhance your translation process.

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It’s best to think of your translation memory as a repository of your company’s previously translated sentences, thoughts, headings, etc. – commonly referred to as segments. For example, if you translate a product manual into three different languages – Spanish, French and Italian – all of the translated content from these three brochures will be stored in your translation memory.

So, what’s the point of that?

Translation memory: leading you to financial success

Usually the most prominent reason why companies utilize translation memory is because of the substantial amount of translation cost savings. Consider the product manual we discussed earlier. It’s now one year later, and you have a new product launch coming up. Of course, you’re going to need to replace that old product manual – and that includes its translation.

While the manual may have some minor changes (product version, features, etc.), a lot of its content will remain the same. Rather than having to retranslate this similar content, a translation memory can be applied so that matching segments from the previous manual can be reused for the new manual.  These similar segments, often labeled as exact matches (100% match) or fuzzy matches (75-99% match), cost significantly less than the new word rates. Leveraging translation memory segments can save your company up to $.18 USD per word – and over the course of hundreds, if not thousands of segments – savings can rack up quickly.

Taking translation memory a step further

As you can imagine, many translation providers have adopted the use of translation memories to help clients save money. But what might surprise you is that some (if not most) of them still offer an outdated translation memory process – which isn’t saving you as much money as an advanced translation memory could. Let’s explain.

Previously it was common practice for translation providers to construct multiple translation memories for each of your company’s departments – e.g., marketing collateral vs. website content or software documentation.  Then, when you requested a project from a particular department, the corresponding translation memory would be leveraged. While this may sound sufficient, there’s something about this exclusion of translation memories that isn’t as rewarding to your translation process.

At Sajan, we centralize all of your company’s content into one translation memory which is then contextualized by department. This way, when you create content in each of your individual departments, you have the choice to run it across not only your department’s translation memory, but also across all of your company’s previously translated content. Having this option can help you foster better translation memory reuse – and ultimately save you more money.

Unfortunately, many first-time translation buyers are unaware of this. While having a translation provider who implements a translation memory is important, you also need to be certain that they are leveraging your translation memory successfully. Settling for a provider’s divided translation memory process could result in poor and inaccurate reuse on previously translated segments – something that will undoubtedly cost you more in the long run. Be sure to look for a more advanced translation memory system – one that is entirely centralized for your company’s benefit.

Adding in the extra value

Don’t get us wrong – cost savings are great, but it’s not the only reason translation memory is an important part of the translation lifecycle. By storing and reusing previously approved translations, your translation memory also preserves your company’s messaging and style – keeping your translations consistent and high quality across multiple projects.

A translation memory also keeps track of which translated content is most up to date and frequently used, so you won’t have to worry about project inconsistency. Even for very creative content – which often needs to be more unique and less consistent – translation memories can help keep particular communications constant, such as brand names, slogans or catch-phrases.

And on top of message preservation, translation memory can also help speed up the translation process. The higher the translation memory reuse, the fewer segments a linguist has to translate. In which case less time is needed to complete the translate-edit-proof process – so you can start to see your projects come back sooner.

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Now that you know how translation memory works, we hope you are convinced that it is worth leveraging – and we also hope you understand how to approach your translation provider to ensure you’re getting the best reuse of your company’s previously translated segments.

Still have questions regarding translation memory? Reach out to us below.

Related posts:

Help! How can I express my needs for a better translation process?

5 reasons to centralize your translation process

Questions posed by first-time translation buyers: How long will translation take?

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About Sajan

Sajan is a leading provider of global language translation and localization services, helping clients around the world expand seamlessly into any global market.
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