Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Translation Memories, Blessing or Curse?

translation memories
A translation memory is a modern technology tool designed to help translators. It is essentially a database that saves previously translated segments of text. The main benefits of a translation memory are saved time and cost, more efficiency and consistency throughout translations.

Moreover, clients and translators must also analyze not only what are the benefits of the Translation memory are but also the the ethical questions posed by this tool. Firstly, it is important to note that the usual practice during the delivery of a translation to the client is for the translator to also deliver the translation memory database so it can be used in future translations, even if the client opts to use a different translator. It is clear to see how this process guarantees consistency. However, here is where a lot of problems can arise. It is true to say that in the majority of cases the the new text to be translated corresponds to the saved translation but there are cases where the corresponding saved translation does not make sense with the new source translation in its current context, especially in the case of literary translations or Marketing translations.

To navigate this problem it is important to understand the analytical nature of the Translation memory. A lot of Translation Memories match a previously translated segment to a new source segment on a percentage basis. For instance, if a translated target segment in the TM and its corresponding source segment match a new source segment to be translated word for word, this segment will be translated automatically and the analysis will return a statistic of 100% matching. But as outlined above, the contextual problem may occur. This is why the 100% segment needs to be checked by the translator. The whole process is not fool proof and we always need some degree of human intervention. This is why most translation services companies and translators will charge a fee even for segments that are 100% matching. The bottom line is that the 100% matching segments have to be checked.

Many clients are often surprised when they get their translation quote to find they are being charged for segments that have been previously translated word for word. Hopefully, the above explanation gives the client an insight into this dilemma. For information the 100% matches are usually charged at a lesser rate, for instance a revision translation rate per word so there is still a very evident cost saving. It is here that the client has to find the best translation rate per word to pay for 100% matching segments and repeated segments. This can lead to huge translation cost savings especially in the case of updates such as software or manuals.

Hopefully this article gives the reader an insight into the workings of the translation memory environment and with this technology, unlike most concepts in the technology world, the fundamental process will stay the same, we will always need some degree of human intervention!

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Mark Kieran - CEO - One Stop Shop Translations

Mark Kieran, CEO, One Stop Shop Translations

For more information on our translation memory pricing matrix click on this link.

Remember that translation memory rates may cost more in the short term due to the extra processes and management involved but are worth it in the long term especially in the case where the translation is an update or there is a lot of repeated text!
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