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14 October 2021



Nowadays the work of translators and language service providers is (fortunately) made easier and faster by digital tools such as computer-assisted translation software (CAT tools), which perform various functions that can facilitate translating large files. One of these functions is the formation of a translation memory (often abbreviated as TM).

Having constantly updated translation memories can prove to be of great help not only for the work of intercultural and linguistic professionals, but also for companies and businesses. Let’s take a look at exactly what translation memories are and why they can be a valid support for your company’s business.


What is a translation memory and how does it work?

To facilitate the translation process, CAT tools divide text into segments, meaning units that can be sentences, paragraphs, headings, titles or elements in a list. The translation memory stores the segments of the source text and their respective translation in the target language, creating pairs called translation units (abbreviated as TU). So when a new file is loaded into the CAT tool, the translation memory will suggest any previously translated matches, making the translation process faster and more efficient, but above all consistent with the work already carried out.

The translation memory not only shows segments that perfectly coincide with the previous translations: it also recognises partial matches, which can vary from 100% for a perfect match down to a specific percentage value usually set at 70-60%. In these cases, the words that differ are highlighted by the TM, thereby allowing the translator to decide whether to keep the translation in the memory or modify it to make it more suitable for the new context. The segments with a match lower than the threshold decided by the CAT tool are not displayed by the CAT tool, and must therefore be newly translated. These new translated segments are stored in the database, and can be used for future translations and any repetitions in the text.


Which texts are best for using translation memories?

The use of translation memories is suitable for texts of a technical nature, which often contain repetitions and redundancies. They are also ideal for translating specialist texts that have undergone a series of changes, as they logically store the segments that have already been translated in the database, thus allowing considerable savings in time.

The translation of literary texts, on the other hand, is not very suited to the use of a TM. Repetitions are rather infrequent, and it would be difficult for a machine to try to preserve the style and narrative devices used by an author: reproducing the effect that a literary text can have on readers is a job that is much more suited to the sensitivities of a human translator.

Now that we’ve seen how translation memories work, let’s take a look at the added value that this useful tool can bring to your company’s business.


The importance of translation memories for companies

Having a translation memory constantly updated by translators and project managers means being able to deal with the translation of all the material relating to a company (web content, text files, spreadsheets, drawings) while relying on stylistic standards and consolidated glossaries, as well as on an archive of documents that have already been translated.


This leads to a number of practical benefits:

  • certainty that the document is fully translated (translation memories do not accept empty segments);
  • stylistic and terminological consistency of files (essential when several people work on the same translation project)
  • faster translation process thanks to already translated segments;
  • lower costs of ongoing translation projects;
  • decrease in the number of corrections made in the revision phase.


In addition, translation memories help keep a brand’s tone of voice consistent, which must be uniform on all communication channels and in all content and products related to the company. Being able to rely on a glossary and on well-defined syntactic and grammatical standards helps translators identify the characteristics and needs of the target audience, thus guaranteeing effective communication suited to the context and the reference market.


At Translation Agency , we understand the importance of translation memories and our team of language specialists, translators and project managers make sure that the TMs related to each translation project are constantly updated with the latest files in our possession. We thereby guarantee clear and consistent communication to each customer, along with considerable savings in time and money in managing corporate content. If you would like to learn more about how the use of CAT tools and translation memories can help your company’s business, simply contact us to request personalised advice.

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