SimulTrans Localization Blog: SimulTips

Is Your Translation Memory Ready for a Refresh?

[fa icon="calendar"] May 5, 2015 / by Lorna Franklin

translation memory




Since the 1990s, translation memory (TM) has become a core tool within the translation industry, aiding translators, allowing localisation companies to maximise consistency for their clients and reducing costs to the client. Many global brands who work with a select few vendors have the advantage of knowing that previously translated phrases or words will automatically show up in the translation memory as 100% matches. However, this does not mean that they don’t necessarily need to be reviewed by the translator.


From a critical perspective though, how much can we really rely on 100% matches? If we think about it, 100% matches stem from a previous translation reflecting the linguistic style of the translator at that time. In the case of Brand Names, Trademarks, Logos or specialised terms that can’t be modified, then of course, consistency is hugely beneficial in avoiding disaster. However, by choosing never to review 100% matches and pay for them to be reviewed in context, are companies restricting themselves in terms of linguistic quality?. So, is it time to free your translators from the shackles of the translation memory once in a while?

Here are some things to consider:

To start, have a look at your brand: Has the image and message you want to convey with your global branding to your customers changed recently? If so, then this new message has not been translated and you will only have legacy translations in your TMs.

Remind yourself that your brand is your top priority: Translation quality should never be sacrificed for a quick turn-around time or a cheaper quote. Therefore, you need to be sure of your exact reasons for choosing to stick to the 100% matches in your translation memory, is it because you feel it is better for your brand or are you being cost/time conscious?

Become more open to improving or modifying terminology as you go along: This will take more time and money, but language is forever changing and evolving, so it is important to be aware of when it is appropriate to allow your translations to evolve with it. Think critically, and decide what terminology can be made a little more flexible, for example if certain phrases are always translated in the same way, but it’s not detrimental to your global image that they are, consider allowing the translator to modify them and see what the outcome is.

Feedback is crucial: It is all well and good pushing out translated brochures, web pages and marketing collateral for your target audience, but have you ever thought about testing to make sure everything is up to standard and reads well from your audience’s perspective? Are the translations too literal? Is there enough fluidity in the language? It is important to know if these considerations have been made before.

What about humour or taglines: If they have been previously translated, are you certain that they embody the brand values that your customers at home know and love, or should you have a little look and make sure that this is the case?

If, like in some companies, 100% matches are never reviewed and never paid for in order to save money, then take the plunge and have a native speaker look over your current translations. This will give you an idea of the type of language that is currently being used and if it still appeals to your audience; or if it could be improved to seem more fluent or up to date. If the results prove that your vocabulary is in fact rather repetitive or certain things could be changed slightly, you might want to consider performing a TM overhaul every so often to make sure that your language is always fresh and in tune with your customer.

It is all about recognising the beauty vs. the constraints of the translation memory and bearing in mind that as much as technology and translation undoubtedly go hand in hand, the “human touch” is what defines language, so finding balance is key.

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Topics: Documentation Translation, Localization Technology, Translation Services

Lorna Franklin

Written by Lorna Franklin

In 2009, Lorna's love for languages inspired her to pursue a Bachelor’s degree in Translation and Intercultural studies with French and Spanish, in Dublin City University (DCU). During her degree, she spent a year living in Granada, Spain which truly re-enforced her passion for the Spanish language and culture.