Nowadays, many language service providers have started to use translation memory software in pursuit of higher translation quality and shorter project turnaround time. In a translation memory, previous translation is stored as a pair in both the source language and the target language. When a new job gets processed, the same or highly matched contents would be translated automatically by the software based on translation memory; it would then be reviewed and proofread by a professional translator to ensure that the context is considered, and the original meaning doesn’t get lost. The translator would decide either accept or override the translation provided by the translation memory. If the translation provided is overridden, the new translation done by the translator would be saved in the memory for future use. As a result, the translation memory would become more powerful and helpful as more inputs are saved.
As translators using the translation memory only needs to proofread the matched sentences, the turnaround time of the project can significantly be shortened, and the effect would be more prominent for large-volume projects. Moreover, translation memory can help improve the consistency of the translation. Consistency can be a problem when multiple translators are working on a single project, or when a translator needs to work on a series of projects that contain repetitive contents. Inconsistent translation lowers the quality of translation as it may confuse the reader. With the assistance of the translation memory, the translators can always select the same wording and expression, and the translation would be consistent throughout the whole project.
As a powerful translation technology, translation memory is often mentioned along with the machine translation. Although they can be incorporated by some software and work together, they are essentially different, and the translation memory can be used when there’s no machine translation in place. Although a translation memory software may generate translation as machine translation does, the translation of only sentences that are the same or highly similar with those stored in the memory would be generated, and then the translation needs to be approved by a professional translator. On contrary, machine translation generates the translation for the whole document all by itself. Although machine translation does the works faster as usually it’s not followed by proofreading, the accuracy and consistency of translation may be compromised, which is not acceptable for many legal, medical, and business projects.
Translation memory is a suitable tool for translation of nearly all kinds of documents. It strongly improves the accuracy and consistency of the translation and has almost no drawback compared to some other translation technology. Nowadays many translation memory software also supports files in a variety of different formats, including but not limited to the whole Microsoft Office and Adobe suites, as well as HTML and XML files.