Translation memory software

Conceptually, translation memory software is not very complex. The most important thing to understand is the difference between translation memory software (TM; sometimes also referred to as computer-assisted translation software, or CAT) and machine translation software (MT).Translation memory software doesn't do the translation for you, rather it helps human translators work faster and more accurately by recycling material that has already been translated and suggesting a match between the old translation and the current one.Machine translation software is translation done entirely by a computer. Machine translation is currently the subject of a great deal of research and development, and it sometimes works well enough to get the basic idea of a document, but often produces comical or totally incomprehensible translations otherwise.

. .By definition, translation memory software only works with electronic documents; you can't take a piece of paper and run it through a translation memory program unless you retype it or scan it first using optical character recognition software (OCR), so if you translate mostly from hard copy or scanned documents, translation memory software is not very helpful. However, most translation memory programs can pull the text out of spread-sheets, HTML files, etc. Translation memory software works by segmenting your source document, meaning that the program breaks your document up into smaller chunks, normally sentences but sometimes paragraphs. Then, when a segment is ready to be translated, the program checks to see if you already translated a similar segment, and if it finds a match it suggests the match to you, theoretically resulting in a faster and more consistent translation.

For example, if you already translated the sentence "This is a cat," and the next sentence was "This is a blackcat," the TM program would suggest "This is a cat" as a match, so that you only had to type "black" in the target text box, instead of typing the whole sentence. Most TM programs display potential matches as percentages, for example the sentence "This is a dog"would be a 75% match with the sentence "This is a cat", since only one of the four words is different. This matching feature can be particularly helpful when your translation client has specific terms that they want you to use throughout the document, for example to always use "President and Chief Executive Officer" for the chairman of the company. Most translation memory packages use the file terms uncleaned and cleaned; an uncleaned file contains the source text and the electronic codes used by the translation memory program, while the cleaned file contains only the target text.

. .Another use of translation memory tools, although a task that some TM tools don't do very well, is alignment. Alignment means taking the source and target versions of a document, and matching them up so that you have pairs of sentences, one in the source language and one in the target language. This way, you can create a bilingual glossary out of your old translated documents.

In practice, this function can be annoying to use; if the source and target sentence pairs don't match up exactly, it requires a lot of time on the translator's part to manually fix the misaligned segments.. .

Translation memory software is also somewhat controversial among translators. One of the reasons for this is that translation clients who are aware of TM softwares capabilities will often ask for discounts on repetitive documents; for example the client will use the software to analyze a document, and tell you that although the document is 2,782 words, they only want to pay for 2,582, because there are 200 words that are repeated in the document. Or, a client might ask you to reuse the translation memory file from an old translation, and want to pay only for the new words translated; for example if the client is putting out a new version of a software manual, they might want to pay you to translate only the updated parts.

Some translators are completely opposed to giving discounts for the use of TM software, on the grounds that they pay to acquire and maintain the software, they do the work on the translation, and even if a segment is a 100% match with a previously translated one, the translator still has to read the segment and sometimes make other adjustments as well. On the other hand, translation agencies and even some direct clients are very familiar with the potential cost savings of translation memory software, and they in turn want to reap some of the benefits too. Many translators rightly point out that when there are cost savings from using TM, three players in the situation want to benefit: the translator, the translation agency, and the end client, and obviously someone has to forgo his or her percentage of the savings..



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