The translation industry has come a long way in the past 20 years. While not so long ago linguists were used to receiving hard-copy documents by post for translation, nowadays it is inconceivable for professional linguists to function without CAT tools – the software tools they use to provide high-quality translations. CAT is an abbreviation of “Computer Assisted Translation”, and can include all kinds of translation productivity and QA programs needed for a high performing translation process. It is now the de facto interface used by nearly all linguists to perform their translations.
The heart of CAT is Translation Memory, known colloquially as TM. TM is a database which stores both source and target text units. Put simply, it is a collection of text fragments, where source text is paired with its translated counterpart, based on previously translated documents.
One of the CATs key functions is segmentation, which means how source text is split into shorter fragments called “segments”. These tend to be sentences or phrases, but can also be paragraphs. Both source and target are treated as a “translation unit”. These units are stored in the TM, so that linguists can re-use good quality existing translations easily when translating updated or similar content.
Here are 5 things you should know about Translation Memory:
1. Translation Memory (TM) is NOT the same as Machine Translation (MT)
Translations performed by CAT tools are not machine translations. TM is a database of translations created by human linguists to reuse existing translations in order to speed up future translations, be consistent with the terminology and style used previously and to be more efficient. TM does not translate independently but serves as a support tool for the linguist to divide text into segments or analyze translations. Meanwhile, Machine Translation (MT) is an automated translation performed by computer software without the involvement of human linguists.
2. TM Reduces Your Translation Costs
Using CAT tools gives you the opportunity to reduce the costs of your localization program. When clients update a product’s documentation, the linguist can reuse existing materials and keep costs under control. What is more, TM supplies the linguist with existing translations which are nearly the same as those translated previously. These are called “Fuzzy Matches”. CAT tools use algorithms to establish how close a Fuzzy Match is to the earlier translation, and assigns a percentage value to each Fuzzy Matched segment that represents how closely the existing text matches the new.
3. TM Improves Consistency
TM – particularly in cloud environments like XTM – enables collaboration. This means that a team of translators can work on files simultaneously, in real time. Thanks to this functionality, linguists can easily check translations used by other members of the team, while sharing comments and suggestions for terminology translations. TM helps to ensure that the whole team uses the same terms, and the final translation is consistent both stylistically and from a terminology perspective. In the case of Cloud CAT tools, Language Service Provider project coordinators have easy access to translated texts helping them to monitor and control the progress of linguists. This, in turn, makes it easier to keep clients informed on the progress of ongoing work.
4. TM Speeds Up the Translation Process
When a segment is updated, TMs will normally automatically populate the target segment with the original text while highlighting the parts which have changed. This enables linguists to quickly update translations while making it easy to verify the correctness of translated text. This significantly speeds up work and ensures consistent translations.
5. TM is Not Only Useful For Repetitive Texts
While it is true to say that TM is indispensable for repetitive texts, TM usage should not be limited only to repetitive text. Even when there are only a few repetitions, today’s CAT tools offer linguists a whole host of additional features. Modern CAT tools include a series of automated QA checks which allow linguists to quickly check for spelling and grammar errors as well as extra spaces or numbering issues. If segments have been accidently skipped and left untranslated, CAT tools help linguists to identify them quickly in order to provide fully translated files. Moreover, the linguist can work with integrated terminology glossaries. Term glossaries can be considered similar to dictionaries. They contain specific terminology concepts and their translations, sometimes from very narrow fields of expertise. Furthermore, glossaries can include other useful information –called metadata- which can instruct the linguist how a term should be used.
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