What is a translation memory system and why should I care?

Published on August 17th, 2018

As translation technology matures, we’re capable of handling complex projects in larger volumes without compromising quality. Used correctly, tools like automatic translation can speed up the process of converting content into another language, therefore reducing the time and cost involved with your translation projects.

Such technology is called translation memory (TM), which we use to cut out unnecessary repetition when translating your content. The end result is a faster working process that results in faster turn around times on all of your future projects – ideal when you need translation services on a regular basis.


What exactly is translation memory?

When you have multiple documents to translate, chances are you’re going to have a certain amount of repetition in them. It could be a simple case of using industry terms throughout your documents or repeating the same piece of information. For example, a series of instruction manuals for flat screen TVs in Chinese will need to repeat the same or similar safety warning – something that doesn’t need to be translated multiple times.

Likewise, the spec sheets for different TVs will be largely similar with slight differences between models. So there’s no need to start from scratch with these specifications when you’ve already translated the majority of the information once.

Translation memory stores your text into a database and then detects repetition in future projects, saving your team of translators from wasting time on re-translating repetitions. Your translated documents are stored as individual sentences in a memory bank, ready to be used in future projects as needed.

Aside from speeding up future projects, translation memory makes it easier for your documents to be handled by multiple teams without needing to get familiar with basic terminology. This also reduces the risk of inconsistency and human error across all of your projects, no matter how many documents you need.


What makes a good translation memory system?

Translation memory can drastically improve the speed and quality of your translation projects while reducing costs, but not all translation memory systems are the same. So let’s take a quick look at what you should expect to see from a quality translation memory system:

  • Automated: A good translation memory system should be fully automated, running in the background while translators go about their work.
  • Accessible: It’s no good having a translation database if you or your translators can’t access them when needed.
  • Secure: While it’s important to have access to your data, you don’t want unauthorised personnel getting their hands on it.
  • Flexible: A translation memory system should support a wide range of file types so it can boost results, whichever format you need your content in.

The final thing you need from a great translation memory system is human intervention from professional translators. Translation memory fills in some of the blanks, but you still need the pros to handle the most crucial parts of your project, check the translation memory’s input is accurate and ensure the right level of quality is achieved across all of your documents.


As with any kind of translation technology, translation memory isn’t a substitute for language experts but a tool they can use to achieve better results. As these technologies improve, we’re able to deliver the same level of quality in our language services but complete projects faster and reduce expenses.

Posted on: August 17th, 2018