What is a Translation Memory and How Does it Work?

Luckily, a translation memory is not a mental ability that translators must develop to be able to do their jobs. Rather, it is a computer based software tool that facilitates and supports translation work.

Working with translation memories does not mean machine translation. This is something entirely different. A translation memory retains the translations done by a human translator along with the original text and stores both in its database for later reuse. The tool itself is not actively involved in the translation process. A human translator still does all the job.

The screenshot shows how translation memories work: They chop up the text in little segments (sentences mostly), which are translated consecutively by the human translator. When the translator is satisfied with the solution, s/he confirms the segment by selecting the corresponding function and proceeds to the next segment. Both, the sentence of the source document and the translated sentence of the target document are stored in a database.

The advantage of translation memories clearly lies in the faster and easier processing of texts with a large number of recurring or similar sentences and phrases. This is the case in technical texts of all sorts, such as contracts, user manuals, process documentations, and so on. For creative, artistic or aesthetically pleasing texts, however, translation memories must be used with excessive care to keep the unique and original nature of such texts alive.

keep it in mind


One Response to “What is a Translation Memory and How Does it Work?”

  1. translstudio Says:

    thank you, Karoline! very informative and easy to comprehend!

    Freelance Translation Studio
    Translation and Localization into CIS languages

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