Overseas translation agency

Terminology management and translation memories

Would you like to discover the indispensable role of translation memories and termbases in keeping translations at the highest possible quality?

Terminology management

Terminology management has radically changed the way translators and intercultural mediators work. Some say that it foreshadows the disappearance of human translators, that we have become too dependent on technology, and many consider this technological advance deficient.

Translation memories and termbases are two species of the same genus. They are databases that store texts and terms in the source language and their corresponding translations in the target languages. This “technological” definition matches to a tee the encyclopaedic definition of a linguistic corpus.

Thus, it seems that we are not so modern after all since we are still relying on the same resources as in the past.

The first programmes to use translation memories emerged in the 1990s. Software companies pioneered in this sector as they developed IBM Translation Manager, the first translation management tool and the most similar to the model used nowadays.

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Translation memory and its application

Going back to their practical aspects, translation memories and termbases share standard language or TMX format which allows us to use the same memory in different computer-assisted translation (CAT) tools.

Terminology management is indispensable in any translation task. Using this resource saves time and effort and yields significant cost savings in every project.

Memories can be very efficient in technical translation, while their practicality drops drastically in literary translation. Technical texts often have numerous repetitions, for instance between different versions of the same product.

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Generally speaking, programmes that use translation memories are paid tools developed exclusively for Windows, the most popular of which are Wordfast, Trados Workbench, DejaVuX, SDLX, Star Transit, MultiTrans, Similis and MetaTexis. Nonetheless, the number of Java alternatives for Mac OS X is growing, among which we find OmegaT, Open Language Tools and Heartsome. The latest arrivals are platforms that don’t need to be installed on the computer and can be run from a web browser, such as Wordbee or XTM-Cloud.

Terminology management systems certainly improve translation quality and help maintain intertextual coherence but they are not flawless. For instance, segmentation sometimes makes it impossible to restructure a paragraph in the target language.

Nowadays, the use of translation memories goes beyond CAT tools: they have become part of translation agency or professional quotations for clients or freelancers. Sliding scale fees are usually applied based on the percentage of matches between the text and memory, which implies a new bargaining chip between the parties.

Admittedly, terminology management is already customary in our work. Yet, since the memories comprise human translations, it’s always wise to review them before each new use as some segments might require amendments depending on the context of the text.

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