It amazes me how many clients I run into that have never heard of Translation Memory Discounts. When I explain to them what it is, many times they get a little angry, frustrated and even embarrassed. A translation memory, or TM, is a database that stores so-called “segments”, which can be sentences or sentence-like units (headings, titles or elements in a list) that have previously been translated. This includes words, phrases and segments that have been previously translated in a set language pair. So each language pair, for instance English US into Spanish EU would have its own TM.

So how does it really work?

You would open the source file and apply the translation memory file in a CAT Tool (Computer Assisted Translation) so that any repetitions, 100% matches (identical matches of a phrase) or fuzzy matches (similar, but not identical matches) within the text are instantly extracted and placed within the target file shown on the opposite side in a comparison display.

As you work through the source file, the “matches” suggested by the translation memory can be either accepted or overridden with new alternatives. If a translation unit is manually updated, then it is stored within the translation memory for future use as well as for repetition in the current text. In a similar way, all segments in the target file without a “match” would be translated manually and then automatically added to the translation memory after each translation.

The ability for a LSP (Language Service Provider) to utilize TMs not only decreases turnaround time but it also reduces your cost. Up to 40% of the documents have been found to be repetitions, 100% matches or fuzzy matches in well-developed TM’s.

Another thing to be sure, is to make sure you own your own TM. It should be industry standard that you own your TM’s. You may ask for your TM file and take it whenever you would like. It’s all of your own content, you’ve paid for these translations, the TM should belong to you.

Finally, I wanted to address what file formats are able to be used in TM files. These formats include Microsoft Office (2000-2003, 2007, 2010), OpenOffice, RTF, Tab Delimited, HTML and XML, Adobe FrameMaker, Adobe InDesign, Adobe InDesign Markup Language (IDML) and InCopy Markup Language (ICML), PDF, XLIFF and XML, DITA, Docbook and W3C ITS. You cannot get TM discounts from non-extractable images, non-modifiable PDF’s, scanned documents, and hand written documents.